s
s s
Daily News Blog

FacebookTwitterYoutubeRSS

  • Archives

  • Categories

    • Agriculture (309)
    • Announcements (135)
    • Antibacterial (99)
    • Aquaculture (9)
    • Biofuels (5)
    • Biomonitoring (13)
    • Children/Schools (175)
    • Climate Change (21)
    • Environmental Justice (56)
    • Events (55)
    • Farmworkers (62)
    • Golf (10)
    • Health care (11)
    • Holidays (23)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (25)
    • International (202)
    • Invasive Species (20)
    • Label Claims (22)
    • Lawns/Landscapes (126)
    • Litigation (129)
    • Nanotechnology (49)
    • National Politics (160)
    • Pesticide Drift (43)
    • Pesticide Regulation (427)
    • Pets (9)
    • Pollinators (170)
    • Resistance (47)
    • Rodenticide (15)
    • Take Action (102)
    • Uncategorized (8)
    • Wildlife/Endangered Sp. (182)
    • Wood Preservatives (12)

27
Sep

Beyond Pesticides Launches The Fund for Independent Science

(Beyond Pesticides, September 27, 2013) In an effort to ensure that the essential independent scientific research on pesticides is not thwarted by the chemical industry, Beyond Pesticides has launched The Fund for Independent Science. This fund, catalyzed by the recent announcement that Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D. has lost university funding for his laboratory and research, is set up and run by Beyond Pesticides. Our goal is to raise $150,000 to enable Dr. Hayes to keep his lab running for a year, and ultimately support the other work of independent researchers. Make a pledge today.

There are few scientific research projects more important to protecting life and preventing its long-term demise than those conducted by Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D. And now this work is under threat. Dr. Hayes, a Harvard educated biologist and professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, whose research finds that the herbicide atrazine feminizes male frogs, is one of the leading scientists critical of the pesticide industry and regulatory process. This critical research is threatened while, as Dr. Hayes’ points out, amphibian species are in decline and they are disappearing.

Read Protecting Life – From Research to Regulation: Disappearance of frogs, human health effects linked to pesticide use,published in the Summer 2013 issue of Pesticides and You.

Getting to the Scientific Truth

Dr. Hayes’ work has shown that current regulatory reviews allow widespread use of pesticides that cause serious adverse effects well below allowable legal standards and when in mixtures not studied. He initially began his research with a study funded by Novartis Agribusiness, one of two corporations that would later form Syngenta, the maker of atrazine. When his results contradicted Novartis’ expected or desired outcome, he was criticized by the company, which withdrew its funding. Dr. Hayes continued the research with independent funding and found more of the same results: exposure to doses of atrazine as small as 0.1 parts per billion (below allowed regulatory limits) turns tadpoles into hermaphrodites – creatures with both male and female sexual characteristics. When his work appeared in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sygenta attacked the study, starting an epic feud between the scientist and the corporation. In fact, a June 2013 investigative report by 100Reporters and Environmental Health News exposed the chemical giant’s multi-million dollar campaign to discredit atrazine critics.

Dr. Hayes has published more than 40 papers, over 150 abstracts and has given more than 300 talks on the role of environmental factors on growth and development in amphibians. With the cutbacks in government funds and the relentless industry attacks, Dr. Hayes has recently run into financial woes, including exceedingly high fees from the University’s Office of Laboratory Animal Care. We hope that his important work will continue, however without funding there is no way for him to do research.

Raising Funds for Independent Science

Beyond Pesticides has established The Fund for Independent Science to support Dr. Hayes’ work, to protect life from harmful chemicals. Dr. Hayes’ lab operates on a budget of $150,000. Funds raised will keep this critical research going forward. Through this page, we ask you to consider making a pledge to the Fund. If the Fund is able to generate $150,000 in pledges, we will then circle back to collect your contribution. As the Fund grows, we will support other independent scientific research to inform great growth of the sustainable sector.

In general, we need a mechanism for raising substantial dollars from those who support independent scientific research to inform sound public policy that protects health and the environment. We need independent science to understand the toxicology of chemicals that are allowed to be introduced into the environment and our food supply. This information is critical to influence state and local decision makers to act because of industry-dominated regulatory decisions that assume the necessity of toxic materials, driven by companies with an economic interest. Building systems that are not reliant on toxic inputs requires continual understanding of the destructive capacity of toxic materials in commerce and the sustainable practices that can replace them in the marketplace.

The Fund is set up and run by Beyond Pesticides. If you are interested in helping out, please pledging today. For more information, you may call Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450 or email info@beyondpesticides.org.

About Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D.

Dr. Hayes has an undergraduate degree in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in integrative biology from the University of California, Berkeley, where he currently serves as a professor. He has published more than 40 papers, over 150 abstracts and has given more than 300 talks on the role of environmental factors on growth and development in amphibians. Through his research, he states, “I have come to realize that the most important environmental factors affecting amphibian development are synthetic chemicals (such as pesticides) that interact with hormones in a variety of ways to alter developmental responses.”

Watch a full presentation of Dr. Hayes’ talk at the 31st National Pesticide Forum held in Albuquerque, NM.  If you would like additional information on Dr. Hayes’ scientific research and work, you may email him at tyrone@berkeley.edu.

Thank you for considering a donation to the Fund!

Share

26
Sep

“Monsanto Protection Act” Stripped from Senate Bill

(Beyond Pesticides, September 26, 2013) The controversial legislative rider added at the behest of Monsanto to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) budget bill last spring, dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act,” will no longer be effective after Sept. 30 under a new stopgap government funding bill being drafted by Senate Democrats. Just last week, to the dismay of many concerned groups and individuals, the House approved the extension of the provision, which protects genetically-engineered (GE) seed manufacturers from litigation. The provision was included in last spring’s 6-month continuing resolution (CR) spending bill to fund the government through the end of the month.

The House approved a three-month extension to the rider in its own short-term FY14 Continuing Resolution (CR) spending bill, which was approved last week to fund the federal government past September. But the Senate version, overseen by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), will explicitly say that the Monsanto-backed provision will end this month on September 30 before sending the bill back to the House for final approval.

Wrapped in a “farmer-friendly” package, the “Monsanto Protection Act” touched off a storm last spring as critics accused Monsanto of trying to protect its sales of GE seeds, by overriding any court-mandated intervention of the use of GE crops based on environmental or economic risks. Essentially, the provision strips federal courts of their authority to halt the sale and planting of illegal, potentially hazardous GE crops and compel USDA to allow continued planting of the crop, thereby putting industry completely in charge through a “back door approval” mechanism. It also represents an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review, which is an essential element of U.S. law and a critical check on government decisions that may adversely affect human health, the environment or livelihoods.

Beyond Pesticides joined the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and over 120 of the nation’s top organizations and businesses in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Chairwoman Mikulski on September 12 calling on them to strip the rider from the bill. These groups welcomed the decision as “a major victory for the food movement.”

Senator Barbara Mikulski, who inherited legislative agreements made under her predecessor, the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), promised that she would do everything she could to terminate the provision with the new fiscal year. But the CR posed its own challenges since typically the leadership simply extends current spending and related provisions for the life of the resolution. Under the current House version, the CR will run through December 15, but Sen. Mikulski and Sen. Pryor (D-Ark.) chairman of the agriculture appropriations subcommittee, chose to act and take it out after the end of the month. This was aided by the fact that early proponents in the House Appropriations Committee appear to have backed off of supporting the measure.

According to Politico, the whole dispute has been overshadowed by the larger fight over Republican efforts to use the same CR to cut off funding needed by President Barack Obama to implement the health care reform law. But for many environmental and food safety groups, the “Monsanto Protection Act” became a major cause last spring, generating a huge amount of Internet traffic and calls on Obama to veto the agriculture budget.

Largely as a result of prior lawsuits, USDA is required to complete environmental impact statements (EIS) to assess risks prior to both the planting and sale of GE crops. The extent and effectiveness to which the USDA carries out this requirement is in itself a source of serious dispute. Past failures to adequately review GE plantings led to legal challenges, with many court decisions calling for a moratorium on plantings until an environmental review is conducted. Monsanto and its allies have argued that what the company sought was no more than what some federal courts have done themselves in the past —allow farmers to continue to use GE seed –under environmental guidelines—while the court review continues.

Just recently, GE alfalfa was confirmed to have contaminated non-GE alfalfa in Washington State. Wheat in Oregon that was also contaminated with unapproved GE wheat, which has spurred several lawsuits claiming this incident has led to economic losses, confirming the ability of this technology to indiscriminately contaminate non-GE crops and other wild plant species, and questions the fitness of USDA’s review. While USDA claims the contamination is a “commercial issue” and should be addressed by the marketplace and not the government, GE contamination has a dramatic impact on farmers. Major export countries like Japan, that restrict GE material and insist on GE labeling, have refused to purchase American GE contaminated crops, and the European Union has begun to run additional tests on U.S. shipments. In addition to contamination issues, concerns about harm to human health and the environment have prompted several state legislatures to consider bills that would require labeling of products with GE ingredients so consumers know what they are eating.

Given the recent GE contamination episodes of wheat and alfalfa in Oregon and Washington, it is imperative that existing safeguards not be undermined for the sake of industry interests, and the authority of federal courts should be protected.

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 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.

If you’re interested, you can see Monsanto’s response to their Protection Act’s expiration.

Source: Politico

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

Share

25
Sep

USDA Refuses to Investigate GE Alfalfa Contamination

(Beyond Pesticides, September 25, 2013) Five days after genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa was confirmed to have contaminated non-GE alfalfa in Washington State, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it would not investigate the incident. Conventional and organic farmers have long been concerned with the economic impacts of GE adulteration, and this incident represents the latest in a long string of contamination events that have brought a global spotlight on the United States’ loose regulatory structure for these controversial crops.alfalfa

GE alfalfa is engineered by Monsanto to be resistant to glyphosate, or “Roundup Ready,” and is the first engineered perennial crop. The contamination could either be a result of cross-pollination or direct contamination of purchased seed. Cross- contamination is highly likely as alfalfa is pollinated by bees that can fly and cross-pollinate between fields and wild sources miles apart. According to a December 2011 report by Stephanie Greene, a Ph.D. geneticist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), after Roundup Ready alfalfa was first deregulated in 2005 industry testing of conventional seed lots found levels of contamination as high as two percent.

USDA claims the contamination is a “commercial issue” and should be addressed by the marketplace and not the government. GE alfalfa contamination could have a dramatic impact on all alfalfa farmers. Alfalfa is the fourth-widest grown crop in the U.S. and has an export value of $1.25 billion dollars. The U.S. is the primary alfalfa supplier to countries like Japan, Saudi Arabia and other countries that prohibit and/or require labeling of genetically engineered foods. This incident comes on the heels of findings of wheat in Oregon that was contaminated with unapproved GE wheat, which has spurred several lawsuits claiming this incident has led to economic losses. After this contamination, Japan cancelled its order to buy U.S. western white wheat. These incidents bring into question USDA’s ability to regulate GE crops in way that is not harmful to non-GE farmers.

This contamination could also have a dramatic impact on the organic community. Alfalfa is the key feedstock for the dairy industry. GE contamination would cause organic dairies to lose their source of organic feed, a requirement for organic dairy, including milk and yogurt products.

GE alfalfa designed to be resistant to herbicides is unnecessary. USDA data shows that 90% of all the alfalfa planted by farmers in the U.S. was previously grown without the use of any herbicides, which the GE alfalfa is engineered to withstand. Due to the planting of GE alfalfa, USDA estimates that up to 23 million more pounds of toxic herbicides will be released into the environment each year.

Beyond Pesticides has a long history of fighting against the growing of GE alfalfa. After USDA first proposed complete deregulation of the crop in 2005, Beyond Pesticides joined with other environmental and farming groups in a lawsuit that argued that USDA did not adequately defend its decision to forgo an environmental impact statement (EIS). In 2007, a U.S. District judge ruled in favor of the environmental and farming groups, finding that USDA violated federal environmental law by failing to conduct an EIS.  One of USDA’s chief arguments -that GE alfalfa will not affect the crop economically- was also rejected by the court. While USDA worked on the EIS, GE alfalfa remained unlawful to plant or sell, and a ban remained in place despite Monsanto appealing the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In December of 2010, the Obama administration proposed limiting GE alfalfa to restricted planting zones to prevent contamination. The EIS was completed by USDA in 2011 and found that GE alfalfa, unless restricted, would contaminate natural alfalfa, cause the loss of U.S. export markets, dramatically increase pesticide use, and drive the rise of Roundup-resistant superweeds.

