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18
Jun

New Study Exposes Range of Harm from Neonicotinoid Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, June 18, 2013) Neonicotinoid pesticides have broad ranging negative impacts not only on beneficial pollinators, but on overall biodiversity and ecosystem health, according to a new study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology. The study, conducted by David Goulson, Ph.D, of the University of Sussex, provides a detailed overview of the current literature on the economic and environmental risks of neonicotinoid pesticides. Dr. Goulson’s work draws stark and disturbing conclusions about the environmental fate of these systemic insecticides.

First introduced in the early 1990′s as an alternative to the acutely toxic organophosphate and carbamate classes of pesticides, neonicotinoids are now the most widely used insecticides in the world. They can be broadly applied as a spray or soil drench, however, the ability of these chemicals to translocate into a plant as it grows has led to the creation of a large market within conventional agriculture for seeds coated with these pesticides. As Dr. Goulson notes, global acceptance of treated seeds has undermined the adoption of alternative methods of conventional pest control, even integrated pest management (IPM), which can reduce pesticide reliance through monitoring and biological, structural, and cultural strategies. Instead, the treated seed market pushes farmers toward the prophylactic use of these insecticides before any information is available about pest populations in the upcoming year. The chemicals are prohibited in organic production.

The study calls into question the economic benefits of neonicotinoids, noting how yield increases in developed countries have been modest over the past 20 years despite their widespread use. Dr. Gouslon references numerous studies that show that yield increases resulting from using these chemicals, if there are any in the first place, are outstripped by the up-front cost of purchasing these products. He notes, “Studies from the US suggest that neonicotinoid seed dressings may be either entirely ineffective or cost more than the benefit in crop yield gained from their use. We seem to be in a situation where farmers are advised primarily by agronomists involved in selling them pesticides.”

Dr. Goulson’s study provides the public with its first look at Bayer’s own data on the persistence of neonicotinoids in soil. Shockingly, this information shows that the soil half-life of the most commonly used seed treatments can range from 200- 1000 days. In the case of clothianidin, a chemical that Beyond Pesticides and other organizations are suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend, it is revealed that the chemical has the potential to remain in soil for 6,931 days (nearly 19 years!) before degrading. One study referenced by Dr. Goulson shows that thiamethoxam can persist for nearly 3,000 days. A breakdown product of thiamethoxam is clothianidin; thus, even when these chemicals do begin to degrade, their breakdown products have the potential to be just as toxic as the parent chemical.

Dr. Goulson’s review also highlights a 2005 study which randomly sampled farmland soil in France for the neonicotinoid imidacloprid. While no soil on the organic farms’ sampled contained the chemical, nearly all conventional farmland soils contained detectible levels – even those that had not applied the chemical in the previous year. Of the 67 samples from conventional farms, 9 contained between 10 and 100 ppb imidacloprid, and 3 exceeded 100 ppb.

Once in soil, neonicotinoids have a high propensity to leach into groundwater, streams, and ponds. Dr. Goulson references a 2012 study that found 89% of water samples taken from rivers, creeks and drains in California contain imidacloprid, with 19% of those samples at levels above EPA guidelines.

After neonicotiniods are applied to farmland, their persistence in soil and water can cause broad and far-reaching impacts on ecosystem health; many of which have undergone little scientific scrutiny.  Dr. Goulson explains, “Any pesticide that can persist for many years, build up in soil, and leach into waterways is likely to have effects far beyond the pest insects it intends to target. This is particularly so when the pesticide is highly toxic to non-target organisms. For example, less than one part per billion of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid in streams is enough to kill mayflies.”

Dr. Goulson’s also reviews the potential for birds and small mammals to consume lethal doses of neonicotiniods after they are sown into fields. The spillage estimated after a typical sowing for maize and oilseed rape has the potential to kill 100 partridge or 167 mice for every hectare sown, he explains.

The literature concerning the danger that these systemic pesticides pose to pollinators is reviewed in detail in Dr. Goulson’s study. It is determined that there is strong evidence that the concentration of neonicotiniods found in agricultural fields have the potential to cause catastrophic sublethal impacts on colony level success for honey bees and bumblebees. An extensive overview of the major studies showing the effects of neonicotiniods on pollinator health can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows webpage.

Dr. Goulson asserts that world leaders have failed to meet their commitment made at the 2002 Convention on Biological Diversity – to achieve a significant reduction in the rate biodiversity loss. He points to neonicotinoids as a possible cause of this failure, due to their long-term persistence in soil and water. He specifically points to soil dwelling insects, benthic aquatic insects, grain-eating vertebrates, and pollinators as being in particular danger from the use of these chemicals.

Lastly, it is noted that, given these findings, the EU’s recent 2-year ban on these chemicals may not be enough to truly protect pollinators. As Dr. Goulson explains, “”Neonicotinoids will still be widely used on cereals, so the broader environmental impacts are likely to continue. Given the longevity of these compounds, they would be in our soils for years to come even under an absolute ban, so two years is far too short to produce any benefit, even if there were any clear plan to monitor such benefits – which there is not. It is entirely unclear what this two-year moratorium is meant to achieve.”

While there may be doubts as to the efficacy of EU’s neonicotinoid moratorium on certain crops, the 2-year ban represents a step forward towards protecting pollinators – a step EPA has yet to take. As we ponder these findings and reflect on the importance of pollinators during pollinator week, Beyond Pesticides hopes you will consider doing what you can in your own backyard, neighborhood, and community to create a safe space for these imperiled species. For the latest information on pollinator week events and the steps you can take to BEE Protective of pollinators see Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage.

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

Source: Phys.org, Journal of Applied Ecology

Image Source: The Guardian

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17
Jun

Celebrate Pollinator Week and BEE Protective June 17-23!

(Beyond Pesticides, June 17, 2013) Today Beyond Pesticides and the BEE Protective campaign kicks off National Pollinator Week in the United States as hundreds of actions to support pollinators take place across the country. This week we urge communities to come together to highlight the importance of pollinators through public education, the creation of pollinator friendly habitats, and other exciting activities. Beyond Pesticides invites you to take a real pledge to support pollinators and pollinator-friendly habitat, even as several pesticide companies, including Bayer and Syngenta, are using this week as an opportunity to “Bee-Wash” their image and to distance themselves from the toxic effects of their products on pollinators.

BEE Protective

bee hive thermometer 3Beyond Pesticides’ recently launched campaign has all the educational tools you need to actually help pollinators. We urge you to sign our Pesticide Free Zone Declaration and pledge to maintain your yard, park, garden or other green space as organically-managed and pollinator friendly. In honor of all the benefits pollinators provide, and in light of the plight of honey bees worldwide, we are offering free organic pollinator-friendly seed packets from now until June 23rd to those who sign the pledge (supply is limited, so sign today). Help us reach our summer goal of 10,000 acres!

Another great way to get engaged is by becoming a backyard beekeeper. Attracting and keeping bees in your backyard can be easy, especially if you already enjoy gardening. By providing bee habitat in your yard, you can increase the quality and quantity of your garden’s fruits and vegetables. The BEE Protective Habitat Guide has information on creating native pollinator habitat in communities, eliminating bee-toxic chemicals, as well as other advocacy tools. For additional helpful tips on how to BEE Protective visit Beyond Pesticides’ “What Can You Do?” page.

Go Organic

Pollinators are threatened by, among other environmental stressors, the neurotoxic effects of several different pesticides, which is why it is crucial to go organic. Seeds and agricultural commodities undergo intensive foliar and systemic applications of pesticides that translocate through plants, even to the pollen and nectar. Pesticides have sublethal effects on bees that can diminish their sense of smell and foraging patterns, and alter their reproductive cycles. Recent studies have indicated that exposure to minute amounts of neurotoxic pesticides such as neonicotinoids (e.g. imidacloprid and clothianidin) severely impair the immune systems of bees, making them more susceptible to pathogens and disrupting their foraging, navigating and learning behavior.

Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience Database has been recently updated to include information on pollinators. Click through the crops to find out which ones are dependent on or foraged by pollinators, see which chemicals are toxic to bees, and learn about the importance of going organic. Choosing organic food is not only good for your health, but it helps protect honey bees and wild pollinators. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, the protection of honey bees and wild pollinators, as well as whether we are contributing to healthy working conditions and communities for farmworkers and farm families.

Bayers’ “Bee-Washing”

As the evidence continues to grow that neonicotinoid pesticides are major contributors to the dramatic loses of pollinators around the world, pesticides companies are scrambling to build their image by “bee-washing” their products. Bayer CropScience, manufacturer of the neonicotinoid pesticides imidacloprid and clothianidin, has taken several actions to this effect. Bayer is building a 5,500-square-foot “bee health center” in North Carolina. The company has also pledged to donate $1 to the Pollinator Partnership for each individual that requests a free packet of seeds (which are NOT organic, by the way). The Pollinator Partnership is a non-profit organization that has several major agrochemical companies as funders. Their 2012 National Pollinator Week Sponsors included Bayer, Syngenta, Orkin, and CropLife America. Bayer recently launched a “Bee Care Tour” which will travel to university agricultural schools and farm communities across Corn Belt states. The company claims the tour will, “Foster education and cooperation among growers, beekeepers, researchers and others interested in honey bee health.”

Bayer has worked with Syngenta, another agrochemical manufacturer of neonicotinoid pesticides, to develop a “comprehensive action plan” for bee health. Sygenta is also a major partner of the Pollinator Partnership. Monsanto, which uses Bayer neonicotinoids as a seed treatment for its genetically engineered (GE) corn, recently hosted a “first-of-its-kind” Bee Health Summit attended by industry associations.

These agrochemical giants have continually dismissed claims linking their products to bee deaths. However, sound science has produced dozens of studies in the independent peer reviewed scientific literature that links neonicotinoid pesticides to bee health decline and colony collapse disorder (CCD). These efforts by Bayer, Syngenta, and Monsanto are not only hypocritical and misleading, they also fail to acknowledge the rapid decline that other wild pollinators, such as butterflies and birds, are also experiencing.

