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Toxic Wood Preservative Added to Government List of Carcinogens

(Beyond Pesticides, October 9, 2014) The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) released its 13th Report on Carcinogens, a science-based document that identifies chemical, biological, and physical agents that are considered cancer hazards for people living in the United States. While four substances were added, bringing the total list to 243, it is the addition of pentacholophenol (PCP) and its by-products that should raise eyebrows across the United States and perhaps even raise hopes of those fighting against the use of this dangerous chemical that it might be on its way out.

imageAdded to the DHHS list as a substance ‚Äúreasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,‚ÄĚ PCP is primarily used as a wood preservative in such items as utility poles, railroad ties, and fence posts. An organocholrine compound, the substances was first developed and used as a pesticide. Byproducts of PCP include dioxins. The reasons for the inclusion on the HHS list include findings that exposure to this mixture was associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in studies in humans and caused tumors in the liver and other organs in mice.

The addition of PCP to the DHHS’s list comes as little surprise, after decades of advocacy efforts on the part of Beyond Pesticides and other environmental groups to persuade the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cancel PCP and other wood preservative registrations because of the known carcinogenic effects and adverse environmental impacts.

Health and environmental concerns spurred reviews of PCP by EPA as early as 1978, leading over the next several decades¬†to¬†its elimination in agriculture, indoor use and then residential restrictions. As recently as 2008, in EPA‚Äôs registration eligibility decision (RED) on PCP and other wood preservatives related to its continuing use in the treatment of utility poles, among other outdoor uses, the agency concluded, ‚ÄúIn general, EPA has determined that the compounds contribute benefits to society and are eligible for reregistration provided the mitigation measures and associated label changes identified in the REDs are implemented and required data are submitted.‚ÄĚ EPA went on to state, ‚ÄúIn its risk assessments, the Agency identified risks of concern associated with occupational exposure (i.e., treatment plant workers) to all three [PCP, chromated copper arsenate, and creosote] preservatives and ecological exposure to pentachlorophenol and creosote.‚ÄĚ

Even though wood for residential use may no longer be treated with these toxicants and the use has been classified as restricted, industrial uses (railroad ties, utility poles) continue to put workers and the public at risk. Occupational exposures in the making of treated wood products increase the risk of cancers in workers, and presence in the environment of the products expose wildlife and children to potential contamination through direct contact, runoff into soil and water, and inhalation.

The 13th Report on Carcinogens is prepared by the National Toxicology Program (NTP). NTP is a federal, interagency program, headquartered at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), whose goal is to safeguard the public by identifying substances in the environment that may affect human health.

‚ÄúIdentifying substances in our environment that can make people vulnerable to cancer will help in prevention efforts,‚ÄĚ said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP). ‚ÄúThis report provides a valuable resource for health regulatory and research agencies, and it empowers the public with information people can use to reduce exposure to cancer causing substances.‚ÄĚ

While the report doesn’t require EPA to take any action to address substances put on the list, it adds to the mounting pressure on industry and EPA to remove the toxic chemical from our environment and might further assist local efforts like those in New York to prevent its use.

Since the mid-1980s, Beyond Pesticides has done extensive work to address the risks of exposure to PCP and the other two heavy-duty wood preservatives, inorganic arsenicals (such as chromated copper arsenate, or CCA) and creosote. In addition to Pole Pollution, Beyond Pesticides also published Poison Poles, which examines the toxic trail left by the manufacture, use, storage and disposal of the heavy-duty wood preservatives from cradle to grave. On December 10, 2002, a lawsuit led by Beyond Pesticides was filed in federal court to stop the use of arsenic and dioxin-laden wood preservatives. The complaint asserted that the chemicals, known carcinogenic agents, hurt utility workers exposed to treated poles, children playing near treated structures, and the surrounding environments where products containing the substance were utilized. Most importantly, the lawsuit argued that viable alternatives existed and did not support EPA claims that societal ‚Äúbenefits‚ÄĚ and necessity required continued registration. Unfortunately, the lawsuit was dismissed on procedural grounds.

The fight, however, continues. Join Beyond Pesticides and visit our Wood Preservatives webpage to learn more about the issue and what you can do to take this cancer-causing chemical out of the environmental and our lives for good!

Source: National Institutes of Health

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



The Touch, the Feel, of GE Cotton?

(Beyond Pesticides, October 8, 2014) After headliners like genetically engineered (GE) Roundup-Ready corn and soybeans failed to deliver on claims of decreased pesticide use and environmental sustainability, instead leading to the rise of “superweeds,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved more dangerous, 2,4-D-resistent versions¬† shortly after. Now after the predictable failure of Roundup-Ready cotton, USDA is set to approve dicamba-tolerant GE cotton, coming soon to a t-shirt near you.¬† Feeling a bit itchy now?

cottonJoin us in telling USDA the solution to ‚Äúsuperweeds‚ÄĚ is NOT more GE crops and increased herbicide use! Act by October 10, at midnight!

USDA‚Äôs proposal to deregulate and allow into the environment yet another GE variety will inevitably lead to damaging effects on non-GE crops, native plant species, and environmental biodiversity. USDA acknowledges that the purpose of dicamba-tolerant cotton ‚Äúis to provide growers with an additional in-crop weed management option to manage [glyphosate resistant] broadleaf weed species,‚ÄĚ but introducing crops resistant to other chemical technologies like dicamba may provide short-term relief from resistant weeds, but is not a long-term, sustainable solution to burgeoning weed resistance. This current proposal also includes dicamba-tolerant soybean, as well as a stacked tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate.

Contrary to industry proclamations, providing these GE ‚Äútools‚ÄĚ to farmers only keeps them on a perpetual chemical treadmill that continues to propagate resistant weeds, endanger our environment, health, and agricultural economy.

There is plenty about dicamba to be concerned about:

  • Increased use of dicamba will induce dicamba-resistant weeds, similar to what is currently seen with Roundup.
  • Dicamba vapor drift and subsequent crop injury to sensitive crops will be a frequent problem. Abnormal leaf growth and floral development, reduced yield, and reduced quality have all been observed from dicamba drift.
  • Severe economic consequences for non-GE and organic farmers can occur due to increased dicamba drift and GE contamination.
  • Dicamba has been detected in surface waters and is toxic to aquatic organisms.
  • Contamination of groundwater is possible as a result of dicamba‚Äôs high mobility in soils.
  • Studies have found that preconception exposure to dicamba was associated with increased risk of birth defects in male offspring. Dicamba has also been associated with a decrease in the ability to conceive, and cell death in developing embryos.
  • Dicamba has been observed to change sex hormone levels, indicating that it is an endocrine disruptor.

Beyond Pesticides believes that allowing new GE material into the environment against the backdrop of documented problems created by other herbicide-tolerant GE crops is taking U.S. agriculture in a wrong and hazardous direction. GE gene flow in the environment and increased herbicide dependency has been left unchecked for many years, resulting in an increasing population of resistant weeds and insects that are becoming more and more difficult and costly to control.

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers.

See the sample letter below and take time to gather your evidence. When you’re ready, click here to provide a unique public comment to USDA.

Sample letter:

I am very concerned about this latest deregulation of dicamba-tolerant GE cotton and soybean. USDA continues to take American farmers down the path of increased reliance on GE crops in spite of mounting evidence that shows that these crops lead to increased herbicide use, environmental contamination, and resistant weeds.

The problem of Roundup-resistant weeds stems from years of over-reliance on Roundup as an easy, cheap herbicide tool for weed control. This spawned hundreds of weeds now no longer controlled by Roundup. However, the solution to the problem encountered by farmers in Roundup-resistant weeds should not involve the use of new varieties of GE crops and increased use of other herbicides.

Inevitably, increased use of dicamba will lead to dicamba-resistant weeds, water contamination, and economic harm to non-GE and organic farmers.

Monsanto and its industry partners are only interested in pushing their next product and increasing profits, not in the long-term health of the U.S. agricultural economy or farmers. Instead of approving another round of GE crops, technology that has been proven to fail farmers, agriculture and the environment, USDA should be encouraging farmers to return to more holistic methods of farming that include sustainable integrated methods for long-term weed management.

[Your name]


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



Study Shows Goats as Viable Control Agent for Opportunistic Wetland Reeds

(Beyond Pesticides, October 7, 2014) Goat grazing to control opportunistic, unwanted, and poisonous plants has taken off across the country, as researchers continue to find new value in these personable animals. According to a study published last month by an international team of scientists in the journal PeerJ, goats have an outstanding potential to effectively control the opportunistic, or ‚Äúinvasive‚ÄĚ reed Phragmites australis, and replace the unnecessary use of costly and dangerous herbicides.

goatsphragAlthough a native species of phragmites exist in the U.S.¬†(phragmites australis subspecies americanus), these plants do not form the dense monotypic stands characteristic of European phragmites (phragmites australis subspecies australis), which was introduced to the U.S. east coast in the early 1800s, and is currently found in wetlands throughout North America. The plant can grow up to 15 feet tall, and has been widely implicated in¬†reducing biodiversity and crowding out native species in wetlands. Land managers throughout the country are encountering phragmites and resorting to the use of toxic and expensive chemicals, usually combinations of the herbicide triclopyr and glyphosate, both of which have shown evidence of harm to aquatic species. A study published in 2013 in the journal Estuaries and Coasts found that between 2005 and 2009 over $4.6 million per year was spent to control phragmites, with 94% of control tactics using herbicides on over 80,000 hectares of land. However, as the study notes, ‚ÄúDespite these high expenditures, few organizations accomplished their management objectives.‚ÄĚ

A New York Times article also recently questioned the lengths to which land managers have gone in attempts to snuff out the reed. ‚ÄúThe Sisyphean task of completely clearing the reed again and again throughout eternity is a level of commitment that seems unrealistic,‚ÄĚ wrote author Dave Taft. The piece goes on to realign the plant‚Äôs role in ecosystems, noting its value in pollutant filtration, habitat for certain species, and use as a material for pen making. Despite calls to rethink the role of plants now considered ‚Äúinvasive‚ÄĚ (as many are also doing with the Southwest‚Äôs tamarisk trees), it continues to be viewed as a problem in need of solution.

And there is evidence that removing phragmites increases biodiversity after it is cleared. However, the use of herbicides that have been linked to, for instance, shape changes in frogs and harm to non-target species indicates that the risks are not worth the benefits. As with all pest problems, least-toxic alternatives provide a solution that addresses natural systems, and is more cost effective in the long term. The recent study shows that goats can adequately fill this need.

To study how well goats controlled phragmites, researchers placed two goats together in an enclosed space and left them to consume the reed. Phragmites was then allowed to re-sprout to a height of around 5 feet before the next round of grazing. The grazing impact of the goats was compared to a control space where no changes were made. Results showed that the goats were able to reduce the density of phragmites stands five-fold, from nearly complete phragmites cover to only ~20% phragmites. Although phragmites sprouted from its rhizomes to colonize areas adjacent to the grazed plots, those where goats grazed never attained the same cover and stand density as before the goats arrived. Moreover, plant species and richness increased after goat grazing, up 100% to 400% on the Shannon-Weiner diversity index.

The authors also discovered that cows and horses will willingly eat phragmites. According to an article in TakePart, part of the impetus for the study came from lead author Brian Silliman, Ph.D., who observed cleared stands of phragmites in European marshes where livestock grazed.

Communities across America, including Colorado, Chicago and New York, are employing goats for their unwanted vegetation. In Washington D.C. goats helped replace the outdated herbicide regimen in the Congressional Cemetery. In Northern California, utility Pacific Gas and Electric employed goats to clear brush that presented a fire hazard. Shortly after, the city of Anaheim, CA followed suit, using the goats to help alleviate the danger posed by the state’s drought.

In a variety of landscapes that are unsuited for mechanical controls, goats provide a solution to brush and weed problems. At the 32nd National Pesticide Forum in Portland, OR, Beyond Pesticides Board Member Lani Malmberg, owner of Ewe4ic Ecological Services gave a rousing talk on the benefits of g employing goats to manage land responsibly. Go here to view her talk on YouTube. And for more information about the debate over ‚Äúinvasive‚ÄĚ species, see our program page, on Invasive Weed Management.

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

Source: PeerJ, TakePart, New York Times
Photo Source: University of Nebraska






Increase in Use of Livestock Antibiotics Linked to Superbugs. . .Again

(Beyond Pesticides, October 6, 2014) Two reports released last week add to the growing concerns surrounding the overuse of antibiotics in livestock and the corresponding public health and safety impacts of increases in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, known as superbugs.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAResearchers at the University of Texas investigated whether infections of a common and dangerous digestive tract infection, Clostridium difficile (CDI), increased during the period 2001 to 2010. The study, ‚ÄėDeadly diarrhea‚Äô rates nearly doubled in 10 years, examined data from the U.S. National Hospital Discharge Surveys (NHDS), which included 2.2 million CDI discharges. The analysis found that based on these data not only had CDI incidences increased, but they had nearly doubled from 4.5 percent to 8.2 percent.