Despite this overwhelming evidence of harm, in 2011 USDA announced plans to fully deregulate GE alfalfa. The announcement came after U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack signaled that he wished to seek a middle ground regarding the crop, exclaiming that organic, conventional, and GE farmers could coexist. After a series of meetings and discussions among stakeholders, the agency’s final decision infuriated organic farmers and environmentalists, who felt the agency ignored their concerns. The concerns were expressed in a 2011 open letter to USDA.

Beyond Pesticides, along with other environmental and farming organizations, filed a suit in March of 2011 challenging the agency’s deregulation of the GE alfalfa. The suit, Center for Food Safety, et al., v. Vilsack, et al., argued that the agency’s deregulation of the Roundup Ready alfalfa is unlawful, and tried to prevent any further planting of the engineered crop. However, in 2012, a U.S. District Judge in San Francisco issued a ruling finding that USDA’s decision to deregulate GE alfalfa was not unlawful.

For more information on this issue, see Beyond Pesticides’ webpage on genetic engineering and see our related Daily News entries.

Source: Reuters

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

Share

24
Sep

Swarm Home Depot and Lowe’s: Retailers Must Stop Selling Poisoned Plants

(Beyond Pesticides, September 24, 2013) Last month a new report co-released by Beyond Pesticides, Friends of the Earth, and other allies revealed that the neonicotinoids (neonics), the pesticides implicated in global bee die-offs, may be lurking in our own gardens.

FOE Bee week of action social media sharable imageThe study showed that more than half of the “bee-friendly” plants sold at retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s contained these “bee-killing” pesticides.Our coalition and nearly 200,000 people across the country have stepped-up to tell Home Depot and Lowe’s to stop selling these poisoned plants and off-the-shelf bee-killing pesticides.

So far neither company has responded.

We need to send a clear message to Lowe’s and Home Depot that it is not okay to further endanger our imperiled pollinators. With beekeepers reporting losses up to 90% last winter, consumers should be able to provide a true sanctuary for honey bees and other pollinators.

Join us this week in a social media “swarm” on Facebook and Twitter to send Home Depot and Lowe’s an urgent demand:  “Stop selling bee-killing pesticides and poisoned ‘bee-friendly’ plants!”

I.  Copy and post this message on Home Depot and Lowe’s Facebook pages:

Home Depot/Lowe’s: Stop selling bee-killing pesticides and poisoned bee-friendly plants! www.beyondpesticides.org/pollinators/index.php  www.BeeAction.org

II. Click on any of these tweets to tweet them at Home Depot and Lowe’s Twitter accounts:

@Homedepot @Lowes: 1 in 3 bites of food  need #bees! Stop selling bee-killing pesticides! #BeeAction @bpncamp @foe_us www.beeaction.org

Buzz kill: @Home Depot @Lowes: Stop selling bee-killing pesticides #savethebees #BeeAction @bpncamp @foe_us:www.beeaction.org

III. If you haven’t already, sign the petition telling retailers to stop selling poisoned plants!

Europe has already placed a ban on bee-killing pesticides, and top retailers in the UK are refusing to sell them. Beyond Pesticides and allies are challenging top garden retailers to make the same commitment here in the U.S.

Bees are essential to our food system and they are dying at alarming rates. We can protect bees in our own backyards and gardens right now by rejecting neonics and demanding that top retailers stop selling these bee-killing pesticides. Please join us in asking Lowe’s and Home Depot to BEE Protective and give bees a chance by not selling bee-killing pesticides. The bees have enough troubles — our backyard gardens should be havens for bees — not death traps.

Bee part of the solution! Join us on Home Depot and Lowe’s Facebook pages to tell these home and garden giants to step up and protect bees!

Don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account? Give Home Depot and Lowe’s a call!
Home Depot: 1-800-466-3337
Lowe’s: 1-800-445-6937

Background

Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. They include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. Peer-reviewed science has repeatedly identified these insecticides as highly toxic to honey bees and other pollinators. Once applied, plants take up these pesticides and exude them in their pollen and nectar, subsequently endangering any pollinators that forage on these contaminated plants.

With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other beneficial species for fruit production, the decline of these important species demands swift action. The mounting scientific evidence, along with unprecedented annual colony losses at 40 to 90 percent this year, demonstrate the impacts that these pesticides are having on these fragile beings.

To save the bees, Beyond Pesticides is keeping the pressure on at all fronts.

  • In addition to asking Lowe’s and Home Depot to stop the sale of of these products, we urge you to download and customize this sample letter and take it in to your local retailer customer service manager. Please tell us when you do (include store name, city and state), so we can follow-up.
  • Tell your member of Congress to support the Save America’s Pollinators Act introduced last month by U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D, Ore.) and John Conyers (D, Mich.) to suspend the use of neonicotiniods on bee-attractive plants until EPA reviews all of the available data, including field studies. The bill, which Beyond Pesticides helped draft, aims to provide long overdue protections for America’s imperiled pollinators.
  • Take the pollinator protection pledge to devote your own yard, garden, park, and backyard as a Pesticide-Free Zone that you can manage as organic pollinator habitat.
  • Encourage your local schools, government agencies, religious institutions and businesses to use their buying power to go neonic-free. Urge your municipality, institution or company to adopt the model resolution which makes the commitment to protect pollinators from harmful pesticide applications and create pesticide-free refuges for these beneficial organisms.
  • Plant your own colorful, bee-friendly garden using our BEE Protective Habitat Guide.
  • Tell your friends and family about the dangers of neonicotinoids to honey bees and pollinators and tell them how they can Manage Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind.

Let’s BEE Protective and support a shift away from the use of these toxic chemicals by encouraging organic methods and sustainable land management practices in your home, campus, or community.

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

Share

23
Sep

Send Your Comment to USDA: Stop Antibiotics in Organic Fruit Production, Allow Full Public Participation

(Beyond Pesticides, September 23, 2013) Don’t let USDA stop your voice from being heard on organic. The meaningfulness of the USDA organic label is threatened because the standards and public oversight governing organic are under attack.

Say No to Antibiotics in Organic Fruit Production

Help us make sure that the last antibiotic, streptomycin, is taken out of organic apple and pear production. Public action in spring 2013 resulted in a decision by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to support the phase out of tetracycline. With resistance to antibiotics rampant, organic should be helping to solve the problem.organic integrity with question mark

Ask for Organic Policy on Fish Farming before Approving Allowed Materials

On fish farming or aquaculture, we don’t want intensive operations that pollute the environment and are not defined by organic systems that are protective of the aquatic environment. Let’s not let the NOSB approve synthetic chemicals that are used in factory fish farms without clear organic standards.

Go to Beyond Pesticides Keeping Organic Strong webpage to learn more about these issues and provide a unique public comment.

Protecting the Public’s Voice in Organic

USDA has weakened the power of the NOSB and the voice of the public on the review and approval of synthetic and other materials under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). 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 just adopted on September 17. Incorporate some version of the following in your comments:

Because the National Organic Program (NOP) sunset policy violates OFPA, and will therefore not subject National List materials to the required reassessment to determine re-listing in the future –and given current concerns about health and environmental impacts associated with the petitioned materials’ use and manufacture and synthetic materials under sunset review, as well as their need in organic production (essentiality), we urge NOSB members to oppose petitions for new synthetic chemical uses at this Fall 2013 NOSB meeting and until the sunset process is reinstated. We are especially concerned about the lack of public transparency and input on all decisions related to organic and the long-term viability of the USDA organic label as consumers begin to increasingly distrust the process and the lack of NOSB authority to conduct a public assessment to determine whether materials should be relisted every five years.

More Background

Under the law, synthetic materials, which are “otherwise prohibited,” may be given an “exemption” by the NOSB to allow use, but only for five years if not extended by the NOSB. USDA has dismantled this process, in place since 2005, which was established to ensure that all synthetics are approved by the NOSB and subject to public comment on a five-year cycle. Once allowed, a material was required to sunset after that cycle and would not be put back on the allowed materials list, the National List, unless the Board voted decisively (two-thirds) to reinstate or continue the use –a high threshold in line with the law’s default against synthetics and the standard required for newly petitioned substances. Under the new process, the Board does not have to act to continue a use, creating disincentives for the development of natural alternatives or alternative practices, and the decision could be made by USDA without a NOSB recommendation or public comment.

The organic label has value in the marketplace because it was built on a system of land management, certification, and the close public scrutiny of allowed inputs through a public process and oversight of a stakeholder group, the NOSB.

Why is this attack coming from USDA now?
While USDA claims these moves will increase efficiency and transparency, we believe that they will do just the opposite, resulting in less public oversight and the use of synthetic materials in perpetuity, thereby creating disincentives for continuous improvement. The USDA action comes on the heels of many critical votes by the NOSB to curtail antibiotics, stop synthetics in infant formula, place restrictions on nanotechnology, scrutinize inert ingredients, protect organic farmers from contamination by genetically engineered crops, and increase public involvement and oversight. Are there some in the industry (or wanting to break into the organic industry) who think this oversight of organic is harmful to its growth? Or, is the new policy’s disincentive for continuous improvement, which historically has been advanced by the NOSB and the public, actually harmful to the growth of organic? Make your voice heard.

Comment to Protect Organic

Here’s what we can do: Please take the time to submit a personalized comment on as many issues as possible. We made the process easy – go to Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage. What we eat and how we protect the environment has very personal impacts on us, so let’s take the time to let the NOSB know what we think.

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

Share

20
Sep

Study Finds Women Near Pesticide-Treated Fields Have Lower Weight Babies

(Beyond Pesticides, September 20, 2013) A study of women in Northern California farm towns finds that those living within three miles of strawberries fields treated with methyl bromide gave birth to smaller, lighter babies. Methyl bromides, a fumigant pesticide injected into soils to eliminate soil-borne pests, can volatize into the air exposing nearby neighborhoods. The U.S. and other developed countries have banned the use of methyl bromide under an international treaty that recognized the role of chemicals like methyl bromide to deplete the ozone layer. However, some farmers continue to use the fumigant on strawberries and other crops due to the “critical use exemption” (CUE) stipulation of the laws, which allows the chemical to continue to be used when there are no feasible alternatives.

The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, examined the health of babies born to 442 pregnant women living in Salinas Valley, CA in 1999 and 2000, when methyl bromide was widely used.  lettucefieldUtilizing data from California’s Pesticide Use Reporting System, the study was able to identify residences that were within 5 kilometers of methyl bromide application.

Researchers find that women exposed to the chemical during their second trimester have babies that are four ounces lighter on average than women living in areas with no methyl bromide use. For comparison, this is half the weight decrease caused by smoking, say researchers.

However, only four percent of babies were born at what is considered “low birth weight,” less than 5.5 pounds. In other words, the majority of babies were still considered with normal ranges. The significance of smaller babies when it comes to their health is still unclear, but low birth weight babies are known to be at higher risk for developmental delays and learning disabilities.

“For a baby on the low end of the normal birth weight, 4 ounces could make a big difference,” said Kim Harley, PhD., author, and associate director of the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health at University of California, Berkeley.

Additionally, Dr. Harley noted that the majority of women studied were Latinas from Mexico who, in general, tended to have healthy birth weight babies, but “across the board we saw a shift towards slightly lighter babies.”

While about 41 percent of the women did some field work while pregnant, few worked in fields that had been treated with methyl bromide, raising concerns about the role of residential exposure to methyl bromide and expanding the dialogue beyond farmworkers.

The study has one major limitation: the amount of methyl bromide the women were exposed to is largely unknown, as their exposures were based solely on residential locations. “A woman could work 12-hour shifts 40 miles from home or spend little time outdoors near her own home. It’s impossible to say whether these estimates represent an accurate picture of exposure,” said Myles Cockburn, PhD., an epidemiologist at the University of Southern California, to Environmental Health News.

However, the study is part of a 14-year, ongoing project by scientists to determine the health impacts of children born in the Salinas Valley, and exposed to methyl bromide. Additionally, this research builds on previous studies demonstrating that methyl bromide increases the risk of prostate cancer and causes damage to the neurological, reproductive, and endocrine systems.

The only way to know that you are not being exposed to hazardous soil fumigants is to buy organically produced food. Organic agriculture does not allow the use toxic chemicals that have been shown to drift and cause a myriad of chronic health effects, such as cancer, endocrine disruption and a series of degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease. To learn more about organic agriculture please visit Beyond Pesticides organic agriculture page. For more information on organic versus conventional agricultural practices, see Beyond Pesticides’ guide, Organic Food: Eating with a Conscience, urging consumers to consider impacts on the environment, farmworker and farm families’ health –in addition to personal health impacts posed by pesticide residues– when making food choices.

