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13
May

Fish and Wildlife Service Adopts Biological Mosquito Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Register-Guard

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

 

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12
May

Pesticides, Not Mites or Pathogens, Major Cause of Honey Bee Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, May 12, 2014) A study published in the Bulletin of Insectology substantially undercuts chemical industry arguments that neonicotinoid pesticides are not the primary contributing factor indead bee- fade Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The results find that hives exposed to low doses of two neonicotinoid pesticides—imidacloprid and clothianidin—do not recover from over winter losses from which control hives quickly rebound. Researchers also discount other possible causes of CCD commonly touted by industry like diet, parasites, and pathogens. The study adds to the already expansive literature that clearly links sublethal exposure neonicotinoid pesticides to rapid bee declines nationwide.

The study, Sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids impaired honey bees winterization before proceeding to colony collapse disorder, was conducted in central Massachusetts during the 2012-2013 winter at three different locations with six bee colonies in each location. A third of the colonies were exposed to low doses of the pesticide imidacloprid, while another third were exposed to the pesticide clothianidin, both neonicotinoids, and the remainders were not treated. At each apiary the colonies were separated into two groups in which honey bees were fed with either sucrose water or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) over the study period.

During the fall and winter seasons, researchers found that honey bees declined in all 18 colonies, typical of the seasonal pattern. Come January, however, the number of treated bee colonies continued to decline while the untreated hive began to recover and the trend continued throughout the year. By April, the majority of bees in all neonicotinoid-treated colonies, regardless of whether they survived or not, had abandoned their hive during the winter —a symptom that typifies CCD. Control hives were repopulated quickly with new emerging bees.

In their discussion, researchers indicate that the results replicate previous studies relating to imidacloprid and reinforce the conclusion that sublethal exposure to neonicotinoids is a primary cause of CCD, minimizing the role of mites and pathogens. Indeed, the study found no significant difference in the degree of Varroa mite infection between non-treated and neonicotinoid-treated colonies. Additionally, the only hive effected with Nosema ceranae, an intestinal parasite, was a control hive and that the dead bees affected with this parasite did not abandon the hive. The study highlighted:

“It is imperative to emphasize that while pathogen infections are common and serious diseases found in honey bees that often lead to colony death, the post-mortem examinations of the pathogen- caused dead colonies are vastly different to those suffered from CCD.One of the defining symptomatic observations of CCD colonies is the emptiness of hives…. [Thus] the absence of dead bees in the neonicotinoid-treated colonies is remarkable and consistent with CCD symptoms.”

Colony Collapse Disorder is unlike other ailments that affect honey bees because worker bees simply disappear rapidly, never returning to the hive where the queen still lives with a small cluster of bees amidst pollen and honey stores in the presence of immature bees (brood). It has been reported that losses of honey bee colonies across 21 states in the winter of 2007-8 averaged 35 percent. This past winter over winter losses in Ohio were between 50 to 80 percent.

This study adds to the growing scientific literature that shows honey bee losses due to the ubiquitous use of neonicotinoid pesticides is “No Longer a Big Mystery.” Neonicotinoids are systemic, meaning that as the plant grows the pesticide becomes incorporated into the plant. When honey bees and other pollinators forage and collect pollen or nectar, or drink from what are termed “guttation” (water) droplets emitted from neonicotinoid-incorporated crops, they are exposed to sublethal doses of the chemical. At this level, the pesticides don’t kill bees outright. Instead, they impair bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to mount an effective immune response.

BEE Protective

On Earth Day 2013, Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety joined forces to launch the BEE Protective Campaign, with the goal of protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides. The BEE Protective Campaign gives you the tools to help honey bees and other pollinators right in your own community. Here are some ways to take action:

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

Sources: Bulletin of Insectology, Discover

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09
May

Take Back Organic: May 15 Deadline to Apply for Open Seats on the NOSB

(Beyond Pesticides, May 9, 2014) Bring a strong voice to the Board that advises USDA on organic standards by filling one of the four open seats for the following stakeholders —environmentalist, organic producer, organic handler, and retailer. The deadline for applying is May 15. In April, USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) met to decide on a range of issues concerning allowable materials and practices in certified organic farming. The 15-member volunteer board represents the interests of the organic community, consisting of 4 farmers, 3 environmentalists, 3 consumers, 2 food processors, and one retailer, scientist and certifying agent, who vote to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming. It is a board that is intended to bring together diverse interests and provide recommendations to the National Organic Program (NOP) for adoption. USDA may not allow synthetic materials in organic production that are not recommended for use by the Board. The Board is in need of strong nominees who will stand up for organic integrity in the four categories (listed above), especially for the environmental position by May 15.organic

In the past, the USDA has agribusiness executive to seats on the NOSB reserved for farmers, consumers, and other independent positions —where the organic law has explicitly only allowed two representatives of agribusiness onto the Board. In a gross breach of faith, USDA appointed the executive of General Mills to the Boards as a representative for consumers. The move prompted strong criticism launched by the largest consumer groups —Consumers Union and the Organic Consumers Association— that she was not qualified to represent the consumer sector, leading to the withdrawal of her appointment.

Now more than ever it is imperative that independent and qualified members of the organic community to serve on the NOSB who will support organic integrity, protect the interests of farmers and stand strong against USDA’s political tactics to divest the Board of its powers.

Beyond Pesticides’ executive director, Jay Feldman, serves in one of three environmental positions on the NOSB. Board terms are five-years beginning on January 2015. Self-nominations or the nomination of another must be filed with USDA by May 15, 2014. More details and background can be found on the National Organic Program website.

Nomination applications are to be sent to Rita Meade, USDA–AMS–NOP, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Room 2648-So., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC 20250, or via email to Rita.Meade@ams.usda.gov.

On our Keeping Organic Strong action page, you will find summaries of the significant actions taken by the Board at the recent Spring 2014 meeting in San Antonio, Texas which includes the phase out of antibiotics, along with supporting documentation. Each issue is discussed separately, incorporating Beyond Pesticides’ positions on what the outcomes signify for the future of the organic movement. In addition, to see the current challenges faced by new USDA policies and take action, see Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organic webpage.

The next meeting of the NOSB will be held in Louisville, KY on October 28-30, 2014. More information about this meeting will be posted as it becomes available. To find information about previous NOSB meetings go to our NOSB Archives page, or you can read through the minutes from committee meetings on the NOP website.

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

 

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08
May

Elevated Levels of Glyphosate in U.S. Mothers’ Breast Milk

(Beyond Pesticides, May 8, 2014) – Two citizen groups have taken the initial step toward debunking chemical-industry claims that glyphosate, the world’s most widely-used herbicide, does not bioaccumulate or metabolize in humans. The pilot study, conducted by Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse, looked at ten breast-milk samples and 35 urine samples from across America and 21 drinking water samples. The groups commissioned Microbe Inotech Labs to conduct the analysis, and what they found raises some serious questions about the prevalence and persistence of glyphosate.

In breast milk, three of the ten samples tested reveal high levels of glyphosate, meaning that the amount of glyphosate found is between 76 ug/l to 166 ug/l. The highest glyphosate level detected in a mother is from Florida (166 ug/l) and the other two mothers with “positive” results are from Virginia (76 ug/l) and Oregon (99 ug/l). While these levels fall under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 700 ug/l, across the pond in Europe this range of exposure is 1,000 higher than what is deemed safe.

From the 35 urine samples received from across the U.S., 13 samples are above the minimum detectable level. The three highest levels are all found in women, with the highest in Oregon (18.8 ug/l). Other positive results are found in samples from the states of California, Washington, Maryland, Colorado and Hawaii.

Drinking water results reveal that 13 of the 21 samples contain glyphosate levels of between 0.085ug/l and 0.33u/l. While these levels come in much lower than the breast milk and urine samples and U.S. drinking water standards, they still add to the alarm when compared to maximum allowable European drinking water standards of 0.1ug/l.

Putting the Pilot Study in Context

The pilot study was conducted for both personal and practical reasons. As explained by Zen Honeycutt, Founder and Director of Moms Across America, “When I was told by several doctors and labs that I could not test my own or my children’s urine for the most widely used herbicide in the world over a year ago, I became determined to find a way. Parents and citizens deserve the ability to be able to take care of themselves and their families by finding out if herbicides could be impacting their health.” Couple this with the fact that no glyphosate limits exist for breast milk anywhere in the world, and it became clear that something had to be done to get the attention of regulators and look behind the curtain of industry-provided evaluations.

Groups responsible for the study are not arguing that the test results constitute peer-reviewed scientific data warranting an immediate cancellation of glyphosate use, but they are calling for increased scrutiny of industry-backed claims concerning glyphosate’s alleged rapid excretion rates and non-accumulative nature. Ms. Honeycutt adds, “The purpose of this glyphosate testing project is to shed light upon the presence of glyphosate in our water, children’s bodies and mother’s breast milk, hopefully inspiring further scientific studies to support the world in being a healthy, safe place to live.”

As Angelika Hilbeck, PhD, senior scientist at the Institute of Integrative Biology in Zurich, observed, “If confirmed in a full investigation, it seems that glyphosate has become a ubiquitous chemical in terms of presence and persistence. This data also offers a first indication of potential accumulation in the human body, giving newborns a substantial dose of synthetic chemicals as a ‘gift’ for their start into life, with unknown consequences. This is reckless and irresponsible conduct in a democratic society, which still has a living memory of previous reckless chemical contaminations, such as DDT. It seems we either did not learn, or we have forgotten, our lessons from Rachel Carson!”

By comparing the results to a study previously conducted in Europe, which raised alarms to the presence of glyphosate in urine from people in 18 countries across Europe, and highlighting the discrepancy between U.S. and European safety standards, Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse also hoped to draw attention to America’s likely increased risks because of its staunch support of Genetically Engineered (GE) crops and presence of GE food products in the American food supply, which in turn increases the amount of glyphosate used on crops and in the environment.