“Several factors may have contributed to the rise in CDI incidence in recent years,” said Kelly Reveles, PharmD, PhD, and lead author on the study. “Antibiotic exposure remains the most important risk factor for CDI.”

While overuse of antibiotics in humans is a part of the equation, according to the study, reducing unnecessary use of antibiotics agriculture, including conventional livestock production, has also been a primary target of concern. Because conventional livestock producers use antibiotics as growth stimulators as well as prophylactic, or subtherapeutic, treatments for infections, mostly brought on by unhealthy and overcrowded animal living conditions, the practice has increasingly come under scrutiny as untreatable infections rise in the human population.

To that point and in the face of increased scrutiny, a second report released last week by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) observed in its 2012 Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals a disturbing fact: the total quantity of antimicrobial active ingredients sold or distributed for use in food-producing animals increased by 16 percent. A significant increase, this fact indicates the conventional livestock industry’s unwillingness to heed numerous warnings of scientists, environmental health advocates, and even government leaders concerning the necessity to curb overuse of antibiotics for non-illness related treatment.

Organic As a True Solution

Despite recent efforts on the part of FDA and the White House to impose new regulations and policy priorities to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria and rein in subtherapeutic antibiotic use in livestock production, these efforts only come after intense pressure and litigation from environmental health advocacy groups and do not go far enough to address the true underlying problems of livestock production standards.

Conventional livestock production goals of quantity and bulk led to the practice of feeding subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics, beginning as early as the 1950s. It was during that time that researchers discovered that adding these drugs to livestock feed and water increased the weight gain of animals. This practice has increased as livestock production became more industrialized through the use of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which often have unsanitary conditions produced by packing excessive numbers of animals into an unnatural environment and thus increasing disease risks and the spread of infection.

Under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), certified USDA livestock producers cannot use growth promoters and hormones, whether implanted, ingested, or injected, and this includes antibiotics. Additionally, certified USDA Organic livestock producers cannot use subtherapeutic does of antibiotics, meaning they cannot administer low-dose antibiotic treatments that are not for the purpose of treating sick livestock. The standards also require that producers maintain living conditions that prevent infectious diseases from becoming established and adversely affecting livestock health. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in the last year has stood by a decision to phase our antibiotic use in organic apple and pear production by the end of this year, after rejecting petitions by the organic apple and pear industry to extend the use of tetracycline and streptomycin -the only remaining antibiotic use in organic production.

Through supporting organic agriculture and fighting for even stronger organic standards, consumers have the power to make change happen on important issues and advance important public health and safety standards where others are lacking. For more information on what you can do to advance organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage, which provides a number of resources for people to participate in the organic review process, including submitting comments to the National Organic Program on the upcoming National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) conference. Comments are due Tuesday, October 7, 2014!

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

Sources: The New York Times, Al Jazeera




Consumer Cost for GE Labeling Found To Be Minimal

(Beyond Pesticides, October 3, 2014) A new analysis of published research finds that the median cost to consumers of requiring labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food is $2.30 per person annually. The report, commissioned by Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, and conducted by the independent Portland-based economic research firm, ECONorthwest, arrives amidst the highly contested GE labeling initiative on Oregon‚Äôs November election ballot, Measure 92. Proponents of labeling say that the new research disputes claims made in ads opposing the initiative, which claim that labeling will force farmers and food OR-Right-to-Knowproducers to spend¬†“millions” and increase food costs for consumers.

Consumers Union is a strong supporter of Oregon’s GMO labeling ballot initiative. “Given the minimal cost to consumers, the increased herbicide use involved in growing almost all genetically engineered crops, as well as the failure of government to require human safety assessments before genetically engineered foods reach the marketplace, GMO labeling is well worth it,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union. “Companies change their labeling all the time and with GMO labeling costing so little, it is likely some producers won’t even bother to pass the minimal increase on to consumers.”

The group also takes issue with the assumptions made by industry-funded studies that it says have overestimated the cost of similar GMO labeling proposals in California, Washington and New York-putting the cost at $100-$200 annually (or $400-$800 for a family of four). “Industry cost estimates incorporate unrealistic assumptions about how GMO labeling requirements will drive food producers to switch to all organic ingredients, which would be much more expensive. However, there is no factual basis for this assumption and we believe producers will continue to sell GMO foods once they are labeled, and many consumers will continue to buy them, with no discernible price impact,” asserts Ms. Halloran. “Measure 92 simply requires foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled so that consumers can make an informed choice.”

Genetically engineered foods are already required to be labeled in 64 foreign countries, including many where American food producers sell their wares. Labeling has not increased food prices in those countries, according to Consumers Union. Across the U.S., grassroots pressure pushed the introduction of GE labeling legislation in over 25 states, with GMO labeling requirements on the ballots for both Oregon as well as Colorado in November. A national GE labeling bill also remains 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.

So far, there has been one state victory in Vermont, with a law passed requiring¬†foods to be labeled by July 2016. However, the state is currently involved with a legal battle by major trade associations, including Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA). In a statement, GMA has called the labeling requirement ‚Äúa costly and misguided measure that will set the nation on a path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that do nothing to advance the health and safety of consumers.‚ÄĚ Other states to pass legislation include¬†Maine¬†and¬†Connecticut; however, these states contain a ‚Äútrigger clause‚ÄĚ that delays implementation until¬†similar legislation is passed in neighboring states, including one bordering state in the case of Connecticut,¬†with an aggregate population of 20 million. Both California and Washington state labels in recent years but the proposals ultimately failed after millions of dollars of corporate spending entered the equation. Polls and surveys show overwhelming public support for labeling of genetically engineered foods, yet the same food and chemical companies continue to ignore consumers fight for the right to know every chance they get.

Beyond Pesticides believes that consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and the human health. GE agriculture is associated with the increased use of herbicides that GE crops are developed to tolerate. Repeated spraying of these herbicides, particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, destroys refuge areas for beneficial insects such as the Monarch butterfly, directly harms amphibians, and leads to resistance in weed species the GE technology was intended to control. With glyphosate resistance rampant, the agrichemical industry continues to resort to increasingly toxic combinations of chemicals, despite the presence of organic management practices that are more protective of human health and the environment and produce the same yield. Thus, for a multitude of reasons, consumers have the right to know the ingredients in the products they are purchasing.

Beyond labeling genetically engineered food, the best way to avoid food with GE ingredients is to buy organic. Under organic certification standards, GE organisms are prohibited. 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: Consumers Union Press Release, Reuters

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



California To Limit Chlorpyrifos’ Food Production Use, Environmentalists Sue EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, October 2, 2014) California state pesticide regulators are looking to curtail the use of chlorpyrifos, one of the most widely used insecticides on the market, due to concerns that it poses a threat to human health and the environment. At the same time, environmental groups are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of the agency’s continued refusal to fully address a 2007 petition by the groups calling for a ban on the neurotoxic chemical. EPA in 2000 orchestrated a voluntary cancellation by DowAgroSciences of most residential uses of chlorpyrifos (although uses with major exposure routes continue), while virtually all agricultural uses remain in use, except tomatoes.

220px-Lite-Trac_Crop_SprayerThe California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), a branch of the California Environmental Protection Agency that regulates the sale and use of pesticides, announced last week that it is¬†proposing to make¬†‘restrictive use’¬†all pesticide products containing the organophosphate¬†insecticide chlorpyrifos.¬†If the proposed regulation passes, this would mean that only trained and licensed professionals who have a permit from a local county agricultural commissioner (CAC) would be able to use these products. The CAC would also have the ability to place additional conditions on use via the permit.

‚ÄúThe proposed regulation is a very important step to further safeguard the people and environment of California,‚ÄĚ said DPR director Brian Leahy. ‚ÄúChlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used old organophosphate classes of pesticides. This key action is intended to reduce the widespread use of chlorpyrifos and help limit unintended exposures to the public.‚ÄĚ

One to two million pounds of the pesticide have been applied each year in California since 2004 and is used on more than 60 different crops in the state, including alfalfa, walnuts, oranges, cotton, and grapes. The proposal would affect about 30 products used in agriculture.

Environmental groups are continuing to push for a nationwide ban of the chemical on crops. Last week, the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued EPA to compel the agency to fully respond to a 2007 petition after a lengthy seven-year delay. The groups are asking the court to find that EPA has ‚Äúunreasonably delayed fulfilling its legal obligations‚ÄĚ and that the agency respond to the 2007 petition by issuing a final decision by the end of this year.

EPA’s continued refusal to respond in full to the petition has been problematic. In 2012, EPA implemented agricultural risk mitigation measures to protect children and bystanders from spray applications. Last year, EPA put out a preliminary volatilization assessment finding that vapor phase chlorpyrifos may be emitted from treated fields at levels resulting in exposure to children and others who live, work, attend school, or otherwise spend time nearby. However, these partial responses to the petition are not enough to prevent chlorpyrifos exposure to children and other vulnerable populations.

‚ÄúEPA‚Äôs failure to make a final decision on the 2007 Petition leaves children at risk of harm from chlorpyrifos exposure and leaves PANNA without legal remedies to challenge EPA‚Äôs ongoing failure to take necessary steps to protect children,‚ÄĚ states the complaint.

By focusing on risk reduction strategies to come up with ‚Äúacceptable,‚ÄĚ but unnecessary, rates of illness across the population, EPA continues to underestimate the impact of the chemical‚Äôs continued widespread use in agriculture. Chlorpyrifos is a frequent water contaminant and a long range contaminant, exposing communities and contaminating pristine areas far from where it was applied. Residues in food and water continue to put public health at risk. Volatilization drift‚ÄĒthe evaporation of the pesticide after application‚ÄĒis also part of the problem for chlorpyrifos. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for an enlightened policy approach to proposed or continued toxic chemical use, in an age where the adverse effects have been widely and increasingly documented, is to first ask whether there is a less toxic way of achieving the toxic chemical‚Äôs intended purpose. Simply, ‚ÄúIs there another practice that would make the substance unnecessary?‚ÄĚ This approach does not preclude and should demand the prohibition of high hazard chemical use, those chemicals that are simply too dangerous.

The groups in this lawsuit want the agency to release its revised human health risk assessment on chlorpyrifos for public comment in December 2014, along with either a proposed revocation rule or a proposed denial of the petition.

Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxic insecticide that was banned from home use in the U.S. after EPA determined that cumulative exposure resulted in serious adverse health outcomes, especially for children. EPA has left virtually all agricultural uses, with the exception of tomatoes, on the market. Chlorpyrifos is acutely toxic to bees, birds, mammals, aquatic life, and certain species of algae. Chlorpyrifos poisoning affects the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system, and the respiratory system, and causes skin and eye irritation. There are also a wide range of adverse environmental effects linked to chlorpyrifos, including toxicity to: beneficial insects, freshwater fish, other aquatic organisms, bird, a variety of plants, soil organisms, and domestic animals. It has been shown to accumulate in fish and synergistically react with other chemicals.

Take Action! A 45-day comment period to allow public input on the proposed regulation in California ends on November 12, 2014. Comments may be submitted in person, in writing, or via email to dpr14002@cdpr.ca.gov. To learn, read DPR’s Notice of Proposed Regulatory Action.

Sources: The Fresno Bee, Food Safety News

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




Another Field Contaminated with Unapproved GE Wheat

(Beyond Pesticides, October 1, 2014) Just after announcing a close to its investigation into the illegal presence of genetically engineered (GE) wheat in Oregon, finding it to be an “isolated¬†incident,”¬†the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) opened a new investigation into another incident of unauthorized release of¬†GE wheat, this time¬†detected in Montana. This new report highlights the contamination threat that these materials pose to farmers and the environment, as well as the government‚Äôs failure to recognize the pervasive and persistent nature of GE contamination.

wheatfieldAccording to USDA, on July 14, 2014 it was notified that suspected GE wheat had been discovered growing at the Montana State University’s Southern Agricultural Research Center (SARC) in Huntley, Montana, where Monsanto and researchers grew GE wheat as part of field trials between 2000 and 2003. Testing of the samples by a USDA laboratory confirmed that the wheat is genetically engineered to resist Roundup. The agency states that its ongoing investigation is focusing on why GE wheat was found growing at the research facility location.

Currently, GE wheat has not been deregulated by USDA, unlike several other GE crops (corn, soybean, sugarbeets). This means that any experimental use of GE wheat must have the approval of USDA and grown under USDA guidelines. Preliminary tests show that the GE wheat found growing in Montana was not connected to the 2013 incidence in Oregon. In that case, a farmer noticed Roundup resistant wheat in his field even though GE wheat had not been grown in the state since 2001. After this discovery, Japan canceled its order to buy U.S. western white wheat, and other markets in Europe and South Korea rejected shipments. In Montana, GE wheat underwent field trials at the university facility between 2000 and 2003, and it now appears that the GE material persisted, leading to the continued contamination of fields and successive wheat crops a decade later. The Oregon and Montana cases show that experimental use (field tests) of GE material does in fact lead to long-term transgenic contamination, isolated or not.