Pollinator Week Events in Washington, DC

Beyond Pesticides’ office is buzzing about all the great pollinator-friendly events  in the Washington D.C. area. Today, a free screening of the acclaimed film Vanishing of the Bees will begin at 7pm at the historic Hill Center on Capitol Hill. After the film, an exclusive discussion with the film’s director, Maryam Henein, will cap the night. There will also be free packets of organic pollinator friendly seeds, the newly published BEE Protective Habitat Guide, and additional educational materials on the importance of pollinators and the plight of the honeybee. At the end of the week, June 21st, Beyond Pesticides will also participate in the fourth annual pollinator festival at the People’s Garden and USDA Farmers Market. We’ll be there to distribute educational materials and answer any questions you might have about pollinators. Both events are free and open to the public!

Vanishing of the Bees Film Screening:
Location:
Abraham Lincoln Hall
Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital
921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20003
When: Monday, June 17, 2013 – 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Cost: Free!

Fourth Annual Pollinator Festival:
Location:
USDA People’s Garden and Farmers Market
12th Street & Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington DC, 20001
When: Friday, June 21, 2013 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cost: Free!

Pollinator Week History

First declared in 2006 after Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unanimously passed resolution S580, Pollinator Week provides an opportunity to show respect for the numerous benefits pollinators provide to agriculture and the environment. It also acts to raise awareness about the global decline of many pollinator species, particularly domesticated honey bees, and the diverse threats both honey bees and other wild pollinators are now confronting.

Don’t get stung by Bayer’s “bee-washing;” catch the buzz on Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinator Week activities, and for more information on how to truly BEE protective visit Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective page and sign our pollinator pledge.

 

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14
Jun

Amidst Criticism, New Study Reveals GE Crops Inflame Digestive Tract

(Beyond Pesticides, June 14, 2013) Researchers based out of Australia have found that pigs fed genetically engineered (GE) soy and GE corn are more likely to have severe stomach inflammation and higher uterine weight. Although the study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Organic Systems, has been criticized for its methodology, it underscores the need for more research on the long term impacts of GE consumption, especially considering the pig digestive system is physiologically similar to humans.

The study, “A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed  combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet,” led by Judy Carman, PhD., associate professor in health and the environment at Flinders University, Australia, found that GE-fed pigs had much higher rates of stomach inflammation. Researchers fed 84 pigs GE soy and corn and 84 pigs non-GE feed for a period of 22.7 weeks, approximately the lifespan of a commercial pig from weaning to slaughter. While there were no differences in terms of other organ weight, feeding changes, mortality and blood biochemistry, 32% of GE-fed pigs contracted severe stomach inflammation in comparison to only 12 percent of pigs fed with non-GE feed. Interestingly, male pigs fed GE crops were much more likely to contract severe stomach inflammations: male GE-fed pigs were four times more likely to have stomach inflammation compared to non-GE fed pigs while GE-fed females were only 2.2 times more likely to have stomach inflammations than non-GE fed pigs.

Researchers also found that GE-fed female pigs had on average a 25% heavier uterus than non-GM-fed females, which is a possible indicator of uterine diseases, including “endometrial hyperplasia or carcinoma, endometritis, endometriosis, adenomyosis, inflammation, a thickening of the myometrium, or the presence of polyps.”

The results have implications in the U.S., as GE soy now constitutes 94% of the soy planted, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The proteins Cry3Bb1 and Cry1AB, which are inserted into crops to exhibit insecticidal properties, are called out by researchers as the likely culprit for the number of pigs with inflamed stomachs. The proteins effectively work by disintegrating gut tissues of grubs that attack corn. While many have argued that the proteins do not impact the intestinal tract of mammals, this study as well as others have shown otherwise.

Researchers conclude, “Given the widespread use of [GE] feed for livestock as well as humans this is a cause for concern…Humans have a similar gastrointestinal tract to pigs, and these [GE] crops are widely consumed by people, particularly in the USA, so it would be prudent to determine if the findings of this study are applicable to humans.”

The study’s methodology, however, has received harsh criticism from largely industry sources. Some have indicated the need to ensure that the two groups of pigs were fed completely equivalent diets except for their GE content, while others have pointed out that their statistical techniques to identify “severe” stomach inflammation did not account for the possibility of random chance occurrences. However, even critics of the study have conceded that the study was rigorously conducted, and that the results indicate the need for further research on the long-term health effects of GE crops.

In the meantime, using a precautionary approach to protect against the potential threats that GE crops may pose to human health is prudent.  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.

Source: Journal of Organic Systems

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

 

 

 

 

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13
Jun

Oregon Adopts IPM Policy for All State-Owned Land

(Beyond Pesticides, June 13, 2013) On June 4, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed into law the State Integrated Pest Management Act (HB 3364) which strengthens and improves coordination among state agency programs that implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM) on state-owned and leased properties. The bill passed in the Oregon House on a 51-9 vote and went on to pass in the Oregon Senate on a 24-6 vote last month. According to Beyond Toxics, the statewide environmental health organization that helped to draft the bill, though the new law does not outright ban pesticides, the state will see less pesticide use as well as more accountability and public input regarding state pesticide policy. It is an important step toward ending toxic dependency on harmful pesticides, and it joins other states seeking to reduce pesticide use. See Beyond Pesticides’ report Ending Toxic Dependency: The State of IPM. Organizers in Oregon also hope that the new law will set the stage for future improvements to forest practices and riparian restorations.

Chief bill sponsors include Senator Chris Edwards (D-Lane County) and Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Multnomah County). Dr. Paul Jepson, Oregon’s State IPM Coordinator and a professor at Oregon State University was also a key champion of the bill; he was able to convince OSU’s School of Agriculture to pledge $25,000 towards IPM implementation for state agencies.

“The passage of the bill shows strong bi-partisan support for better management of both pests and pest control strategies, as well as tracking and measuring the effectiveness of pesticides on public land,” said Lisa Arkin, Executive Director of Beyond Toxics. “IPM programs consistently reduce pesticides while simultaneously solving pest problems.”

Beyond Toxics introduced the bill, initially called the Safe Public Places Act, after examining hundreds of herbicide spray records for tax payer funded projects and found that millions of dollars are regularly spent to reduce pests and that it is common for state agencies to spend public money on some products that contaminate ground water, harm fish or are human carcinogens. The legislation builds on a 2012 executive order by Governor Kitzhaber encouraging the use of environmentally-friendly materials and avoiding toxic chemicals, as well as a 2009 bill requiring IPM for schools.

According to The Oregonian, the first version of the bill allowed the use of “low-impact” pesticides only as a last resort if nonchemical pest control measures were not effective, and barred routine use of carcinogenic pesticides and those with high toxicity to fish, animals and beneficial insects, such as bees. The law that passed eliminates those details and includes “selective use of pesticides” among a list of techniques to be considered. It calls for both preventing “unacceptable levels of pest damage” and for pesticide use that “poses the least possible risk to people, property, resources and the environment.”

“It’s not a ban on pesticides,” Ms. Arkin told The Oregonian. “But, hopefully, (pesticide use) will be more selective and we’ll look at alternatives first.”

“I think there is a lot more awareness, and more data that have been done, to link the consequences of pesticides and harmful chemicals to cancers,” Representative Keny-Guyer  told Beyond Toxics.

Beautiful landscapes do not require toxic pesticides. Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes webpage provides information on pesticide hazards and information on organic management strategies. The site also provides an online training, Organic Land Care Basic Training for Municipal Officials and Transitioning Landscapers, to assist in going pesticide-free. With the training, landscapers can learn the practical steps to transitioning to a natural program. Or, you can order Pesticide Free Zone yard signs to display to your neighbors. For assistance in proposing a policy to your city council (or its equivalent), contact Beyond Pesticides at info@beyondpesticides.org.

Source: Beyond Toxics Safe Public Places Project

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

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12
Jun

Monsanto Promises Not to Sue for GE Contamination

(Beyond Pesticides, June 12, 2013) A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled Monday that a group of organic and otherwise non-GE farmer and seed company plaintiffs are not entitled to bring a lawsuit to protect themselves from Monsanto’s transgenic seed patents after Monsanto made binding assurances that it will not take legal action against growers whose crops might inadvertently be contaminated with traces of Monsanto biotech genes.Young vegetation on a corn field

Organic farmers and others have worried for years that they will be sued by Monsanto for patent infringement if their crops get contaminated with Monsanto genetically engineered (GE) material from GE crops. Organic and non-GE farms get contaminated when pollen or seed migrate from neighboring GE farms. Even though wind or insect transfer of pollen is a natural process, Monsanto has been suing farmers for infringing on their patents if contamination is found on their farms. Monsanto’s history of aggressive investigations and lawsuits brought against farmers is a major source of concern for organic and non-GE agricultural producers since Monsanto’s first lawsuit brought against a farmer in the mid-‘90s. As of 2012, Monsanto has filed 142 alleged seed patent infringement lawsuits involving 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses in 27 states. Beyond Pesticides joined farmers, seed organizations, and other environmental groups across the country to appeal a 2012 court ruling which dismissed Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al v. Monsanto – a case where the plaintiffs sued preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their crop ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s GE seed. An appeal was filed soon thereafter.

However, in the ruling issued Monday, the Court of Appeals judges affirmed the previous court’s 2012 decision that the plaintiffs did not present a sufficient controversy to warrant adjudication by the courts. The court decision was informed by Monsanto’s repeated commitments during the lawsuit that they would not sue farmers with “trace amounts” of contamination of crops containing their patented genes.

Plaintiffs’ attorney, Dan Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), views the decision as a partial victory. “Before this suit, the Organic Seed plaintiffs were forced to take expensive precautions and avoid full use of their land in order to not be falsely accused of patent infringement by Monsanto,” said Mr. Ravicher. “The decision today means that the farmers did have the right to bring the suit to protect themselves, but now that Monsanto has bound itself to not suing the plaintiffs, the Court of Appeals believes the suit should not move forward.”

The plaintiff farmers and seed companies began their legal battle in March of 2011, when they filed a complaint against agricultural giant Monsanto asking for a declaration that Monsanto’s patents on GE seed were invalid or unenforceable. The plaintiffs felt compelled to file the suit because Monsanto’s patented seed can contaminate neighboring fields through various means including wind and insects, and the owners of those fields, such as plaintiffs, can then be sued by Monsanto for patent infringement.