Glyphosate Has No Place in Breast Milk or Anywhere Else

Beyond Pesticides has long argued to U.S. regulators that glyphosate poses significant risks to health and the environment, even without this added probability of excessive exposure to infants through breast milk. Traditional risk assessment protocols fail to evaluate a full range of adverse impacts, particularly with regard to infants and children—often the most vulnerable to pesticides. Now more than ever, regulators at both the state and federal levels need to reevaluate the full spectrum of risks and rethink the rubber-stamping approach to GE crop and pesticide approval and allowance in the food supply. As citizens across America fight to gain access to basic information concerning GE crop presence in their food, we urge consumers everywhere to call on regulators for change and support organic systems that prohibit these problematic and dangerous GE products and pesticides from being labeled organic.

Source: Ecologist, Moms Across America, Sustainable Pulse

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

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07
May

Report Finds Numerous Schools Near Toxic Pesticide Fields

(Beyond Pesticides, May 7, 2014) A new report from the California Department of Public Health finds 36 percent of public schools in the state have pesticides of public health concern applied within a quarter mile of the school. Persistent and toxic pesticides like chlorpyrifos, methyl bromide, and malathion are among the pesticides found to be applied near schools. The report also finds that Latino children are also more likely to attend schools near areas with the highest use of pesticides of concern.

The report, “Agricultural Pesticide Use near Public Schools In California,” released this month, looked at 2,511 schools in the 15 California counties with the highest overall use of farm pesticides in California for 2010, and finds that counties in the southern part of the Central Valley had the most schools near farms where pesticides were applied. Fresno County had the highest number of schools –131 – with pesticides applied nearby. Five percent of schools are within a quarter mile of where the highest volumes of pesticides are used: 2,635–28,979 pounds of active ingredient. Latino children are 46 percent more likely than white children to attend schools where pesticides of concern were applied nearby.

The report’s findings are being touted by health professionals who say dangerous pesticides are coming too close to kids. “This is truly important information that we’ve not previously had,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, PhD, MPH, a professor in environmental and occupational health at UC Davis. “These pesticides are not entirely benign, and several of them affect brain development.”

The reports lists the top 10 pesticides with the highest application by volume within a quarter mile of a public school including, chloropicrin, 1,3-dichloropropene, paraquat dibromide, captan, malathion and chlorpyrifos. According to the report, all 10 pesticides are classified as priority pesticides for assessment and monitoring by the state. The majority of the pesticides are restricted use, requiring special permits for their application, as well as application restrictions. However, monitoring data show that pesticides can volatilize and drift, and move over long distances fairly rapidly through wind and rain. Some studies have found that pesticides can drift for miles. Documented exposure patterns resulting from drift cause particular concerns for children and other sensitive population groups. Adverse health effects, such as nausea, dizziness, respiratory problems, headaches, rashes, and mental disorientation, may appear even when a pesticide is applied in compliance with label directions.

For instance, chlorpyrifos, banned from household use due to concerns of children’s exposures, is a highly neurotoxic organophosphate, and prenatal and early childhood exposure has been linked to low birth weights, developmental delays, ADHD and other health effects. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that chlorpyrifos may volatilize from treated fields at levels resulting in exposure to children and others who live, work, or otherwise spend time nearby, resulting in exposures that could cause adverse effects.

Currently, California runs tests for air particles (drift) for several pesticides and their breakdown products, and measures the results against screening levels established by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR). However, critics maintain that the state’s sampling is not representative of peak agricultural exposures and question whether any level of a toxicant in air is reasonable under the law, given the viability of alternative agricultural practices that do not rely on these chemicals.

Several fumigants, including methyl bromide, also made the top 10 list. Methyl bromide, while phased-out in the U.S., has continued to be used in alarming amounts across California due to a sizeable loophole in regulations. Other pesticides found to be applied near these sensitive areas include several carcinogens (captan, diuron, mancozeb), reproductive and developmental toxicants (carbaryl, linuron, EPTC), and neurotoxicants (naled, chlorpyrifos, diazinon).

Although the report identified schools near sites where pesticides are used, it did not assess the effect of the chemicals on children, nor did it account for how the pesticides might drift onto school territory, or how children could be affected. However, children are especially sensitive to pesticide exposure as they take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults, and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals. Even at low levels, exposure to pesticides can cause serious adverse health effects. Numerous studies document that children exposed to pesticides suffer elevated rates of childhood leukemia, other cancers and birth defects. Studies also link pesticides to childhood asthma, respiratory problems, and learning disabilities and inability to concentrate. See the Pesticide Induced Disease Database.

Latino children made up 54.1% of the population in the public schools in the 15 counties, and comprised 67.7% of the population in schools in the highest quartile of pesticide use. While not inferred by the report, these children may mostly belong to farmworker communities living near agricultural areas. These communities tend to have disproportionate exposure risks to pesticides due to pesticide drift, and are at higher risks of developing serious chronic health problems such as cancer, neurological impairments and Parkinson’s disease. EPA has previously found that Latino schools in California disproportionately suffer from exposure to pesticides due to pesticide spraying near their schools, but has yet to adequately remedy these risks. A lawsuit was filed by concerned parents challenging EPA’s lack of action, arguing that ongoing pesticide monitoring set up by CDPR did not protect children from excessive exposure to pesticides.

California farmers produce nearly half of all U.S.-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables, greatly benefiting public health statewide and nationally. According to the report, in 2007, California accounted for 23% of all agricultural pesticides used in the U.S.In 2010, over 160 million pounds were applied in California. However, our food choices have a direct effect on those who grow, harvest and live near what we eat around the world. This is why food labeled organic is the right choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, protection of farmworkers and farm families.

For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ Children and Schools page. To see more scientific research on the effects of pesticides on human health, see our Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

Source: The Sacramento Bee

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

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06
May

BEE Protective! Beyond Pesticides Installs Honey Bee Hive at DC Headquarters

(Beyond Pesticides, May 6, 2014) With pollinator week a little over a month away, Beyond Pesticides is thrilled to announce that it’s amplifying its own footprint in the BEE Protective campaign by installing an urban honey bee hive at its national headquarters in southeast Washington, D.C.! Beyond Pesticides and our BEE Protective partner Center for Food Safety hope to inspire others across the country to take up the BEE Protective cause and make a safe space for pollinators in their backyards and communities. In addition to educating the public on honey bee health and producing delicious honey at the end of the season, the BEE Protective honey bee hive will provide our neighbors with a valuable service — in the form of bigger and more abundant fruits and veggies!

As spring comes into full bloom, preliminary accounts of winter honey bee losses have started to trickle in, and the news isn’t encouraging. That’s why it’s critically important, now more than ever, that we all take action to BEE Protective of honey bees in our own backyards, neighborhoods, and communities.

Join the BEE Protective Campaign!

Already have your own honey bee hive or pollinator friendly landscape? Maybe you got your workplace to plant pollinator attractive habitat? Let us know! Take the pledge and sign the Pesticide-Free Zone Declaration for Lawns, Landscapes and Pollinators! So far, supporters have notified Beyond Pesticides of over 8,500 acres of pollinator friendly landscaping. But we know there’s more out there! Help us reach our goal of 10,000 pollinator friendly acres, and send a message to chemical companies and federal regulators that honey bee health matters to you by creating a pesticide-free refuge for pollinators!

Need some help to get started?

Beyond Pesticides has the resources you need to become an integral part of the BEE Protective campaign. With the BEE Protective Habitat Guide, you can discover the flowers that pollinators love in your area! The guide is separated by season and region, so it’s helpful year-round wherever you’re trying to establish bee-friendly landscapes. There are also additional resources to encourage pollinators beyond your home and garden – on roadsides and rights-of-way, forestland, prairies, meadows, and even on farms through organic practices.

***Bee Wary of Flowers and other Garden Plants from Big Box Retailers and other Nurseries: Despite your best intentions to grow a pollinator-friendly landscape, big retailers and nurseries could be putting your neighborhood pollinators at big risk. A recent study found that many national retailers sold garden plants that were treated with harmful neonicotinoid insecticides implicated in the global honey bee decline. Work around this disturbing situation by growing your own plants from certified organic seed, or purchasing certified organic plant starts.

Want to Follow Our Lead and Become a Beekeeper?

Whether you’re in a densely packed city, suburban lot, or out in the country, you can make a huge impact on honey bee health by becoming a beekeeper. Beyond Pesticides has beekeeping resources for each region of the U.S., so you can reach out to experienced ‘beeks’ for training and mentorship. Our fact sheet on Backyard Beekeeping provides a good overview if you want a bit more information on what to expect, and important points to think about when planning out your honey bees’ new home. There’s also a great how-to on constructing your own Bee House for other bee species, if you determine that honey bees just aren’t the bees for you right now.

It’s No Longer a Big Mystery

As bee health continues to suffer after another harsh winter, in addition to providing pollinators with a safe haven in our yards and neighborhoods, we must also work toward permanent changes that decrease the stress on honey bees and other pollinators. The science has become increasingly clear that pesticides, both alone and in combination with other chemicals, are significant contributors to global pollinator decline. Despite industry attempts to spin the pollinator crisis into “anything but the pesticides,” the fact remains that neonicotinoid pesticides are an important stressor that we can and should address, as Europe already has. While action should come from federal regulators, bees can’t wait 5 more years, so we must become active in our communities, and follow the lead of other localities like Eugene, OR and Takoma Park, MD, neither of which will be using neonicotinoid pesticides on their public spaces. Go here to find the Model Community Pollinator Resolution you can take to your local government!

According to the new report, Follow the Honey, from Friends of the Earth, the global market for neonicotinoid pesticides is around $2.6 billion dollars. But this pales in comparison to the $20-30 million dollar economic value of beekeeping in the United States alone, not to mention the tangible importance of one in three bites of food being dependent on these important species!

Stay involved with the BEE Protective campaign as we ramp up efforts for pollinator week, June 16 -22nd! (Yes, get excited for contests and prizes!!) Join our campaign by taking action on our BEE Protective webpage, and sharing our resources with friends, neighbors, and your local elected leaders. We’ll also be posting intermittent updates on our hive on social media throughout the year and beyond, so make sure you’re following us on twitter and facebook! Have questions about our hive or the BEE Protective campaign? Send an email to info@beyondpesticides.org or call 202-543-5450.