In Oregon, USDA recently concluded its investigation and reports that this case ‚Äúappears to be an isolated occurrence and that there is no evidence of any GE wheat in commerce.‚ÄĚ However, the agency notes that it unable to determine exactly how, even though it¬†“exhausted all leads” and that the genetic characteristics of the GE wheat volunteers found are representative of a wheat breeding program, and not a commercial variety of wheat. According to the agency, “APHIS was unable to determine exactly how the GE wheat came to grow in the farmer‚Äôs field.”

Even as the Oregon investigation came to a close, USDA continues to treat these incidences of contamination as isolated events, when the science is showing that GE material persists in the environment and contaminates crops, waterways, and induces resistant weeds and insects. The agency states that it is taking several additional steps to ensure that unintended GE wheat is not growing in other locations in the U.S. where field trials are taking place or have recently occurred. Specifically, USDA says it will inspect field trials planted in 2014, and follow-up with post-harvest inspections to ensure those conducting the field trials adhere to requirements to monitor and remove volunteer plants (plants that grow in a field following a previous harvest). The agency will also monitor GE wheat field trials that were planted in 2012 and 2013.

Wheat pollen is carried by the wind and the plant is self-pollinating. Cross-pollination can occur and increases during dry and warm weather conditions. This means that the probability of GE wheat contaminating nearby fields is predictable and expected. Farmers, both organic and non-GE operations, are severely affected by GE contamination. Farmers in these circumstances lose a price premium for the extra effort and expense taken to preserve their crop’s integrity, and they typically have no recourse but to dump the load on generic markets. Currently, Monsanto is in the process of settling a class action lawsuit brought by wheat farmers affected by the Oregon contamination episode, which forced exports to several Asian and European markets to be suspended and cost farmers millions of dollars. Monsanto has conducted 279 field trials of Roundup Ready GE wheat on over more than 4,000 acres of land in 16 states since 1994. After facing intense opposition from farmers and activists, Monsanto reportedly stopped its efforts to introduce GE wheat, but restarted extensive field trials again in 2011.

According to the Center for Food Safety, the U.S. is the world’s biggest exporter of wheat, an $8 billion business. A 2005 study estimated that the wheat industry could lose $94 to $272 million if GE wheat were introduced.  Past transgenic contamination episodes involving GE corn and GE rice have triggered over $1 billion in losses and economic hardship to farmers.

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic Seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers.

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

Source: USDA Press Room, Center for Food Safety



USDA Releases Funds to Support Organic Research, Promote Local Food

(Beyond Pesticides, September 30, 2014) Though the Agricultural Act of 2014, or ‚ÄúFarm Bill,‚ÄĚ was one of missed deadlines and years of debate (sustainability was not a big winner), there were small victories in support of organic research and local food systems. According to The New York Times, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will begin releasing some of this much needed funding, with $52 million to start in the promotion of local and organic food.

pregnant market coloradjustSecretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has come out in strong support of local food systems, such as food hubs and farmers markets. ‚ÄúThese types of local food systems are the cornerstones of our plans to revitalize the rural economy,‚ÄĚ said Mr. Vilsack to The New York Times in a telephone interview. ‚ÄúIf you can connect local produce with markets that are local, money gets rolled around in the local community more directly compared to commercial agriculture where products get shipped in large quantities somewhere else, helping the economy there.‚ÄĚ

While eating local is surely important, putting an emphasis on buying products that are both local and organic provides the most benefits for the economy and the environment surrounding local communities. A 2007 survey by Mambo Sprouts research services found that consumers are torn between buying local and buying organic food, but in the end want both. The results showed that 36.1% of natural product consumers said they would choose local produce over organic items, while another 33.3% indicated the opposite. The remaining respondents said they were unsure which to choose, but overall, consumers reported a preference for food that was both local and organic.

It is critical that consumers speak with their local farmers and suppliers. Just because a farm is not certified organic does not mean consumer‚Äôs should avoid purchasing from their products. However, without certification, the claim of organic holds very little weight since it has not been verified by a third party. Beyond Pesticides encourages concerned residents to talk to their local farmers about why their farm is not certified, and make your own decisions about whether you feel comfortable with their growing practices. As the Rodale Institute notes, organic and local is the ‚Äúgold standard,‚ÄĚ but when in doubt choose organic.

Many retailers across the country are providing ‚Äúgold standard‚ÄĚ products, recognizing that local conventional farming can also contribute to contamination of the local environment. Owner of local D.C- area organic market (MOM‚Äôs Organic Market) and ‚Äúgold standard‚ÄĚ advocate Scott Nash rightly questions whether only buying local is to ‚ÄúSupport Your Local Dead Zone?‚ÄĚ In New Mexico, La Monta√Īita proudly touts their food as ‚Äúfresh, fair, local and organic!‚ÄĚ

In addition to supporting local agriculture, financial support will also flow into research on organic practices. USDA indicates that, over the next five years, $125 million will be spent on organic research and $50 million will go into conservation programs.

Beyond Pesticides continues to advocate for maintaining strong organic standards that build consumer confidence in the organic label. The Organic Foods Production Act places an emphasis on input from various stakeholders in the organic community, and it is critical that consumers raise their voice in order to Keep Organic Strong. The National Organic Standards Board, a diverse group of organic stakeholders which vote to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming, will be meeting on October 7, 2014 in Louisville, KY to discuss changes in organic regulations and farming practices. Consumer input in this process can make an enormous difference. We encourage organic shoppers to read Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage to review the items before the board, and provide a unique public comment that incorporates your own personal experiences.

For further information about why buying organic products is the right choice, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Agriculture program page.

Source: The New York Times

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



Seattle Joins the Growing List of Cities To Ban Bee-Killing Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, September 29, 2014) Last week, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on land owned or maintained by the city. Neonicotinoid insecticides have been linked to colony collapse disorder (CCD) and declining bee health that has resulted in a near devastating decline in viable managed beehives, which are critical to pollination of one-third of the nation’s food supply. Seattle is the largest city thus far to enact such a ban to protect pollinators in the absence of federal regulation. Other localities taking action include¬†Skagway, Alaska, Eugene, Oregon and Spokane, Washington and dozens of other jurisdictions that have adopted organic land management practices or pesticide bans on¬† public land, private land, parks, schools, and other land under their authority.

hdr_seattleWA-4Resolution 31548, adopted and expected to be signed by Mayor Ed M.urray, states that the City of Seattle shall ban the purchase and use of neonicotinoids on city-owned property and calls for a national moratorium on the use of the toxic pesticides, urging the White House Task Force, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Congress to suspend the registration of neonicotinoids. Along with encouraging federal action, the resolution asks retailers within Seattle to stop selling plants, seeds or any other products that contains neonicotinoids.

“This is a modest step to help protect bees and other pollinators, which help make the Emerald City blossom every spring,” said Councilmember Mike O‚ÄôBrien. “I hope the City’s move helps raise awareness about what we can all be doing to promote the health of pollinators through sustainable pest management practices.”

This success can be attributed to activists who raised community awareness and began a petition drive that collected over over 4,300 signatures and was supported by 24 organizations. Of these groups, Central Co-Op and Seattle Sierra Club led the charge and drafted the original petition.

Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. Moving through the plant’s vascular system and expressing themselves through pollen and nectar, these systemic pesticides include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. A large and growing body of science continues to link  recent global bee die-offs to neonicotinoids, which are applied to or incorporated into seeds for agricultural, ornamental and garden plants. Beekeepers across the country reported losses of 40-90 percent of their bees last winter.

However, because of Washington state preemption of local authority to adopt pesticide restrictions more stringent than the sate, the ban can only go so far. That is why the city is urging the federal government to take a more proactive role in ensuring the health of bees. Even though the majority of states have to deal with preemption laws, seven states do not establish these regressive restrictions. In fact, just this past week Skagway, Alaska enacted a comprehensive cosmetic pesticide ordinance. This particular ordinance takes additional steps to protect bees by prohibiting the sale and private use of neonicotinoid products. The Skagwag ordinance includes a provision for  civil fines in the case of violations, $1,000 for each day in violation.

Beyond Pesticides strongly encourage communities to push their local and state leaders to fight to save the bees. Where local private property bans are not currently possible under state law, work can focus on restricting pesticide use on public property. Whether a small municipality or a large city, education and action on unnecessary pesticide use makes an enormous difference in protecting drinking water, those most vulnerable to pesticide exposure (including children and elderly), pollinators, and unique and sensitive ecosystems where people live.

BEE Protective in Your Community

One in every three bites of food are reliant on bees, and pollinators contribute between $20-30 billion in agricultural production annually in the U.S. The decline of honey bees and other pollinators due to pesticides and other man-made causes demands immediate action. Encourage your community or campus to be pollinator-friendly and make changes that will protect your local pollinator population. Get the Model Community Pollinator Resolution in the hands of local elected officials or school administrators. For help with your campaign, contact Beyond Pesticides.

For additional tools to support your efforts to adopt pesticide policy in your community, see Beyond Pesticides’ Tools for Change, and visit the BEE Protective webpage, or give us a call at 202-543-5450.

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

Source: Seattle City Council, Office of the City Clerk, KGW Portland




General Mills Rejects Companywide GE Ban, But Expands Its Non-GE Organic Brand

(Beyond Pesticides, September 26, 2014) At the annual shareholder meeting last Tuesday, General Mills rejected a request to expand its ban of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients in its popular Cheerios cereal to all of the company’s products. The topic of genetically engineered foods dominated discussion at the meeting, according to GMO Inside (Green America, the organization behind GMO Inside, holds a handful of shares in General Mills), and the company has remained steadfast in its assertion that GE food is safe. However, on the flip side, the company has acknowledged its consumer demand for natural and organic products by its recent purchase of the organic food company Annie’s Natural. Organic production standards by law forbids the use GE crops. The $820-million deal for Annie’s adds more than $200 million in annual sales for General Mills’ organic foods division, which already takes in $330 million per year. Annie’s will be absorbed into General Mills’ Small Planet Foods division, which includes other well-known natural and organic brands, including Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen and Larabar. cheerios

The request to ban GE ingredients company-wide was brought to the table by As You Sow, and supported by the great-granddaughter of General Mills‚Äô co-founder, Harriett Crosby. “As a proud stockholder, I am concerned about our reputation as a company that uses genetically modified organisms. I think we can do better and improve our brand and the value of General Mills by eliminating GMOs from our products,” Ms. Crosby told the annual meeting crowd, according to Pioneer Press.

In an effort to appeal to consumers, the company announced last January that it would remove all GE ingredients from its most iconic line of cereals, Cheerios. The ‚Äėnew‚Äô Cheerios will contain the label ‚ÄúNot Made with Genetically Modified Ingredients.‚Ä̬†It‚Äôs important to note that the main ingredient in Cheerios is oats, and oats are not currently genetically engineered. What did change was the small amount of corn starch and sugar which are now sourced from non-GE corn and non-GE cane sugar.

Ms. Crosby also pointed out that General Mills, a global company, is already required to produce GMO-free varieties of its products in Europe and parts of Asia. So, she asked, “Why not here?”

Organic Acquisition
Though Annie’s Chief Executive Officer John Foraker said in a statement on the company’s Facebook page September 8 that the General Mills purchase will help expand the distribution of the company’s products while preserving its mission, the acquisition is not without backlash. One cause for concern amongst organic consumers is that General Mills has been an ardent opponent of labeling GE foods, investing at least $2 million against labeling efforts in California and Washington states. In a statement on the company’s website, it specifically states that it opposes state-based labeling, and though it supports nationally standardized labeling of non-GMO products in the U.S., it does not believe products should be labeled to say that it includes GE ingredients.

However, Annie‚Äôs maintains that it will not change its stance on GE foods, and is committed to transparency. According to a statement by Mr. Foraker on the company‚Äôs Facebook page, ‚ÄúAnnie‚Äôs has never been a company that compromises on its values. With General Mills‚Äô support, we will stay true to our mission and committed to doing well by doing good. We remain dedicated to real food; simple, organic, non-GMO and natural ingredients; a clean planet and sustainable business practices. These values are part of our DNA and they will remain so.‚ÄĚ

While it‚Äôs great for the company to recognize growing consumer demand and invest in organic, as GMO Inside succinctly raises the point that, given General Mills admitted that it is their organic lines that are growing most rapidly, this raises the question of why they don‚Äôt increase the use of organics across all of their brands. Futhermore, in its defense of GE crops, General Mills does not acknowledge the threat that these products cause to organic farmers. With GE crops spreading like wildfire across the U.S., organic farmers are increasingly growing concerned about contamination in their fields. There have been several recent high profile contamination cases. In May of 2013, USDA disclosed that unapproved GE wheat was found growing in an Oregon wheat field. After this discovery Japan cancelled its order to buy U.S. western white wheat. Monsanto has not conducted field trials in Oregon since 2001 when it reportedly withdrew from the state. In September of 2013, USDA refused to take action or investigate after it was confirmed that GE alfalfa contaminated non-GE alfalfa in Washington State. USDA claimed the contamination is a ‚Äúcommercial issue‚ÄĚ and should be addressed by the marketplace and not the government.