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

Source: Environmental Health News

Photo Source: Environmental Health News

Share

19
Sep

USDA Guts Public Organic Review Process to Limit Synthetics

(Beyond Pesticides, September 19, 2013) In a move decried by consumer and environmental groups as severely weakening the meaning of the organic label, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced this week that the agency has changed the process for exempting otherwise prohibited substances (such as synthetics) in food that carries the “organic” or “made with organic” label. This decision makes it easier to continue use of artificial ingredients and substances, undermining integrity of the organic label. Additionally, the changes are effective September 17, only one day after the announcement, and no public comment period was provided for the changes to this policy, which has been in place since 2005. Read the joint statement issued by Beyond Pesticides, Consumers Union, Center for Food Safety, and Food and Water Watch.

Under the federal organic law and prior to the announcement, there was a controlled process for allowing the use of substances not normally permitted in organic production because of extenuating circumstances. Under the Organic Foods Production Act 7 USC 6517 (e) Sunset Provision, “No exemption or prohibition contained in the National List shall be valid unless the National Organic Standards Board has reviewed such exemption or prohibition as provided in this section within 5 years of such exemption or prohibition being adopted or reviewed and the Secretary has renewed such exemption or prohibition.”

Under the law, these exemptions are authorized for a five-year period, in order to encourage the development of natural (or organic) alternatives. The exemptions are required by law to expire, known as “sunset,” unless they were reinstated by a two-thirds “decisive” majority vote of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and include a public review. While this is the law, USDA has said it will no longer operate the program in this manner.

The USDA’s recent decision now puts the burden of identifying exempted materials for removal largely onto environmentalists and consumers. Under the new policy, an exempt material could be permitted indefinitely unless a two-thirds majority of the NOSB votes to remove an exempted (synthetic) substance from the list. The new policy allows USDA to relist exemptions for synthetic materials without the recommendation of the independent board and outside of public view, as required by current law.

“The USDA’s decision minimizes all incentives for creating organic, natural alternative ingredients and lowers the standard for what consumers can expect behind the organic label. Allowing the USDA to automatically relist materials without the recommendation of the NOSB erodes the Board’s legal authority over materials decisions, a key to consumer trust in the organic label. The fact that the agency made this decision without any public input only adds to the violation felt by watchdog groups and consumers alike,” the groups said.

“Potentially allowing an indefinite listing of non-natural ingredients and requiring a super-majority vote to retire a substance after five years undermines the spirit of the law for how materials head into “sunset” or retirement. It is unfair to producers trying to produce a truly organic product and it is unfair to consumers trying to make meaningful purchasing decisions. Simply put, this lowers the bar for much of the organic market. We believe USDA must reverse course and we intend to mount a fierce campaign to hold the agency accountable to the millions of Americans who expect more from the government—and the organic label.”

For more information:

Keeping Organic Strong:

We need your voice now more than ever. NOSB will meet in Louisville, Kentucky from October 22-24 to decide on a range of issues regarding the future of organic food and farming in the United States. The Board is now accepting public comments until October 1, 2013 for its upcoming fall meeting, to be held October 22-24, 2013 at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, KY (140 North Fourth St., Louisville, KY, 40202). Beyond Pesticides has compiled a list of the issues before the Board, which can be viewed on the Keeping Organic Strong website. We strongly encourage all those concerned about the future of organic food to review the issues and submit a public comment to the NOSB. The 15 member Board meets twice a year to review substances petitioned for allowance on the “National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances” in organic production and processing.

Written comments on the proposals can be submitted until 11:59 pm on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at regulations.gov. You can also attend the NOSB meeting in person to provide oral comments before the Board. Pre-registration to provide oral comments must be completed by October 1, 2013. You can register to provide a public comment here.

It’s important to remember that while we raise our voice in defense of the integrity of the organic label, organic farming is still significantly better for human health and a cleaner environment than its conventional, chemical-intensive counterpart. Through public involvement, we must protect the integrity of the organic label and the process that supports it. Otherwise, the market will disappear and with it the opportunity to solve serious environmental and health problems associated with chemical-intensive practices. Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that focuses on feeding the soil and growing naturally healthy crops, whereas chemical-intensive agriculture depends on toxic chemicals and inputs which poison the soil, as well as air, water, farmworkers and consumers. As opposed to conventional chemical agriculture, where there are tens of thousands of synthetic materials, including over 200 registered pesticide active ingredients, there are currently only around 50 entries on the “National List” of allowable synthetics. And all of these products have been reviewed for their human and environmental health effects, essentiality to organic production, and their compatibility with the values of organic as it pertains to the Organic Foods Production Act. The public may also file a petition to amend the National List, either by removing a material currently on the list or by adding a new one. Public involvement is a vital part of the development of organic regulations. The NOSB needs to know what the organic community wants and expects from its food.

For more information on what you can do, see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong website, which provides a number of resources for people to participate in the organic review process alongside the Board.

 

Share

18
Sep

Is Long Banned DDT Still Threatening Endangered Birds?

(Beyond Pesticides, September 18, 2013) DDT, a pesticide banned in 1972, is behind the mystery surrounding the reproductive problems of dozens of endangered condors. This is according to a peer-reviewed paper written by 10 condor experts, including biologists from the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara zoos and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The researchers, who spent six years studying the reproductive problems, including eggshell thinning, in California condors have “established a strong link” to DDT in the birds’ food source.

Condors are large scavenger birds with wingspans up to 10 feet and were reintroduced to California’s coast in 1997 after a century-long population decline. However, in 2006 biologists began observing thinning shells in many condor nests. Over the next six years, scientists observed condors feeding on dozens of sea lions, and found that in Big Sur, California, condor populations had low hatching success — just 20-40 percent. In contrast, 70-80 percent of southern California condors in the Tejon area had hatched successfully over the same time. The southern California condors are inland, and sea lions are not a food source.

According to the study published in the journal, The Condor, the outer crystalline layer of shells was absent or greatly reduced, similar to thin-shelled condor eggs laid in southern California in the 1960s. The researchers found that the rate of hatchling loss increased significantly with decreasing shell thickness, which can also lead to increased bacterial infections in the eggs. One shell found crushed in a nest was 54 percent thinner than normal. Biologists familiar with the ravages of DDT in bird populations suspect DDT as the cause.

The scientists theorize that the major source of food for these birds, sea lions, have been accumulating DDT in their fat during their lifetimes, as they migrate to the central coast from southern California, where the Montrose Chemical Corp., which manufactured technical grade of DDT from 1947 until 1982, routinely dumped DDT along the coast for decades until the 1970s. The Montrose plant and the ocean off Palos Verdes where it dumped DDT are now listed as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “Superfund” sites.

DDT is an organochlorine pesticide that was banned in the U.S. in 1972 due to its persistent and highly toxic nature. DDT was widely used to control mosquitoes for malaria abatement, and in agriculture. Despite the fact that DDT was banned in the U.S. 40 years ago, concentrations of this toxic chemical’s major metabolite, DDE, have remained alarmingly high in many ecosystems, including surface waters, the Arctic, and even U.S. national parks. This is because DDT/DDE are persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. Because of this, they have been observed to persist in the environment, are capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue, and biomagnify in food chains. The science shows DDT was responsible for the deaths of millions of bald eagles and other bird species along the California coast, and that the pesticide bioaccumulates in the tissues of animals throughout the food chain. In the early 1970s, exceptionally high concentrations of several DDT metabolites, principally DDE, were recorded in the blubber and tissues of California sea lions in both southern and central California. One 2005 study also found elevated concentrations of DDT in fish samples taken in National Parks. In addition, a surge of additional problems with the lingering effects of DDT have risen in recent years, particularly with its buildup in waterways. It has currently been identified as a threat to the Columbia River, as well as to the Arctic.

Organochlorines like DDT have also been linked to a number of adverse effects to human health, including birth defects,  breast cancer and autism. DDT has also been linked to Vitamin D deficiency, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and diabetes. Exposure to DDT can occur by eating contaminated fish. The California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has issued fish advisories that recommend limited or no consumption of fish from certain waterways in California. Last year, after years of limited success with clean-up, the EPA launched a three-year plan to pinpoint the cause of continuously high DDT levels in the San Francisco Bay, and engage the surrounding community in cleanup and education efforts.

The authors of the study state that DDT/DDE from wastes of a DDT factory discharged into the Southern California Bight have been linked to extensive eggshell thinning and reproductive failures of fish-eating and raptorial birds.  “A vast majority of California sea lions have spent at least a portion of their lives in the waters of southern California, which is the most DDT-contaminated coastal environment in the world,” said Kelly Sorenson, executive director of Ventana Wildlife Society and a co-author of the new study. “Northward movements of sea lions provide a pathway of DDT to condors in central California.”

Early critics of the study say it only looks closely at one potential cause of reproductive problems (DDT), and fails to properly evaluate the potential effects of other contaminants and factors that may be involved. But the authors are hopeful that the DDT problem would fade over time. “Like bald eagles and other bird species previously affected by DDT, the thickness of condor eggshells should recover as contamination declines in the coastal environment,” said co-author Robert Risebrough, executive director, Bodega Bay Institute, and expert on the effects of DDT on birds.

Source and photo courtesy: CBS News

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

 

 

Share

17
Sep

Canada Declares Farm Use of Neonicotinoids “Unsustainable”

(Beyond Pesticides, September 17, 2013) Last Friday, Health Canada released new measures the agency claims are intended to protect bees from exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides. As with recent regulations proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), beekeepers and environmental groups are criticizing the measures as inadequate, not going far enough to protect domesticated honey bees that both in Canada and the U.S. have seen losses of over 30% each winter since 2006. Ontario beekeeper Dave Schuit told the CBC, “Basically I see it as a Band-Aid. [The Pest Management Regulatory Agency] should’ve done their study before they approved this pesticide.” Dave Schuit owns Saugeen Country Honey Inc., and reportedly lost 37 million bees last year – more than half of his over 2,000 hives – as a result of exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides. Health Canada’s proposal includes:

  • beeRequiring the use of safer dust-reducing seed flow lubricants (most corn and soy seed is coated with neonicotinod pesticides before planting and then mixed with a lubricant like talc that creates a toxic dust in seed planters);
  • Requiring adherence to safer seed planting practices;
  • Requiring new pesticide and seed package labels with enhanced warnings; and
  • Requiring updated value information be provided to support the continued need for neonicotinoid treatment on up to 100% of corn seed and 50% of soybean seed

In its press release, Health Canada acknowledged, “We have concluded that current agricultural practices related to the use of neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seed are not sustainable.” The Canadian agency also noted that it has received a “significant number” of reports of bee kills, mainly from the corn growing provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Additionally, Health Canada declared that, “Approximately 70% of the affected dead bee samples tested positive for residues of neonicotinoid insecticides used to treat corn seeds…”

Beekeeper Dave Schuit says that these steps don’t go far enough and that the government should ban the pesticides altogether. While Health Canada contends that new seed flow lubricants will cut down on the large bee kills seen during seed planting time in the spring, beekeepers don’t agree. “When the plant grows up, it sucks up the water and the pesticide [on the seed],” Schuit remarked. “So, the whole plant is toxic. When the bees take the pollen, they die. The bees are dying because of the pollen.”

Health Canada also indicated that the agency will be updating the labels for neonicotinoid pesticides similar to EPA’s recent requirements. However, there is widespread concern that the new label language is unenforceable, and unfairly puts the onus on beekeepers to make sure that their bees are safe.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are systemic, meaning they are taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through its pollen, nectar and guttation droplets (sap exuded from the tips and edges of plant leaves). Studies show that bees which forage on neonicotinoid treated plants can accumulate the pesticide in their hive at levels that impact the colony’s ability to thrive.  Honey bees exhibit reduced foraging, learning, and navigational behavior when exposed to even low levels of neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids have also been observed to suppress bee immune systems, making them more susceptible to pathogens and disease, ultimately reducing the health and long-term viability of the colony. An extensive overview of the major studies showing the effects of neonicotinoids on pollinator health can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows webpage.