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

 

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04
May

NOSB Upholds Phase Out of Antibiotics in Organic Production

(Beyond Pesticides, May 5, 2014) During the recent National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting in San Antonio, Texas, the board voted to uphold the phase out in apple and pear production of the antibiotic streptomycin, which is set to expire on October 21, 2014. Since petitions to allow the use of all synthetic materials in organic production require a decisive, or 2/3’s, vote under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA),  the apple and pear industry’s petition to extend was voted down with a vote of 8-7. This vote comes after a similar proposal to extend an exemption for oxytetracycline, another antibiotic used in apple and pear production, was rejected at the spring 2013 NOSB meeting. Beyond Pesticides, with other organizations, has led the effort to remove antibiotics from apple and pear production because of their contribution to antibiotic resistance, organic consumer expectation that antibiotics are not used in organic food production, and the availability of alternative practices and inputs.

In April 2013, the NOSB discussed the problem of antibiotic resistance thoroughly and heard from numerous commenters concerning the problem of antibiotic resistance with respect to its use in orchards. At the Spring meeting, Glenn Morris, M.D, professor of infectious diseases in the University of Florida College of Medicine, stated the following:

“The question is do we go ahead and move forward at this point and stop the usage, given the data that we do have? I think if you say we wait for more studies, we are potentially talking years and a lot of money. And again, while I’m not speaking officially for IDS, the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), I believe there is a letter from IDSA in your docket, and again the feeling very strongly from the Infectious Disease Society for America is, you know, it’s time to do it now.”

The evidence for streptomycin was even more compelling than it is for tetracycline. Streptomycin may be used later in the growing season, which can lead to more residues and residues of streptomycin have been detected in fruit, as documented by an Austrian study that found highest residues in the core. The genes for streptomycin resistance that are carried on a plasmid are known to confer resistance to streptomycin in human pathogen and streptomycin is classified as a critically important antimicrobial by the World Health Organization (WHO). For more information on antibiotic resistance read Beyond Pesticides Pesticides and You article “Antibiotics in Fruit Production.”

Organic consumers also do not want antibiotics in organic production. Over 400 comments were submitted to the docket with 372 individual comments opposing the extension and organizations like Organic Consumers Association, Food and Water Watch, and Center for food safety collecting close to 83,000 signatures opposed to this extension.

According to Consumers Union’s comments, consumers have come to expect that organic foods are produced without the use of antibiotics. Organic is widely marketed as “no antibiotics,” which has become a consumer expectation. Other segments of the organic market, like organic meat, cheese and milk, have set and met this expectation, and so have organic fruit growers including nectarine and peach growers. Organic apple and pear trees treated with antibiotics simply do not meet consumer expectations. If you are interested in reading further about the comments submitted to the docket on this issue read Beyond Pesticides’ comment summary.

The use of antibiotics in organic apple and pear production is incompatible with sustainable systems. This use of antibiotics does not encourage and enhance preventive techniques, including cultural and biological controls. Compatibility with sustainable and organic principles requires growers to first choose varieties that are not susceptible to important diseases in their region. Other preventive techniques should be used, including site selection, careful fertilization, adequate spacing of trees, and proper pruning practices.

Other Updates from the 2014 NOSB Meeting

The most recent NOSB meeting has been full of fireworks. A protest, staged by representatives of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and March against Monsanto San Antonio (MAMSA), disrupted the first day of the NOSB meeting. The activists came to protest the U.S, Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program’s (NOP) changes to the sunset process for removing non-organic ingredients and materials from the NOP’s National List of substances allowed and prohibited in products certified as organic. The sunset policy, adopted by the NOP without public comment or input, reverses the phase out of synthetics unless recommended for relisting by the NOSB –now allowing synthetics to remain on the market unless they are voted off by a 2/3’s vote. The previous policy of a 2/3’s vote to retain use, subjected synthetics to the same rigorous standard of review that allows these materials on to the National List when initially petitioned and drives the stakeholder board toward consensus.

The NOSB also voted to approve magnesium oxide for use to control the viscosity of a clay suspension agent for natural humates. Beyond Pesticides opposed this approval after the board voted down an expiration date annotation, which would have required the material to be repetitioned in five years, similar to the voting required under the previous sunset process. Beyond Pesticides pointed out that the requirement for a new petition creates an incentive to develop increasingly safer manufacturing processes. Beyond Pesticides’ comments and can be read here. The board did move to send back to the Livestock Subcommittee a proposal to increase flexibility in the amount of methionine allowed in organic poultry production without an assurance that methionine will be reevaluated in five years under a standard as rigorous as the petition process. Those blocking the proposed methionine standard want a five-year expiration annotation attached to the proposal. The board also sent the proposal to approve materials for aquaculture backed to committee and asked for a release of the draft standards for aquaculture before any further actions. Beyond Pesticides will publish more in-depth comments on the recent NOSB board meeting soon, but you can read further about the recent board meeting at Cornucopia’s blog.

The recent contentious NOSB meeting highlights why it is important to advocate for strong organic standards. You can help these efforts to maintain a strong organic program by reading Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong page and taking action on our Save Our Organics page.

Source: Cornucopia

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

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02
May

Review Links Glyphosate to non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

(Beyond Pesticides, May 2, 2014) A recent review, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, examines the interaction between widely used agricultural herbicides, like glyphosate, the active ingredient of Roundup products, and the risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). The study represents one of the most comprehensive reviews on the topic of occupational exposure to pesticides in scientific literature, demonstrating their clear harm to human health.

The study, “Non Hodgkin lymphoma and occupational exposure to agricultural pesticide chemical groups and active ingredients: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” reviews almost thirty years of epidemiological research, examining occupational exposure of farmers to 80 active ingredients, and 21 chemicals groups to clarify their role in the development of NHL. Analyzing 44 papers, the study opens its discussion by mentioning the ‘striking increase’ in incidents of NHL over the past 30 years. The study attempts to reconcile apparent trends of low mortality but high incidents of cancer among farm workers, pointing out that exposure to agricultural pesticides are often associated with signficint sub-lethal impacts.

Researchers Maria Leon Roux, PhD., and Leah Schinasi, PhD. at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in the Environment and Radiation section, said that the challenge of expensive and therefore the need for more comprehensive data “motivated us to systematically review the published epidemiological literature of relationships of NHL with occupational exposures to agricultural pesticide chemical groups and active ingredients.”

In addition to linking glyphosate to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the researchers also found that carbamate insecticides, organophosphate insecticides, phenoxy herbicide MCPA, and lindane were positively associated with NHL cancer.

The study comes just as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering registering yet another herbicide containing glyphosate and 2, 4-D with seeds engineered to tolerate both materials. The chemical, Enlist Duo technology, is made by Dow AgroSciences in an effort to stem growing insect and weed resistance, which has resulted in increased pesticide use. Registering another toxic chemical mix is not only ineffective in reducing resistance, it ignores the science presented in this and many other scientific articles that links pesticide impacts to human health and the environment.

Beyond Pesticides has assembled  extensive documentation on the human health and environmental risks of glyphosate. It has been linked to a number of serious human health effects, including increased cancer risk, neurotoxicity, and birth defects, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. One of the inert ingredients in product formulations of Roundup, polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA), has also been shown to kill human embryonic cells. In 2009, Beyond Pesticides, submitted comments to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) showing new and emerging science that illustrates that glyphosate and its formulated products pose unreasonable risk to human and environmental health, and as such should not be considered eligible for continued registration.

To see more scientific research on the effects of pesticides on human health, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, which supports the clear need for strategic action to shift away from pesticide dependency. Public policy must advance this shift, rather than continue to allow unnecessary reliance on pesticides.

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

Sources: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

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01
May

Organic Food Consumption Leads to Dramatically Lower Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, May 1, 2014) A recent study, Reduction in urinary organophosphate pesticide metabolites in adults after a week-long organic diet, led by Liza Oates found lower trances of organophosphate metabolites in consumers that ate organic food for a week compared to those who ate a conventional diet. The study adds to the scientific literature that shows consuming organic food minimize consumers’ exposure to pesticides residue. Because organic agriculture is a healthier system for consumers it is important we protect strict organic standards.

The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Research, found that participants who ate a diet that was at least 80 percent organic had 89 percent lower levels of dialkylphosphates (DAPs), non-selective organophosphate metabolites, in their urine. The study was conducted in Melbourne, Australia with non-smoking participates between the age of 18 and 65. Participants were asked to eat a diet of conventional food for a week than on the morning of day eight participants provided a urine sample to the researchers. This process was repeated with the same participants after they spent a week eating at least 80 percent organic food. The levels of DAPs found in participants during the week in which they ate conventional were comparable to previous studies done on the general population.

The study was expressly concerned with the health impacts that organophosphates can have on consumers. Organophosphate pesticides originally were derived from World War II nerve agents. According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 73 million pounds of organophosphates were used on U.S. crops in 2001. Organophosphates inhibit cholinesterase, a neurotransmitter that carries signals between nerves and muscles. Inhibiting cholinesterase can cause poisoning victims to suffocate due to paralysis and cause lungs to fill up with fluid. Children are at an elevated risk for organophosphate pesticide poisoning.

The study adds to the growing literature that eating organic clearly is a healthier option because it allows consumers to reduce their exposures to pesticide residues. The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) released a report in 2012 on organic foods that stated organic foods provide health advantages by reducing exposure to pesticides, especially for children, even reporting “sound evidence” that organic foods contain more vitamin C and phosphorus. According to the report, “in terms of health advantages, organic diets have been convincingly demonstrated to expose consumers to fewer pesticides associated with human disease.”

There were however several limitations with this study such as a small sample size and variation of when participates entered and exited the study. Future large scale studies investigating the relationship between exposure and health outcomes are required to determine if the reduction in organophosphates associated with an organic diet has clinical relevance.

Current Fights over Organic Standards in the U.S.

Strong organic standards are necessary to maintain for consumers to remain confident that organic foods have the health advantages that are expressed in this study. Currently, The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the board which maintains the list of allowable synthetic substances, is meeting in San Antonio Texas.

Yesterday a protest, staged by representatives of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and March against Monsanto San Antonio (MAMSA), disrupted the NOSB meeting.

The activists came to protest the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program’s (NOP) changes to the sunset process for removing non-organic ingredients and materials from the NOP’s National List of substances allowed and prohibited in products certified as organic.