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that labeled Organic. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers.

Sources: GMO Inside , Pioneer Press, The Consumerist

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



‚ÄúGarden City of Alaska‚ÄĚ Passes Comprehensive Pesticide Ordinance, Bans Bee-Toxic Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, September 25, 2014) Last week, the Borough of Skagway, Alaska passed a comprehensive vegetative maintenance pesticide ordinance, joining a growing number of localities across the country in enacting restrictions that protect human health, wildlife, and the wider environment from the hazards associated with unnecessary pesticide use. Among a number of notable accomplishments, Skagway’s Ordinance 14-15 makes it the first municipality in Alaska to ban the use of bee-toxic neonicotinoids by government employees. However the new law goes further, prohibiting the sale and use of neonicotinoid-containing products on all public and private lands in the Borough of Skagway. The state of Alaska is one of seven states that affirms the right of a local jurisdiction to restrict pesticide use throughout its jurisdiction by not adopting law that preempts localities.

Seal_of_SkagwaySkagway, Alaska’s Ordinance 14-15 also:

  • Prohibits the sale and use of persistent herbicides (persistent according to the US Composting Council) on public and private property.
  • Prohibits the use of restricted herbicides within 300 feet of any waterway.
  • Creates a list of restricted pesticides (based in part upon the list of pesticides restricted in Takoma Park, Maryland).
  • Although the ordinance establishes a waiver system by which restricted pesticides may be used, there are stringent requirements to receive a waiver, and neonicotinoids and persistent pesticides are never eligible for a waiver that would allow use.
  • Prohibits the use of restricted pesticides by municipal agents and employees except in extreme circumstances in accordance with the waiver process.
  • Contains an education component which encourages private landowners to practice organic pest management.
    • The ordinance does allow private landowners to apply up to 2 gallons of restricted or 90 lbs of weed and feed on their property;
    • However, the law stipulates that homeowners should consider all least-toxic options before pesticide use on private property is allowed.
  • Establishes civil fines for noncompliance of $1,000 for each day in violation.

The Borough of Skagway is a major tourist destination 80 miles from the capital of Alaska, Juneau, with a year-round residency of 900 that accommodates over 900,000 visitors in the summer months. Contrary to the notion of Alaska as a bitter cold destination, Skagway is in USDA hardiness zone of 6a, a mild climate with temperature ranges similar to Columbus, Ohio. In 1988, the Governor of Alaska declared Skagway the ‚ÄúGarden City of Alaska.‚ÄĚ Local activist Kim Burnham, who helped organize and promote the passage of the Skagway ordinance, notes that ‚Äúthere are many private gardens, fruit trees and even a large show garden‚ÄĚ in the borough.

Skagway‚Äôs path towards these strong protections from pesticides is intermixed with state-level politics and the powerful railroad industry, which operates throughout Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory. In 2013, the Alaska Department of Transportation (ADOT) implemented a new rule that eliminated the opportunity for the public to comment on the proposed use of pesticides on state rights-of-way, essentially allowing spraying to take place without any public knowledge or input. The move met staunch opposition from elected leaders such as state Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) and environmental groups like Alaska Community Action on Toxics. In response, Skagway drafted a pesticide ordinance, yet did not yet propose it after determining that the borough did not have jurisdiction to regulate pesticide use on Alaska state-owned lands. However, the municipality drafted a letter to ADOT requesting that the agency refrain from using herbicides in the borough. So far, ADOT has honored that request, though other areas in SE Alaska have not been as lucky.

whitepasspesticidesThe issue was reignited when, earlier this year, the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad announced its intent to spray glyphosate-based herbicides along over 65 miles of railroad rights-of-way on both sides of the border. Residents in both Alaska and Canada‚Äôs Yukon Territory were outraged, citing concerns over water quality, wildlife, and human health. Kim Burnham wrote a letter to the Skagway‚Äôs local leaders, who then wrote to the railroad. The Yukon Conservation Society (YCS) also spoke out strongly against the planned spraying. ‚ÄúWhat about salmon? We know the chinook run‚Äôs a disaster this year,‚ÄĚ said Lewis Rifkind of YCS to Yukon News. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre not saying that herbicides could wipe out the chinook, but you know, you get these ‚Äėdeath by a thousand cuts‚Äô scenarios. Why take the risk?‚ÄĚ

The railroad did hear community concerns, and decided to ‚Äúsuspend indefinitely‚ÄĚ its herbicide program. Although the railroad asserted its right to proceed with the spraying, it also noted in its letter to stakeholders that, ‚ÄúThrough the interaction within our communities we have been made aware of alternative, non-herbicide related methods that may also meet our goals, in a way more appreciated by our neighbors.‚ÄĚ

Although some were satisfied by the railroad’s response, Ms. Burnham and numerous other Skagway residents urged the municipality’s assembly to resurrect the previously drafted pesticide ordinance to address the potential for any future spraying. Ms. Burnham notes that the lack of preemption language in Alaska’s pesticide laws helped create the impetus to move forward with the ordinance.

Community input led to a number of revisions, available to view through Skagway‚Äôs government website, but ultimately arrived at an ordinance which broadened the scope of pesticide restrictions in light of scientific evidence of adverse impacts to humans and the wider environment (see the ‚ÄúWhereas‚ÄĚ declarations in Ordinance 14-15).

‚ÄúThe neonicotinoid ban was added mainly due to good timing,‚ÄĚ Ms. Burnham says. ‚ÄúDuring the early stages of the ordinance (Aug 2013), there was a surge of media reporting evidence that neonics were a main cause for pollinator declines. A short time after bringing the ordinance forward, there was more evidence pointing to these same pesticides being¬†responsible for bird declines, and I also became aware of evidence that insects, especially butterflies, may be migrating northward in¬†response to climate change.¬†These additional findings may make the neonicotinoid part of the ordinance that much more pertinent to our area.‚ÄĚ As a result, Ms. Burnham says that the assembly integrated the BEE Protective Community Pollinator Resolution into its ordinance.

As for the outright ban on persistent pesticides, the municipality is planning on creating a composting program in the future. Persistent herbicides like clopyralid and aminiopyralid have been linked to contamination and damage in home gardens, farmer’s fields, as well as municipal compost piles. Aminiopyralid has been banned for sale and distribution in New York, and is restricted from use on pastures in six other New England states.

Skagway‚Äôs story is another example of the power residents can harness when they engage with local leaders and the broader community. The municipality‚Äôs actions follow a successful vote earlier this year in another vacation destination, Ogunquit, Maine. In both cases, pesticide protections were crafted to responds to the community’s ¬†unique local needs. In 43 states, pesticide preemption effectively prevents localities from enacting legislation that protects a locality‚Äôs distinct environment from chemical hazards. And even in states where no explicit preemption language is present, industry has challenged the rights of localities to respond to their own unique needs, as has occurred in Kauai, Hawaii.

We strongly encourage residents pushing for pesticide protections not to be discouraged by the current make-up of state laws, and push their local and state leaders to fight against these regressive policies. Where local private property bans are not currently possible under state law, work towards restrictions on pesticide use on public property. Whether a small municipality or a large city, education and action on unnecessary pesticide use makes an enormous difference; for our own drinking water, for the most sensitive among us, children, and the elderly, for our pollinators, and for the unique environment and the flora and fauna where you live.

For additional tools to support your efforts to adopt pesticide policy in your community, see Beyond Pesticides’ Tools for Change, and visit the BEE Protective webpage, or give us a call at 202-543-5450.

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

Source and Photo Credit: Skagway.org, Yukon News

Update: While the original article described the ordinance as restrictions on “cosmetic” pesticides, this was changed to “vegetative maintenance” to more accurately reflect the intent of the ordinance.



State Legislation Introduced To Prohibit Utility Poles Treated with Hazardous Wood Preservative

(Beyond Pesticides, September 24, 2014) New York Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and State Senator Kenneth LaValle have introduced legislation that will prohibit the future use of utility poles treated with pentachlorophenol (PCP), and call for the posting of warnings to inform people about the dangers of contact with PCP on existing poles. PCP has been listed as a possible carcinogen, is typically contaminated with various forms of dioxins and furans -known carcinogens that persist in the environment.

imageJust last week, Beyond Pesticides reported that the Town of North Hempstead on Long Island, New York passed a new law requiring warning labels on utility poles that are treated with the hazardous wood preservative¬†pentachlorophenol¬†(PCP). Labeling for treated poles are now required to have the following warning: ‚ÄúThis pole contains a hazardous chemical. Avoid prolonged direct contact with this pole. Wash hands or other exposed areas thoroughly if contact is made.‚ÄĚ PCP is highly toxic and has been listed as a possible carcinogen by national and international agencies. Concerns have been raised throughout the years over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‚Äôs (EPA) continued registration of PCP in the U.S. even though it has already been banned in all European Union member states, China, India, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Russia.

Now, activists in New York, after working tirelessly to raise their concerns about the health and environmental impacts of PCP, have new legislation they can support. Senator Kenneth LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s legislation to ban the use of pentachlorophenol would be the first in the nation to do so. In their press release, the legislators raised several human health concerns as the motive for introducing this legislation:

According EPA, ‚ÄúPentachlorophenol (PCP) was once one of the most widely used biocides in the United States, but it is now a restricted use pesticide and is no longer available to the general public. Pentachlorophenol is extremely toxic to humans from acute (short-term) ingestion and inhalation exposure.¬† Acute inhalation exposures in humans have resulted in neurological, blood, and liver effects, and eye irritation.¬† Chronic (long-term) exposure to pentachlorophenol by inhalation in humans has resulted in effects on the respiratory tract, blood, kidney, liver, immune system, eyes, nose, and skin.¬† Human studies suggest an association between exposure to pentachlorophenol and cancer.¬† Oral animal studies have reported increases in liver tumors and two uncommon tumor types.¬† EPA has classified pentachlorophenol as a Group B2, probable human carcinogen‚ÄĚ.¬†

Assemblyman Thiele notes, “The federal government has made it clear that PCP is a dangerous chemical and has outlawed its use by the general public. It is to be used only for industrial use away from the general population.  Yet, this chemical has been used to treat utility poles for transmission lines in places like East Hampton that are only a few feet from residential dwellings, exposing children and families to this dangerous substance. Further, at a time when we are all focused on the degradation of our water, it is inconceivable that wood treated with this substance would be permitted to leach into the groundwater on Long Island. There are better options and those options should be implemented now.

Senator LaValle said, ‚ÄúThis is a critical public health and safety matter.¬† People need to be made aware of the presence of PCP, so they can protect themselves, their children and their pets from the potential dangers posed by this chemical.¬† This type of coating to preserve utility poles needs to be discontinued for public health reasons as soon as possible.‚ÄĚ

PCP is highly toxic and contains a mixture of volatile polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). It is heavily contaminated with dioxin, furans, and hexochlorobenzene -all known to have reproductive, developmental and carcinogenic impacts. EPA has determined that PCP is readily absorbed via all routes of exposure, including oral, inhalation, and dermal. Incidentally, it has been detected in umbilical cord blood plasma and breast milk, highlighting the risks of exposure to developing fetuses and infants. It also acts as an endocrine disruptor by affecting the levels of circulating thyroid hormones, testosterone and estradiol.

Beyond Pesticides has long called for the banning of PCP, having unsuccessfully sued the EPA to ban utility pole use. As used as a wood preservative treatment for utility poles, PCP can contaminate humans and the environment. PCP is released into the air (volatilization) from treated wood surfaces where residues can quickly bind to soil and can make their way into surface and ground waters, where they persist and accumulate in fish and other organisms. Increased temperature and leaching from rain will influence PCP migration from utility poles to surrounding air and soil.

EPA has in the past determined that contact with soil contaminated with PCP, as well as residential contact with treated wood products like utility poles poses an unacceptable cancer risk to children. Despite the fact that children can, and do play around utility poles, EPA now insists that children do not play around poles, and thus, finds no need to account for this route of exposure for children. PCP is also a common contaminant in water, and studies with fish finds that PCP acts as an endocrine disruptor, eventually resulting in abnormal fish development

Currently, because of its toxicity and presence in the environment, PCP and its salts are being considered for listing under the Stockholm Convention as a persistent organic pollutant (POP) to be targeted for worldwide phase out. According to the review committee, ‚ÄúPentachlorophenol and its salts and esters is likely, as a result of its long-range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse human health and/or environmental effects such that global action is warranted. . . ‚ÄĚ

Since the mid-1980s, Beyond Pesticides has done extensive work to address the risks of exposure to PCP and other heavy-duty wood preservatives: inorganic arsenicals (such as chromated copper arsenate, or CCA) and creosote. Beyond Pesticides has published two reports, Poison Poles and Pole Pollution, which address the use of wood preservatives on utility poles. The first report, Poison Poles, published in 1997, examines the toxic trail left by the manufacture, use, storage and disposal of the heavy-duty wood preservatives from cradle to grave. Pole Pollution, published in 1999, focuses on EPA’s draft preliminary science chapter on PCP and provides the results of our survey of over 3,000 utilities across the United States and Canada. These reports can be found on the Wood Preservatives webpage.