The Organic Seed plaintiffs’ complaint details Monsanto’s abusive business and litigation tactics that have put several farmers and independent seed companies out of business. They also detailed Monsanto’s history of ruthless patent enforcement, going so far as investigating as many as 500 farmers each year for patent infringement by trespassing onto their land. The plaintiffs further detailed the harms caused to society by Monsanto’s GMO seed, including the proliferation of herbicide-resistant “superweeds” and environmental pollution. The plaintiffs set forth in their legal filings how the patents were legally deficient in several ways including that the covered technology has no beneficial social use and that the dozens of patents issued to Monsanto have illegally extended and entrenched its monopoly.

“Even though we’re disappointed with the Court’s ruling not to hear our case, we’re encouraged by the court’s determination that Monsanto does not have the right to sue farmers for trace contamination,” said Maine organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen, president of lead plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association. “However, the farmers went to court seeking justice not only about contamination, but also the larger question of the validity of Monsanto’s patents. Justice has not been served.”

While the court is relying on Monsanto’s promise not to sue farmers for unintentional contamination, a growing number of America’s farmers and consumers are concerned about genetic contamination of our food supply by Monsanto’s transgenic crops. While this lawsuit seeks to protect contaminated farmers from being accused of infringing Monsanto’s patents, the decision allows farmers who are contaminated to sue Monsanto and Monsanto’s customers for the harm caused by that contamination without fear of a retaliation patent infringement claim against them by Monsanto.

“Today’s ruling may give farmers a toehold in courts regarding the unwanted contamination of their crops, but it does not protect our food supply from the continued proliferation of Monsanto’s flawed technology,” said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit. “The real threat of continued contamination of our nation’s food supply was only highlighted last week when Monsanto’s unapproved GMO wheat was discovered in an Oregon farmer’s field more than 10 years after it was legally planted in that state.”

The recent discovery of GE contamination of wheat sent shockwaves through the Western wheat growers community and resulted in Japan and South Korea temporarily halting the acceptance of American wheat imports. Several lawsuits have now been filed against Monsanto. The lawsuits allege that the presence of GE wheat crops spurred top wheat importers, such as Japan, South Korea, and the European Union, to enact damaging restrictions on American wheat. These restrictions could lead to lower wheat imports and will cause devastating economic effects to wheat farmers.

Despite this Court of Appeals’ decision, the plaintiffs still have the right to ask the Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals decision and ultimately reinstate the case. Mr. Ravicher said the Organic Seed plaintiffs are considering doing so.

Source: Public Patent Foundation

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

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11
Jun

Multiple Lawsuits Filed Against Monsanto for Transgene Contamination of Wheat

(Beyond Pesticides, June 11, 2013) Several different lawsuits have been filed against the agrichemical giant Monsanto after the recent discovery of illegal Genetically Engineered (GE) glyphosate-resistant wheat plants in an Oregon wheat field. The GE wheat was first found in early May when field workers in eastern Oregon noticed a volunteer patch of wheat that survived a dousing with glyphosate.

Ernst Barnes, a Kansas wheat farmer, brought the first lawsuit against Monsanto. Soon after, a separate lawsuit was filed by the Center for Food Safety on behalf of Pacific Northwest wheat farmers. The lawsuits allege that the presence of GE wheat crops spurred top wheat importers, such as Japan, South Korea, and the European Union, to enact damaging restrictions on American wheat. These restrictions could lead to lower wheat imports and will cause devastating economic effects to wheat farmers.

While the world’s largest wheat importer, Egypt, has not signaled it would stop importing U.S. wheat, Japan has cancelled its order to buy U.S. western white wheat. Meanwhile, the European Union has prepared to begin testing shipments for the Roundup Ready gene. In 2012, U.S. exported wheat was valued at $18.1 billion, with 90% of Oregon’s wheat sent abroad.

Since 1994, Monsanto has conducted 279 field trials of Roundup Ready wheat over more than 4,000 acres of land in 16 states. Tests have been conducted in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming. After facing intense opposition from farmers and consumers, Monsanto reportedly stopped its efforts to introduce GE wheat, but restarted extensive field trials again in 2011 in Hawaii and North Dakota.

Though Monsanto has claimed this was an “isolated incident” and that it may be the result of “sabotage,” researchers at Oregon State University were not satisfied by these claims. According to Carol Mallory-Smith, PhD, a weed science professor at Oregon State University who tested the initial wheat plants and determined they were a genetic variety Monsanto had tested. “I don’t know how Monsanto can declare anything. We obviously had these plants in the field.” Though wheat is commonly  self-pollinating, it can be wind pollinated, with some studies showing the crop cross pollinating up to 2.75 km.

This is not the first instance of GE crop contamination leading to litigation. Warren Burns, an attorney representing Kansas wheat farmer Ernest Barnes, said this case reminds him of similar litigation that arose from the contamination of the U.S. rice crop from test fields of GE rice. The contamination led to a Bayer CropScience announcement in 2011 that it would pay up to $750 million to settle claims, including those from farmers who say they had to plant different crops that yield lower profits.

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

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, Center for Food Safety

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

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10
Jun

Washington Ag Dept Rejects Petition to Curtail Bee-Killer Pesticide

(June 10, 2013, Beyond Pesticides) The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) on June 6 rejected a petition by Thurston County Commissioners to restrict sale, use and application of neonicotinoid insecticides. On April 8, 2013, the Commissioners requested the action by WSDA because of concerns about the effect of neonicotinoid insecticides on honey bee colony health. The Commissioners were acting on “substantial bee colony loss in 2012” reported by the Olympia Beekeepers Association. In its request, the Commissioners asked the state to implement a “restriction on the purchase, sale, distribution and application of the neonicotinoid class of insecticides for ornamental use to persons or entities with a valid WSDA pesticide applicator license” and indicated that “immediate action on a local level is appropriate and necessary.” Beyond Pesticides wrote a letter of support in favor of the petition.

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. According to the EPA, uncertainties have been identified since their initial registration regarding the potential environmental fate and effects of neonicotinoid pesticides, particularly as they relate to pollinators. Studies conducted in the late 1990s show that because these chemicals are systemic and are taken up by the vascular system of the plants neonicotinic residues accumulate in pollen and nectar of treated plants and represent a hazard to pollinators.

In rejecting the Thurston County request, WSDA director, Bud Hover, said, “WSDA shares your concerns about honey bee colony health and is acutely aware of the importance of honey bees and other pollinators to the economy and the environment of Washington. In 2011, the value of the crops pollinated by bees in Washington was in excess of $2.75 billion. Bees are also important for the pollination of fruit and vegetable gardens, as well as native plants. Certainly I am willing to take steps within my authority to protect pollinators when the evidence clearly shows that the neonicotinoid insecticides are a significant factor in their decline. I’m sure that you can understand and appreciate that I must consider the potential consequences of any rules that are adopted, and that I must make my decisions based upon sound science.”

Sound science does not include, apparently, consideration of dozens of studies in the independent peer reviewed scientific literature that link neonicotinoid pesticides to bee health decline and colony collapse disorder (CCD). Instead, Mr. Hover said that the only thing that WSDA does know is that, “Varroa mites have a major negative impact on honey bee colony health.” Advocates point to this lack of attention to the science in the name of “sound science” that represents a failure and state regulation of pesticides and ultimately puts beekeepers, farmers, and consumers at serious risk. If U.S. regulators evaluated the science as has been done by the European Union, advocates believe that there would be similar action to stop use of neonicotinoids. Instead, state agriculture departments, like WSDA, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have  adopted policy that increases dependency on pesticides and genetically engineered plants that have hurt farmers because of insect and weed resistance and increasing pesticide reliance. Advocates are left to wonder who is being protected, the chemical companies or farmers, beekeepers, and consumers. And, they ask, at whose expense?

Acknowledging some reason for concern, WSDA wrote the Thurston County Commissioners the following:

1. Urge EPA in their reassessment of neonicotinoid insecticides (esp. the nitroguanidine subclass) to fully consider whether additional use restrictions are needed to protect bees when these products are applied to ornamental plant that are attractive to bees. Also, to make users more aware of potential risksfrom systemic uses, request that EPA require registrants to include advisory statements on neonicotinoid labels that have systemic uses (soil drench or tree injection) on ornamental plants that are ttractive to bees.

2. Independent of any required changes by EPA, request that registrants of neonicotinoid insecticides voluntarily add pollinator protection statements to theirlabels to address the potential risk of systemic uses on ornamental plants.

3. Request that WSU include presentations on pollinator protection in their pesticide licensing recertification courses, especially those courses that focus on urban and non-agricultural pesticide uses.

4. Provide technical assistance to all pesticide applicators who are licensed to apply insecticides to ornamental plants reminding them of their responsibility to protect pollinators.

5. Provide outreach to consumers by:
• Assisting major retail trade organizations in creating point-of-sale brochures on pollinator protection that they can make available to their members to post at retail outlets.

• Encouraging the news media to print timely articles on pollinator protection in their home and garden sections.

What the Science Shows

A. Neonicotinoids are toxic to bees
Neonicotinoids, like imidacloproid and clothianidin, have sublethal effects in honey bees, which include disruptions in mobility, navigation, and feeding behavior. Lethal and sublethal exposures have been shown to decrease foraging activity, along with olfactory learning performance and decreased hive activity. Bees living and foraging near agricultural fields are exposed as a result of multiple mechanisms throughout the spring and summer, and are exposed to foliar and systemic pesticides that studies are reporting cause feeding, navigation and learning behavior disruptions in bees. In fact, a 2013 study reports that sublethal doses of imidacloprid have cytotoxic effects on bee brains and that optic lobes are more sensitive to the insecticide than other regions of the brain of these insects. In a study looking at the acute effects of sublethal doses of clothianidin under field-like conditions at 0.05 -2 ng/bee, a significant reduction of foraging activity and longer foraging flights at doses of ≥0.5 ng/bee during the first three hours after treatment were recorded. A study by Yang et al. reports that honey bees exposed to sublethal doses of imidacloprid show abnormalities in revisiting the feeding site, with some going missing. Returning bees also exhibit a delay in their return trips. A University of California (San Diego) study observed that sublethal doses of imidacloprid induce neurological effects (impaired waggle dancing at colony) that reduce communication and feeding. According to the researchers, waggle dancing can significantly increase colony food intake, and thus a sublethal dose of imidacloprid (0.21 ng bee–1) may impair colony fitness.