You can help these efforts to maintain a strong organic program by reading Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong page and taking action with our Save Our Organics page. You can also follow the meeting in real time by following Beyond Pesticides on Twitter and Facebook.

Source: The Conversation

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

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30
Apr

Industry Campaign and Congressional Hearing Mislead on Bee Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, April 30, 2014) A new report, released this week by author Michele Simon and Friends of the Earth documents the tactics used by Bayer and other pesticide companies to delay regulatory action on neonicotinoid pesticides –a key contributor to bee declines. The report identifies public relations tactics reminiscent of those used by the tobacco industry, is now being used by Bayer, Syngenta, and Monsanto. Meanwhile, a Congressional hearing on pollinator health, with a panel dominated by industry, ignored the risks pesticides pose to pollinators, and failed to address sustainable solutions to bee decline.

The report, Follow the Honey: 7 Ways Pesticide Companies Are Spinning the Bee Crisis to Protect Profits, uncovers the deceptive public relations tactics used by industry giants Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto, to deflect blame from their products’ contributions to bee declines. The products in question are the chemicals now widely used for seed treatment –neonicotinoids– as well as on residential sites. They are highly toxic to bees and have been linked to bee decline. Last year, the European Union banned the three most widely used neonicotinoids –imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam– based on strong science indicating these insecticides can kill bees outright and make them more vulnerable to pests, pathogens and other stressors. However, these pesticides are still widely used in the U.S., despite massive bee losses that threaten vital food crops, from almonds in California to apples in Washington.

A Congressional hearing yesterday on Capitol Hill, convened on pollinator health, reinforced the report’s findings as no mention of pesticide risks were discussed by the industry dominated panel. The hearing for the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture included no independent scientists on the leading edge of bee research, and no beekeepers who are experiencing firsthand dire losses of bees responsible for pollinating many of our food crops. The hearing is being viewed as just another tactic to marginalize the role of pesticides, the beekeeping industry most impacted by bee losses, and the Saving America’s Pollinators Act- a bill that would suspend the use of four of the most toxic neonicotinoid chemicals until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducts a full review of their safety and can make an informed and scientifically-sound decision about their use.

“These pesticide companies use PR tricks straight out of Big Tobacco’s playbook to manufacture doubt about science and fool politicians and the public to delay action, while they keep profiting from bee-killing pesticides,” said Ms.Simon, a public health attorney who tracks corporate tactics.

PR tactics revealed in the new report include:

  • Spinning the Science and “Manufacturing Doubt” about the role of pesticides: Aggressive efforts to promote the varroa mite and other factors as the leading causes of bee deaths while downplaying or dismissing the role of pesticides. What they don’t say: neonicotinoid pesticides are a key compounding factor that makes bees more vulnerable to the varroa mite and other pests and pathogens.
  • “Bee Care” PR Blitz: PR campaigns to create the appearance of being “out in front” and taking a lead role in “saving bees” by promoting “bee health,” building “Bee Care Centers” and launching a “Bee Care Tour” while downplaying the role of pesticides in bee deaths.
  • Buying Credibility: Funding scientific studies, cultivating alliances and strategic partnerships with farmers, beekeepers, and agricultural organizations in order to buy credibility for their “anything but pesticides” talking points and position themselves as “friends of the bees.”
  • Blaming Farmers and Beekeepers: While denying criticism of pesticides, blaming farmers who use pesticides for any “rare” negative effects on bees, and blaming beekeepers for poor bee care.
  • Targeting Children: Propaganda to win young hearts and minds, such as Bayer’s children’s book entitled “Toby and the Bees” in which a friendly beekeeper tells young Toby the bees are getting sick, but “not to worry,” it’s just a problem with mites, and there is special medicine (made by Bayer) to make bees healthy.

Neonicotinoid residues pose a major risk to bees from fugitive dust off seed planters, which EPA has recognized as a causing several bee kills nationwide. These chemicals are particularly dangerous because, in addition to being highly acutely toxic, their use also results in serious sublethal effects when insects are exposed to chronic low doses, as they are through pollen, nectar, and water droplets contaminated with the chemicals, in addition to dust that is released into the air when treated seeds are planted with seed planters across millions of acres of corn fields in the U.S. Neonicotinoids are also systemic pesticides, meaning residues remain in plants, soil and water for very long periods of time. This causes significant problems for the long-term health of individual honey bees, as well as the overall health of honey bee colonies. Effects observed in exposed bees include disruptions in mobility and navigation, feeding behavior, foraging activity, memory and learning, suppressed immune function, and overall decreased hive activity.

Despite a growing body of evidence (read: No Longer a Big Mystery) showing acute, sublethal, and chronic effects of neonicotinoid pesticides in bees, industry giants like Syngenta and Bayer continue to ignore the impact of their products and instead focus on beekeeper practices, nutrition, and viruses and pathogens as the main culprits of bee decline. In fact, both Bayer and Syngenta are challenging the EU’s suspension of their chemicals, claiming the European Commission made its decision on the basis of a flawed process. Beekeepers have protested across Europe and also here in the U.S., calling for a moratorium on bee-killing pesticides. Several beekeepers are co-plaintiffs in a 2013 lawsuit challenging EPA’s failure to protect pollinators. This lawsuit seeks suspension of the registrations of clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees and clear contributors to ongoing mortality of bees. The suit challenges EPA’s oversight of these pesticides, as well as EPA’s registration process and labeling deficiencies.

With bee-kill incidents in Oregon last summer, including one that killed more than 50,000 bumblebees, and the bee deaths in California’s almond groves, and ‘mysterious’ road-side bee deaths in Oregon, as well as astronomical overwintering losses in Ohio, bees continue to face challenges. In spite of recent efforts in Europe to help reverse bee decline by suspending the use of three widely neonicotinoids, U.S. officials have yet to move definitely on the issue. EPA recognizing that these chemicals can pose risks to bees published revised product labels stipulating users not to apply when bees are near. These labels, according to advocates and beekeepers, do not go far enough to protect bees from these chemicals.

BEE Protective

Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety have joined forces with the BEE Protective Campaign, with the goal of protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides. The BEE Protective Campaign gives you the tools to help honey bees and other pollinators right in your own community. Here are some ways to take action:

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

Source: Friends of the Earth

 

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29
Apr

Triclosan Linked to the Growth of Breast Cancer Cells

(Beyond Pesticides, April, 29, 2014) According to a recent study published in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, the chemicals triclosan and octylphenol are linked to the growth of breast cancer cells. Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent found in numerous commonly known household products. Octylphenol is a commercial solvent that can be found in paints and plastics, and is often used as an inert ingredient in pesticide formulations.

Researchers investigated whether these two endocrine-disrupting chemicals (ECDs) contributed to the growth of cancer cells. In their study, Progression of Breast Cancer Cells Was Enhanced by Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals, Triclosan and Octylphenol, via an Estrogen Receptor-Dependent Signaling Pathway in Cellular and Mouse Xenograft Models, scientists performed both in vitro tests on human breast cancer cells in petri dishes, and in vivo tests via tissue grafts on mice. “Although the doses of EDCs were somewhat high, we did this to simulate their effects of daily exposure, as well as body accumulation due to long-term exposure, simultaneously in animal experiments,” said Kyung-Chul Choi, PhD, co-author of the research. Results of the study established that both triclosan and octylphenol interfered with the genes involved in breast cancer growth. In human breast cancer cells, these chemicals altered the expression of two cell cycle regulators, ultimately leading to proliferation of the cancerous cells. Mice exposed to the chemicals experienced larger and denser breast cancer tumors compared to the control group. “Thus, exposure to EDCs may significantly increase the risk of breast cancer development and adversely affect human health,” the researchers state in the paper.

Endocrine disruptors function by: (i) Mimicking the action of a naturally-produced hormone, such as estrogen or testosterone, thereby setting off similar chemical reactions in the body; (ii) Blocking hormone receptors in cells, thereby preventing the action of normal hormones; or (iii) Affecting the synthesis, transport, metabolism and excretion of hormones, thus altering the concentrations of natural hormones. In addition to cancer, recent studies have linked EDCs to declines in sperm count, increased risk of endometriosis, and the impairment of fish hearts.

Octylphenol is regulated as an inert ingredient by the Environmental Protections Agency. Under this status, the chemical can be added to formulated pesticide products without providing knowledge to the consumer. Last month, Beyond Pesticides and allies filed a complaint against EPA for the agency’s failure to disclose inert ingredients on pesticide project labels. Pesticide labels only identify the weight percentage of inert ingredients, which often comprise 50 to 99 percent of a formulation, and mislead the public into thinking that these other “inert” ingredients are safe.“Consumers and users of pesticide products have a right to know all the ingredients that are in products they purchase so that they can make more informed choices in the marketplace,” said Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides. Read more about the pending litigation here.

Due to its widespread use, and numerous studies showing adverse health impacts, triclosan, the other chemical tested in this recent study, has been a particular focus for environmental, health, and consumer advocates. In 1972, Congress required FDA to set guidelines for many common antibacterial chemicals found in over-the-counter soaps and scrubs. FDA published tentative guidelines for chemicals used in liquid hand soaps and washes by 1978, stating triclosan was “not generally recognized as safe and effective.” This was due to a lack of scientific research demonstrating the chemical’s safety and effectiveness. While many major manufacturers, including Johnson and Johnson and Proctor and Gamble, have already announced their intent to eliminate triclosan from their products, the chemical still remains widespread in a number of consumer goods.

Due to these growing concerns, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a new rule last December that requires manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps, body washes, and other consumer goods to prove that their products are both safe for long-term use and more effective than regular bar soap in order to remain on the market. This announcement, though long-delayed, represents a positive step toward reining in the unnecessary use of antibacterial chemicals. Toothpaste containing triclosan is not subject to this rulemaking as FDA has indicated that the chemical is effective as an anti-gingivitis ingredient.

As new science emerges, Beyond Pesticides continues to urge concerned consumers to join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge  to stop using triclosan. Since the rule will not go into effect until at least 2016, make sure to continue to read the label of personal care products in order to avoid those containing triclosan. You can also encourage your local schools, government agencies, and businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, school, or company to adopt the model resolution that commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.