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

As Health Canada’s announcement indicates, the agency is “expediting” its re-evaluation of neonicotinoids in coordination with EPA. It is unclear what the agencies mean by expediting, as EPA’s registration review work plan for the neonicotinoid clothianidin indicates that a decision will not come until at least 2018. Beyond Pesticides has worked with allies, including beekeepers and environmental groups, to get EPA to respond quickly to the pollinator crisis through legal petitions, and declare the pesticide clothianidin an “imminent hazard” to honey bees. After EPA rebuffed our petition, the coalition filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court against EPA for its failure to protect pollinators from these dangerous pesticides. The lawsuit seeks the suspension of the registrations of the neonicotiniods clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees, clear causes of major bee kills, and significant contributors to the devastating ongoing mortality of bees known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). The suit challenges EPA’s oversight of these bee-killing pesticides, as well as the agency’s practice of “conditional registration” and labeling deficiencies.

In early July, Beyond Pesticides urged President Obama in a joint letter to direct EPA to follow Europe’s lead in suspending certain neonicotinoid pesticides uses and take on even more protective measures, including a minimum two-year suspension for all outdoor uses of neonicotinoid insecticides pending resolution of their hazards to bees and beneficial organisms. A recent report from Beyond Pesticides and Friends of the Earth-US shows that common outdoor plants often touted as “bee-friendly” by retailers such as Lowes and Home Depot contain concerning levels of neonicotinoid pesticides.

Additionally, a U.S. bill introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D- OR) titled the Save America’s Pollinators Act would suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides before a full review of scientific evidence and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. You can tell your member of Congress to support the Save America’s Pollinators Act here.

With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other beneficial species for pollination, the decline of these important species demands swift action. The mounting scientific evidence, along with unprecedented annual colony losses at 30 to 90 percent this year, demonstrates the impacts that these pesticides are having on these fragile beings.

Take Action: Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective campaign has all the educational tools you need to stand up for pollinators. Some specific ways you can help are:

Sources: CBC, Health Canada    

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

Share

16
Sep

Toxic Pesticide Used Illegally in Georgia Nursing Homes

(Beyond Pesticides, September 15, 2013)A federal grand jury in Macon, Georgia allege that Steven A. Murray and his company, Bio-Tech Management wrongly used pesticides in multiple nursing homes across the state of Georgia. This misapplication is particularly egregious as the elderly are especially vulnerable to pesticide exposure and the resulting adverse effects. Since 2008, Beyond Pesticides has worked with health care and elder care facilities to eliminate the use of toxic pesticides at their institutions. Hospital administrators typically recognize that the population served by their facilities have elevated risk factors with weakened immune and neurological systems, respiratory illness, cancer, and other pre-existing conditions or illnesses that make them especially vulnerable to pesticide exposure. However, hospitals regularly contract for pest control services from vendors and do not independently evaluate practices and product choices of the companies they hire.

The indictment states that from October 2005 to June 2009, “[Bio-Tech] repeatedly misapplied the registered pesticide Termidor SC in nursing homes in the state of Georgia and falsified documents to conceal the unlawful use.” The indictment goes on to allege that Bio-Tech applied Termidor SC more than twice a year indoors. Termidor SC’s label clearly states that the pesticide can only be used outdoors and no more than twice a year. Termidor SC contains the active ingredient fipronil, which has been linked to several acute and chronic health effects.

Fipronil, a broad spectrum insecticide, was first introduced in the U.S. in 1996. Even when fipronil is used correctly according to label instructions individuals who are exposed can still experience negative health effects. Acute symptoms of exposure to fipronil include headaches, nausea, dizziness, and weakness. It may also cause mild irritation of the eyes. Once absorbed fipronil is rapidly metabolized and residues are widely distributed in tissues where significant amounts of residues remain, particularly in fat. Fipronil is also a neurotoxin and an endocrine disruptor. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies fipronil as a Group C (possible human) carcinogen based on rat carcinogenicity studies.

The ten counts of unlawful use of a pesticide were part of the 51 counts listed in the federal indictment. The other chargers included one count of conspiracy, ten counts of making false statements twenty counts of falsifying records, and ten counts of mail fraud. The mail fraud, falsifying records and false statement charges alone carry potential penalties of up to 650 years in prison and $10 million in fines.

The indictment alleges that after Mr. Murray was told that the Georgia Department of Agriculture was investigating his company for illegal use of pesticides he instructed co-conspirators to falsify service reports. The co-conspirators allegedly falsified service reports to say that they used CyKick T, which is a non-existent pesticide. The indictment goes on to allege that Bio-Tech sent invoices through the U.S. Mail to their clients to solicit payment for the unlawful pesticide applications.

Bio-Tech had contracts with a network of nursing homes that span the state of Georgia from Chattanooga to near the Florida border. The two dozen nursing homes that were involved in the charges were primarily private nursing homes, but also included the Georgia Veterans Home in Milledgeville. According to the indictment the nursing homes were unaware of the pesticide misuse.

The pesticide misapplications are particularly disturbing as they took place in nursing homes. The elderly are more susceptible to the health effects of certain pollutants, such as pesticides, than other age groups. Health care facilities such as nursing homes have a special obligation to demonstrate leadership in instituting effective and safer pest management in keeping with the medical profession’s basic tenet of “first, do no harm.”

In 2008 Beyond Pesticides, Maryland Pesticide Network, and leading Maryland health and elder care facilities released, Taking Toxics out of Maryland’s Health Care Sector: Transition to Green Pest Management Practices to Protect Health and the Environment, a report that documented practices and policies to eliminate toxic pesticide use. Since this report Beyond Pesticides and Maryland Pesticide Network have worked with hospitals in Maryland to move away from using toxic pesticides and implement a strong Integrated Pest Management strategy (IPM) in their facilities.

For more information on Beyond Pesticides Healthy Hospital program please visit our Healthy Hospitals page.

Source: The Telegraph

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

 

Share

13
Sep

Despite Public Opposition, House Extends Monsanto Protection Act

(Beyond Pesticides, September 13, 2013) A three-month extension of the controversial budget provision protecting genetically-modified seed manufacturers from litigation was included in the U.S. House of Representatives’ spending bill on Tuesday evening. Public interest and responsible business advocates say the provision undermines the federal courts’ ability to safeguard farmers and the environment from potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops. The controversial corporate earmark, also known as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” or “Biotech Rider,” was included in last spring’s 6-month Continuing Resolution (CR) spending bill, which funds the government until the end of this month. Beyond Pesticides joined Center for Food Safety (CFS) and over 120 of the nation’s top organizations and businesses sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Reid and Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Mikulski Thursday calling on them to strip the rider from the bill on Thursday.

Wrapped in a “farmer-friendly” package, the rider represents a serious assault on the fundamental safeguards of our judicial system and would negatively impact farmers, the environment and public health across America. The rider would strip federal courts of their authority to halt the sale and planting of an illegal, potentially hazardous GE crop and compel USDA to allow continued planting of the same crop.

In addition to being completely unnecessary, the rider represents an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review, which is an essential element of U.S. law and provides a critical check on government decisions that may negatively impact human health, the environment or livelihoods. This also raises potential jurisdictional concerns with the Senate Agriculture and Judiciary Committees and merit a hearing by the committees before adoption.

“It is extremely disappointing to see the damaging ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ policy rider extended in the House spending bill,” said Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs for Center for Food Safety. “Hundreds of thousands of Americans called their elected officials to voice their frustration and disappointment over the inclusion of ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ this past spring. Its inclusion is a slap in the face to the American public and our justice system.”

In early March, Beyond Pesticides along with over one hundred food businesses and retailers, and family farm, consumer, health, environmental and civil liberties groups, led by CFS, united to oppose the biotech rider. Because the rider was added to a CR that was needed to avoid a government shutdown, some members of Congress were reluctant to oppose it. However Senator leadership issued strong statements last spring opposing the rider. According to Senator John Tester (D-MT), who worked to remove the rider and is the only farmer in the Senate, “If the USDA makes a mistake when it issues a permit to plant a genetically modified crop, they can’t go back and pull that crop out of the ecosystem, out of our land. If a court finds that, in this case the USDA, a federal agency, finds this crop is bad, is harmful, the USDA, because of this rider, is required not to comply with that court ruling.”

In June, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee announced her intent to oppose the rider. The rider undermines the basic tenants of the U.S. constitution. It takes away the authority of federal courts to stop the sale or production of genetically modified crops, a blatant attack on the American system of checks and balances. In addition, the provision would compel the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately grant any requests for permits to allow continued planting and commercialization of unlawfully approved GE crops.

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. As always, best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the USDA Certified Organic Seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited.

Source: Center for Food Safety

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

 

Share

12
Sep

Monsanto Funds Anti-GE Labeling Efforts in Washington

(Beyond Pesticides, September 12, 2013) Monsanto recently made a multi-million dollar contribution to an organization fighting to stop a ballot initiative in Washington State that would force food processors to label genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. Monsanto has poured millions of dollars into multiple anti-labeling efforts, previously contributing over $7 million against a similar proposition in California last year. In spite of being out fundraised, support for labeling GE ingredients remains strong in Washington State, and consumers across the country are becoming increasingly aware of the problems associated with GE crops.nogmo

Washington State’s Initiative 522 (I-522), which will be voted on this coming November, will require manufactured raw agricultural products that are genetically engineered, and processed foods with GE ingredients to be labeled by July 1, 2015. However, in the past week Monsanto contributed nearly $4.6 million to the ‘No on 522′ campaign. With this recent contribution by Monsanto, the No on 522 campaign, which opposes GE labeling, has raised close to $7.9 million, $3.5 million more than the Yes on 522 campaign. This influx of corporate money was predicted by Beyond Pesticides last month. In Washington state, individual and corporate contributions to campaigns for elected office cannot exceed $800-$1800 depending on the office. However, there are no restrictions to donations for ballot initiatives in the U.S., as they are protected as free speech.

Despite being outspent, polls in Washington show strong support for I-522 with 66% in support to only 22% opposed. The poll also dug further into how voters would react towards negative ad campaigns. The poll stated, “Support for labeling withstands a barrage of opposition attacks. After voters hear one message in favor of labeling and six messages against it, support for I-522 holds at 64%, while opposition only increases to 29%.” Though this poll is good news for supporters of I-522, the campaign still will face strong opposition by the heavily corporate funded No on 522 campaign.

This past November, Prop 37 in California, a similar ballot initiative to I-522 that would have required GE ingredients to be labeled, was narrowly defeated by a margin of 6.2%. Support for Prop 37 during the summer before the election was at 2-1; however, as the election grew closer the supporters of Prop 37 were outspent by over $30 million, and support for the measure weakened. The corporate money that was raised in opposition was used to promote misinformation and negative attack ads.

Despite the defeat of Prop 37, GE labeling activists started other legislative campaigns in states other than Washington and have won several high profile victories. In Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed House Bill 6527- An Act Concerning Genetically-Engineered Food. This bill will require GE ingredients to be labeled when similar legislation is passed by other states in the New England region with an aggregate population of 20 million. The Maine legislature also passed a similar law. Whole Foods Market announced in March that it would label GE ingredients sold in its stores, making it the first national chain to do so. Several other state legislatures have also introduced bills that would require GE ingredients to be labeled. In Minnesota H.F. 850 and S.F. 821 were introduced in February of 2013 and are still being considered by the legislature.  In Vermont the House of Representatives passed H.112, a GE labeling law, on May 10. The bill is expected to be taken up by the state Senate in January when the legislature reconvenes.

Activism around GE labeling will continue to grow around the country, as a recent New York Times poll shows national support for GE labeling reaching 93%, a number consistent with past polls showing broad support that cuts across race, gender, socio-economic class and party affiliation. On the Federal level Senator Barbra Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Peter Defazio (D-OR) introduced companion legislation that would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to “clearly label” all GE ingredients. The bills, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, H.R. 1699 and S. 809, have 22 cosponsors in the House and 10 in the Senate.

GE labeling campaigns have drawn strong public support because consumers understand that they have a right-to-know the ingredients that are in their food. Though large companies have had short term success pouring money into state level campaigns, over time this strategy may help feed public opinion that these companies have something to hide. GE labeling campaigns come at a crucial time, as new varieties of GE crops are being introduced and evidence that GE foods are harmful to the environment continues to grow.