On December 10, 2002, a lawsuit [Civil Case No. 02-2419(RJL)] led by Beyond Pesticides was filed in federal court by a national labor union, environmental groups and a victim family to stop the use of arsenic and dioxin-laden wood preservatives, which are used to treat lumber, utility poles and railroad ties. The litigation argued that the chemicals hurt utility workers exposed to treated poles, children playing near treated structures, and the environment, and cites the availability of alternatives.

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

Source: News release from Senator Kenneth P. Lavalle Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.



Crops Take Up Pesticides, Drugs from Treated Wastewater Irrigation

(Beyond Pesticides, September 23, 2014) A new study finds that the increasingly common use of treated wastewater on food crops can result in contamination from chemicals like DEET, triclosan, and pharmaceutical drugs.

The study, titled ‚ÄúTreated Wastewater Irrigation: Uptake of Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products by Common Vegetables under Field Conditions‚ÄĚ and published in Environmental Science & Technology, ¬†measures levels of 19 commonly occurring pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) in eight¬†types of vegetables irrigated with treated wastewater under field conditions. The analytes studied include compounds that are commonly detected in treated wastewater, including 16 pharmaceuticals (acetaminophen, caffeine, meprobamate, atenolol, trimethoprim, carbamazepine, diazepam, gemfibrozil, and primidone) and three¬†personal care products (DEET, triclosan, and triclocarban). The vegetable species included in the¬†study are carrot, celery, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, cucumber, bell pepper, and tomato, which were included because they are often consumed raw by people and are also among the most important cash crops in arid and semi-arid regions, such as southern California, where there has been a rapid increase in irrigation with treated wastewater.

The study points to water shortages in many parts of the world and the U.S. as factors contributing to the increase in use of recycled water in agriculture. In 2009, 13% of treated municipal wastewater in California was recycled, while about 37% of the reuse was for agriculture irrigation. The state also formulated a policy calling for a three-fold increase in total water reuse by 2030. Over a third of the country’s vegetables and nearly two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are produced in California, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) most recent 2012 statistics.

The study finds that 64% of the edible portions of vegetables grown with treated wastewater have at least one PPCP detected, while fortified water-irrigated vegetables have a detection frequency of 91%. In treated wastewater-irrigated vegetables, meprobamate (31%) and carbamazepine (31%) are the most frequently detected compounds. In fortified water-irrigated vegetables, the detection frequencies of carbamazepine, dilantin, and primidone significantly increased to 89%, 57%, and 39%.

Regarding dietary intake, the study’s researchers found that, based on their results, the greatest annual exposure due to the consumption of contaminated vegetables is caffeine, followed by triclosan, and carbamazepine, while meprobamate is the lowest. The researchers also note that caffeine and triclosan are mostly detected in carrot, while carbamazepine is detected widely in all vegetables.

The detection of chemicals like triclosan is not surprising and has dire implications for human health and the environment. Triclosan is one of the¬†most commonly detected¬†chemicals in U.S. waterways; about 96 percent of triclosan from consumer products is disposed of in residential drains. This leads to large quantities of the chemical entering wastewater treatment plants, which are never completely removed during the wastewater treatment process. According to Bill Arnold, Ph.D., co-author of a study that found triclosan to be increasing in concentration since it was first introduced in the 1960s, ‚ÄúTriclosan goes through the wastewater treatment system, and the wastewater treatment plant actually does a pretty darn good job of removing it. 90 to 95 percent of it is taken out, but we use so much triclosan that the rest of it gets through, and three of the compounds we found are chlorinated triclosan derivatives, and they‚Äôre formed in the last step of wastewater treatment, when the wastewater is disinfected before it‚Äôs discharged and the disinfectant is chlorine. So that creates these three new compounds. And then triclosan and these three new compounds, when they‚Äôre exposed to sunlight, each of them undergoes a reaction that forms a dioxin, so that‚Äôs where the other four compounds come from.‚ÄĚ

Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and is also shown to alter thyroid function. Due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in, fish, umbilical cord blood and human milk. One study shows that triclosan from sewage sludge can be taken up by soybean plants and translocated into the beans themselves, then consumed by people and animals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an updated National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals notes that triclosan levels in people increased by over 41% between just the years 2004 and 2006.

The study also finds that some PPCPs displays a higher tendency for accumulation in plants than others, which may have harmful implications for vulnerable human populations like pregnant women. For example, carbamazepine, an anticonvulsant and antidepressant drug used to treat epilepsy, bipolar disorder, and other conditions, is detected consistently in all plant samples, including fruits, leaves, and fruits. According to the study, the chemical is known to be immune to wastewater treatment processes and is found ubiquitously in wastewater treatment plant¬†effluents. There is evidence that pregnant women’s exposure to carbamazepine may result in congenital malformations in offspring

Interested in learning about how to prevent harmful chemicals like triclosan and carbamazepine from contaminating our waters? Keep up-to-date on Congressional and government agency actions on water quality by signing up for Beyond Pesticides’ action alerts and visiting our Threatened Waters page.

Sources: ScienceNews

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




Your Voice Is Needed to Keep Organic Strong

(Beyond Pesticides, September 22, 2014) Help protect our organic farms and food from pesticides and genetically engineered organisms. Don’t let a weakened public process for organic standards, which¬†looms large, roll back the progress we’ve made in growing organic production, and undermine public trust in the organic food label.The fall 2014 meeting dates for the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) have been announced, and public comments are due by Tuesday, October 7, 2014. Your comments and participation are critical to the integrity of the organic label.

We’ve made tremendous progress in creating an organic food production system. Let’s not let USDA turn back the clock.

SaveOurOrganicIntegrityAbout the NOSB

The 15-member board, consisting of 4 farmers, 3 environmentalists, 3 consumers, 2 food processors, and one retailer, scientist and certifying agent, votes to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming. The NOSB acts as a lifeline from government to the organic community, as it considers input from you, the public -the concerned citizens upon whom organic integrity depends. That is why your participation is vital to the development of organic standards. Rest assured, if you submit a public comment either in person or online, your concerns will be considered by the Board. Remember that the NOSB can’t take serious action to protect organic integrity without your input!

Issues Before the NOSB for Fall 2014

Materials on the list below are either the subject of petitions or the subject of sunset review. Petitioned materials must have evidence summarized in the proposals that they meet the OFPA requirements of essentiality, no adverse effects on humans and the environment, and compatibility with organic practices. Sunset items are already on the National List, and being considered for delisting. They are subject to the same criteria, but are being considered under NOP’s new rules.

The NOSB will vote on those materials subject to ‚Äú2015 Sunset Review,‚ÄĚ but any substantive comments on them now will be considered ‚Äúuntimely.‚ÄĚ We have some procedural comments on them. Although the NOSB will not vote on those materials listed under ‚Äú2016 Sunset Summaries‚ÄĚ at this meeting, comments received after October 7, 2014 will be considered untimely. The subcommittees have not published summaries of evidence concerning 2016 sunset materials.

There are also some very important issues in discussion documents and a proposal dealing with livestock vaccines made with genetically engineered organisms (“excluded methods” in¬†organic law’s¬†terminology). The NOSB will vote on the livestock vaccine proposal. Discussion documents are not up for a vote, but form the basis¬†of future proposals, so¬†this is a valuable opportunity to give input.

Make your voice heard! Help protect the integrity of organic and defend human health and the environment in the process. Check out Beyond Pesticides‚Äô Keeping Organic Strong page to learn more about the issues, see our draft comments to the NOSB, and send your own comments. We ask that you submit comments on as many issues and materials as you can by the October 7, 2014 deadline. For help crafting your comments, view Beyond Pesticides’ commenting guide.

Maintain Your Stake in the Public Process
Major issues before the fall 2014 National Organic Standards Board.
  • Protect Organic Farms from Outside Contamination. Inputs into organic production should be managed in a way that protects organic crops, soil, and water from residues of pesticides and genetically engineered organisms.
  • Get Harmful Inert Ingredients Out of Organic. So-called ‚Äúinert‚ÄĚ ingredients likely pose more hazards than other materials used in organic production. The NOSB must move quickly to review these potentially harmful ingredients in organic products.
  • Remove Unnecessary Synthetic and Nonorganic Inputs (2015 and 2016 Sunset Materials). Urge the NOSB to use only procedures that are first disclosed to the public. That was not done for materials under review for 2015 sunset, so they should be returned¬† to the subcommittee. The NOSB will not vote on 2016 sunset materials until spring 2015. However, now is the last chance on these materials to submit comments that will be considered by the NOSB during its deliberations. New scientific and use information brought to the Board on these materials at the next NOSB meeting in the spring will be found “untimely” and likely not considered. Materials include ferric phosphate, hydrogen chloride, and nearly a dozen others.
  • Genetic Engineering Issues Urgently Need the NOSB‚Äôs Attention. Urge the NOSB to complete the task of defining the scope of ‚Äúexcluded methods‚ÄĚ (term used for genetic engineering) and to use that definition as the basis for guidance on prohibition of vaccines made with excluded methods. The NOSB should not delegate this responsibility to USDA, a promoter of genetic engineering.

When You Write: Save Our Organic from Changes that Weaken the Public’s Voice
When you provide your comment, let NOSB and USDA, know that the approval of synthetic materials in organic cannot be governed by the weak process that was adopted by USDA and imposed on the NOSB on September 16, 2013. (Background)

Beyond Pesticides encourages you to submit comments in your own words. For help with this process, view our commenting guide.

Please go to Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage to learn more about these and other substantive issues and provide a unique public comment.

Source: Regulations.gov

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




USDA Approves 2,4-D-Tolerant (GE) Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, September 19, 2014) The pesticide treadmill continues to turn with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent approval this week of three 2,4-D-tolerto ant corn and soybean crops, developed by Dow AgroSciences.

Some growers have been pushing for the new Enlist crops in order to combat the rapid proliferation of glyphosate-resistant weeds. The use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto‚Äôs Roundup formulation, on genetically-engineered (GE) crops has proven to be an abject failure due to widespread weed resistance. So widespread is this resistance that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has¬†granted an emergency use exemption¬†for fluridone, which does not have registered uses in agriculture.¬†More recently, Texas regulators requested the use of propazine to combat glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth, or pigweed, which EPA recently denied,¬†citing risks to drinking water and other hazards.¬† Even though the agency denied the emergency use application, it accepted the argument put forth by the Texas Department of Agriculture that ¬†glyphosate-resistant weeds in three million acres of herbicide-tolerant cotton constituted an¬†“urgent non-routine situation.”¬†Beyond Pesticides argued to EPA that the weed resistance in¬†herbicide-tolerant cropping systems is very predictable and has become routine, thus disqualifying states from using the emergency exemption provision or Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide,¬†Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).¬†¬†A 2011 study¬†in the journal¬†Weed Science¬†found at least 21 different species of weeds to be resistant to applications of Monsanto‚Äôs Roundup.

Although touted to address this problem of resistance,¬†research¬†reveals weed resistance to 2,4-D is already¬†developing in areas of the western U.S., even without the presence of herbicide-ready crops. Additionally, despite assertions to the contrary, a 2012 report shows that GE crops are responsible for an¬†increase of 404 million pounds of pesticides, or about 7%, in the U.S. over the first 16 years of commercial use of GE crops (1996-2011). USDA‚Äôs own analysis finds that approval of 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans will lead to an unprecedented 2- to 7-fold increase in agricultural use of the herbicide by 2020, from 26 million to as much as 176 million pounds per year.¬† Even at current use levels, 2,4-D drift is responsible for more episodes of crop injury than any other herbicide. These alarming and ongoing problems point to systematic deficiencies in the current regulatory system and pesticide-use paradigm‚ÄĒnew GE crops will not ‚Äúsolve‚ÄĚ resistance issues, but merely push the problems of weed management further down the road.

2,4-D is a chlorophenoxy herbicide that kills broadleaf weeds by inducing rapid growth. The chemical has been linked to numerous human health problems, including cancer, particularly soft tissue sarcoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, and harm to the reproductive system. 2,4,-D is made up roughly half of the herbicide known as Agent Orange, which was used to defoliate forests and croplands in the Vietnam War. Research by EPA suggests that babies born in counties where high rates of chlorophenoxy herbicides are applied to farm fields are significantly more likely to be born with birth defects of the respiratory and circulatory systems, as well as defects of the musculoskeletal system like clubfoot, fused digits, and extra digits. These birth defects are 60% to 90% more likely in counties with higher 2,4-D application rates. The results also show a higher likelihood of birth defects in babies conceived in the spring, when herbicide application rates peak.