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

Source: American Chemical Society,

 

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28
Apr

Organic Agricultural Practices Can Limit Climate Change

(Beyond Pesticides, April 28, 2014) Last week, the Rodale Institute, home to America’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of chemical and organic agriculture, published a white paper to support its announcement of a global campaign to generate public awareness of organic agricultural practices ability to limit the effects of climate change. The paper singles out several “regenerative organic agriculture” practices that help sequester carbon leading to less CO2 in the atmosphere. This campaign will help deliver the growing scientific literature that connects agricultural practices with climate change.

The white paper, Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming, argues that it is possible to sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions by switching to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which are referred to in the paper as “regenerative organic agriculture.” According to the report soil sequestration can potentially sequester greenhouse gas emissions of roughly 52 gigatonnes of CO2. Even if modest assumption about soil’s carbon sequestration potential are made, regenerative agriculture can easily keep annual emissions to within the desirable lower end of the 41-47 gigatonnes of CO2, which is identified as necessary reduction to limit warming to 1.5°C.

Rodale highlights several examples of management practices that, if shifted, could help sequester CO2. These practices include (at a minimum) cover crops, residue mulching, composting and crop rotation. The report also includes information on conservation tillage however, this practices is still not widely used in organic systems. The report notes that changes to individual management practices should not be the sole focus as regenerative organic agriculture is a holistic system. However, data for specific practices are used in this study to help readers better understand the mechanisms at work in soil carbon sequestration.

The report specifically points to bare soil as one of the largest sources of carbon lose in conventional agriculture. According to Rodale:

“Agricultural soils that are left fallow [bare] or are heavily tilled are exposed to wind and water leading to erosion of the carbon-rich topsoil. Fallow land also fails to accumulate biomass carbon that it would otherwise by continuously growing plants. Tilled, exposed, eroded soils lead to the breakdown of soil aggregates, allowing formerly stable soil carbon to be released as a greenhouse gas.”

Growing cover crops, reducing tillage, and enhancing crop rotations does not allow for land to be left bare and fixes carbon in the soil rather than allowing it to be lost to the atmosphere.

The paper was released as part of Rodale Institute’s global campaign to generate public awareness of soil’s ability to reverse climate change. The campaign will call for the restructuring of our global food system with the goal of reversing climate change through photosynthesis and biology.

According to “Coach” Mark Smallwood, executive director of Rodale Institute, “The white paper is to encourage new research, new policy and the rapid expansion of regenerative agricultural methods. The media campaign brings the broader vision to the public much faster.  The idea is to stoke the public outcry that already exists and to validate those who demand these changes be made now.”

This white paper adds to the growing literature that connects industrial agriculture to climate change and the effects climate changes can have on agriculture production. Algal blooms, which cause bright green scum that completely covers the Western part of Lake Erie, occurs from mid-July to October, in part because of farming practices surrounding the Lake and in part due to climate change. Runoff from phosphorus fertilizers provide nutrients for blooms, which is compounded by warmer weather. Climate change also increases the movement of toxic chemicals. The study, The toxicology of climate change: Environmental contaminants in a warming world, found that climate change will general increase the toxicity of contaminates such as DDT, DDE, and hexachlorobenzene (HCB).

A study produced by Sanford University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have also tied increases in crop losses and increased pest populations to climate change. The study warns that wheat, corn and barley are especially affected, with 40 million fewer metric tons of the crops produced each year. For every 1 degree increase in temperature, the researchers say, crop yields drop by about 3 percent to 5 percent, and the decline is clearly caused by human activity.

Beyond Pesticides has long be a supporter of organic agriculture as a solution to climate change because of its potential to sequester carbon. For more information visit Beyond Pesticides’ Environmental Benefits of Organic Agriculture. Also, read Beyond Pesticides’ 2007 Pesticides and You Climate Change: Consequences and the Organic Response and Jeff Moyer’s, Rodale Farm Director, talk at Beyond Pesticides’ 31st National Pesticide Forum.

Source: Nation of Change

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

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25
Apr

Multiple Accounts of Honey Bee Death and Damage Continue

(Beyond Pesticides, April 24, 2014) Reports of honey bee deaths have been emerging around the nation: from bee deaths in California’s almond groves and ‘mysterious’ road-side bee deaths in Oregon, to astronomical overwintering losses in Ohio. The reports are intensifying the ecological crises of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) —a phenomenon dead bee- fadetypified by the mass abandonment of hives and bee die-off. CCD poses significant issues for many agricultural crops, such as almonds, apples, cherries and blueberries, that are almost completely reliant on honey bees for their pollination services.

In California, a total of 80,000 dead or damaged bee hives were reported after pollinating almond trees in the San Joaquin Valley, a region that is known for its agricultural productivity. Beekeepers have pointed to pesticides as the primary culprit. Almond pollination in California requires an army of 1,300 commercial beekeepers from around the nation. However, this year beekeepers have seen higher damages to hives than usual.

Damage to the honey bee hives this spring has been so pronounced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) convened an impromptu meeting with beekeepers in Los Banos, California. The meeting brought together 75 beekeepers who testified that 75 percent of their hives showed severe damage following almond pollination. Beekeepers pointed to ‘tank mixing’ of several insecticides, which are toxic by themselves and even more so in combination. Almond farmers often use clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam —chemicals that have been banned in the European Union (EU) due to an unreasonably high-risk to honey bees— as well as tolfenpyrad and cyantraniliprole, products that just recently came on the market after EPA registration.

Beekeeper Gene Brandi of Los Banos told The Sacramento Bee that pesticides used do not have explicit label warnings about their possible effects on bees. Although EPA assessed their toxicity for adult bees, and found them to be nontoxic, “Nonetheless, these chemicals affect the bee colony by affecting the brood,” Mr. Brandi said. “The damaged hives are a significant number, and enough to cause alarm.”

In Oregon, officials are now investigating the death of thousands of honeybees along a highway running southwest of Portland. Bruce Pokarney of the Oregon Department of Agriculture estimated that the swarm of bees could have ranged in number from one to 10,000. Officials told Reuters that they are currently working under the assumption that the bees swarmed while attempting to cross the road and ended up as roadkill, however samples have been sent to Oregon State University to check for possible disease or so-called “other issues,” such as pesticides. The die-off marks the second in Oregon this year, after 50,000 bumblebees were found dead in a parking lot in Wilsonville after feeding on a linden tree doused with the bee-killing pesticide dinotefuran.

Across the U.S., Ohioan beekeepers have just reported overwintering losses between 50 and 80 percent, according the The Columbus Dispatch, which come on top of 30 to 60 percent die-offs the previous year. “It’s a pretty devastating loss,” said Ohio beekeeper Barry Conrad, who maintains 76 hives. “It’s been getting worse each year.” The winter was an unusually harsh one, however, beekeepers including Mr. Conrad have pointed to pesticides as the key issue.

Every year the Bee Informed Partnership, in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides a national survey of honey bee winter losses (see 2012-2013 losses). When the survey is released in May, we should see whether these reported events are demonstrating nationwide trends.

BEE Protective

On Earth Day 2013, Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety joined forces to launch the BEE Protective Campaign, with the goal of protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides.The BEE Protective Campaign gives you the tools to help honey bees and other pollinators right in your own community. Here are some ways to take action:

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

Sources: The Sacramento Bee, Reuters, The Columbus Dispatch

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24
Apr

France Bans GE Corn Cultivation, VT Passes GE Food Labeling Bill

(Beyond Pesticides, April 24, 2014) France’s lower house of parliament passed a bill last week banning the cultivation of all strains of genetically engineered (GE) corn within its borders, even those strains that might not yet be approved within the European Union (EU). The law follows a decree adopted last month, which targeted the only GE crop permitted for cultivation in the EU—Monsanto’s insect-resistant MON810 corn. Back in the U.S., Vermont became the first state to pass a bill requiring the labeling of food containing GE ingredients (You can read the House bill as it was introduced here and the Senate amendments to this bill here). The bill, which the Governor said he will sign, passed by large majorities in both houses of the legislature and does not contain a trigger provision similar to laws adopted in Connecticut and Maine –with a requirement that similar action is taken in contiguous states before the law goes into effect.

The action in France is not the first time it has closed the door on MON810, even in the face of its highest court’s rulings that similar bans did not have sufficient justification. Yet, undaunted by these defeats the French General Assembly went even further than these past actions and extended the ban to all GE corn crops through more permanent legislation.

Jean-Marie Le Guen, National Assembly delegate, explained, “It is essential today to renew a widely shared desire to maintain the French ban. This bill strengthens the decree passed last March by preventing the immediate cultivation of [GE] and extending their reach to all transgenic maize varieties.”

The bold move in the name of environmental protection must still clear some significant legislative and legal hurdles. The upper house of France’ parliament, the Senate, has yet to vote on the bill and most likely will reject the law as it has done in the past. Unlike the U.S. legislative system, however, this does not mean absolute defeat, and according to some resources, the National Assembly will still have the final say.

Whether or not that final say survives yet another legal challenge from industry and pro-GE crop farmers, is a separate issue. France must also continue its battle at the EU level to restructure EU rules concerning GE cultivation approvals and those countries who oppose such approvals.

France Is Right to Be Concerned

Insecticide-resistant corn, like MON810, poses serious threats to both the environment and human health. Researchers have found numerous instances of insect resistance, a difficult to contain environmental and agricultural impact often leading to overall increases in insecticide sales and emergency uses of even more dangerous pesticides. Animal studies have also produced evidence of insecticide-incorporated corn causing increased chances of infertility. Couple these risks with the fact that little evidence of the supposed economic benefits that proponents of GE crops laud has been substantiated and France’s actions seem more than sufficient.

GE Efforts Here at Home

While efforts to curb GE crop cultivation in the U.S. through all-out bans are few and far between, many states have attempted to pass GE labeling laws.  Few have been successful and those that have passed, have included trigger provisions that prevent them going into effect—until yesterday.  A Vermont bill requiring the labeling of GE foods passed the Vermont House of Representatives by a 114-30 vote, making it the first GE labeling bill to clear both houses of the state legislature and head to the governor for a likely signature. Much like France, Vermont faces almost certain legal challenges from the GE-industry, as well as federal-level preemptive legislation.