In Washington state, new GE crops such as Aquabounty’s GE Salmon, which are designed to reach maturity faster than their wild counterparts, and GE apples that won’t brown could have dramatic impacts on the state’s agricultural economy. On a national level, the St. Louis Pots-Dispatch reported in 2012 on progress that multinational chemical corporations Dow AgroSciences, BASF, and Monsanto are making to bring multi-herbicide resistant varieties to market. Under separate arrangements with each company, Monsanto adds glyphosate resistance to seeds that are simultaneously engineered to resist other herbicides. In October 2012, Dow AgroSciences obtained a global patent on its Enlist Duo technology, which packages an herbicide containing 2, 4-D and glyphosate with seeds engineered to tolerate both materials. Monsanto has also been partnering with BASF on dicamba and glyphosate tolerant crop varieties since 2009 with a focus on soybeans, cotton, and corn.

The explosion of GE crops on the market  has led to growing pest and weed resistance, which has resulted in increased pesticide use. Increased pesticide use threatens wildlife, particularly sensitive species. A 2012 study found the herbicide Roundup, which is sprayed on thousands of acres of Roundup Ready corn and soybeans, to induce morphological changes in three species of frogs. GE crop-induced herbicide applications are also indirectly affecting the health of beneficial species. Widespread applications of Roundup destroy sanctuary land and the plant species that support beneficial insects and other wildlife.

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. To learn more about organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture, and Eating With a Conscious pages.

To support Washington State’s labeling efforts, get involved with the Yes on I-522 campaign. National GE labeling efforts are being spearheaded by the Just Label It! campaign.  For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website.

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

Source: KUOW

Share

11
Sep

GAO Report Questions Adequacy of EPA’s Conditional Pesticide Registration System

(Beyond Pesticides, September 11, 2013) In a report released Monday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s use and oversight of conditional registrations is lacking and unreliable. Conditional registration allows pesticides onto the consumer market without all the required data to assess the chemical’s safety. This has created many serious human and environmental health problems, including bee decline, tree death and potential increases in human health risks. GAO recommends that EPA better track conditional registrations, however, Beyond Pesticides and other concerned groups urge the agency to cancel registrations until all relevant data is submitted and reviewed.

epabuildAccording to the findings of the GAO’s report, EPA’s system for tracking pesticides with conditional registration is unreliable and thus, the total number of conditional registrations granted is unclear.  This lack of a reliable system for managing conditional registrations constitutes an ‘internal control weakness’ because the agency lacks an effective mechanism for program oversight and decision making, according to federal internal control standards cited by GAO. The report states, “The extent to which EPA ensures that companies submit additional required data and EPA reviews these data is unknown. Specifically, EPA does not have a reliable system, such as an automated data system, to track key information related to conditional registrations, including whether companies have submitted additional data within required time frames.” However, these recommendations do not go far enough. Pesticides without all the data required for a full understanding of human and environmental toxicity should not be allowed on the market.

EPA lists several reasons for its shortcomings, including incorrectly classifying pesticides as conditional, database limitations that do not allow officials to change registration status, as well as a general weakness in guidance and training, management oversight, and data management. According to EPA documents, there is limited, organized management oversight to ensure that regulatory actions were not misclassified as conditional registrations. EPA instead relies on a variety of options including waiting on registrant changes to a pesticide’s registration to discover whether data are missing. However, these methods are dependent upon industry activity, and fall short of what is needed because they are neither comprehensive nor do they ensure timely submission of outstanding data. EPA officials told GAO that the agency has taken or is planning to take several actions to more accurately account for conditional registrations, including beginning to design a new automated data system to more accurately track conditional registrations.

Under  Section 3(c)(7) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), EPA has the authority to grant a “conditional registration” for a pesticide product under certain circumstances, if some necessary data have not been submitted by the registrant. As part of this process, EPA must determine that the pesticide will not significantly increase the risk of unreasonable adverse effects on the environment, while the data needed is generated. According to EPA, registrants typically have from 1 to 4 years to provide the missing data required by a conditional registration. An EPA attorney stated to the GAO that EPA views products conditionally registered as identical or substantially similar to currently registered pesticides, and as new uses of currently registered pesticides as meeting the same safety standards as products fully registered. According to this official, these products do not pose unreasonable adverse effects on human health or the environment.

However, this is not entirely accurate and highly doubtful given EPA’s inability to track and manage conditional registrations. In fact, recent conditional registrations have been responsible for severe environmental effects. In 2011, a new herbicide (Imprelis) granted conditional registration caused the deaths of millions of trees across the country in what some said was one of the biggest disasters of its kind. Outstanding data for this chemical included its impact on certain non-target plants, which went unevaluated. This product was quickly removed from the market after causing millions of dollars in damage. EPA has also recently granted conditional registration to nanosilver which is currently being challenged in federal court due to an inadequate review of data and the potential risks to children. Another controversial conditional registration involves that of clothianidin, which is linked to bee decline. Clothianidin was conditionally registered in 2003 without the required field studies for assessing risks to honey bees, even though EPA knew the chemical was highly toxic to bees. In 2010, EPA removed the conditional status for clothianidin and granted fully registered status, but it is still unclear whether the adequate bee data has been submitted. Read more about BEE Protective.

In 2011, EPA conducted an internal review of pesticide registrations under conditional registration and concluded that the agency may reduce its use of this “imprecise” category. In an April 25, 2011 post on its website, EPA provided details on its internal review on the use of conditional registration for pesticide products. According to the agency’s own review, which is now confirmed by this GAO report, the assignation of conditional registration for regulatory decisions has been vague. According to EPA, “There is no data system mechanism to identify or inform the agency of milestones or deadlines for conditional registration actions.” EPA states here that inaccurately termed conditional registrations have been used for decisions on label amendments, product-specific formulation data, and pesticides with already existing data based on other registrations, and finds that the term ‘conditional registration’ is misleading and will explore reducing the use of conditional registrations.

Earlier this year, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) published a scathing report on EPA’s conditional registration process noting that in terms of the agency’s ability to offer transparency and rigorously test these inherently toxic chemicals, “the public’s trust is misplaced.” This report asserts that nearly 65% of the more than 16,000 pesticides now on the market were first approved by the process of conditional registration.

GAO is recommending EPA consider implementing options for an automated system to better track conditional registrations. EPA agreed with GAO’s recommendations and noted specific actions it will take to implement them. EPA told the GAO that it intends to: (1) conduct quarterly meetings to review the status of conditional registrations, (2) develop and implement new registration categories to more accurately reflect statutory basis for registration (as of July 2013, EPA indicated that the implementation of the new codes was completed), (3) train regulatory staff to use new codes, and (4) design a new automated system that will include tools to improve the identification, tracking, reporting, and program management of conditional registrations. EPA indicated that a portion of the maintenance fees collected from registrants would be used to start developing the system, however this new tool would require additional funding and it is unclear when a new systems would be integrated.

However, these recommendations do not go far enough. Pesticides without all data for a full understanding of toxicity should not be allowed to remain on the market. Doing so increases the probability of unknown risks to threaten public and environmental health. EPA has a long history of registering pesticides without adequately analyzing human and environmental health data, which even goes beyond the faulty ‘conditional registration’ approach. Beyond Pesticides has for years said that EPA’s general registration process is flawed because the agency does not evaluate whether hazards are “unreasonable” in light of the availability of safer practices or products. Additionally, Beyond Pesticides urges EPA to take a more precautionary approach, given the history of incomplete data or assessments which can lead to mitigation measures decades after widespread pesticide use was approved. With some chronic endpoints, for example endocrine disruption, the agency has not adequately assessed chemicals for certain health risks. Several historic examples exist of pesticides that have been restricted or cancelled due to health risks decades after first registration. Chlorpyrifos, which is associated with numerous adverse health effects including reproductive and neurotoxic effects, had its residential uses cancelled in 2001. Others like propoxur, diazinon, carbaryl, aldicarb, carbofuran, and most recently endosulfan, have seen their uses restricted or canceled after years on the market due to unreasonable human and environmental effects.

For more information on pesticides and their adverse effects, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticides Induced Disease Database.

Source: Government Accountability Office – Pesticides: EPA Should Take Steps to Improve Its Oversight of Conditional Registrations. GAO-13-145

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

Share

10
Sep

Proctor and Gamble to Eliminate Triclosan from Its Products by 2014

(Beyond Pesticides, September 10, 2013) With mounting pressure from consumers and public advocacy organizations, multinational manufacturer Procter and Gamble (P&G) announced that it will eliminate the harmful antibacterial chemical triclosan from its products by 2014. P&G’s notice is the latest in a growing trend across the county, as both governments and private companies continue to move away from the use this dangerous and unnecessary substance.  In August 2012, the health care and cosmetics corporation Johnson and Johnson announced its own phase out of triclosan. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton announced in March of this year that all state-run agencies would stop purchasing products that contain triclosan. Colgate Palmolive announced in 2011 that it would reformulate many of its products to take out triclosan, but note that its mainstay Colgate Total brand toothpaste still contains the chemical.

washinghandsTriclosan is currently used in a wide variety of products, including hand soaps, clothing, kitchenware, deodorants, and cosmetics. P&G’s website does not list the specific products from which it will be removing triclosan, instead explaining that the only remaining uses of triclosan are in the company’s antibacterial dish soap, professional hand soap, and some other personal care products (P&G is the maker of brands such as Dawn and Safeguard Antibacterial Soaps). As with Johnson and Johnson’s phase out, P&G publicly denies that triclosan is a cause for health concerns. However, studies continue to show a number of adverse impacts on both human and environmental health as a result triclosan’s use. A study published last month reveals that triclosan alters the composition of bacterial communities in streams and can lead to bacterial resistance. Research shows that triclosan is entering aquatic environments at concerning rates, as wastewater treatment plants are unable to effectively filter out the chemical. A study from earlier this year found triclosan and many of its toxic derivatives showing up in the sediment of freshwater lakes.

Last year, researchers from the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) and the University of Colorado found that triclosan impairs muscle function in fish and mice and stated that the results they found show “strong evidence that triclosan could have effects on animal and human health at current levels of exposure.” Issac Passah, Ph.D., co-author of the muscle function study and chair of the Department of Molecular Biosciences at UC Davis, spoke on the issue of triclosan at Beyond Pesticides’ 31st National Pesticide Forum. You can see his presentation here.

Beyond Pesticides has provided extensive documentation of the potential human and environmental health effects of triclosan and its cousin triclocarban. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It is also shown to alter thyroid function, and other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in umbilical cord blood and human milk. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also found that triclosan is present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 50% since 2004. Studies even show that triclosan can react with the chlorine in tap water to form chloroform at rates of exposure considered significant by the authors of the research.

In May 2013, the Associated Press announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will rule on the safety of triclosan this year, nearly 40 years after the product first appeared on store shelves. In 2010, the agency acknowledged that triclosan provides no additional benefit over the use of simple hand soap and water, stating that the agency was “not aware of any evidence that antibacterial washes were superior to plain soap and water for reducing transmission of or preventing infection for consumers.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also reviewing the safety of triclosan this year. After pressure from consumer and environmental groups for its 2008 review of the chemical, the agency announced that it would review triclosan again this year, 5 years earlier than scheduled.

Beyond Pesticides, in partnership with Food and Water Watch and 78 other groups, submitted petitions to both FDA and EPA requiring that the agencies immediately halt all non-medical uses of the chemical. In the absence of government action, take care to check the label on personal care products to make sure they do not contain triclosan. You can also do your part to keep your family and community safe by joining the ban triclosan campaign, and signing the pledge to stop using triclosan today. Encourage your local schools, government agencies, and local businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality and workplace to adopt a model resolution that commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.

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

Source: examiner.com

Share

09
Sep

Take Action! Organic Comment Period Now Open Until October 1

(Beyond Pesticides, September 9, 2013) The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is now accepting public comments until October 1, 2013 for its upcoming fall meeting, to be held October 22-24, 2013 at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, KY (140 North Fourth St., Louisville, KY, 40202). Beyond Pesticides has compiled a list of the issues before the Board, which can be viewed on the Keeping Organic Strong website. We strongly encourage all those concerned about the future of organic food to review the issues and submit a public comment to the NOSB. The 15 member Board meets twice a year to review substances petitioned for allowance on the “National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances” in organic production and processing.

mail-usda-organic-sealBeyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong website provides a number of resources for people to participate in the organic review process alongside the Board. Note that throughout the week, we will be updating the page with sample comments, Beyond Pesticides’ full comments to the Board, and comments from key stakeholders in the organic community.

Written comments on the proposals can be submitted until 11:59 pm on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at regulations.gov. You can also attend the NOSB meeting in person to provide oral comments before the Board. Pre-registration to provide oral comments must be completed by October 1, 2013. You can register to provide a public comment here.