B. Neonicotinoid residues contaminate the entire plant
Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides which mean that their residues are expressed in all parts of the plant, including leaves, pollen and nectar. A 2012 study by entomologist Christian Krupke, PhD, of Purdue University, clarifies some of the mechanisms by which honey bees are exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides. According to the study, in addition to agricultural sources, pesticide residues are found in pollen collected by bees and stored in the hive, in the soil of fields sampled, including unplanted fields, and in other flowering plants (dandelions). According to Dr. Krupke, clothianidin in/on the dandelions could have resulted from translocation from the soil to the flower, from surface contamination of the flowers from dust, or a combination of these two mechanisms. Guttated water of seed-treated plants, which provides a source of water for bees, can also be a source of contamination and exposure. Reetz et al. finds that corn seeds treated with clothianidin resulted in neonicotinoid concentrations up to 8,000 ng/ mL in the guttated fluid. Guttation drops from plants obtained from commercial seeds coated with thiamethoxam, clothianidin, imidacloprid and fipronil taken from young plants contained high levels of the neonicotinoid insecticides: up to 346 mg/L for imidacloprid, 102 mg/L for clothianidin, and 146 mg/L for thiamethoxam, according to a 2011 study. These residues remain and can expose foraging bees to significant levels of the insecticide.

C. Exposures to neonicotinoids leads to higher susceptibility to pathogens and parasites
Studies have also reported that bees exposed to sublethal does of pesticides are highly susceptible to pathogens that lead to their decline. One 2012 study by USDA researchers discovered that newly emerged bees exposed to sublethal levels of imidacloprid during larval development and indirectly from brood food from nurse bees had higher levels of the gut parasite Nosema spp. which is known to adversely affect colony health. According to the study, this suggests that being exposure to pesticides contributes to weakening bees by making them more susceptible to infection. Alaux, et al. reported that the combination of both imidacloprid and Nosema caused the highest individual mortality rates and energetic stress, suggesting a synergistic interaction between these agents and, in the long term, a higher susceptibility of the colony to pathogens. Similarly, Vidau, et al observed a significant increase in honeybee mortality when Nosema ceranae-infected honeybees were exposed to sublethal doses of insecticides.

D. Neonicotinoids also harm other beneficial organisms
Recent data also supports the harmful effects of neonicotinoids on other beneficial organisms. Imidacloprid residues in surface waters lead to a decline in macro-invertebrate abundance, according to a 2013 study. This study notes that short-term tests with the aquatic worm Lumbriculus variegatus, a high mortality was observed at the highest concentrations of imidacloprid in the sediments (1 to 5 mg/kg). At lower concentrations (0.05 to 0.5 mg/kg) effects were observed on growth and behavior of L. variegatus. In other tests with the aquatic invertebrates Chironomus tentans and Hyallella Azteca, chronic low-level exposure (>1.14 μg l−1 for C. tentans) to imidacloprid reduced the species survival and growth. Imidacloprid has also been observed to be lethal to earthworms,16 with larger consequences for soil health and fertility.

Other bees such as bumble bees saw a significant reduction in growth rate and a reduction in the production of new queens when exposed to environmentally relevant levels of imidacloprid. One study observed that bumble bee micro-colonies exhibited a dose-dependent decline in fecundity, with a 33% reduction in brood production environmentally realistic dosages of imidacloprid.

For information on what you can do to protect the bees, go to Beyond Pesticides’ Bee Protective Campaign page.

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

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07
Jun

Senator Stabenow Pledges Opposition to the “Monsanto Protection Act”

(Beyond Pesticides, June 7, 2013) U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has announced her intent to oppose an extension of the “Monsanto Protection Act,” or “Biotech Rider.” Senator Stabenow announced her opposition in a conversation (“colloquy”) with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on the Senate floor. Senator Merkley had been pushing for a vote on an amendment to the Farm Bill that would have repealed the Biotech Rider, which was surreptitiously added to the House’s 6 month continuing resolution (H.R. 933 -Sec. 735) earlier this year. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), who wrote the provision and whose state is home to Monsanto’s headquarters, blocked the Senate’s vote on the measure, and shortly thereafter the Senate moved to end debate on the Farm Bill and move towards final passage. As The Huffington Post reports, all hope is not lost; “While Merkley was unable to get a repeal vote, the colloquy is a significant concession, with Stabenow promising she will oppose any attempt to extend the Monsanto Protection Act in backroom negotiations.”

The existence of the provision came as a surprise even to members of Congress, as many were unaware that the rider had been added to H.R. 933. Senator Merkley voiced his stern opposition to the deceitful procedural tactics of Senator Blunt, Monsanto, and the biotech industry, saying,

“In an accountable and transparent legislative system, the Monsanto Protection Act would have had to be considered by the Agriculture Committee, complete with testimony by relevant parties. If the committee had approved the act, there would have been a subsequent opportunity to debate it on the floor of this Chamber. Complete transparency with a full opportunity for the public to weigh in is essential.

Since these features of an accountable and transparent legislative system were not honored and because I think the policy itself is unacceptable, I have offered an amendment to the farm bill which would repeal this rider in its entirety. To this point, my efforts to introduce that amendment have been objected to, and it takes unanimous consent. This type of rider has no place in an appropriations bill to fund the Federal Government, and a bill that interferes with our system of checks and balances should never have become law.”

The Monsanto Protection Act 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 as the Senator indicates. 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.

This is a concern for consumer health and environmental organizations because they have used court decisions to help slow down the advance on GE crops. In October 2012, a federal court ruled in favor of halting cultivation of GE crops in all national wildlife refuges in the Southeastern U.S. The suit, filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), CFS, and Beyond Pesticides, was a part of a series of legal actions taken against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services (FWS) for entering into cooperative farming agreements for GE crops on wildlife refuge sites without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and refuge management laws.

In August of 2012, the Oregon Court of Appeals ordered a temporary halt to the state’s plan to allow genetically engineered (GE) canola to be planted in parts of the Willamette Valley, Oregon. The order is in effect until the court rules on a lawsuit filed by opponents of GE canola planting who say it threatens the state’s $32 million specialty seed industry.

Passage of the Monsanto Protection Act preceded the recent discovery of Monsanto’s GE Roundup Ready wheat in Sen. Merkley’s home state of Oregon, complicating issues of liability for the company, despite the economic harm the discovery has caused to the U.S. wheat export market.

Across the country, citizens have stood up for their food rights by voicing their opinions directly to their elected leaders. Beyond Pesticides’ list of issues of concerns associated with the Farm Bill includes the following with just 5 easy clicks:
1. OPPOSE Senator Joe Donnelly’s (D-IN) amendment to the Farm Bill that will reverse our efforts to take the hazardous fumigant sulfuryl fluoride out of our food supply
2. OPPOSE amendments SA 1100 and SA 1103 would remove commonsense protections from pesticide applications directly into our nation’s waterways
3. OPPOSE amendment SA 984 that will repeal a section of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that authorizes EPA to evaluate and restrict imported seeds that are treated with pesticides
4. SUPPORT Amendment SA 1027 to protect pollinators
5. SUPPORT Amendments 1093, 1080, and 1088 to advance organic food

The Senate passed a cloture motion (places a time limit on consideration of a bill or other matter, and thereby overcomes a filibuster) yesterday morning cutting off debate on the Farm Bill, with the majority leader Senator Harry Reid setting Monday, June 10, 2013 for the Farm Bill vote. This means that amendments for which there is not agreement should not be considered for adoption in the Farm Bill when the vote takes place on June 10.

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: The Huffington Post

Image Source: Food Democracy Now!

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

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06
Jun

Wal-Mart to Pay $110M for Clean Water Act and Pesticide Violations

(Beyond Pesticides, June 6, 2013) Last week Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. plead guilty in cases filed by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles and San Francisco to six counts of violating the Clean Water Act by illegally handling and disposing of hazardous materials at its retail stores across the United States, including pouring pesticides down the drain. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company also plead guilty in Kansas City, MO to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by failing to properly handle pesticides that had been returned by customers at its stores across the country.

As a result of the three criminal cases brought by the Justice Department, and the related civil case filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Wal-Mart will pay approximately $81.6 million for its unlawful conduct. Coupled with previous actions brought by the states of California and Missouri for the same conduct, Wal-Mart will pay a combined total of more than $110 million to resolve cases alleging violations of federal and state environmental laws. According to the Kansas City Star, the company stated that the fines and penalties would “not be material to its financial position.”

“By improperly handling hazardous waste, pesticides and other materials in violation of federal laws, Wal-Mart put the public and the environment at risk and gained an unfair economic advantage over other companies,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Today, Wal-Mart acknowledged responsibility for violations of federal laws and will pay significant fines and penalties, which will, in part, fund important environmental projects in the communities impacted by the violations and help prevent future harm to the environment.”

FIFRA Violations

From 2006 to 2008, the company sent more than 2 million pounds of damaged containers of pesticides and other hazardous products to a third-party management company, Greenleaf, in Neosho, Missouri. The products were then mixed together and offered for sale to customers without the required registration, ingredients, or use information, which constitutes a violation of FIFRA. Greenleaf was under contract with Walmart to recycle pesticide products, but lacked the necessary FIFRA registrations to mix, repackage, and relabel some of the pesticides. Greenleaf also did not have the capacity to handle all the products sent to it by Walmart, resulting in significant releases of hazardous substances. Greenleaf was also convicted of a FIFRA violation and paid a criminal penalty of $200,000 in 2009.