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

Source: Reuters; Nation of Change, Burlington Free Press

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

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23
Apr

Vermont One Large Step Closer to Labeling Genetically Engineered Food

(Beyond Pesticides, April 18, 2014) Last week the Vermont state Senate voted 28-2 to authorize the mandatory labeling of foods made with genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. The bill, H.112, “An Act Relating to the Labeling of Food Produced with Genetic Engineering,” passed the Vermont House of Representatives back in May, and now goes back to the House for approval before moving to the Governor. Vermont’s legislation does not include a “trigger clause,” which is contained in labeling bills passed last year in Maine and Connecticut that, before going into effect, require other states in the New England region (including one boarding state) with an aggregate population of 20 million to pass similar laws.

If the last hurdles in the state legislature are cleared and the bill is signed by Governor Peter Shumlin (D), Vermont’s labeling law would not allow manufacturers to describe any food containing GE ingredients as “all natural” or “natural.” Processed foods that contain a product or products with GE would be required to display in clear and conspicuous language the words, “partially produced with genetic engineering” or “may be partially produced with genetic engineering.”

But even if passed, Vermont’s bill faces numerous challenges from the deep pockets of the biotechnology industry and its backers in the U.S. Congress. While states such as Vermont are working to shed light on the ingredients in our food, industry found U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) to assist in helping keep Americans in the dark through HR 4432, accurately dubbed the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know Act” or DARK Act. The DARK Act would preempt states like Vermont from implementing mandatory labeling laws by giving the authority to label GE ingredients to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In effect, it would also allow food companies to give products with GE ingredients the “natural” label, despite the fact that there is nothing natural about crops engineered in a lab to produce their own insecticide or tolerate dangerous herbicides.

Advocates of the Vermont labeling bill also expect a fight in the courts. To that end, the bill’s language currently contains a provision setting up a fund to pay for the expected legal wrangling. The biotechnology industry has made numerous threats to sue states that pass labeling laws, but testimony to the state Senate from Vermont Law School professors and state public interest groups asserted that HR 112 is constitutional and could withstand legal challenges.

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

And we can’t forget that a national GE labeling bill is awaiting action in both Houses of Congress, but has yet to be voted on in committee in either the Senate or the House. National GE labeling efforts are being spearheaded by the Just Label It! Campaign and has garnered thousands of supporters across the country. In the meantime, the best way to avoid food with GE ingredients being purposely added to food is to buy organic. Under organic certification standards, GE organisms are prohibited, although because of USDA policies that allow the proliferation of GE crops, organic production is subject to genetic drift contamination. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website.

Source: Reuters, Vermont Public Research Intrest Group (VPRIG)

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22
Apr

Community Action on Earth Day -Eliminate Toxic Chemicals that Jeopardize the Natural World

(Beyond Pesticides, April 22, 2014) As we reflect on the beauty and wonder of the natural world this Earth Day and seek to restore and preserve the intricate web of life on the planet, we face an urgent need to stop ongoing toxic chemical contamination. The hard truth of our time is that the natural world on which life depends is under grave threat from numerous toxic insults resulting from mechanized and industrial human activity. Massive die-offs of beneficial organisms, increased rates of autoimmune diseases, endocrine disrupting and transgenerational chemical effects, and widespread pollution of our air and waterways –all linked to pesticides and other toxic chemicals, establish the critical need to adopt organic standards in sync with ecosystems.

This Earth Day we ask you to spread awareness of toxic chemicals that pollute the environment. Get active to safeguard your community and the surrounding environment from toxic insults: teach your neighbors how to maintain their land without toxic pesticides, protect honeybees from neonicotinoids insecticides, aquatic species from endocrine disrupting chemicals, and the streams, lakes, and rivers we all depend on from the widespread use of harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Beyond Pesticides has the tools needed to increase environmental awareness in your community through our Databases that Support Action.

Learn about the chemicals entering our communities and globe. Beyond Pesticides’ Gateway on Pesticide Hazards and Safe Pest Management provides information on the health and environmental effects of nearly 350 registered pesticide active ingredients. It is searchable by chemical name, product name, or health and environmental effects. The database is designed to provide decision and policy makers, practitioners, and activists with easier access to current and historical information on pesticide hazards and safe pest management, drawing on and linking to numerous sources and organizations that include information related to pesticide science, policy and activism.

Discover how environmental exposure impacts human health. Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database presents scientific studies that document elevated rates of chronic diseases among people exposed to pesticides, with increased numbers of studies associated with both specific illnesses and a range of diseases. Currently, the database is searchable for over 600 scientific references relating to Alzheimer’s, asthma, birth defects, body burden, cancer, diabetes, endocrine dysfunction, learning and developmental disabilities, Parkinson’s and sexual reproductive dysfunction. The current database is updated consistently. As you become educated, consider assisting our work – send studies that you think should be added to the database to info@beyondpesticides.org.

Consider a food system that enhances, not harms, environmental health. Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience database is designed to help explain the urgent need for a major shift to organic food consumption. Though this list is helpful in alerting consumers to hazardous residues on food, food residues are only part of the story. Those foods that are often referenced as “clean” commodities may be grown with hazardous pesticides that get into waterways and groundwater, contaminate nearby communities, poison farmworkers, and kill wildlife, while not all showing up at detectable or elevated levels on our food. Database users select an individual crop which will brings up a page that lists all of the pesticides that have registered tolerance (legal residue) allowances on that specific crop. The database lists the human health (acute, and chronic effects) and environmental (surface water contaminant, ground water contaminant, wildlife poison, bee poison, long-range transport) effects linked to each pesticide. The page also includes reported California farmworker poisoning incidents.

Earth Day last year saw the launch of the BEE Protective campaign spearheaded by Beyond Pesticides and our friends at Center for Food Safety. One year in, the campaign has generated a tremendous outpouring of support through local action, social media, and information requests to Beyond Pesticides. New backyard beekeepers and gardeners are fostering local pollinator resilience and creating bee friendly habitat that brings communities together and fuels the campaign to BEE Protective of pollinators. And thousands across the country continue raise their voices in multi-pronged efforts to pressure Congress, federal regulators, and the marketplace to stop using neonicotinoid pesticides proven to be harmful to honey bees. As we say in our recent issue of Pesticides and You, it’s No Longer a BIG Mystery why bees are dying. Neonicotinoid pesticides pose an imminent threat to pollinators and numerous other beneficial species.

As we appreciate the Earth and all it provides on this Earth Day, we hope you will use our resources, take action, and educate others on the ways toxic chemicals jeopardize the complex natural processes on which we rely. Through the promotion and adoption of alternative systems like organic, we can work with the Earth’s natural systems to produce a safer, healthier world for all living species.

To make your community sustainable and take it off the pesticide treadmill, join Beyond Pesticides’ community-based campaigns through our website, or contact us directly at info@beyondpesticides.org.

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

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21
Apr

Study Finds Individuals Exposed to Triclosan More Likely to Carry Staph Bacteria

(Beyond Pesticides, April 21, 2014) A study has found that increased human exposure to triclosan is correlated with elevated numbers of individuals carrying staph bacteria. This research adds to the growing scientific literature that questions the safety and efficacy of triclosan, an anti-bacterial chemical widely used in consumer products.

The study, Triclosan Promotes Staphylococcus aureus Nasal Colonization, authored by Blaise R. Boles, PhD and published in mBio, found that nasal secretions that contain triclosan is linked to higher rates of the variety of staph bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus. Dr. Boles and colleagues found that 64 percent of individuals with detectable levels of triclosan in nostrils carried staph compared to 27 percent of individuals that had little or no antimicrobial compounds carrying staph. The researchers also found that triclosan also promotes the binding of staph to human proteins making them “stickier.” This allows staph to hunker down in the nose, giving it an advantage over other nose-dwelling microbes. Triclosan also allows staph to better attach to other surfaces such as glass and plastic.

Beyond the human tests, researchers found a similar link in rat experiments. They used a breed of rat known to take about a week to shake off a mild nasal invasion by staph. When the researchers gave the rats triclosan-laced food and stuck a small batch of staph in the rodents’ noses, the rats could not get rid of the microbes. According to a Science New article, microbiologist Hanne Ingmer of the University of Copenhagen says the finding has troubling implications for public health. Triclosan, she points out, could provide footholds for the most worrisome forms of staph, such as methicillin-resistant MRSA.

Triclosan, commercially introduced in 1972, is a ubiquitous antibacterial chemical found in an increasing variety of household products. While many major manufacturers, including Johnson and Johnson and Proctor and Gamble, have already announced their intent to eliminate triclosan from their products, the chemical still remains widespread in a number of consumer goods. Though Colgate Palmolive announced in 2011 that it would reformulate many of its products to take out triclosan, it has refused to change the formula for its mainstay Colgate Total brand toothpaste.

Due to these growing concerns the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a new rule last December that requires manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps, body washes, and other consumer goods to prove that their products are both safe for long-term use and more effective than regular bar soap in order to remain on the market. This announcement, though long-delayed, represents a positive step toward reining in the unnecessary use of antibacterial chemicals.Toothpaste containing triclosan is not subject to this rulemaking as FDA has indicated that the chemical is effective as an anti-gingivitis ingredient.

This study adds to the growing literature that questions the safety and efficacy of triclosan. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It has also been shown to alter thyroid function, and other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in umbilical cord blood and human milk. The CDC estimates that triclosan is present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 50% since 2004.Studies even show that triclosan can react with the chlorine in tap water to form chloroform at rates of exposure considered significant by the authors of the research.