The NOSB acts as a life-line from the government to the organic community, as it considers input from you, the public – the concerned consumers and residents upon which organic integrity depends. That is why your participation is vital to the development and the continual reassessment of organic standards. Rest assured, if you submit a public comment either in person or online, your concerns will be considered by the Board.

The Board is authorized by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) to make recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture regarding the “National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.” The NOSB also may provide advice on other aspects of the organic program. OFPA and National Organic Program (NOP) regulations provide for the sunsetting of listed substances every five years and rely on public comment in evaluating their continuing uses. Sunset review, the process of reviewing substances on the National List every five years, is mandated by the OFPA. While no substances are up for sunset review at this meeting, there are other key issues related to organic integrity, including the question of whether the antibiotic streptomycin should be phased out next year from organic apple and pear production. There are, for instance, numerous substances that have been petitioned for use in organic production, including synthetic materials that would be used in yet to be defined organic aquaculture. To be added to the list of allowed synthetics, it must be shown that the use of such substances – (i) would not be harmful to human health or the environment; (ii) is necessary to the production or handling of the agricultural product because of the unavailability of wholly natural substitute products; and, (iii) is consistent with organic farming and handling. The public may also file a petition to amend the National List, either by removing a material currently on the list or by adding a new one. In both cases, sunset and petition, the NOSB is authorized by OFPA to determine a substance’s status.

Background on upcoming NOSB Decisions

Streptomycin -The Board will be considering whether its previous decision to phase out streptomycin in organic apple and pear production will take effect next year. Along with tetracycline, streptomycin has been permitted for use to control fire blight. In April 2011, the NOSB voted to put an expiration date of October 21, 2014 on both antibiotics. The tree fruit industry petitioned to restore both materials to the National List. In April 2013, the NOSB voted to uphold the 2014 expiration date for tetracycline, but did not vote on streptomycin. Many issues are the same for the two materials. See Beyond Pesticides’ comments on tetracycline, Comments from the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), Statement from the IDSA on Resistance and the Pesticides and You articles “Antibiotics in Fruit Production,” “A is for Apples, Alar, and Antibiotics” for more information. At the October 2013 meeting, the NOSB will vote on whether to extend the use of streptomycin by restoring it to the National List with an extended expiration date. Beyond Pesticides opposes the extension of the use of streptomycin.

Synthetic materials in organic aquaculture -The Board is also considering allowed synthetic materials under yet to be established organic aquaculture standards. At the October meeting, the NOSB will decide on proposals relating to synthetic chlorine, tocopherols, vitamins, and trace minerals as inputs in organic aquaculture systems, when the National Organic Program (NOP) issues aquaculture rulemaking. NOP has not yet proposed regulations defining organic aquaculture systems. All of these materials are petitioned for routine use rather than under defined conditions when natural feeds are insufficient. Beyond Pesticides opposes the listing of any synthetics for routine use and the listing of any synthetic materials for use in aquaculture until regulations defining organic aquaculture systems have been adopted in final form and can be assessed in relation to previous board policy and the petitioned materials.

Public comments are critical to maintaining organic integrity

Please check back as we will be updating our Keeping Organic Strong webpage with more detailed information. And, as we raise our voices to protect organic integrity, don’t forget the big picture: Organic agriculture is an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, and mechanical production practices and natural inputs by strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity. As opposed to conventional chemical agriculture, where there are tens of thousands of synthetic materials, including over 200 registered pesticide active ingredients, there are currently only around 50 entries on the “National List” of allowable synthetics. And all of these products have been reviewed for their human and environmental health effects, essentiality to organic production, and their compatibility with the values of organic as it pertains to the Organic Foods Production Act. To maintain this high standard, the public must maintain a strong voice in the organic review process.

Source: USDA News Release

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

Share

06
Sep

Utility Contracts Weed Eating Goats to Prevent Wildfires in Northern California

(Beyond Pesticides, September 6, 2013) The utility for northern California, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), has enlisted the help of over 900 goats to clear weeds and dried brush on 100 acres of its property. The goats will be used to clear poison oak and brush that is considered a fire hazard. Goats are being used across the country as an effective least-toxic solution for weed management.Grazing Goat

The pilot project started this past August and will run through mid to late September. The project is overseen by Flying Mule Farm owner Dan Macon, who has been contracting goats for land clearance for close to 10 years. The goats for the project are coming from Macon’s farm as well as Star Creek Ranch, a goat and sheep operation in the Central Valley. Goats graze the area in fenced in 5-to 10-acre sections and have already proven to be incredibly effective by reducing one area with two foot high grass to less than an inch high in just 24 hours. The goats were brought in specifically to reduce dry flammable vegetation. “We don’t want fires being sparked and goats are the perfect opportunity,” said Lynne Tomachoff of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in a report by Fox40.

Four years ago a fire in Auburn, California burned 340 acres, destroying 66 homes and 3 commercial buildings. Residents were worried that another fire was possible on the hillside being grazed by goats, as a similar hillside fed the earlier fire. Goats help reduce the risk of fire by grazing on dead and dry vegetation that easily burns. Goats also help reduce the risk of fire by replacing mechanical methods of brush removal like mowing. Though mowing is an effective form of brush control in most climates, mowers and other mechanical methods can create sparks that can ignite grass fires in extremely dry areas. Residents have responded positively to the use of goats as a fire control. Katy Smotherman, a local resident, was quoted by Fox40 saying, “I looked up and saw the goats. I was ecstatic. Like the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Beyond Pesticides has long been an advocate for the use of goats and grazing animals as a least-toxic solution for weed management. Goats are often more efficient at eradicating weeds, and are more environmentally sustainable than using harmful pesticides and chemicals. Goats consume everything from shrubs and weeds to thistles and poisonous plants. They can graze up hills and down gullies that are too steep for mowers or machines. As they eat, the goats ensure that weeds do not go to seed. By snapping off flower heads and eating off all the leaves, weeds cannot photosynthesize sunlight to build a root system. Goats also boost soil health in two important ways: 1. fertilizing soils with their nutrient-rich feces and urine, and 2. tilling hard drought-stricken soils with their hooves.

The use of goats as a least-toxic solution for weed management has caught on all across the country. Recently, goats were used to control poison ivy, ground cover, vines and other invasive weeds at the congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Goats were used in Durango, Colorado to manage weeds, restore soil, and improve land quality on a 65-acre plot that was used for oil exploration. Goats have even been used at airports in Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco where overgrown property is difficult for machinery and pesticide applicators to reach because of hills and standing water.

For more information on natural, non-chemical land management strategies see Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes and Invasive Weed Management pages. Also, watch Beyond Pesticides’ Board Member Lani Malmberg, a professional goat herder and owner of Ewe4ic Ecological Services, speak at the 31st National Pesticide Conference along with other experts on the Organic Land Management and Cutting Edge Alternatives panel.

Source: Auburn Journal

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

Share

05
Sep

Orange Grower Fined for Killing of Honey Bees with Pesticide Widely Linked to Bee Kills

(Beyond Pesticides, September 5, 2013) One of Florida’s largest citrus growers, Ben Hill Griffin, Inc., has been fined a mere $1,500 after a state investigation found that the farm illegally sprayed pesticides, resulting in the death of millions of managed honey bees. Beekeeper Randall Foti, a Crystal River-based beekeeper of 42 years, reported the bee kill to the state back in March. According to Mr. Roti, millions of his bees, as well as those owned by beekeeper Barry Hart of Fargo, GA, were dead as a result of over a dozen aerial pesticide sprayings in the orange groves. He estimates that due to the bee kills, his colonies were only able to produce half the amount of honey, resulting in a loss of $240,000 from honey alone.

”Every four days, they were spraying seven or eight different types of chemicals,” Mr. Foti told the Palm Beach Post.  “A $1,500 fine is not much of a deterrent.”

Though this is the first time the state of Florida has taken action against a citrus grower for a reported bee kill in relation to a pesticide violation, the Palm Beach Post reports that beekeepers have been arguing for this type of action since at least 2006. Mr. Foti alleges that he saw empty containers of Montana 2F in a burn pile in the grove.  According to the report, Montana 2F was applied to the roots of a total of 50 acres of young citrus trees.  The active ingredient of Montana 2F is imidacloprid, which is one of the most widely used chemicals in the neonicotinoid class of insecticides, which have been identified as a leading factor in bee decline. Beekeepers across the country reported losses of 40-90 percent of their bees last winter. The European Union (EU) is set to suspend the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides later this year, after a scientific review by European Food Safety Authority found that neonicotinoids pose an unacceptably high risk to bees.

According to the Palm Beach Post, in a complaint letter sent August 21 to Steve Farr, vice president of Ben Hill Griffin’s Grove division, the state said that pesticide laws were violated on February 21-22 and March 8 and 19. Samples of dead bees, honey and honeycomb taken from one of the hives tested positive for imidacloprid, the complaint says.

The maximum fine for applying a pesticide in violation of the label in the state of Florida is $10,000 per occurrence. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently acknowledged that current pesticide labels do not adequately protect honey bees and announced new label language to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides when bees are present. The new labels will also include a “bee advisory box” and icon with information on routes of exposure and spray drift precautions. However, beekeepers and environmental groups question the efficacy and enforceability of the new label changes in curtailing systemic pesticides that result in long-term residues in the environment, contaminating nectar and pollen, and poison wild bees that EPA seems to ignore in its decision-making process. To date, EPA has ignored calls for a ban on these chemicals and continues to try to mitigate their impacts on bees and other pollinators.

The pesticides involved in the Florida incident were purportedly used to control Asian citrus psyllid, which can spread a disease, Huanglongbing (HLB), or citrus greening, to trees. A pysllid that is infected with HLB can transfer the bacterium every time it feeds on the tree, and once a tree is infected with the disease there is no known cure. The disease can lie dormant for several years before tests are able to detect it. Though the disease does not harm humans, infected fruit is not suitable for consumer markets because of its green color, misshapen appearance, and distinctly bitter taste. The psyllids were first discovered in Florida in 1998 and has since spread to all of its 32 citrus growing counties. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has quarantined nine states, including California and Florida.

In California, efforts are currently underway to introduce parasitic wasps from the Asian citrus psyllid’s native range into California. Teams of invasive species experts have recently released tamarixia wasps to try to combat the pysllids in urban areas across southern California. The wasps curb pysllid populations by wasps laying eggs inside the psyllid nymph’s stomach. As the eggs hatch, larvae slowly eat away at the nymph. The teams hope that after the wasps hatch they will fly to neighboring trees and lay eggs in new nymphs and establish a growing population. Even though the team is only about a year and a half into this effort, at some release sites the population of psyllids has dramatically declined.

According to the University of Florida, there are approximately 6,000 acres of certified organic citrus in Florida. Farm operations that are USDA certified organic avoid the use of toxic chemicals by implementing holistic management systems plans. To learn more about why food labeled organic is the right choice, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating With A Conscience webpage, which has recently been updated to include information on how the food we eat impacts pollinators.

Given that one in every three bites of food is dependent on pollination, and that commercial beekeeping adds between $20 to $30 billion dollars in economic value to agriculture each year, it is imperative that action is taken to protect bees and other pollinators. Beyond Pesticides’  BEE Protective supports nationwide local action to protect honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides.

Source: Palm Beach Post

Image Courtesy: University of Florida Magazine

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

Share

04
Sep

Parents Sue EPA for Continuing Failure to Protect Kids from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, September 4, 2013) More than a decade after Latino parents filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) detailing the dangerous levels of pesticides at Latino public schools throughout California, the parents are suing the agency for its continuing failure to protect Latino students. The schools are near crop fields where methyl bromide and other fumigants are sprayed. In August 2011, EPA found that California’s Latino school children suffer disproportionately from exposure to pesticides due to spraying near their schools, but EPA has yet to remedy these exposures.

handsupteach

In attempts to finally force EPA to protect civil rights of hundreds of Latino children, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment (CRPE), California Rural Legal Assistance Inc., Farmworker Justice, and The City Project filed a lawsuit on behalf of the original plaintiffs, the Garcia family, and multiple generations of Latino school children who still do not have substantive protection from the EPA. In 1999, the Garcia family alleged that their children and other Latino children were being exposed to dangerous levels of pesticides at their public schools, which are directly adjacent to several strawberry fields where methyl bromide and other fumigants are sprayed. The complaint was filed under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 , which prohibits intentional discrimination and discriminatory effects on the basis of race, color, and national origin by recipients of federal financial assistance. The complaint alleged that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s (CDPR) annual renewal of the registration of methyl bromide in 1999 discriminated against Latino school children based on the health impacts of this pesticide. Concerns were raised that there was an unintentional adverse and disparate impact on Latino children resulting from the use of methyl bromide during that period. This concern was based on the high percentage of Latino children in schools near fields where methyl bromide was applied.