Pursuant to the plea agreement filed in Missouri and accepted by U.S. District Judge John T. Maughmer, Wal-Mart agreed to pay a criminal fine of $11 million and to pay another $3 million to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which will go to that agency’s Hazardous Waste Program and will be used to fund further inspections and education on pesticide regulations for regulators, the regulated community and the public. In addition, Wal-Mart has already spent more than $3.4 million to properly remove and dispose of all hazardous material from Greenleaf’s facility.

“This tough financial penalty holds Wal-Mart accountable for its reckless and illegal business practices that threatened both the public and the environment,” said Tammy Dickinson, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. “Truckloads of hazardous products, including more than 2 million pounds of pesticides, were improperly handled under Wal-Mart’s contract. Today’s criminal fine should send a message to companies of all sizes that they will be held accountable to follow federal environmental laws. Additionally, Wal-Mart’s community service payment will fund important environmental projects in Missouri to help prevent such abuses in the future.”

In conjunction with the company’s guilty pleas in the three criminal cases, Wal-Mart has agreed to pay a $7.628 million civil penalty that will resolve civil violations of FIFRA and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). In addition to the civil penalties, Wal-Mart is required to implement a comprehensive, nationwide environmental compliance agreement to manage hazardous waste generated at its stores. The agreement includes requirements to ensure adequate environmental personnel and training at all levels of the company, proper identification and management of hazardous wastes, and the development and implementation of Environmental Management Systems at its stores and return centers. Compliance with this agreement is a condition of probation imposed in the criminal cases.

Clean Water Act Violations

In California, Wal-Mart plead guilty to six misdemeanor counts of negligently violating the Clean Water Act. According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, from a date unknown until January 2006, Wal-Mart did not have a program in place and failed to train its employees on proper hazardous waste management and disposal practices at the store level. As a result, hazardous wastes, including pesticides, were either discarded improperly at the store level –including being put into municipal trash bins or, if a liquid, poured into the local sewer system– or they were improperly transported without proper safety documentation to one of six product return centers located throughout the United States.

The six criminal charges were filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles and San Francisco (each office filed three charges), and the two cases were consolidated in the Northern District of California, where the guilty pleas were formally entered before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero. As part of a plea agreement Wal-Mart was sentenced to pay a $40 million criminal fine and an additional $20 million that will fund various community service projects, including opening a $6 million Retail Compliance Assistance Center that will help retail stores across the nation learn how to properly handle hazardous waste.

“As one of the largest retailers in the United States, Wal-Mart is responsible not only for the stock on its shelves, but also for the significant amount of hazardous materials that result from damaged products returned by customers,” said Melinda Haag, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California. “The crimes in these cases stem from Wal-Mart’s failure to comply with the regulations designed to ensure the proper handling, storage, and disposal of those hazardous materials and waste. With its guilty plea today, Wal-Mart is in a position to be an industry leader by ensuring that not only Wal-Mart, but all retail stores properly handle their waste.”

Wal-Mart owns more than 4,000 stores nationwide that sell thousands of products which are flammable, corrosive, reactive, toxic or otherwise hazardous under federal law. The products that contain hazardous materials include pesticides, solvents, detergents, paints, aerosols and cleaners. Once discarded, these products are considered hazardous waste under federal law.

These criminal cases are a result of investigations conducted by the FBI and the EPA, which received substantial assistance from the California Department of Substance and Toxics Control, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. In Missouri, the case was prosecuted by Deputy U.S. Attorney Gene Porter and ENRD Senior Trial Attorney Jennifer Whitfield of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division. In California, the cases were prosecuted in Los Angeles by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph O. Johns and in San Francisco by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacey Geis.

The Consent Agreement and Final Order can be read here.

Source: EPA Press Release

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

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05
Jun

Connecticut Challenges States to Label GE Food

(Beyond Pesticides, June 5, 2013) Connecticut passed a bill on Monday that requires food manufacturers to label products that contain genetically engineered (GE) ingredient, but only  if other states do the same. This means people in Connecticut and other parts of the country will still have to wait to see GE labeling on their food.Yellow Corn

On Monday, the state House of Representatives passed an amended version of a labeling bill that the state Senate approved two weeks ago, and Gov. Dannel Malloy has said he will sign it. House Bill 6527 – An Act Concerning Genetically-Engineered Food, will require producers to label genetically engineered food in Connecticut. The bipartisan bill passed unanimously in the Senate and 134-to-3 in the House. The bill will go into effect when, “Four states, not including this state, enact a mandatory labeling law for genetically-engineered foods that is consistent with the provisions of this subsection, provided one such state borders Connecticut; and (2) the aggregate population of such states located in the northeast region of the United States that have enacted a mandatory labeling law for genetically-engineered foods that is consistent with this subsection exceed twenty million based on 2010 census figures.”

Connecticut will now become the first state in the country that requires the labeling of GE organisms. However, the final version of the Connecticut bill includes quite a crucial catch or trigger clause: the labeling requirement would not actually go into effect until similar legislation is passed by other states in the New England region (including one state bordering Connecticut) with an aggregate population of 20 million.

“This bill strikes an important balance by ensuring the consumers’ right to know what is in their food while shielding our small businesses from liability that could leave them at a competitive disadvantage,” Gov. Malloy said in a statement issued over the weekend after negotiations on the necessary provisions.

According to the Connecticut Post, the “trigger clause” is meant to allay fears that Connecticut could suffer negative economic impacts by going it alone -higher food prices and lawsuits from major food companies. Lawmakers are counting on safety in numbers, and hoping their state’s precedent will encourage others to follow suit. “Somebody has to go first and say it’s OK to do it with some kind of trigger,” Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield) said. “This gives great momentum for advocates in Pennsylvania and New York, for example, for [GE] labeling, because if they’re successful in New York we’ll probably see it along the entire East Coast.”

Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety (CFS), called Connecticut’s move an “important first step,” and “a reminder of where the tide is going on this issue.” Mr. Kimbrell goes on to state that, “While Connecticut has set the stage for wide-ranging action on GE food labeling, it is not a perfect bill. CFS opposes the late addition of the trigger clause, which unnecessarily puts on hold what consumers and lawmakers have already validated as important legislation.” The Connecticut legislation was adopted from language written by CFS attorneys, and state legislators incorporated many changes proposed by CFS.

The New York Times notes that more than 20 other states are considering labeling laws, including New York, Maine and Vermont. Early polling suggests widespread support for a ballot initiative that would require labeling in Washington, as concern spread about the impact of GE salmon and apples on two of the state’s marquee businesses. In 2005, Alaska passed a law requiring the labeling of all GE fish and shellfish, but Connecticut would become the first state to adopt labeling broadly. Additionally sixty-four nations including China, South Africa, and all countries in the European Union currently require GE foods to be labeled. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) recently introduced federal legislation that would require nationwide labeling of GE products.

The bill’s success is certainly an important victory for the GE-labeling movement, which seems to have been motivated, not discouraged, by last year’s unsuccessful but close vote on Proposition 37 in California. Industry giants like Monsanto and Dow spent tens of millions of dollars to help defeat the ballot measure in California that would have required labeling. Supporters of Prop 37 are regrouping, focusing on the 4.2 million Californians that voted yes and building a grassroots movement with 10,000 volunteers.

In the meantime, the best way to avoid food with GE ingredients is to buy organic. Under organic certification standards, GE organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers.

Join the Just Label It campaign. The JUST LABEL IT: We Have the Right to Know campaign is dedicated to the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods, also referred to as genetically modified, or GMOs. The JUST LABEL IT message is simple: consumers have a right to know what is in our food so we can make informed choices about what we eat and feed our families.

Watch the video from the Genetically Engineered Food Workshop at Beyond Pesticides’ 31st National Pesticide Forum at the University of New Mexico for a discussion on federal and local GE labeling efforts, including strategies to move forward. The video features Andrew Kimbrell, Eleanor Bravo of Food and Water Watch–NM, who helped with New Mexico’s labeling bill, and Isaura Andaluz, executive director of Cuatro Puertas and member of a federal panel on GE food issues (AC21, the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture). Additional videos from the forum, including keynote speeches, panel discussions, and other workshops, are available on Beyond Pesticides’ YouTube channel.

For more information, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering and Organic pages.

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

Sources: NYTimes, Center for Food Safety

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04
Jun

The 2013 Farm Bill: Act Now to Protect Pollinators, Our Food, and Your Health

(Beyond Pesticides, June 4, 2013) We all know the problems we’re having with Congress these days, and all this turmoil comes together this week as the Senate returns to debate amendments to the 2013 Farm Bill.The country’s environmental and public health is under attack in the current bill – but at the same time there are some encouraging signs.

The fate of these proposals will have a profound impact on the future of food in the United States, as well as the health of people and the broader environment.

Beyond Pesticides has singled out several issues below that we urge you to act on today, before the Senate votes, in order to both maintain important safeguards for human and environmental health, advance organic, and develop critical protections for pollinators. Because these issues are complex, we are asking you to send separate letters on 5 key topics, which we’ve prepared with just 5 easy clicks!

  1. OPPOSE Senator Joe Donnelly’s (D-IN) amendment to the Farm Bill that will reverse our efforts to take the hazardous fumigant sulfuryl fluoride out of our food supply
  2. OPPOSE amendments SA 1100 and SA 1103 would remove commonsense protections from pesticide applications directly into our nation’s waterways
  3. OPPOSE amendment SA 984 that will repeal a section of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that authorizes EPA to evaluate and restrict imported seeds that are treated with pesticides
  4. SUPPORT Amendment SA 1027 to protect pollinators
  5. SUPPORT Amendments 1093, 1080, and 1088 to advance organic food

More Information:

Keep Hazardous Sulfuryl Fluoride Out of Our Food Supply!

Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) is introducing an amendment (SA 1122) to the Farm Bill that will reverse our efforts to take the hazardous fumigant sulfuryl fluoride out of our food supply. Sulfuryl fluoride has been linked to cancer as well as neurological, developmental, and reproductive damages. It seems clear that Dow AgroScience, the chemical’s manufacturer, is pushing this amendment.

We are on the verge of getting this hazardous material banned because even EPA agrees that public exposure exceeds acceptable standards. In the European Union, the chemical has been banned from any food contact.