Public opposition to this move has been clear. Over the 60-day public comment period, which ended back in March, USDA received over 10,000 comments on its draft environmental impact statement and plant pest risk assessments. Of these comments, over 88%, including Beyond Pesticides, were opposed to the non-regulated status of the Enlist varieties. During a recent 30-day ‚Äúreview period‚ÄĚ in August for the final environmental impact statement, the agency received 969 submissions. Again the majority did not support deregulation. Additionally the agency received over 240,000 signatures from three non-government organizations opposing the deregulation of the Enlist crops.

The chemical and biotechnology giant Dow AgroSciences is now awaiting approval by EPA of Enlist Duo, a mix of glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D, that is to be used with the corn and soybean crops. (See Beyond Pesticides’ comments opposing this here). At the same time, an additional set of GE crops developed by Monsanto and resistant to another herbicide called dicamba, is also awaiting EPA approval.

Pursuing sustainable alternatives can prevent the pesticide treadmill that results from the use of GE crops and pesticides like glyphosate. Ecological pest management strategies, organic practices, and solutions that are not chemical-intensive are the most appropriate and long-term solution to battling pigweed. Additionally, organic agriculture is an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, mechanical production practices, and natural inputs. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, organic farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most genetically engineered organisms have been falsely-marketed as solving. To learn more about organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Program Page.

Sources: New York Times, USDA

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




Cargill Sues Syngenta after China Forbids the Sale of Its GE Corn

(Beyond Pesticides, September 18, 2014) After a reported $90 million loss from rejected shipments of genetically engineered (GE) corn seeds that are not approved in China, the U.S. grain company Cargill Inc. sued the biotech giant Syngenta AG. According to Cargill, since mid-November 2013, China has rejected imports of U.S. corn due to the presence of Syngenta’s MIR 162 trait because of its lack of approval for import, virtually halting U.S. corn trade with China. The lawsuit, filed Friday in Louisiana, will ultimately decide whether responsibility for the marketplace risks and economic damage of introducing GE crops in international trade Yellow Cornshould be placed on the seed companies that develop unapproved GE traits, or the merchants who sell contaminated grain.

‚ÄúUnlike other seed companies, Syngenta has not practiced responsible stewardship by broadly commercializing a new product before receiving approval from a key export market like China,‚ÄĚ said Mark Stonacek, president of Cargill Grain & Oilseed Supply Chain North America.¬†‚ÄúSyngenta also put the ability of U.S. agriculture to serve global markets at risk, costing both Cargill and the entire U.S. agricultural industry significant damages.‚ÄĚ

Syngenta’s corn seed in question, Agrisure Viptera corn, also known as MIR 162, was deregulated by USDA in April, 2010. Syngenta responded to the lawsuit in a public statement that because the seed was approved for cultivation in the U.S. at that time, the company upholds that it is in full compliance with regulatory and legal requirements.

However, absent in the discussion is the actual environmental and human health risks that GE crops pose to U.S. agriculture, and the role that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plays in deregulating GE crops in the U.S., proliferating its use throughout the country. In fact, according to USDA, nearly 90 percent of corn in the United States, the world’s top grains producer, is now genetically engineered.

Agrisure Viptera corn has a genetic modification that makes the corn more resistant to insects. This type of genetic engineering is known as plant-incorporated protectants (PIPs), which are created when scientists take the gene for a specific pesticidal protein and introduce the gene into the plant’s genetic material. The plant then continuously expresses the pesticidal protein that kills the pest when it feeds on the plant. Both the protein and its genetic material are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The plant itself is not regulated.

The Wall Street Journal reports that China’s government has rejected more than one million metric tons of corn since November 2013. U.S. corn shipments to China in the first seven months of this year totaled just 165,457 tons, down 85% from the same period in 2013. U.S. corn prices have plunged nearly 60% from their 2012 peak, with record production exacerbated by the lack of export demand.

Insecticide-resistant corn 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. In addition to these risks,  no evidence of the economic benefits that proponents of GE crops laud has been substantiated.

The impacts of GE intensive agriculture on wildlife, local environments, and human health, in addition to the on-going problems of seed contamination leading to economic harm, are all compelling arguments that underscore the fact that consumers should have the chance to vote with their food dollars and not purchase products that promote these hazardous outcomes. In the absence of mandatory labeling, consumers can still purchase foods that have the USDA Certified Organic Seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers.

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage.

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

Sources: Reuters, Wall Street Journal




DuPont Pays $1.9 Million Penalty to EPA, Fails to Disclose Data on Pesticide Hazard

¬≠¬≠¬≠(Beyond Pesticides, September 17, 2014) DuPont agreed to pay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) $1.853 million to settle charges from the agency that the chemical giant’s herbicide product ImprelisTM was responsible for killing and damaging thousands of acres of spruce and pine trees in 2011. On Monday, EPA filed a Consent Agreement and Final Order against DuPont for violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for selling and distributing its pesticide product -ImprelisTM herbicide. EPA contends that DuPont failed to submit in a timely manner¬†field trial studies indicating potential ecological adverse effects from the use of Imprelis.

In 2011, in what some say was one of the biggest disasters of its kind, Norway spruce and white pine tree damage and deaths were reported throughout the Midwest, in East Coast states, and as far south as Georgia. It was determined that Imprelis, marketed as a ‚Äúlow environmental impact‚ÄĚ pesticide, was applied during the spring to control weeds on lawns and other landscapes in the vicinity of the non-target evergreen trees. Imprelis, whose active ingredient is the potassium salt of aminocyclopyrachlor, was conditionally registered by EPA in September 2010, in a regulatory process reminiscent of that of the neonicotinoids, which are presently linked to widespread bee decline. Conditional registration is allowed under Section 3(c)(7) of FIFRA, which stipulates pesticide registration can be granted even though all data requirements have not been satisfied, with the assumption that no unreasonable adverse effects on the environment will occur. In fact, EPA‚Äôs registration documents for aminocyclopyrachlor concluded that, ‚ÄúIn accordance with FIFRA Section 3(c)(7)(C), the Agency believes that the conditional registration of aminocyclopyrachlor will not cause any unreasonable adverse effects to human health or to the environment and that the use of the pesticide is in the public‚Äôs interest; and is therefore granting the conditional registration.‚ÄĚ

However, by summer 2011, EPA began receiving complaints regarding tree damage related to the use of Imprelis. Over 7,000 adverse incident reports were submitted involving Imprelis-induced damage (including death) to spruce and pine trees. Test data from DuPont confirms certain coniferous trees, including Norway spruce and balsam fir, as susceptible to being damaged or killed by the application of Imprelis. By August 2011, EPA issued a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order to DuPont, prohibiting the distribution, sale, movement or removal of Imprelis products.  In September 2011, EPA, with consent from DuPont, amended the registration of Imprelis to, among other things, prohibit the sale, distribution or marketing of Imprelis absent action by EPA.

According to EPA, from October 2010 through June 2011, DuPont distributed or sold Imprelis on 320 occasions with labeling that did not include directions for use and/or warning or caution statements adequate to protect non-target terrestrial plants, thus resulting in a pesticide product that was ‚Äúmisbranded‚ÄĚ under sections 2(q)(1)(F) and/or (G) of FIFRA. Additionally, EPA also alleges that DuPont failed to timely submit 18 field trial study reports to EPA indicating potential adverse effects from the use of Imprelis as required by FIFRA section 6(a)(2) and 40 CFR part 159, subpart D.

“EPA’s ability to protect the public from dangerous pesticides depends on companies complying with the legal obligation to disclose information on the harmful effects of chemicals,” said Cynthia Giles, EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. ‚ÄúThis case sends the message that illegally withholding required information will be treated as a very serious violation.”

Ecological Data Gaps Allowed by EPA
However, under conditional registration, EPA can quickly allow to market pesticides that have not been shown to meet the human and environmental health data requirements, with the stipulation that the data can be submitted at a later date. As a result of this loophole in FIFRA, products are distributed and sold that can potentially pose serious risks to non-target sites, organisms, and vulnerable human populations. Clearly, had ecological data on non-target trees and plants been requested and reviewed by EPA before Imprelis was allowed on the market, millions of dollars in damage and tree losses could have been avoided. In an eerily similar case, EPA came under scrutiny since it was revealed a few years ago by Beyond Pesticides that the pesticide, clothianidin- a neonicotinoid conditionally registered in 2003, and since linked to bee decline- does not have complete field data for honey bees, even though this pesticide and others in its class are known to pose risks to bees. Unfortunately, bee data is still outstanding even though clothianidin and other neonicotinoids continue to be used as seed treatment on millions of acres of corn and soybean, and in home and garden products.

Neonicotinoids have been shown to have lethal and sublethal effects in bees, including impaired learning and navigational behavior, suppressed immune systems, and death. Last summer‚Äôs death of over 50,000 bumblebees in Oregon, after application of a neonicotinoid, raises the question of why EPA has been slow to act on this class of pesticides. The Imprelis announcement this week shows that EPA can and should move on pesticides that have been shown to cause ecological harms. Section 13 of FIFRA allows EPA to remove from the market any products found to be ‚Äúin violation of any of the provisions of this Act.‚ÄĚ Using this authority, EPA can take action on pesticides harming bees and other non-target organisms.

Imprelis Regulation and Fallout
After DuPont submitted information to EPA for registration of Imprelis, the proposed registration document was issued by EPA in June 2010. But in a letter to EPA in response to the proposed registration decision, DuPont opposed the agency‚Äôs measures to mitigate risks to non-target plants, including buffer zones, and aerial and ground application restrictions as outlined in EPA‚Äôs document, and challenged EPA‚Äôs risk assessment, claiming the agency ‚Äúoverestimates‚ÄĚ environmental risks. The company stated, ‚ÄúDuPont believes that the stated buffers to non-target aquatic areas and non-target terrestrial areas are not necessary to mitigate off-target movement of aminocyclopyrachlor end-use products …‚ÄĚ Further DuPont continued, ‚ÄúAddition of buffers to aminocyclopyrachlor end-use products will result in lessened utilization of the products..‚ÄĚ

DuPont instead requested the agency stick to the generic label language currently used on other products. Following this request, EPA revised its initial recommendations, removed language requiring 50 foot buffer strips to protect water and non-target plants, and nozzle and wind speed restrictions, retracted disclaimers that the product had a high potential to contaminate months after application, and replaced these more protective statements with generic label language.

Once reports of angry consumers and damaged trees became known, DuPont issued a letter on June 17, 2011 to pest management professionals cautioning against the use of Imprelis where Norway spruce or white pine trees are present or close to a treated area. EPA sent a letter to DuPont on August 3, inviting DuPont to meet to discuss implementation of a ‚ÄúStop Sale, Use, or Removal Order.‚ÄĚ It urged the company to make public all records or other documents regarding scientific studies conducted on Imprelis. The letter stated that EPA is uncomfortable with the amount of registration information DuPont claimed as confidential business information (CBI) under FIFRA. According to the letter, ‚ÄúEPA believes that the public interest demands that this information be made publicly available as soon as possible and, therefore, EPA strongly encourages DuPont to reconsider its CBI claims for these studies, especially for the phytotoxicity studies related to effects on trees.‚ÄĚ The next day, DuPont suspended sales of Imprelis and announced that it will soon conduct a product return and refund program.

Aminocyclopyrachlor (Imprelis) is in the chemical class of the pyrimidine carboxylic acids, which is similar to pyridine carboxylic acid herbicides that includes herbicide such as aminopyralid, clopyralid, and picloram. These chemicals have been linked to repeated incidents where treated plant residues contaminate non-target plants. They persist in the environment, do not break down during composting, and have affected flowers and vegetables, such as beans, peas and tomatoes. Some states as well as the United Kingdom were prompted to take regulatory action due to these incidents.

Alternatives to Vegetation Management
There are some safer¬†options for weed management. To get started, read Beyond Pesticides‚Äô ‚ÄúRead Your ‚ÄėWeeds‚Äô ‚Äď A Simple Guide To Creating A Healthy Lawn‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúLeast-toxic Control of Weeds.‚ÄĚ

For more on Imprelis, Read our article, Dear Consumer: Herbicide Kills Trees

Source: EPA News Release

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



Ask Your Member of Congress to Join Actions for Pollinator Protection

(Beyond Pesticides, September 16, 2014) In light of President Obama’s Memorandum directing federal agencies to take action on pollinator declines, groups and members of Congress are calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take meaningful steps to save our bees. In a letter to EPA, U.S.Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and John Conyers (D-MI) are urging the agency to follow the lead of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and revise pesticide regulations to protect pollinators from exposure to bee-toxic neonicointoids.

Sierra Castillo Santa Rosa CA A safe return to Pink Palace Honeybee retreatSanta Rosa, California>>Ask Your Representative to Join the Call: Urge Your Member of Congress to Sign-on to the Blumenauer-Conyers Letter to EPA!