In 2011, the EPA issued the first ever preliminary findings of racial discrimination based on Garcia’s claims. EPA then entered into secret negotiations without the Garcias and issued a settlement that does not remedy the discrimination suffered. As part of the negotiations, EPA and CDPR agreed to expand on-going monitoring of methyl bromide air concentrations by agreeing to monitor at or near one of the schools named in the original complaint. However, according to this new suit, EPA failed and continues to fail to protect the Garcias’ rights to freedom from racial discrimination, noting that CDPR’s measures fall short of actually providing relief to the children and their parents who were affected by the use of methyl bromide.

“I will keep fighting for my family,” said Maria Garcia, a mother and grandmother, as the lawsuit was filed. This discrimination has gone on so long that Maria’s son who participated in the original suit as a high school student is now a father with two children who will attend the same polluted schools he did. These schools, like many other schools in California with high concentrations of Latino students, continue to face dangerous levels of pesticide exposure.

Remarkably, the Garcias continue to dream for justice for their children and Latino children throughout California. Their complaint challenges the EPA’s Civil Rights Act regulations and if successful the lawsuit has the potential to allow other people of color across the country more access to protections from racial discrimination. Most importantly, it will formally recognize that a healthy environment is not a luxury but a civil right.

Recently, CDPR announced that it detected the highly toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos in nearly 30% of air tests that are being conducted in three high risk communities surrounded by intensive agriculture. The state runs tests for air particles from methyl bromide and 32 other pesticides and breakdown products, and measures the results against screening levels established by CDPR. However, critics maintain that the state’s sampling is not representative of peak agricultural exposures and question whether any level of a toxicant in air is reasonable under the law, given the viability of alternative agricultural practices that do not rely on these chemicals. Pesticides can drift and volatilize, and move over long distances fairly rapidly through wind and rain. Documented exposure patterns result from drift cause particular concerns for children and other sensitive population groups. Adverse health effects, such as nausea, dizziness, respiratory problems, headaches, rashes, and mental disorientation, may appear even when a pesticide is applied according to label directions.

Meanwhile, farmworkers and their families gathered on Capitol Hill this summer to meet with their members of Congress to urge for stronger protections for farmworkers from hazardous pesticides. As a result of cumulative long-term exposures, farmworkers and their children, who often times also work on the farm or live nearby, are at risk of developing serious chronic health problems such as cancer, neurological impairments and Parkinson’s disease. In testimony on Capitol Hill, Occupational and Environmental Health Director of Farmworker Justice Virginia Ruiz painted a grim picture of the conditions farmworkers and their families face. She stated, “The close proximity of agricultural fields to residential areas and schools makes it nearly impossible for farmworkers and their families to escape exposure because pesticides are in the air they breathe and the food they eat, and the soil where they work and play.” She noted the heartbreaking point that, in order to minimize exposure, farmworkers are told not to hug their children when they come home from work – they must first remove their clothes, and take a shower.

An estimated 5.1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied to crops annually in the U.S., and farmworkers face the greatest threat from these chemicals than any other sector of society, with thousands of farmworkers each year experiencing pesticide poisoning. The best way for consumers to prevent use of hazardous fumigants and other pesticides is to buy organically produced food. Support organic farming and protect farmers, farmworkers, and their families and neighbors from toxic chemicals. Organic agriculture does not allow the use of the chemicals cited in the lawsuit as well as toxic chemicals that have been shown to drift and cause a myriad of chronic health effects, such as cancer, endocrine disruption and a series of degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease.

Beyond Pesticides recently updated the Eating with a Conscience database to reflect the risk conventional produce poses to farmworker health. For more information on how organic is the right choice for both consumers and the farmworkers that grow our food, see Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture.

 

Sources:

Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment 

Treehugger

Share

03
Sep

Another Study Finds Rootworms Resistant to Genetically Engineered Corn

(Beyond Pesticides, September 3, 2013) For the past several years, corn rootworms have been widely reported to exhibit resistance to corn genetically engineered (GE) with the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin. A new report by University of Illinois researchers found the resistant corn rootworm in two of the state’s counties significantly damaged by western corn rootworm. The increasing lack of efficacy of GE corn, developed with the claim that it is specifically designed to protect corn from rootworm, calls into question the efforts of agrichemical companies to patent new forms of GE crops.

cornplantsThe report by Joe Spencer, PhD, and Michael Gray, PhD, identifies significant damage from western corn rootworms in farm field that were planted with GE corn that contain a Bt protein referred to as “Cry3Bb1,” which has been inserted into nearly one-third of the corn planted in the United States. This version of Bt corn was introduced by Monsanto in 2003, and was touted as a way to reduce insecticide use against rootworm pests. Evidence was gathered in two Illinois counties, Livingston and Kankakee, after fields that had severe root pruning and lodging were brought to the attention of Drs. Spencer and Gray. Dr. Gray was quoted in a Reuters article stating,”Farmers across ‘a wide swath of Illinois’ could face formidable challenges protecting corn crops.”

Even more problematic is that western corn rootworms also appear to be resistant to crop rotation. The crop damage was found in fields where the GE corn had been planted in a rotation following soybeans. Rootworms were also collected in the adjacent soybean fields. The report found the number of adult rootworm beetles in the soybean field was reminiscent of densities in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s. According to Dr. Spencer, “It looked like continuous corn and use of the same trait year after year is what produced resistant beetles. Growers thought their get-out-of-jail-free card was just to rotate to soybeans. But what we’re seeing in northeast and east-central Illinois are beetles that are also resistant to crop rotation.”

Western corn rootworm, along with northern corn rootworm, are the two species of rootworm that may cause severe damage to corn as both larvae and adults. Southern corn rootworms can cause damage to corn leaves, but because they cannot overwinter in most areas of the Midwest their larvae do not pose a major threat to Midwestern corn production. Western corn rootworms deposit their eggs in the soil from midsummer to autumn and the eggs begin hatching in late May and early June. Western corn rootworm larvae feed on the roots of corn plants, inhibiting the plant’s ability to absorb moisture and nutrients, while opening a pathway for attack from soil-borne pathogens. The agricultural chemicals bifenthrin, carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, cyfluthrin, and deltamethrin are commonly used insecticides to control for western corn rootworm. As western corn rootworms have become resistant to Bt corn, farmers have begun to rely more heavily on chemical methods.

Corn rootworm resistance to Bt corn has been widely reported for the past several years. A January 17, 2013  release from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that “corn rootworm may not be completely controlled by Cry3Bb1 in certain parts of the corn belt.” In 2011, entomologists at Iowa State University published a study verifying the first field-evolved resistance of corn rootworm to a Bt toxin. The researchers documented resistance to the Bt toxin Cry3Bb1. The study found the western rootworm’s ability to adapt was strongest in fields where Bt corn was planted for three consecutive years and suggested that insufficient planting of refuges may have contributed to the resistance. This study was cited by a group of 22 prominent entomologists who submitted formal comments to the EPA on their concerns of the viability of Cry3Bb1 corn. Recent research also shows that the cultivation of Bt corn has negative impacts on beneficial soil life.

In their report, Drs. Gray and Spencer recommend that, “Producers in the most severely affected areas (central and east central) of Illinois should consider the use of pyramided Bt hybrids (hybrids expressing more than one rootworm Cry protein) in 2014.” However, pyramided or stacked GE corn varieties have also been shown to be ineffective. A University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences study, published in the Journal PNAS, found that insects that were bred to be resistant to one form of Bt toxin were often cross-resistant to other forms of Bt toxin.

As insects and weeds become resistant to GE crops and the herbicides the crops are engineered to resist, agrichemical companies are working to introduce a new generation of GE crops. The St. Louis Pots-Dispatch reported in 2012 on progress that multinational chemical corporations Dow AgroSciences, BASF, and Monsanto are making to bring multi-herbicide resistant varieties to market. Under separate arrangements with each company, Monsanto adds glyphosate resistance to seeds that are simultaneously engineered to resist other herbicides. In October 2012, Dow AgroSciences obtained a global patent on its Enlist Duo technology, which packages an herbicide containing 2, 4-D and glyphosate with seeds engineered to tolerate both materials. Monsanto has also been partnering with BASF on dicamba and glyphosate tolerant crop varieties since 2009 with a focus on soybeans, cotton, and corn.

The report by Drs. Gray and Spencer, though important for showing increased rootworm resistance to Bt corn, makes unsustainable recommendations to farmers that they use pyramided Bt hybrids or “planting-time soil insecticides” to reduce western corn rootworm in 2014. A sustainable solution to rootworm resistance is the transition to organic agriculture. Organic agriculture is an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, and mechanical production practices and natural inputs by strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity. For more reasons to support organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Why Organic page.

Source: Reuters

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

Share

30
Aug

World Bank Loan Supports Plantation Practices Linked to Chronic Kidney Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, August 30, 2013) Months after Central American health ministries issued a  joint declaration citing kidney disease as a top public health priority, the World Bank just approved a new loan to expand sugar cane plantations in Nicaragua. The Bank’s loan represents renewed support for an industry whose workers have been devastated by the disease, which has increasingly been linked to pesticide exposure and exacerbated by heat stress. Kidney disease afflicts agricultural workers in sugar cane fields, killing thousands each year in Central America as well as in Sri Lanka and India.

Scientists have yet to definitively uncover the cause of chronic kidney disease (CKD), although emerging research points to toxic heavy metals contained insugar_cane pesticides as one of the primary culprits. CKD is a condition characterized by a gradual loss of kidney function and is often lethal for poor agricultural workers. As the kidneys begin to fail, wastes can build in the blood causing complications such as high blood pressure, anemia, weak bones, poor nutritional health and nerve damage. Several published studies demonstrate that exposure to certain  organochlorine pesticide products and their heavy metal contaminants used on sugar cane plantations are causally linked to CKD.

The recent joint declaration formally recognized the disease and its unique characteristics, with several of the region’s health ministries pledging meaningful new steps, including more detailed statistical tracking of CKD, the development of national and regional plans to investigate and treat the disease, and promotion of stronger regulation of pesticides. However, the approval of the new $15 million loan from the World Bank signals a disregard of the growing issue of CKD that plagues rural Central America and the efforts of these governments to tackle this public health problem.

Despite mounting  scientific evidence linking pesticide exposure to CKD, the World Bank approved the loan, stating in its environmental and social review that there is no proof that CKD is linked to sugarcane work. “Disease epidemiology and an alleged connection between sugar industries in general have previously been investigated through studies requested by the IFC Compliance Advisor Ombudsman,” stated the IFC’s review documents. “No direct relationship between the sugar sector and the disease has been established.”

The loan was provided by the private sector lending arm of the World Bank—the International Finance Corporation (IFC)—and will go toward expanding the Montelimar sugar cane plantation in western Nicaragua. The last year IFC provided Nicaragua with loans for sugar cane plantations was in 2006. At that time, farmworkers afflicted with CKD filed a formal complaint with the IFC ombudsman, charging that the loan did not consider the threats of the epidemic to farmworkers, in direct violation of the Bank’s requirements for a thorough environmental and social review.

The World Bank’s assessment relies on a Boston University study, which found, after studying workers over one six-month harvest season in Nicaragua, that the causes of CKD were still unclear. However, lead scientist of the study Daniel Brooks, PhD. said that, while the Bank’s assessment is technically accurate, it completely mischaracterizes the significance of the findings. “What I wouldn’t say there is that there’s no direct link and what I wouldn’t say is that the evidence is most consistent with no link,” Dr. Brooks said. “It’s pretty much the consensus of researchers in the region that heat stress and these occupational exposures are most likely to be playing a role.”

These concerns are backed by the Council of Health Ministers of Central America, which agreed in its declaration that, “This disease fundamentally affects socially vulnerable groups of agricultural communities along the Pacific Coast of Central America, predominates has been associated with conditions including toxic environmental and occupational risk factors, dehydration, and habits that are damaging to renal health.”

Several pesticides have been implicated in the disease. An official study conducted by the World Health Organization and the Sri Lankan Health Ministry found high levels of cadmium and arsenic, heavy metals toxic to the kidneys, within environmental samples from the region as well as in the urine, hair and nails of patients. Other chemicals implicated include the herbicides 2,4-D and  glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. One study conducted in El Salvador, in a town highly effected by CKD, not only found that the patients exhibited elevated levels of heavy metals, but that 100% of its patients had been involved in the application of 2,4-D and 75% had applied glyphosate in the sugarcane plantations.