This amendment would undercut alternatives. Sulfuryl fluoride is not necessary for the safe storage and handling of our food supply, so there is no need to block the currently mandated phase out. Moreover, the chemical is a potent greenhouse gas, with the ability to trap 4,000 to 5,000 times the infrared radiation as carbon dioxide.

There are many viable alternatives to sulfuryl fluoride and methyl bromide fumigation, and neither fumigant is permitted in organic food production and handling. Please, tell your Senator we do not have to trade our health for those who want to use hazardous pesticides in food production.

Stand Up for Clean Water!

Senators Hagan (D-NC) and Johanns (R-NE) have both introduced legislation (SA 1100 and SA 1103 respectively) that would remove commonsense protections from pesticide applications directly into our nation’s waterways.

These highly controversial amendments would undermine the Clean Water Act and put our health and the environment at risk. If passed, these proposals would strip away critical protections from our nation’s rivers, lakes, and streams, leaving you to swim, fish, and boat on waters that are contaminated with carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and neurological toxicants without monitoring from state or federal officials. The environmental and health programs that are put at risk from this legislation have been in effect since October 2011 without any adverse impact on farmers.

Without the Clean Water Act, there are no commonsense backstops requiring applicators to at least consider alternatives to spraying toxic pesticides directly onto waterways.

These amendments would:

  • Undermine federal authority to protect U.S. waters under the Clean Water Act;
  • Allow spraying of toxic chemicals into waterways without local and state oversight;
  • Not reduce claimed burdens to farmers since there is no burden as there is no real economic cost and agricultural activities are exempt, and;
  • Contaminate drinking water sources and harm aquatic life.

Notification of Imported Treated Seeds

Senator Fischer (R-NE) has introduced a Farm Bill amendment (SA 984) that will repeal a section of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that authorizes EPA to evaluate and restrict imported seeds that are treated with pesticides.

This amendment would eliminate EPA’s authority to protect farmers, consumers, and the environment from pesticides that, by virtue of their incorporation into seeds, can find their way into soil, food, waterways, and the environment generally. EPA must be authorized to consider the potential adverse effects associated with residues of the pesticides in pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets.

Unless imported seed treated with pesticides are subject to review by EPA, the agency in the interest of protecting farmers, consumers, and the environment will not be able to evaluate potentially toxic chemicals that may not be allowed to be used for this purpose in the U.S. This is a critical authority, given that the reach of EPA does not extend to use patterns in the country where the seeds are treated before being imported. Therefore, EPA must be able to evaluate the pesticides on seeds, or treated seeds, once they reach U.S. borders.

Protect Pollinators!

Senator Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) amendment (SA 1027) would be a step in the right direction towards protecting honey bees and other pollinators. In the wake of another winter of record losses (over 30%) for U.S. beekeepers, and with one in three bites of food depending on honey bees, it is critical that Congress adopt these pollinator protections.
Senator Boxer’s amendment would:

  • Establish an interagency dialogue about pollinator health between the Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Create a task force on bee health and commercial beekeeping;
  • Direct the government to regularly monitor and report on health and population status of pollinators (including bees, birds, bats, and other species);
  • Compel agencies to utilize the best available peer-reviewed science on environmental and chemical stressors to pollinators, including international efforts addressing pollinator declines, and;
  • Assess the feasibility for new public bee research labs.

Advance Organic Agriculture!

We are urging the support of important amendments that would advance organic agriculture and ensure investment in sustainable practices. Three amendments stand out: Senator Leahy’s amendment (SA1093) will improve organic funding through the environmental quality and incentives program. Senator Tester’s (D-MO) amendment (SA1080) supports classical plant and animal breeding, which will reduce reliance on toxic inputs. Senator Brown’s (D-OH) amendment (SA 1088) provides grants for local food systems and community programs.

Thank you for working with us on all of these important actions for the 2013 Farm Bill! In addition to sending letters, we urge you to call your Senators in Washington, D.C. at 202-225-3121. If you’d like more information, contact Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450 or email info@beyondpesticides.org.

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03
Jun

Study Finds GE Salmon Able to Cross-Breed with Brown Trout

(Beyond Pesticides, June 3, 2013) A new study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society, found that genetically engineered (GE) AquaBounty AquaAdvantage salmon can successfully cross-breed with brown trout, a closely related species. GE salmon, created by the biotech company AquaBounty, are designed to reach maturity faster than their wild counterparts and would be the first GE animal approved for human consumption in the United States. As a result of this study, the authors “…suggest that interspecific hybridization be explicitly considered when assessing the environmental consequences should transgenic animals escape to nature.”spawning salmon

The study not only found that GE salmon can cross-breed with brown trout, but also that their GE hybrid offspring could outgrow wild salmon, non-GE hybrid offspring, and even GE salmon. The GE hybrids also out-competed wild salmon and GE salmon in simulated stream environments, further stunting the growth of other fish. According to Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety, “This study highlights yet another ecological risk of these hazardous genetically engineered fish. The FDA’s [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] attempt to approve these gene altered fish without even analyzing these irreversible impacts on our native salmon and trout populations is unlawful and a gross abuse of their regulatory duties.”

In order to create the transgenic fish, Aquabounty genetically engineered an Atlantic salmon by inserting a Chinook salmon growth-hormone gene, as well as a gene sequence from an ocean pout. The company claims this engineering causes the GE salmon to undergo an increase in growth rate that allows the fish to reach market size in half the normal time. Consumer groups Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch and Consumers Union submitted a formal petition to the agency in February 2012 to classify and evaluate the GE salmon as a food additive.

In December of last year, FDA announced its release of a Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and Preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact on GE salmon. This action was widely viewed as confirmation that FDA was prepared to quickly approve GE salmon. FDA then accepted public comments on the draft EA and Finding of No Significant Impact, and received nearly 2 million public comments opposing its plan to approve GE salmon. One of the obvious problems with the draft environmental assessment was that it limited the assessment to only reviewing the environmental impacts of the Canadian and Panamanian facilities proposed in the application. Documents discovered through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request indicated that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already received a request to import AquaAdvantage Salmon eggs into the U.S. for commercial production.

AquaBounty claims that the company’s process for raising GE fish is safer than traditional aquaculture, yet documents released by the Canadian government show that a new strain of infectious salmon anemia, a deadly fish flu that has been devastating fish stocks around the world, contaminated their Canadian production site. This information was not included in the FDA’s review.

Several food retailers have already promised they will not stock GE salmon if it is approved for sale by the FDA. Whole Foods Market Inc, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and other food retailers representing more than 2,000 U.S. stores have committed not to sell GE salmon. “Our current definition of sustainable seafood specifies the exclusion of genetically modified [GE] organisms,” said a spokeswoman for Aldi.

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

Source: BBC, Center for Food Safety

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

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31
May

Oregon Wheat Found Contaminated with Unapproved GE Wheat

(Beyond Pesticides, May 31, 2013) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that unapproved genetically engineered (GE) wheat was found growing in an Oregon wheat field. The discovery has implications for U.S. trade as Japan has already indicated it would stop purchasing U.S. wheat exports.

According to USDA officials, an Oregon farmer sprayed his wheat field, intending it to lay fallow for the next year. Despite multiple sprays of RoundUp, the farmer found so-called “volunteer” crops unexpectedly persisted, just as GE crops are engineered to do. The discovery prompted him to send samples to Carol Mallery Smith, scientist at Oregon State University, who determined that the crops were infused with the RoundUp Ready gene. USDA confirmed the results but officials have declined to comment on how the seeds ended up in this farmer’s field to begin with considering Monsanto has not conducted field trials in Oregon since 2001 when it reportedly withdrew from the state.

Since 1994, Monsanto has conducted 279 field trials of RoundUp Ready wheat over more than 4,000 acres of land in 16 states. Tests have been conducted in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming. After facing intense opposition from farmers and activists, Monsanto reportedly stopped its efforts to introduce GE wheat, but restarted extensive field trials again in 2011.

Contamination of non-GE crops, particularly for USDA certified organic crops, is a serious concern. Worries 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. Additional legislation proposed by Senator Bill Bowman (R-ND) in 2002 would have allowed farmers in North Dakota the right to sue Monsanto if wheat was found to be contaminated with genetically modified crops. The discovery is likely to prompt similar legislation if not litigation.

USDA regulates GE herbicide-tolerant plants under the Plant Protection Act, however its scrutiny of the full range of potential human health and environmental effects has been challenged by environmental groups as inadequate.  GE wheat is not approved to be grown in the U.S. or anywhere world-wide.

While the world’s biggest wheat importer, Egypt, has made no move to stop importing U.S. wheat, Japan has cancelled its offer to buy U.S. western white wheat. Meanwhile the European Union has prepared to begin testing shipments for the RoundUp Ready gene. These discoveries may have major implications for the U.S. economy, In 2012, exported wheat represented a gross sum of $18.1 billion, with 90% of Oregon’s wheat exported abroad.

“Nobody’s going to want to buy wheat from the PNW (Pacific Northwest) for a while,” said Roy Huckabay, analyst with the Linn Group in Chicago.

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

Source: Reuters

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

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30
May

Study Shows Pesticides Dramatically Increase Risk of Developing Parkinson’s Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, May 30, 2013) New research published in the journal Neurology further supports the causative link between pesticide exposure and Parkinson’s disease. Emanuel Cereda, M.D., Ph.D., of the IRCCS university Hospital San Matteo Foundation in Pavia, Italy, and coauthor Gianni Pezzoli, M.D., analyzed 104 studies published between 1975 and 2011 to determine the link between pesticides and solvents to Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers analyzed exposure using information on proximity to large farms likely to use pesticides, likelihood of well water consumption, and occupations that cause greater exposure to pesticides and solvents used to kill weeds, insects, fungus, and rodents. Overall, researchers found exposure to pesticides increased the risk of developing the disease by 33% to 80%.  Some pesticides were considered to be of higher risk than others, with weed killers like paraquat and fungicides maneb and mancozeb causing twice the risk for development of Parkinson’s disease. While risk increased the longer people were exposed to pesticides, researchers indicate there is still a need for further research on the chemical threshold for harm to the brain.