Pollinators, including honeybees, bumblebees, butterflies, and other insects, play a critical role in our agriculture systems. More than 70% of America‚Äôs food sources are pollinated by bees and the worldwide economic value of bee‚Äźpollinated crops is as high as $125 billion per year. Since 2006, however, beekeepers have lost more than 30% of their hives annually‚ÄĒa huge threat to the vitality of our farms.

Pollinators are a critical driver of healthy, nutrient-dense foods. One in three bites of food depends on honey bees and other pollinators, and without them food prices are sure to rise and some of our favorite foods may become unavailable. To be certain, continued declines of these essential species are unacceptable in light of policy actions that can be taken by EPA now.

We need to put public pressure on our elected members of Congress. Have them join Representative Conyers and Blumenauer in telling EPA to follow the lead of FWS and take the right steps to forward pollinator health.

New Legislation Would Support Industry, Undermine Pollinator Health

Elsewhere in the halls of Congress, a new pollinator bill claims to address the crisis through the introduction of more pesticides. HR 5447, introduced by Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to speed up the registration of new pesticides to control ‚Äúparasitic pests‚ÄĚ such as the varroa mite.

Rather than an actual solution to the pollinator crisis, this bill, supported by the umbrella group CropLife America, represents the latest from the pesticide industry‚Äôs deceptive public relations tactics. A report released by Friends of the Earth last April, Follow the Honey: 7 Ways Pesticide Companies Are Spinning the Bee Crisis to Protect Profits, spells out the ways in which neonicotinoid manufacturers are ‚Äúspinning‚ÄĚ the bee crisis and muddying the science in order to stop government action that would restrict their profitable insecticides. Although varroa mites may be contributing factors to the decline of honey bees, recent science has revealed toxic, persistent and systemic neonicotinoid pesticides as the driving factor behind declines not only in pollinators, but in other wildlife such as birds.

‚ÄúBeekeepers do not consider mites as the top problem, and many like myself find it a non-issue. Pesticides are still the number one issue for all beekeepers,‚ÄĚ said New York beekeeper Jim Doan in a press release from the Center for Food Safety.

Rep. Scott, who introduced HR 5447, is the chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture. Earlier this year, this subcommittee sponsored a Capitol Hill hearing on pollinator health. However, the hearing included no independent scientists on the leading edge of bee research, and no beekeepers that are experiencing first-hand the die off of their honey bee colonies. No mention of pesticide risks were discussed by the industry dominated panel.

While the pesticide industry pushes the introduction of additional pesticides as the solution to the bee crisis, its actions stand to undermine a bill that would affect real change for pollinators, beekeepers, and the U.S. agricultural economy. The Saving America’s Pollinators Act, championed by Reps. Conyers and Blumenauer, would suspend the use of four toxic neonicointoid pesticides until EPA conducts a full review of their safety.

As pesticide manufacturers go on the offensive with the introduction of HR 5447 and their request to EPA to raise the allowable levels of neonicointoids on certain crops, it is more important than ever that we reach out to our U.S. Representatives. Ask them to support the efforts of Congressmen Blumenauer and Conyers by co-sponsoring the Saving America’s Pollinators Act and joining with them on their letter to EPA.

Source: Center for Food Safety Press Release
Photo Credit: Sierra Castillio, Santa Rosa, CA



Local Municipality Requires Labeling of Penta (PCP)-Treated Utility Poles

(Beyond Pesticides, September 15, 2014) The Town of North Hempstead on Long Island, New York has passed a new law requiring warning labels on the utility poles that are treated with the hazardous wood preservative, pentachlorophenol¬†(PCP). At the town board meeting on September 9, a vote of 7-0 mandated the labeling with the following warning: ‚ÄúThis pole contains a hazardous chemical. Avoid prolonged direct contact with this pole. Wash hands or other exposed areas thoroughly if contact is made.”

imageSince the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), operated by Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), installed thousands of new hurricane-resistant utility poles that are thicker and taller, it shed¬†more light on the community hazards¬†associated with use of pentachlorophenol. Of the 324,000 utility poles on Long Island, about 95,000 have been treated with PCP. Even though there is a prohibition¬†of PCP for residential uses within the U.S., it still can be used on utility poles, railroad ties and other industrial uses under¬†federal law. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines pentachlorophenol as ‚Äúextremely toxic‚ÄĚ to humans even from short-term exposure and is listed as a ‚Äúprobable human carcinogen.‚ÄĚ The inhalation or ingestion can lead to cancer, Hodgkin‚Äôs disease, soft tissue sarcoma and acute leukemia. Penta is neurotoxic and¬†contains a mixture of volatile¬†polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and is contaminated with dioxin, furans, and hexochlorobenzene. Beyond Pesticides has long called for the banning of PCP, having unsuccessfully sued the EPA to ban utility pole use. Penta and its contaminants are considered the United Nations Environmental Program to¬†be persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These contaminants are restricted under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic¬†Pollutants signed by the United States in 2001 and banned by numerous countries across the globe.

‚ÄúPeople need to know that the poles have this hazardous chemical in them,‚ÄĚ Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in a statement to Newsday.

Even with residents pleading to have untreated poles or at least warning signs, the PSEG spokesman stated (also to Newsday) that Penta (PCP) ‚Äúhas a long and proven track record for utility poles. We do not deem it necessary to put up warning signs.‚ÄĚ

“In my opinion it’s definitely a health issue,” said Craig Mazzola, a resident of Williston Park, where two new poles are being installed. “Kids can go running around a pole, playing around a pole, and they [the utility] don’t care,” he said.

According to Beyond Pesticides’ Pole Pollution, EPA has calculated that children face a 220 times increase in the risk of cancer from exposure to soil contaminated with PCP leaching out of the utility poles. These utility poles are ubiquitous across our country. However, there are alternatives to using chemically treated poles: alternatives range from poles made from cement, fiberglass, or recycled metals, as well as simply laying utility lines underground. Currently, the long term costs of purchasing, installing and maintaining fiberglass and concrete poles makes them competitive to treated wood utility poles.

Since the mid-1980s, Beyond Pesticides has done extensive work to address the risks of exposure to penta and the other two heavy-duty wood preservatives, inorganic arsenicals (such as chromated copper arsenate, or CCA) and creosote. In addition to Pole Pollution, Beyond Pesticides also published Poison Poles, which examines the toxic trail left by the manufacture, use, storage and disposal of the heavy-duty wood preservatives from cradle to grave. On December 10, 2002, a lawsuit led by Beyond Pesticides was filed in federal court by a national labor union, environmental groups and a victim family to stop the use of arsenic and dioxin-laden wood preservatives, which are used to treat lumber, utility poles and railroad ties. The litigation argued that the chemicals, known carcinogenic agents, hurt utility workers exposed to treated poles, children playing near treated structures, and the environment, and cites the availability of alternatives.

For more extensive information about pesticide-treated wood, see Beyond Pesticides Wood Preservatives program page.

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

Source: Newsday



Levels of Pesticides Still a Concern for Aquatic Life in U.S. Rivers and Streams

(Beyond Pesticides, September 12, 2014) A new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report finds that levels of pesticides continue to be a concern for aquatic life in many of the Nation’s rivers and streams in agricultural and urban areas. The study, which documents pesticide levels in U.S. waterways for two decades (1992-2011), finds pesticides and their breakdown products in U.S. streams more than 90 percent of the time. Known pesticide water contaminants, such as atrazine, metolachlor, and simazine, continue to be detected in streams more than 50 percent of the time, with fipronil being the pesticide most frequently found at levels of potential concern for aquatic organisms in urban streams.wyomping strea,

According to the USGS report, ‚ÄúAn Overview Comparing Results from Two Decades of Monitoring for Pesticides in the Nation‚Äôs Streams and Rivers, 1992‚Äď2001 and 2002‚Äď2011,‚ÄĚ featured in the journal, Environmental Science and Technology and part of the agency‚Äôs ongoing National Water-Quality Assessment Program, the proportion of streams with one or more pesticides that exceed an aquatic-life benchmark (or guideline) is similar between the two decades for streams and rivers draining agricultural and mixed-land use areas, but much greater during the 2002-2011 for streams draining urban areas. During both decades, one or more pesticides or pesticide degradates were detected more than 90 percent of the time in streams across all types of land uses. For individual pesticides during 2002‚Äď11, atrazine (and degradate, deethylatrazine), carbaryl, fipronil (and degradates), metolachlor, prometon, and simazine were detected in streams more than 50 percent of the time.

For urban areas, 90 percent of the streams exceeded a chronic aquatic life benchmarks. Fipronil, metolachlor, malathion, cis-permethrin, and dichlorvos exceeded chronic aquatic life benchmarks for more than 10 percent of the streams. For agriculture and mixed land-use streams, the overall percent of streams that exceeded a chronic aquatic life benchmarks was very similar between the decades. For urban land-use streams, the percent of streams exceeding a chronic aquatic life benchmark during 2002‚Äď11 nearly doubled that seen during 1992‚Äď2001. The reason for this difference, according to the USGS researchers, was the inclusion of fipronil monitoring during the second decade. Across all land-use streams, the percent of streams exceeding a chronic aquatic life benchmark for fipronil during 2002‚Äď11 was greater than all other insecticides during both decades. Fipronil, an insecticide that disrupts the central nervous system of insects, is commonly used in pet products to kill fleas on dogs and cats, and on lawns to control ants and termites. It is highly toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates, highly toxic to bees, highly toxic to upland game birds, and is moderately toxic to waterfowl.

‚ÄúThe information gained through this important research is critical to the evaluation of the risks associated with existing levels of pesticides,‚ÄĚ said William Werkheiser, USGS Associate Director for Water.

Over half a billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the U.S., mostly in agriculture and to reduce insect-borne disease, but some of these pesticides are occurring at concentrations that are identified by the government as a concern for aquatic life. Unfortunately, the potential for adverse effects on aquatic life is likely underestimated in these results because resource constraints limited the scope of monitoring to less than half of the more than 400 pesticides currently used in agriculture each year and monitoring focused only on pesticides dissolved in water.

Aquatic organisms like algae and fish face numerous risks from pesticide exposures, even at low levels. In fact, USGS scientists identified pesticides as one of the contaminants the Potomac River linked to intersex-fish (male fish producing eggs) observed there. Atrazine, one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world, has been shown to affect reproduction of fish at concentrations below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) water-quality guidelines. Concentrations of atrazine commonly found in agricultural streams and rivers have been associated with a reduction in reproduction and spawning, as well as tissue abnormalities. Just last month, EPA finalized a settlement to restore no-spray buffer zones around waterways to protect imperiled salmon and steelhead from five toxic pesticides. The settlement follows litigation filed by Earthjustice, representing the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, and Defenders of Wildlife, back in 2010 that called for EPA adoption of reasonable fish protections from the insecticides.

USGS has also published findings on the neonicotinoid class of pesticides, finding that they are persistent and prevalent in streams throughout the Midwestern U.S. According to that report, neonicotinoid use has increased dramatically throughout the country, especially in the Midwest over the last decade, where treated corn seeds are planted on millions of acres. The use of neonicotinoids clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam in these states means that their residues were most frequently detected. This class of pesticides is subject to a lawsuit filed by Beyond Pesticides and others, and has been receiving increased attention by scientists and beekeepers exploring the possible link between pesticides and bee decline. For more on neonicotinoids, visit www.beeprotective.org

According to USGS, since 1992 there have been widespread trends in concentrations of individual pesticides, some down and some up, mainly driven by shifts in pesticide use due to regulatory changes, market forces, and introduction of new pesticides. ‚ÄúLevels of diazinon, one of the most frequently detected insecticides during the 1990s, decreased from about 1997 through 2011 due to reduced agricultural use and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‚Äôs regulatory phase-out of urban uses,‚ÄĚ said, Wesley Stone, USGS hydrologist.

Last year, USGS for the first time released a national assessment depicting the distribution and trends of pesticide use from 1992-2009, with agricultural use maps of 459 pesticides. The maps show how many pounds per square miles were used for each year, and include details about which crops they were used on. Previous USGS reports maintain that the presence of pesticides in U.S. waterways remains a concern for aquatic life. Additionally, the agency also reports that more than 20 percent of private domestic wells sampled nationwide contain at least one contaminant at levels of potential health concern, as well as in streams used as a source for public water systems.

Unfortunately, water quality criteria for the protection of aquatic life and human health in surface water were set for only a handful of pesticides. In 2012, EPA added new health and environmental benchmarks for acute pesticide effects, however, benchmarks are notoriously limited in fully assessing risks because of ongoing deficiencies in analyzing the complexities associated with chemical exposure, specifically a failure to evaluate the effects of chemical mixtures, synergistic effects, and health effects associated with consistent low-dose exposure. If benchmarks are exceeded, the state or local water municipality can consider how frequently the benchmarks are exceeded and the magnitude of the exceedance in other samples. Exceeding the benchmark consistently means that aquatic life and human health may be at risk from continued exposures.