While Dow and Monsanto, manufacturers of the chemicals associated with higher risks of developing CKD, deny the linkage outright, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that excessive quantities of both 2,4-D and glyphosate can cause kidney damage. More research is needed on the other exposure pathways.

Unfortunately, IFC’s Review for the loan merely describes proper hydration as part of the occupational health and safety standards to protect its workers from CKD. It largely ignores the research demonstrating toxic chemical exposure causes serious health risks to at risk agricultural workers.

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

Source: The Center for Public Integrity

Photo Source: Pulsamerica

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

Share

29
Aug

Lawsuit Filed to Halt GE Crops on Wildlife Refuges in the Midwest

(Beyond Pesticides, August 29, 2013) A federal lawsuit was filed on Tuesday to stop the planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops and restrict the widespread use of pesticides in national wildlife refuges in the Midwest Region. The lawsuit seeks to enforce the legal requirement that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which operates the refuges, conducts a comprehensive environmental review and halts GE crops on these sites until environmental compliance standards are fully met.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety (CFS), Public Employees for Young vegetation on a corn fieldEnvironmental Responsibility (PEER), and the Sierra Club. It states that FWS illegally entered into Cooperative Farming Agreements with private parties on five refuges in the four states of the Midwest Region—Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri— allowing land in the region to be to be plowed over and planted with GE crops without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Refuge Improvement Act.

“Genetically engineered crops and pesticides have no place in the wildlife refuges, but must be subject to clear standards of environmental protection. These refuges serve an integral function of preserving and fostering endangered species,” said Jay Feldman, executive director at Beyond Pesticides. “The cultivation of GE crops and pesticide use in refuges is a contradiction to FWS’ mission to restore degraded or modified habitats.”

The lawsuit is the fifth filed by these groups, challenging the planting of GE crops on refuges. In January 2011, FWS agreed to stop planting GE crops on all its refuges in twelve Northeastern states, following a settlement agreement that challenged the approval of GE planting in two wildlife refuges in Delaware. The suit was followed by a ruling that barred FWS from entering into Cooperative Farming Agreements in 128 refuges across eight states in the Southeast. Unfortunately, a separate ruling in October 2012 found that the FWS Environmental Assessment for GE planting in the Midwest region was adequate. So, it is yet to be seen whether this newest lawsuit will successfully stop GE planting in refuges in the Midwest.

Aside from charges that FWS stop GE planting, the lawsuit challenges the use of harmful pesticides that peer-reviewed science has shown to:

  • Cause devastating declines to bee populations and harm to other beneficial pollinator insects like the monarch butterfly;
  • Severely contaminate waterways and harm aquatic organisms; and
  • Damage the reproduction and morphology of amphibian populations.

FWS manages over 500 national wildlife refuges in the U.S.  and has allowed farming on these lands. However, the practice is losing support among refuge managers. Refuge policy states that GE crops should not be used except when essential to accomplish a refuge purpose. In contrast, GE crops require more frequent and increased applications of toxic herbicides, which has fostered an epidemic of “super weeds” as weeds have mutated.  Recent research demonstrates a rise in these resistant  weeds, adding to the extant problem that GE crops increase pesticide use, harming birds, aquatic animals and other wildlife. Likely, environmental advocacy groups will continue to launch lawsuits until the FWS changes its practices and policy on the use of GE crops in wildlife refuges throughout the country.

For more on genetically engineered agriculture read Beyond Pesticides’ article “Ready or Not, Genetically Engineered Crops Explode on Market” on our Genetic Engineering program page.

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

Source: PEER

Share

28
Aug

Syngenta Challenges EU Suspension on Neonicotinoids

(Beyond Pesticides, August 28, 2013) Industry giant, Syngenta, has filed a legal challenge to the European Union’s suspension of one of its insecticides, thiamethoxam, linked to the decline in bee populations that has been observed in Europe and the rest of the world. Thiamethoxam, a neonicotinoid and active ingredient in Syngenta’s Cruiser seed treatments, is widely used to treat seed and degrades into another neonicotinoid, clothianidin, also subject to a moratorium in the European Union. Both chemicals are cited in a lawsuit seeking their suspension, which was brought by beekeepers and environmental groups in the U.S.

beecombEarlier this year, the European Commission made a landmark decision announcing a two-year continent-wide ban on the neonicotinoid pesticides: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. The decision came in response to a scientific report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that identified “high acute risk” to honey bees from uses of the neonicotinoid chemicals. Thiamethoxam, as well as clothianidin, are routinely used to treat seeds, especially for major crops like corn. A 15 member states majority supported the ban, with eight against, and four abstaining. However, in its press release, Syngenta claims that the European Commission made its decision on the basis of a flawed process, an inaccurate and incomplete assessment by EFSA, and without the full support of EU member states.

Syngenta’s chief operating officer, John Atkin, said the company “would prefer not to take legal action but have no other choice given our firm belief that the Commission wrongly linked thiamethoxam to the decline in bee health. In suspending the product, it breached EU pesticide legislation and incorrectly applied the precautionary principle.”

A second major pesticide producer, Bayer Crop Science, filed a similar legal challenge with the Court of Justice of the European Union in mid-August. Bayer claims that its pesticides, imidacloprid and clothianidin, have been on the market for many years and have been extensively tested and approved. According to EU guidelines, approved products can only be banned if there is new evidence of their negative effects, Bayer Crop Science said.

However, these latest industry actions ignore the increasing body of science that documents neonicotinoid toxicity to bees and other pollinators. Neonicotinoids can be broadly applied as a spray, soil drench, or seed treatment, and have the ability to translocate throughout a plant, systemically contaminating the entire plant, including pollen and nectar. Neonicotinoids work by disrupting insects’ nervous systems. Honey bees exhibit reduced foraging, learning, and navigational behavior when exposed to even low levels of neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids have also been observed to suppress their immune systems, making bees more susceptible to pathogens and disease, ultimately reducing the health and long-term viability of the colony. An extensive overview of the major studies showing the effects of neonicotinoids on pollinator health can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows webpage.

Syngenta and Bayer have dismissed the calls from beekeepers worldwide to suspend the use of neonicotinoids because of their connection to bee losses. Beekeepers have protested across Europe and also here in the U.S., calling for a moratorium on bee-killing pesticides. Several beekeepers are co-plaintiffs in a 2013 lawsuit challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. This lawsuit seeks suspension of the registrations of clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees and clear contributors to ongoing mortality of bees. The suit challenges EPA’s oversight of these pesticides, as well as EPA’s registration process and labeling deficiencies.  In July, several beekeeping organizations -the National Pollinator Defense Fund, American Honey Producers Association, National Honey Bee Advisory Board, the American Beekeeping Federation- and beekeepers Bret Adee, Jeff Anderson and Thomas R. Smith filed suit against EPA to reverse a decision to register a new pesticide, sulfoxaflor, which is related to neonicotinoids and also highly toxic to bees.

While legal wrangling over the use of these chemicals continues on both continents, bees and other pollinators continue to suffer alarmingly high mortalities. On average, losses have increased by 40 percent over the last couple years. This past June, an estimated 50,000 bumblebees, likely representing over 300 colonies, were found dead or dying in a shopping mall parking lot in Wilsonville, Oregon. Authorities confirmed that the massive bee die-off was caused by the use of a neonicotinoid pesticide, dinotefuran, on nearby trees. A few days later it was reported that hundreds of bees were found dead after a similar pesticide use in a neighboring town. Several state level incidents of large scale honey bee colony losses have been reported. In Florida, application of imidacloprid to citrus groves resulted in severely damaged colonies: 1000-1500 colonies were killed, while 10,000-13,000 colonies suffered severe damage. In Maryland, close to 60 percent of managed hives died during the 2012/2013 winter, leading one beekeeper to remark that it was were worst losses seen in 35 years. In Canada, millions of bees were killed soon after late spring planting which lead the Ontario Beekeepers Association to launch a petition to get the province to ban neonicotinoid pesticides.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., EPA acknowledged that current pesticide labels do not adequately protect honey bees and announced new label language to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides when bees are present. The new labels will also include a “bee advisory box” and icon with information on routes of exposure and spray drift precautions. However, beekeepers and environmental groups question the efficacy and enforceability of the new label changes in curtailing systemic pesticides that result in long-term residues in the environment, contaminating nectar and pollen, and poison wild bees that EPA seems to ignore in its decision-making process. To date, EPA has ignored calls for a ban on these chemicals and continues to try to mitigate their impacts on bees and other pollinators.

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

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

Source: Syngenta Press release

Share

27
Aug

Study Reveals Toxic Nanoparticles Persist in Food

(Beyond Pesticides, August 27, 2013) A new study by scientists at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources is shedding light on the persistence of nanopesticides in our food. Researchers focused their attention on silver nanoparticles (nanosilver), a substance that has been linked to environmental harm, bacterial resistance, and not fully understood impacts on human health. Scientists say their findings represent a reliable method of testing foods for the harmful particles and hope to more broadly implement their technique in the future.

nanosilver penetration into a pearThe last decade has witnessed a large influx in the use of nanotechnology in consumer products, including food, clothing, cosmetics, fertilizers, and pesticides. The growth of this technology has elicited strong reactions from scientists across the globe, with many asserting that further research is urgently needed to evaluate the potential impacts of these novel substances. As Mengshi Lin, Ph.D, associate professor at the University of Missouri (MU) and co-author of the study states, “More than 1,000 products on the market are nanotechnology-based products. This is a concern because we do not know the toxicity of the nanoparticles. Our goal is to detect, identify and quantify these nanoparticles in food and food products and study their toxicity as soon as possible.”

MU scientists began their testing by immersing several pears in a solution containing nanosilver at 20 nanometers (nm) and 70 nm, effectively mimicking a pesticide application. The team then repeatedly washed and rinsed the pears and observed the presence of nanoparticles on the pear’s skin and pulp. Results showed that both the 20 and 70nm nanosilver particles remained on the pears skin after 4 days, while the 20nm particles were in fact also able to penetrate the pear’s skin and reach the inside of the pear’s pulp. “The penetration of silver nanoparticles is dangerous to consumers because they have the ability to relocate in the human body after digestion,” Dr. Lin said. “Therefore, smaller nanoparticles may be more harmful to consumers than larger counterparts.”

The scientists note that, once ingested, nanoparticles can pass into the blood and lymph system, circulate through the body and reach potentially sensitive sites such as the spleen, brain, liver, and heart. Nanosilver’s presence in clothing and cosmetics provides another potential route of exposure. A recent study revealed that athletic wear impregnated with nanosilver can cause the substance to seep into a person’s skin through one’s sweat. A 2009 study showed that washing these types of nanosilver-impregnated textiles resulted in an unknown spread of the substance into the environment. Due to its small size, nanosilver is often not filtered out by conventional wastewater treatment plants. After entering the environment, past studies show nanosilver can have devastating impacts on wildlife, including deformities in fish and immune suppression in earthworms.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been criticized by scientists and consumer and environmental groups for its role in regulating emerging nanotechnology. A 2013 National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report provided a scathing account of EPA’s “conditional” registration of nanosilver, which the agency approved under the assumption that its use would reduce the overall burden of conventional silver in the environment. However, despite its novel antibacterial properties, the material did not undergo a full range of required tests, and there is no labeling system that would alert consumers to the presence of this largely untested substance in consumer products. A 2012 industry newsletter placed EPA’s delay over nanotechnology regulation on White House officials in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Richard Denison, PhD, senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund explained, “My understanding is that there is a view in some circles in the White House that they do not want to stigmatize nanomaterials nor stifle the technology even by requiring the reporting of information that EPA needs to make judgments as to whether there are risks.”

The only surefire way to avoid nanomaterials in food is to buy USDA organic certified products. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) imposed a general ban over nanotechnology in its fall 2010 meeting, although USDA’s National Organic Program has never initiated rulemaking on the subject. The growth and success of organic agriculture shows that risky nanosilver pesticides are not necessary to feed the world.  Organic practices that build soil and microbial diversity create natural pest resilience, and produce yields comparable to conventional agriculture. To find out more about the benefits certified organic products and production systems, visit Beyond Pesticides’ organic food program page.

Additional information on the regulatory history and risks associated with nanotechnology can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ nanosilver webpage.

Source: MU News Bureau

Image Source: Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry

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

Share