The study builds on recent research that has linked Parkinson’s disease to pesticide exposure. In a 2011 article published in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration, researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine invented a new antibody that allowed them to detect how oxidative stress affected proteins when exposed to a variety of environmental toxins, such as the pesticide rotenone. In another study, individuals with certain genetic factors that are exposed to organophosphates exhibited more than twice the risk of Parkinson’s disease compared to others without exposure. Another recent publication found that rural residents who drank contaminated well water had an increased (up to 90 percent) risk of developing Parkinson’s.

The research adds to the body of knowledge on the role of pesticide exposure in diseases like Parkinson’s.”I think the study is actually a big advance in our research knowledge of the relation between chemical exposures and the basic neurological injuries,” said Arch Carson, Ph.D., at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston. “This report is the first to show that there is a positive relationship between not only insecticides and herbicides but also some other solvent chemicals to which many people are exposed and the development of Parkinson’s syndrome.”

The second most common neurodegenerative disease, Parkinson’s disease occurs when nerve cells in the substantia nigra region of the brain are damaged or destroyed and can no longer produce dopamine, a nerve-signaling molecule that helps control muscle movement. People with Parkinson’s have a variety of symptoms including loss of muscle control, trembling and lack of coordination. They may also experience anxiety, constipation, dementia, depression, urinary difficulties, and sleep disturbances. Over time, symptoms intensify. At least one million Americans have Parkinson’s and about 50,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. With less than one percent of cases caused by genetics, researchers have been looking for the potential risk factors for developing Parkinson’s disease.

For more information on the latest research linking pesticides and Parkinson’s disease, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database (PIDD), or read the Parkinson’s Disease article from the Spring 2008 issue of Pesticides and You.

Source: Neurology

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

 

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29
May

Protesters March Worldwide Against Monsanto

(Beyond Pesticides, May 29, 2013) Last weekend across the world thousands of protesters rallied in dozens of cities against industry giant Monsanto and its genetically engineered (GE) products. “March Against Monsanto,” a coordinated day of action and protest, was held in 52 countries and 436 cities, including Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, even after Congress voted against allowing states to require labeling of GE foods.marchagainstmonsanto

The organizers of the May 25 rally call for labeling of GE foods and further scientific research on the health effects of GE foods. Demonstrators hoped to raise awareness of the issue and waved signs that read “Real Food 4 Real People” and “Label GMOs, It’s Our Right to Know.” They also urge supporters to “vote with their dollar” by buying only organic products and boycotting Monsanto-owned companies. Protesters in the U.S. urged opposition to the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act” which takes away the authority of federal courts to halt the sale or production of GE crops, undermining the courts’ ability to protect farmers and the environment from potentially hazardous GE crops.

“We’re marching to raise awareness,” said Dorothy Muehlmann, 30, of Corona, who organized the L.A. march with help from groups such as Occupy L.A. and Anonymous. “This is not just a ‘boo Monsanto’ protest. We want more people to know so they can make their own decisions.”

But just last Thursday the Senate rejected a Farm Bill amendment, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), to affirm the right of states to require labels on food or beverages made with genetically modified ingredients, even though federal law does not currently preempt the rights of states institute GMO label requirement. Senators from farm states that use a lot of GE crops strongly opposed the amendment, saying the issue should be left up to the federal government and that labels could raise costs for consumers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require GE foods to carry a label, but organic food companies and some consumer groups have intensified their push for labels, arguing that the engineered seeds are floating from field to field and contaminating traditional crops.

Protests in California against GE foods have been gaining momentum after the defeat of Proposition 37, a ballot measure last November that would have made California the first state in the nation to require labels on some fresh produce and processed foods, such as corn, soybeans, and beet sugar. Opponents of the proposition argued that it was expensive, bureaucratic and full of illogical loopholes for certain foods, such as meat, dairy products, eggs and alcoholic beverages. Even though the measure was defeated with 53% of voters casting ballots against it, supporters say the concerns of the more than 4 million who voted for it remains valid. The use of GE crops has been a growing issue of contention in recent years, with health advocates pushing for mandatory labeling of GE products even though the federal government and industry argue the technology is safe. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently ordered an environmental impact statement (EIS) for Dow and Monsanto’s new GE 2,4-D tolerant crops. USDA is requiring the review in response to overwhelming concern expressed by farmers, consumers, and public health officials during the comment period for these new herbicide-resistant crops.

GE seeds and crops pose unique problems to farmers, consumers and the environment. Unfortunately, since the 1980s, seed patent rights have been granted to agrichemical corporations that have since patented a number of varieties of GE seed, including corn, soybean, cotton and canola. Now, five companies account for 58 percent of the world’s commercial seed sales. These patents mean farmers cannot save seed for future plantings and can be held liable if their crop is contaminated with GE material.  A recent unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that farmers cannot replant patented GE seed because it violates licensing agreements. This means that farmers must pay industry giants like Monsanto for seed each growing season, fundamentally altering the nature of farming. The ruling was a blow to farmers who have been persecuted by Monsanto for ‘trespassing’ on patent rights due to saving seed. The advent of these crops have led to environmental contamination of GE plant material that have contaminated farms, including organic farms, and wild plant species, which has led to the increase of “superweeds” highly resistant to chemical control.  As of December 2012, Monsanto has filed 142 alleged seed patent infringement lawsuits involving 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses in 27 states.

The March Against Monsanto movement began when founder and organizer Tami Canal created a Facebook page on Feb. 28 calling for a rally against the company’s practices. Protesters marched in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina, where Monsanto’s GE soy and grains now command nearly 100 percent of the market, and the company’s Roundup-Ready chemicals are sprayed throughout the year on fields where cows once grazed. They carried signs saying “Monsanto — Get out of Latin America.” In Portland, thousands of protesters took to Oregon streets. Police estimate about 6,000 protesters took part in Portland’s peaceful march, and about 300 attended the rally in Bend. Other marches were scheduled in Baker City, Coos Bay, Eugene, Grants Pass, Medford, Portland, Prineville and Redmond. Across the country in Orlando, about 800 people gathered with signs, pamphlets and speeches in front of City Hall.

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

Source: Washington Post , LA Times

Photo Source: LA Times

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28
May

Oregon Health Authority Finds Forestry Pesticides in Residents in Long Delayed Report

(Beyond Pesticides, May 28, 2013) A recent report by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) found that residents that live in the Highway 36 corridor of Western Oregon were exposed to toxic pesticides in the spring and fall of 2011. OHA collected urine and environmental samples in August and September of 2011 and found levels of 2,4-D and atrazine in residents’ urine. 2,4-D and atrazine have been detected in residents’ urine previously after they had sent samples to be analyzed by Emory University in 2011. Residents continue to argue that herbicides being aerially sprayed on private forests are drifting on their land and causing dangerous levels of exposure. Even though this report by OHA has been delayed several times, it still contains serious data gaps.

According to the report, “The urine samples tested had levels of 2,4-D higher than the general U.S. population.” Though the report found that urine samples also had detectable levels of atrazine, there are no national reference values for atrazine available for the general population, so the study could not conclude that the levels of atrazine exposure were higher than the national average. The report also found other pesticide residues in the environmental samples besides 2,4-D and atrazine. Three of the 36 drinking water samples collected had detectable amounts of DEET, flouridone, or hexazione. Three of the 29 soil samples collected had detectable amounts of 2,4-D and/or glyphosate. The report also found that residents may have been exposed to low levels of clopyralid in the air.

Despite chemical detections in these samples, the report concludes that it was unlikely that residents were exposed to 2,4-D and atrazine through drinking water or through soil contamination, but did not determine whether air was a pathway of exposure. OHA was not able to determine this because it did not have, according to the report, “the capacity to monitor air for the pesticides used in the area.” However the report did find that, “available evidence suggests it is possible that reported [forestry] applications may have contributed to the [pesticide] levels detected in participants’ urine,” and “Urine samples collected after known atrazine applications contained statistically higher levels of atrazine metabolites than samples collected before any known atrazine applications.” Previous allegations have been made that 2,4-D and atrazine have drifted on to schools and homes after they were sprayed in Western Oregon forest areas.

In forest management, pesticides are often aerially sprayed after an area is clear-cut. This process of clear-cutting and aerial spraying for lumber production is ubiquitous on private forest land in Oregon’s $13 billion timber industry. In practice, pesticides are sprayed twice a year, usually in the fall and spring, and the spraying can last for several hours. Aerial spraying in forest management is a risky management technique. In the area of Oregon where the study was conducted, the mountainous terrain forces pilots to fly at heights that would not be tolerated in crop agriculture. Regular cropdusters typically fly at 10 feet above the field, but in this case the planes have flown at 50, 70, or even 80 feet above the trees, which increases the likelihood of pesticide drift.

The dangers associated with the use of 2,4-D and atrazine are very well known. Atrazine is a widespread contaminant in drinking water and is linked to various birth defects, endocrine disruption and cancer, even at concentrations below EPA standards. Although it has been excluded from re-registration in the European Union because it is found above allowable thresholds in groundwater, it is still one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S. and around the world. A 2009 study found that atrazine upped the risk of nine birth defects in babies born to mothers who conceived between April and July, when surface water levels of the pesticide are highest.

2,4-D has been linked to cancer, reproductive effects, endocrine disruption, kidney and liver damage, is neurotoxic and toxic to beneficial insects (such as bees), earthworms, birds, and fish. Scientific studies have confirmed significantly higher rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for farmers who use 2,4-D than those who don’t. Despite the known health and environmental effects of 2,4-D, it is the top selling herbicides and total annual usage in the U.S. tops 40 million pounds.

This recent report has been long delayed and questions of industry’s lack of cooperation have been raised. According to a 2012 report by the Center for Investigative Reporting, “This spring [2012], the Oregon Health Authority tabled a follow-up effort to test residents during the spray season. The agency’s plan depended on close collaboration with industry to let the health authority know where atrazine and 2,4-D would be sprayed. But the notifications never came.”