The USGS says its National Water-Quality Assessment Program is continually working to fill these data gaps by adding new pesticides that come into use, such as the neonicotinoid and pyrethroid insecticides, improving characterization of short-term acute exposures, and enhancing evaluations of sediment and other environmental media.

Visit our Threatened Waters page and learn how organic land management practices contribute to healthy waters in the article, ‚ÄúOrganic Land Management and the Protection of Water Quality.‚ÄĚ

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

Source: USGS Press Release



Fungicide Residues Found in Pregnant Women Living Near Banana Plantations

(Beyond Pesticides, September 11, 2014) A study of pregnant women living near or working in Costa Rican banana fields shows disturbing levels of the fungicidal component ethylene thiourea (ETU) in the urine samples collected from the women tested. In 72 percent of the 445 women tested, researchers found ETU in urine at levels five times greater than that of the general population. The levelsbanana5 detected in the urine exceed reference doses¬†‚ÄĒthe numbers set by regulatory agencies, like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that reflect the maximum acceptable oral dose of a toxic substance.

Scientists conducting the study, Aerial Application of Mancozeb and Urinary Ethylene Thiourea (ETU) Concentrations among Pregnant Women in Costa Rica: The Infants‚Äô Environmental Health Study (ISA), focused on ethylene thiourea because it is the main metabolite of the active ingredient found in Mancozeb, a fungicide used in agriculture, professional turf management, and horticulture. The fungicide’s prominent uses on food and feed crops include tree fruits, such as bananas, apples, and pears.

It is not just the presence and levels found within the urine that is troubling. Researchers also discovered that pregnant women who live within 48 meters of banana plantation have on average 45% more  urinary ETU compared with women who live greater than or equal to 565 meters away. Washing agricultural work clothes and working in agriculture during pregnancy also resulted in increased ETU levels.

Conclusions from the study point to aerial application and pesticide drift as the primary factor causing the exposure and elevated levels. As the lead scientist, Berna van Wendel, PhD, a professor with the National University‚Äôs Central American Institute for Studies on Toxic Substances, noted to The Tico Times, ‚ÄúFew women work in the agricultural sector, which led us to believe that this is a problem for the wider environment.‚ÄĚ

Dr. Van Wendel also pointed to ways to reduce exposure, noting,‚ÄúThe weather is hot and their homes are built to let the air in. It‚Äôs not easy to avoid contact with these chemicals so we suggested reducing the amount of chemicals at the source.‚ÄĚ Other recommendations included establishing more protective laws and standards, like much larger buffer zones, rather than just adhering to the insufficient existing standards.

Why worry about bananas in the U.S.?

Pesticide drift and contamination in and around agricultural communities is a serious problem everywhere, no matter what the crop. Past reports and studies conducted in the U.S., including one by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), have raised serious concerns surrounding agricultural community exposure to pesticides. Of particular concern are children, pregnant women, and other sensitive populations.

Pesticide drift is typically the result of small spray droplets and volatilized chemicals being carried off-site by air movement. The main weather factors that cause drift are wind, humidity and temperature changes. Aside from poisoning people and animals, drift can injure foliage, shoots, flowers and fruits resulting in reduced yields, economic loss and illegal residues on exposed crops.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated that people support a healthy work environment for farmworkers and surrounding communities by choosing organic food, advocating for stronger farmworker protection standards, and more protective laws. For more information on supporting organic for farmworkers and rural residents, as well as for the your family’s health and the environment, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience web guide.

Source: The Tico Times

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



Emory University To Ban Neonicotinoids from Campus

(Beyond Pesticides, September 10, 2014) As bee and other pollinator populations continue to decline around the world, with clear evidence pointing to neonicotinoid pesticides as a prime cause, Emory University announced last week that it will be eliminating the use of this controversial class of chemicals from its campus, joining institutions and communities like University of Vermont Law School, Spokane (Washington), Eugene (Oregon), and Shorewood (Minnesota).

beeNeonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affects the central nervous system of insects,¬†affecting the organisms’ ability to function. These systemic pesticides, which move through the plant‚Äôs vascular system and express themselves through pollen and nectar, include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. A continually growing body of science has implicated neonicotinoids, which are applied to or incorporated into seeds for agricultural, ornamental and garden plants, as a key factor in recent global bee die-offs. Beekeepers across the country reported losses of 40 to 90 percent of their bees last winter. The implications of this loss are staggering ‚Äďone in every three bites of food is reliant on bee pollination, and pollinators make possible¬†$20-30 billion of annual U.S. agricultural production.

Last week, Emory University‚Äôs Office of Sustainability Initiatives released a campus pollinator protection commitment based on the philosophy that ‚Äúprotecting pollinators will further Emory‚Äôs sustainability vision to help restore the global ecosystem, foster healthy living, and reduce the university‚Äôs impact on the local environment,‚ÄĚ says Ciannat Howett, director of the school‚Äôs Office of Sustainability Initiatives. Ms. Howett also mentioned the critical role that pollinators play in ensuring a secure food supply as a major reason for taking action.

The university is not just banning the use of neonicotinoids on campus. The school also plans to:

  • Make sure to purchase plants for campus landscaping that have not been pre-treated with neonicotinoids, to the extent feasible
  • Specify in contracts with vendors and in campus construction standards that neonicotinoids or plants pre-treated with neonicotinoids may not be used on Emory’s campus, to the extent feasible
  • Ensure any neonicotinoid substitutes used on campus are safer for pollinators.
  • Plant and maintain pollinator-friendly habitats on campus
  • Conduct campus outreach and education on the importance of pollinators

Earlier this year, Ms. Howett received information from the Atlanta-based Turner Foundation, an organization that aims to protect and restore the natural world, based on a report (released by the Pesticide Research Institute, Turner Environmental Law Clinic, and Friends of the Earth (FOE), a network of grassroots groups, and others), which shows that many nursery plants being sold as “bee-friendly” are actually contaminated with neonicotinoid pesticides.

“As this body of science grows, demonstrating a clear connection of ‘neonics’ to either killing bees outright or impairing their ability to do their duties, we’re hearing from more universities saying, ‘How can we help?'” says Tiffany Finck-Haynes, the food futures campaigner for FOE.

Although the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum earlier this summer to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to ‚Äúreverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels,‚ÄĚ the federal government has yet to take any regulatory action. Last year, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, and others filed a lawsuit against EPA¬†on its continued registration of these chemicals. The groups are also working to pressure lawmakers in Congress to take action to protect pollinators with the adoption of the¬†Saving America‚Äôs Pollinator Act, H.R. 2692, introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). The bill¬†is gaining support in the House. The bill will suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of the scientific evidence has been conducted that demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators.¬†Get your Representative to support this bill!

As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to stall, Beyond Pesticides, along with other groups are working to BEE Protective. BEE Protective is a national campaign established by Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety that serves as a national public education effort supporting local action aimed at protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes. BEE Protective includes a variety of resources to encourage municipalities, campuses, and homeowners to adopt policies that protect pollinators from bee-toxic pesticides. For more information on how to truly bee protective, join our campaign and take action at www.BeeProtective.org.

Interested in cultivating your own pollinator-friendly space? Check out the BEE Protective Habitat Guide and learn more about organic food and Eating with a Conscience. You can also encourage your own community or campus to be pollinator-friendly and make changes that will protect your local pollinator population. Get the Model Community Pollinator Resolution in the hands of local elected officials or school administrators. For help with your campaign, contact Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Emory University

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



Manufacturer Proposes Increase in Bee-Toxic Pesticide on Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, September 9, 2014) Multinational pesticide manufacturer Syngenta has petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to raise the allowable levels of a systemic pesticide on a number of crops. In certain cases, such as hay from wheat, the company is asking for a 400x increase in the tolerance level set by the federal agency. The pesticide in question is thiamethoxam, a member of the neonicotinoid class of insecticides that have been widely implicated in global pollinator declines.

Many of the requested tolerance increases are for crops that end up as feed for livestock, but are also foraged by pollinators. For example, Syngenta is requesting increases on sweet corn used as forage from 0.1 parts per million (ppm) to 5.0 ppm ‚Äď a 50x increase. The company is also requesting new tolerances on known bee-attractive crops; while tolerances on sunflower are currently 0.02 ppm, the company is requesting a new tolerance for sunflower seeds at 0.4 ppm. As explained to Greenwire, Syngenta is asking for the tolerance increases because it wants to use the chemical as a leaf spray for late season crops, in addition to its use as a seed treatment.

While SyngentaAngela Coday Nashville TN Bumblebees on Sunflower in our garden is proposing to increase the use of these chemicals in the U.S., the European Union (EU) will soon mark the one year anniversary of a moratorium on the use of these wildlife-poisoning pesticides. After careful study of the literature, the European Commission determined that neonicotinoid pesticides pose ‚Äúhigh acute risks‚ÄĚ to bees. Recent scientific evidence, from a Harvard University study to a Worldwide Integrated Assessment, strengthens the EU‚Äôs decision to restrict these chemicals. Although the chemical industry has attempted to subvert the science surrounding its widely used pesticides using PR tricks borrowed from Big Tobacco, the evidence is clear that pollinator declines are No Longer A Big Mystery.

Syngenta claims that foliar applications will be more likely to stick to the leaves of crops, and thus are less risky to pollinators; but the fact remains that these chemicals are systemic and persistent, and any amount applied will contaminate soil, and has potential the be expressed in the crop’s pollen, nectar, and guttation (dew) droplets on which pollinators forage and drink. Researchers note that pollinator concerns should be addressed on both crops that are pollinated or foraged by bees. Research published in the Journal of Applied Ecology reveals that thiamethoxam can persist in for soil nearly a year. And its breakdown chemical is anything but innocuous; it is clothianidin, another neonicotinoid pesticide that itself has a reported half-life of up to 6,931 days. Persistence in the soil means that these chemicals can be repeatedly taken up by crops and other plants that are pollinator-attractive in agricultural areas. And when they do not bind to soil, neonicotinoids are widely found in our waterways. A USGS study published in July of this year found thiamethoxam in 47% of Midwestern waters, and its breakdown clothianidin in 75%.

The massive bee kill in Oregon last year shows what can occur when neonicotinoids are used as foliar sprays. Syngenta‚Äôs requested tolerance increase comes at a time when researchers are discovering that even “near-infinitesimal” exposure to this class of pesticides can result in harm to honey bees and other wild pollinators. While bees may not die outright, exposure may result in insurmountable stress, weaken bees’ immune systems, impact bees’ learning and memory, and adversely affect their feeding and communication.

Rather than eliminating the use of these chemicals by working with farmers, beekeepers, government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, and listening to the calls from consumers concerned about the one in three bites that honey bees provide for their dinner plates, Syngenta and Bayer, the two manufacturers of neonicotinoid pesticides, have opted to go on the offensive, suing the EU on its decision to suspend their products. A report published in July from the United Kingdom’s (UK) Environmental Audit Committee concluded that pesticide manufacturers had too much control over the vital research examining the link between their products and bee deaths. Yet, even with this undue influence, the company had to withdraw an emergency petition to allow neonicotinoid use on canola crops in the UK.

In response to abysmal, nonexistent product stewardship from these companies, those affected have had to craft their own counter-measures. Recently, beekeepers in Canada filed suit against Syngenta. Sun Parlor Honey and Munro Honey allege that Syngenta and Bayer were negligent in the design, sale, manufacture, and distribution of neonicotinoid pesticides, and this negligence caused the plaintiffs to suffer $450 million in damages. In March 2013, Beyond Pesticides and a coalition of beekeepers, environmental, and consumer groups sued EPA for their approval of clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Despite these calls, inaction from government regarding irresponsible industry actions allows bee declines to continue unabated. In September 2013, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found serious deficiencies in EPA’s conditional registration system, the means through which the agency originally allowed the insecticide clothianidin. And research to be published in the October issue of Bioscience highlights how EPA favors industry in pesticide safety evaluations.

During Pollinator Week 2014, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum directing agencies to ‚Äúreverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.‚ÄĚ Certainly, an increase in the tolerance level for a neonicotinoid implicated in causing these pollinator losses would be a step backwards for pollinator health, and not in line with the President‚Äôs call. You can take action and urge EPA to not simply reject increases in the use of bee toxic pesticides, but instead go further, and follow the lead of the Fish and Wildlife Service, which banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on all National Wildlife Refuges.

The comment period for the industry petition to allow more thiamethoxam residues on crops is open until October 6, 2014. To make your voice heard go to regulations.gov, under the docket ID: EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0467-0001. And to become more involved in advocating for pollinator health, visit the BEE Protective webpage, and contact Beyond Pesticides at info@beyondpesticides.org.

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

Source: Greenwire, Federal Register

Photo Source: Angela Coday, Nashville, TN