As new science emerges, Beyond Pesticides continues to urge concerned consumers to join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge  to stop using triclosan. Since the rule will not go into effect until at least 2016, make sure to continue to read the label of personal care products in order to avoid those containing triclosan. You can also encourage your local schools, government agencies, and businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, school, or company to adopt the model resolution that commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan. See Beyond Pesticides Triclosan webpage for additional information. Source: Science News All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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18
Apr

Mountain Lion Poisoned as Rodenticides Move Up the Food Chain

(Beyond Pesticides, April 18, 2014) Test results have confirmed that the charismatic mountain lion named P-22 —that frequently roams the hills of the San Gabriel Mountains surrounding Los Angeles, California— has been exposed to highly toxic rat poisons. When remote cameras in Griffith Park caught images of the puma, state park officials saw a thin mangy cat, far different from the majestic shots taken months ago by National Geographic against the Hollywood sign as a backdrop. Upon performing blood testing analysis, they found that P-22 had been exposed to anticoagulant pesticides, stoking the debate around rodenticide use, as further research suggests that these pesticide poisonings are a common occurrence.

p22-recentResearchers already know of the link between pesticides and mange—parasitic mites which burrow into the skin or hair follicles causing bald spots, scabbing and sore, which left untreated has contributed to the death of wild and domestic animals. Previous research by the National Park Service (NPS) has shown that bobcats that have ingested rodenticide are much more likely to suffer from mange. While the cougar has been treated with topical ointments for mange, and a dose of vitamin D with vitamin K as an antidote to the rat poisons, it is still unclear whether P-22 will fully recover. However, the event has brought media attention to the possible impacts of pest management practices on beneficial wildlife.

In late 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that loose pelleted rat poison products were unnecessarily harmful to human health and the environment, taking action to pass a Notice of Intent to Cancel (NOIC) for certain products—namely d-CON. In response, manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser LLC has refused to adopt the  risk mitigation measures established by EPA in 2008, and is currently also challenging EPA’s decision to protect the public from these products, effectively keeping its products on the shelf until litigation is resolved.

In the meantime, California and its local municipalities have stepped in to provide preliminary restrictions on rat killers. In total, nearly 20 municipalities in California including San Francisco, Calabasas, and Malibu have pass resolutions to urge residents and businesses not to purchase or sell second generation anticoagulants.  Reckitt Benckiser has met the opposition head on aggressively challenging California’s rule to remove from store shelves several rodenticide products by suing the state. The manufacturers say that “new regulation will unnecessarily put Californians at an increased public health risk from rodent infestation and place a greater financial burden on families and individuals who cannot afford professional pest control services.”

These assertions have already been addressed by the EPA, which stood behind research showing that low-income and minority children are disproportionately affected by these products. One study in New York found that 57 percent of children hospitalized for eating rat poison from 1990 to 1997 were African American and 26 percent were Latino. It stood to reason that taking them off the shelves and providing snap traps would provide much safer methods of rodent control.

Over the past 20 years, park service officials of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area have found widespread sublethal exposure in carnivores to rodenticides. Indeed, 88% of wildlife tested, including 140 bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, tested positive for one or more anticoagulants. Two mountain lions have been found dead due to poisoning. Reports also show that federally listed threatened and endangered species, such as the San Joaquin kit fox and Northern spotted owl, have been adversely affected by these chemicals.

“Anti-coagulant rodenticides are designed to kill rodents by thinning the blood and preventing clotting,” said urban wildlife expert at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Seth Riley, PhD. “When people put these bait traps outside their homes or businesses, they may not realize that the poison works its way up the food chain, becoming more lethal as the dose accumulates in larger animals.”

In July of 2011, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife requested California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) restrict the use of anticoagulant rodenticides due to numerous incidents involving direct and indirect poisoning of wildlife. Anticoagulants impair blood clotting and eventually cause internal bleeding in target animals. However, rodents can feed on poisoned bait multiple times before death, and as a result their carcasses may contain residues that are many times the lethal dose. Those that are not lethally exposed  become lethargic and are likely to be hit by cars or develop diseases like mange.

Beyond Pesticides has responded to the irresponsible actions of Reckitt Benckiser by launching the Care About Kids campaign to urge major retailers to stop selling dangerous d-CON rodenticides.  In lieu of federal action, Beyond Pesticides argues that retailers have an obligation to stop selling products that EPA has determined are too dangerous to children, pets, and wildlife.

For more information about Beyond Pesticides “Care About Kids” campaign, see our Rodenticides program page, where you can learn more about the harmful effects of these chemicals and find effective alternatives to their use.

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

Source: LA Times

Photo Source: LA Times

 

 

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17
Apr

“DARK” Act Introduced to Stop the Labeling of GE Foods

(Beyond Pesticides, April 17, 2014) Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) recently introduced H.R. 4432, a bill that would give full authority of  genetically engineered (GE) labeling to the Food and Drug Administration, which now favors a voluntary approach to the issue. The bill is designed by industry to undercut a growing number of states that are taking on GE labeling by preempting state authority. The bill is being fought by environmental and food safety groups that are backing federal legislation that would label all GE ingredients.

H.R. 4432, or what is being dubbed as the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know Act” (DARK Act) by activists, would dramatically change food labeling by giving the preemptive authority of labeling GE ingredients to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The act will prevent states from adopting their own GE labeling laws, allow food companies to put a “natural” label on products that contain GE ingredients, and prevent the FDA from requiring companies to label GE ingredients and continue its current “voluntary” labeling policy. This codification of a voluntary labeling standard clearly does not meet consumers growing demands for more information. In the 13 years that FDA has allowed companies to voluntarily label genetically engineered foods, not one single company has done so.

This legislation is almost identical to discussion points produced earlier this year by the Grocery Manufactures Association (GMA), which is seeking a federal solution to growing state efforts to label GE foods. GMA, which is being sued for violating campaign law  in Washington for shielding the identity of its donors, worked to defeat GE labeling initiatives in Washington and California after raising millions of dollars and outspending pro-GE labeling groups by a 5-1 margin. GMA in these campaigns has represented food and beverage leaders such as ConAgra, PepsiCo, Kraft, Monsanto, and Dow.

Environmental and food safety groups have already started to mobilize to defeat this anti-labeling legislation. Groups including Just Label It, the Environmental Working Group and Center for Food Safety (CFS) took to Capitol Hill earlier last week to meet with more than 100 offices, said Scott Faber, executive director of Just Label it. The legislation is also being opposed by some influential farm interest groups. The National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in opposition to the “DARK” Act, stating, “Surveys have consistently shown that consumers want more information about their food, not less. The prevalence of state-led efforts to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) only corroborates these findings.”

FDA may also have a problem implementing these changes, particularly the requirement that the agency define the term “natural” to describe food ingredients on labels. FDA has suggested it is in no hurry to define the term because of its subjectivity, the number of parties and agencies that would need to be involved, and the likelihood that a substantive and clear definition is difficult to craft.

The act also will give FDA the responsibility to require food companies to notify the agency before any new GMO ingredient goes on the market. Currently that process is voluntary. The agency would have the authority to mandate a label should any safety issue arise.

Opposing federal legislation has already been introduced to label all GE ingredients. On April 24, 2013, U.S. Senator Barbra Boxer (D-CA) and U.S. Representative Peter Defazio (D-OR) introduced companion legislation that would require FDA to “clearly label” all GE whole and processed foods, including fish and other seafood. The bills, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, H.R. 1699andS. 809, have 22 cosponsors in the House and 10 in the Senate.

To learn more about GE policy and varieties of GE crops please visit Beyond Pesticides genetic engineering issue page.

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

Source: Politico

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16
Apr

Public Interest Groups Intervene to Defend Kauai’s GE Law

(Beyond Pesticides, April 16, 2014) The U.S. District Court of Hawaii granted a Motion to Intervene jointly presented by Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Earthjustice on behalf of several community non-profit groups. The order allows the groups to participate in a lawsuit filed by Syngenta and other pesticide companies challenging Kauai’s County Ordinance 960, which establishes a county program to monitor pesticide use and genetically engineered (GE) crops. The federal order allows the groups to defend the County of Kauai’s 2013 pesticide disclosure law against the pesticide companies’ legal challenge. The non-profit groups intervening include Center for Food Safety, Surfrider Foundation, Pesticide Action Network North America, and Ka Makani Ho‘opono.

dailynewsOrdinance 960 (formerly known as Bill 2491) provides residents of Kauai public access to information related to the application of pesticides used in experimental and commercial agricultural operations within the County of Kauai. It also affords County residents and their environment greater protection from and information about potential pesticide drift and the impact of growing experimental GE crops on Kauai. The Kauai County Council voted to enact Ordinance 960 in November 2013, overriding the Mayor’s veto. The Ordinance 960 is set to take effect in August.

Local leaders crafted the ordinance in response to public outcry from residents, many of whom live, work, or have children that go to school near agricultural fields leased by chemical corporations. Many in the community assert that Ordinance 960 is only the beginning of local efforts to reign in excesses and abuses of agrichemical companies operating on the island.

Specifically, Ordinance 960 strengthens pesticide disclosure now requiring the industry to submit weekly reports to nearby residents beginning nine months after the passage of the legislation. It also requires pesticide companies to provide the county and public with an annual accounting of pesticide use, disclose the location of GE crops, and conduct an Environmental and Public Health Impact Study on the effects of the agrichemical industry. The ordinance also restricts the application of all pesticides within 500 feet of schools and other medical facilities, and within 100 feet of any park, public roadway or shoreline that flows into the ocean. Unfortunately, some of the more stringent measures were removed from previous drafts, including a moratorium on the future planting of GE crops and regulations governing experimental pesticides.

In January, Syngenta, BASF Plant Science LP, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., and other biotech companies filed a lawsuit to stop Kauai County from moving ahead with the new law to restrict GE agriculture and toxic pesticide applications in sensitive areas, claiming the law is not legally valid. As the first Hawaiian Island to pass restrictions on pesticides and GE agriculture, Kauai County saw an unprecedented outpouring of public support for the then bill,  despite numerous attempts by agrichemical companies to derail the bill.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision, which allows us to vigorously defend this sound and important law,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety. “The judge said specifically that he wanted to include the perspective and voices of the people in Kauai who were being affected,” Mr. Kimbrell said. “So that’s very, very encouraging, and we’re pleased to bring the intervention on behalf of the people on Kauai.”

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff commented, “These community groups deserve to have their own lawyers represent them in court. They’re the Kauai residents who are most affected by the chemical companies’ activities.”

The decision to allow these groups to intervene and defend the new ordinance serves to strengthen the county’s defense, which was hindered by lack of support from the mayor and the county’s budget constraints. The federal ruling comes during the last month of the 2014 legislative session in which there’s been much fanfare but little action on bills to override county regulations on genetic engineering. According to reports, there is still a possibility state lawmakers may revisit those proposals during conference committee over the next couple of weeks. But House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said previously that the House wants to wait to see how the court handles the controversial new rules.

The escalating court battle over Kauai’s ordinance is just one aspect of the ongoing fight over genetic engineering in Hawaii. On Maui, a group of residents wants to put the question of GE farming on the ballot this year. A Maui County Council bill that echoes Kauai’s disclosure requirements has stalled in committee. If successful, the citizens’ ballot initiative will impose a temporary moratorium on growing GE crops.

Beyond Pesticides believes that every community in the United States has the right to self-determination when it comes to the chemicals that are applied in and around where they live, work, and play. Read Beyond Pesticides testimony on Bill 2491 for additional information. If you’d like to become involved in a campaign in your community, send an email to info@beyondpesticides.org, or call 202-543-5450.

Sources: Center for Food Safety Press Release, The Garden Island

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

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15
Apr

Fish from Alaskan Wilderness Contaminated with Banned Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, April 15, 2014) A new study released last week by the National Park Service on contaminant use in Alaska, found traces of pesticides in fish —pesticides which have long been banned and likely never been used within the Alaskan wilderness areas. Researchers examined three Alaskan parks renowned for their remote, pristine and protected wilderness —Lake Clark National Park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Katmai National Park— only to find that contaminants, including PCBs at concentrations exceeding those in the lower 48 states.

Salmon_phixrThe study, Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Fish from Western US and Alaska National Parks—Spatial Distribution and Health Thresholds, published in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association, sought to compare contaminant level found within fish across the nation. Generally, researchers found that Alaskan fish were more likely to have traces of older chemicals, while those in the lower 48 tended to be dominated by newer chemicals. The most commonly detected chemicals are PCBs, endosulfan, sulfate and p,p’-DDE, a breakdown product of DDT. Some of these long-banned chemicals actually exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidelines for human subsistence on fish and wildlife.

Among those exceeding acceptable levels, dieldrin, chlordane, and p,p’-DDE have been identified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by EPA and by the parties of the Stockholm Convention, an international treaty established in 2001 to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. Although the treaty was signed in 2001 by the U.S., it has yet to be ratified by the U.S. Senate

The cause for the surge in older chemical contaminant concentrations, researchers suspect, is that fish in Alaska tend to be much larger in Alaska than elsewhere. “The bigger fish accumulate more contaminants because they are older,” explained co-author Colleen Flanagan Pritz, ecologist with the National Park Service’s Air Resources Division.

Transport of contaminant to northerly environmental has long been a problem. Researchers suspect that they are carried through atmospheric currents, which are then deposited during rain events as moisture condenses over cold regions —at high altitudes and latitudes. Previous studies have shown DDT/DDE to have alarmingly high concentrations in the Arctic, and other U.S. national parks. DDT and other POPs 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, causing harm to all exposed.

For example, the now-banned insecticide mirex, previously used for the control of fire ants in the southeastern U.S., has been found to accumulate in traditional food staples of fish and wildlife in the north, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also found in the blood of people in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Russia and other northerly regions, exposure to mirex has been linked to a number of adverse effects to human health, including serious reproductive disorders causing infertility and type 2 diabetes.

Unfortunately banning all uses of production of chemicals will not prevent their presence in the environment or harmful effects for decades to come. This troubling fact means that every effort to stop all additional introductions of these dangerous chemicals into the environment should be made.

Source: Journal of the American Water Resources Association, Alaska Dispatch

Photo Source: Alaska Dispatch

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

 

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14
Apr

Herbicide Ban Put on Hold In Sri Lanka

(Beyond Pesticides, April 14, 2014) Bowing to political pressure and agrochemical industry opposition Sri Lanka’s government has taken a step back from its original decision to place a ban on one of the most widely used herbicides worldwide —glyphosate. Scientific evidence has tied glyphosate to the incurable, deadly kidney disease that has afflicted thousands of Sri Lankans. The delay marks a setback in efforts by scientists and activists to remove from the shelves a chemical widely used on tea and rice paddy plantations in Sri Lanka.   _62954732_field624

The decision to ban the chemical was initiated following the publication of a scientific report demonstrating that kidney disease was primarily caused by glyphosate. The report provides a summary of existing scientific information demonstrating kidney failure among farmers who were exposed to the popular herbicide. Indeed lead author Channa Jayasumana, PhD. explains that glyphosate bonds with toxic heavy metals in the environment such as cadmium and arsenic, forming stable compounds that are consumed in food and water and do not break down until they reach the kidneys.

“Glyphosate acts as a carrier or a vector of these heavy metals to the kidney,” said Dr. Jayasumana. The chemical was initially created as a chelating agent in industrial processes to form strong chemical bonds with metals, which now are showing up in the kidneys of exposed farmworkers in Sri Lanka, India, and Central America —where farmers are exposed to extreme heat, likely to become dehydrated, and certainly exposed to chemicals.

The study’s results are bolstered by a joint investigation by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Sri Lankan government who detected both cadmium and glyphosate, as well as other pesticides and heavy metals, in the environment of endemic areas, and in kidney patients’ urine, blood and tissues.

The agrichemical manufacturer Monsanto disputes the idea that glyphosate is well suited to create bonds with heavy metals. “There is no evidence that glyphosate complexes effectively with arsenic, cadmium, or other nephrotoxic metals,” said Thomas Helscher. Director of Corporate Affairs at Monsanto. “Glyphosate is actually a relatively poor chelator for heavy metals when compared to pharmacological chelation agents.” However, glyphosate does form strong bonds with heavy metals: Glyphosate’s chemical composition contains three different chemical groups allowing it to be a highly versatile chelator, forming strong bonds with heavy metals such as calcium manganese, and iron, as studies show.

In an interview with The Center for Public Integrity Paul Capel, PhD., an hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said that glyphosate formed stronger bonds with metals than those formed by other herbicides. “As far as I know, there are no other common herbicides that would have this same sort of strength of interactions with metals,” said Dr. Capel.

Other countries around the world have taken steps to target glyphosate for its role in chronic kidney disease. Notably, El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly approved a ban on 53 agrichemicals including glyphosate in 2013 —a ban which has not yet been signed into law. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently reviewing the registration of glyphosate, the review is expected to be completed by 2015. However, according to the Center for Public Integrity, the EPA has “not seen any pattern of kidney health effects” in its study of scientific literature.

In the absence of widespread adoption of organic practices that eliminate hazardous pesticides, worker protections for farmworkers must be strengthened. Consumers can do their part and help encourage the protection of the people who help put food on our table every day by purchasing organic. By buying organic, you support an agricultural system that does not heavily rely on the widespread application of dangerous pesticides. For more information on how organic is the right choice for both consumers and the farmworkers that grow our food, see Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture.

Photo Source: BBC News Magazine

Source: Center for Public Integrity

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

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11
Apr

Connecticut Senate Moves Forward on GE Grass Ban

(Beyond Pesticides, April 11, 2014) Connecticut State Senate bill no.443, an act that bans the sale of genetically engineered (GE) grass seeds, passed the state Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 25-11. The bill shows Connecticut legislators are taking seriously the risks that increased pesticide use in residential areas pose to the health of the states residents, especially children, and pets.

The bill will ban the sale, use, and marketing of lawn or turf seeds that are genetically engineered to be resistant to pesticides. The GE grass seed that is being developed by Monsanto and Scotts is currently not available in consumer markets and is being tested by Scotts employees in their front yards. The bill may face stronger challenges from Connecticut’s House as it is unclear if the House speaker, J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, will call for a vote on the bill before the session ends May 7.

One of the major concerns the bill addresses is that allowing GE grass seeds for consumer use would lead to dramatic increases in residential pesticide use. “So you will spread this pesticide all across your lawn, back and forth, on your lawn,” said Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, as quoted in a The Day article,  “The more you pour it onto the land, the more it is going to affect the water supply, the Long Island Sound, and our well water.”

Increasing use of glyphosate in herbicide-tolerant crops has also led to increased herbicide resistance. A study published by Washington State University’s research professor Charles Benbrook, PhD, found that the use of herbicides in the production of three GE crops —cotton, soybeans and corn— had increased. Heavy reliance on the herbicide Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate, has placed weed populations under progressively intense and unprecedented selection pressure, triggering a perfect storm for the emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds. “Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent,” Dr. Benbrook said.

“Blanketing lawns, parks, and athletic fields in these dangerous chemicals will endanger the children and pets that play on them, while eventually risking the development of weeds that are resistant to current herbicides and pesticides, requiring even more toxic substances be used,” said Sen. Ed Meyer, quoted by the Connecticut Mirror.

Aside from the likely increase in residential herbicide applications as a result of home plantings, allowance of the GE bluegrass presents the potential for increased difficulties for organic farmers and ranchers. Because of the popularity of the grass in yards, pastures, and prairies, its use is expected to be quite widespread. This will make conversion of new land to organic food production more difficult as, according to APHIS’s fact sheet on the decision, “Once established, GE Kentucky bluegrass may prevent transition to organic status unless eradicated from the acreage to be transitioned.”

GE grass seed was deregulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2011. The agency issued issued a decision stating that it does not consider genetically engineered (GE) turf grass to be subject to federal regulations. In the decision announced by the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the agency stated that it does not have the authority to regulate introduction or transportation of the GE grass seed under the provisions of the Plant Protection Act.

While the original bill included a provision that would ban the use of toxic pesticides on high school grounds and parks, playgrounds, and playing fields, the final bill was amended to only include the ban on GE grass. Thus, SB 68 has been amended to include this original language. Beyond Pesticides has worked to gain support for these important protections, and we strongly encourage concerned Connecticut residents to visit the Connecticut-based environmental advocacy group ConnFACT’s action alert page on this issue, where you can find out how to contact key members of the CT legislature and voice your support.

Tomorrow is the start of Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, “Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, Pollinators, and Practices,” in Portland, OR April 11-12! The Forum will focus on creating healthy buildings, schools and homes, improving farmworker protections, solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficial organisms, and strengthening organic agriculture. Space is limited so register now!

Source: Connecticut Mirror

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

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