Though this new report helps shed light on the fact that residents in Western Oregon have been exposed to pesticides, the report acknowledges it contains several problematic data gaps. First, the OHA did not have the resources to collect air samples. The report suggests, “monitoring over several application seasons appears to be the best option to collect community wide air data”, however this will take several years to collect the necessary data. Second, these urine samples only represent a snap shot in time. According to the report, “Because 2,4-D and atrazine rapidly clear from the body the levels of these chemicals in urine can only be used to asses recent (within 24-48 hours) exposures.” This means it is unknown if residents have experienced chronic exposure over long periods of time, and even if these samples represent the peak of their exposure. Third, the report states that the urine samples were only tested for 2,4-D and atrazine, so it is unknown if residents were exposed to other types of pesticides. A wide range of pesticides are used in forest management and, given the detections found in soil and water,  it is unlikely that forest companies in the area only used 2,4-D and atrazine as management tools.

For more information on effects of these harmful chemicals watch presentations, such as Tyrone Hayes, PhD talk on atrazine, from the recent 31st National Pesticide Forum, “Sustainable Families, Farms and Food Resilient Communities through Organic Practices.”

Source: Oregon.gov

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

 

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24
May

Insecticide Sales Rise with Failure of GE Corn

(Beyond Pesticides, May 24, 2013) Insecticide sales have soared over the past year as target insects have developed resistance to crops genetically engineered (GE) to incorporate an insecticide. Contrary to industry claims that the technology would reduce pesticide use, crops like corn, engineered to protect against rootworm have been ineffective and farmers have begun applying additional insecticides.

The GE corn seed, developed by Monsanto, was released in 2003 to target a gene allowing plants to express a pest-killing toxin, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The pesticide incorporated plant (PIP) was developed to kill western corn rootworm, a potentially devastating pest that does its greatest damage in chemical-intensive agriculture during its larval stage by feeding upon the plant’s roots. Severe feeding inhibits the plant’s ability to absorb moisture and nutrients and opens a pathway for attack from soil-borne pathogens. 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. Now, almost a decade after the seed was introduced, almost two thirds of U.S. grown corn contains the Bt toxin, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Although USDA data shows an initial decline in the share of acreage treated with insecticides between 2005 and 2010 by 14 percent, there has been a documented surge in insecticide sales, supporting the findings of academic research on resistance. Pesticide manufacturers American Vanguard, FMC Corp, and Syngenta have all reported higher sales in 2012 and 2013 than in previous years. Syngenta alone reported doubling sales in 2012. Similarly, American Vanguard reported soil insecticide revenues rose by 50% in 2012, and doubling its stock prices.

“When Bt hybrids were introduced one upside was a reduction in soil insecticides,” said Michael Gray, PhD at the University of Illinois, but “…those gains are quickly being reversed.”

In early 2012, a group of 22 prominent entomologists, including researchers from land grant institutions in the Corn Belt and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), submitted formal comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency highlighting the uncertain future viability of Bt corn crops considering the severe rootworm damage that Midwestern farmers were facing despite planting Bt corn.

In addition to the problem of resistance to rootworm, recent research shows that the cultivation of Bt corn has negative impacts on beneficial soil life. Before monoculture production became standard practice for many farms, the western rootworm could be effectively managed by crop rotations, including pasture, hay and legume crop components, because the insect starves in fields not planted in corn.

Pest resistance is an inherent part of pesticide use. Farmers do not have to remain stuck on a pesticide treadmill that demands ever greater amounts of synthetic inputs and rewards chemical producers at the expense of farm profitability and the environment. A better option is to adopt organic agricultural practices, an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, and mechanical production and natural inputs. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, beneficial organisms, and biodiversity, organic farmers avoid the production challenges that chemical inputs, such as synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics, are marketed as solving.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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

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23
May

New Videos of 31st National Pesticide Forum Talks Support Action

(Beyond Pesticides, May 23, 2013) Beyond Pesticides is pleased to announce the release of videos from Sustainable Families, Farms and Food, 31st National Pesticide Forum, held April 5-6, 2013 at the University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque, NM. The Forum, convened by Beyond Pesticides, La Montanita Co-op, and UNM’s Sustainability Studies Program and co-sponsored by 13 local and state organizations in NM, included leaders in the fields of pesticide reform, public health, and organic agriculture, as well as many community leaders, local activists, and students. The videos span the range of topics that were discussed at the Forum and include keynote speeches, panel discussions, and workshops. You can access the playlist, which includes all of the available videos of the 2013 forum, on Beyond Pesticides’ YouTube page.

Beyond Pesticides believes that the opportunity to get together and share information and strategy is vital to public health and environmental protection, and we are thankful for everyone who was a part of this important gathering. For those unable to attend, we hope that these videos will be useful public educational tools. As an organization, we strive to ensure that community and policy discussion addresses the science and effects of pesticides and chemical-intensive land and building management practices, while ensuring that people and communities have the tools to adopt organic and sustainable methods for producing food and managing homes, buildings, parks and open spaces.

 The videos include such notable presentations as:

Tyrone HayesProtecting Life: From Research to Regulation” by Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D. discusses his research on the impact of pesticides on frog deformities and its implications for human and environmental health. 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.”

Organic Foods from the Pediatrician’s Perspective including the Unique Vulnerabilities of Children and Highlighting Pesticides” by Joel Forman, MD. Dr. Forman is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Community and Preventive Medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital, New York City. Additionally, Dr. Forman is currently a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Environmental Health and a member of the CDC Lead in Pregnancy Workgroup. He is one of the lead authors of the recent AAP report, Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages, which marks the first time that the AAP has made a statement on organic foods, recommending that pediatricians talk to their patients about the potential health and environmental benefits of choosing organic.

A View from Congress” by the Honorable Michelle Lujan Grisham, U.S. Representative for New Mexico’s 1st congressional district. Congreswoman Grisham has done remarkable work incorporating the precautionary principle into state government, by creating an advisory panel which promotes action on human health and the environment. Among the key goals for this effort are integrated pest management and better indoor air quality.

An Organic Future: How We Apply What We Know” by Jeff Moyer, farm director at Rodale Institute, brings an in-depth look at the greater theme of the conference and provides the tools needed to create resilient communities. Mr. Moyer has worked at Rodale Institute for nearly three decades to perfect an organic no-till system that reduces and eliminates both tillage and herbicides while maintaining yields that are comparable or better than chemically-intensive, conventional agriculture. He is an expert in organic crop production systems including weed management, cover crops, crop rotations, equipment modification and use, and facilities design. As a past chair of the National Organic Standards Board and a founding board member of Pennsylvania Certified Organic, he has helped countless farmers make the transition from conventional, chemical-based farming to organic or sustainable methods.

Also included are several workshops such as Pollinators and Pesticides, (featuring Les Crowder, President of the NM Beekeeping Association, Loretta McGrath, director of the Pollinator Partners Project at Farm to Table NM, and Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety), Genetically Engineered Food, (also featuring Mr. Kimbrell, Eleanor Bravo, Food and Water Watch NM and Isaura Andaluz, Cuatro Puertas). Be sure to visit the full playlist to see the rest of the videos.

Beyond Pesticides encourages activists, community leaders, scientists, and policy makers to attend its annual National Pesticide Forum to get together, share information, and elevate the pesticide reform movement. However, for those who do not have the opportunity to attend the Forum in person, the online videos of many of the Forum’s sessions are important educational tools for those seeking change at the local, state, and national level. Beyond Pesticides believes that sharing this information beyond the Forum is extremely valuable, and encourages you to share the presentations with friends, community organizations, networks, and state, local, and national decision makers.

The playlist, which includes all of the available videos of the 2013 forum, as well as previous conferences are available on Beyond Pesticides’ YouTube page.

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22
May

Seafood Company Commits To Limit Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, May 22, 2013) Norwegian seafood production company, Marine Harvest, has committed to certify its salmon farms by 2020 to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) Salmon Standard, with the condition that they begin tightening restrictions of pesticide use and move from caged systems in coastal waters to closed containment systems. As the world’s largest producer of farmed salmon, responsible for 25% to 30% of the global salmon and trout production the move marks an important shift toward sustainable production of their fish products.
spawning salmon
The ASC Salmon Standard, an accreditation scheme developed and promoted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), requires members to diminish the use of toxic chemicals, address sourcing of feed ingredients, diminish the transmission of disease to wild salmon populations, control the escape of farmed salmon, reduce the use of antibiotics and genetically engineered products, and finaly address the labor issues on salmon farms. As of now Marine Harvest has only committed to accredit its fish farms within the United Kingdom, although they also produce fish in Norway, Canada, the Faroe Islands, Ireland and Chile.

The company’s move follows on the heels of recent media attention that revealed the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) had  found up to 450 times the recommended levels of teflubenzuron, used to kill sea lice parasites, surrounding their salmon cages. Additionally, anti-sea lice residues, emamectin and deltamethrin, were found at or near recommended levels. These pesticides attack the nervous systems of sea lice and inhibit the development of their outer shells. However, they are also considered neurotoxic, toxic birds, and toxic aquatic organisms, particularly lobsters and shrimp which also have shells.

In 2010, Health Canada approved the use of the restricted pesticide deltamethrin as a means of controlling an outbreak of sea lice on farmed Atlantic salmon. Deltamethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid, a synthesized deriviative of naturally occurring pyrethrins produced by the chrysanthemum flower. However, they are designed to be more toxic and take longer to break down than natural pyrethrins. These types of pesticides are extremely toxic to aquatic organisms, including fish, which is in part why it is a restricted pesticide.

Marine Harvest has committed to the voluntary changes required under the ASC scheme, but if it fails to meet the standards, the company’s farm would lose its accreditation. Environmental advocacy groups are skeptical of its success. Guy Linley Adams of the Salmon & Trout Association said “”This isn’t the end of the story. Marine Harvest still have fish-farms in the wrong places, as do all fish-farmers. They are too near to wild salmonid rivers threatening wild fish conservation and those farms need to be relocated.”

For more information on pesticides and water quality, please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Threatened Waters page.

Source: The Guardian

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

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21
May

As Mosquito Season Approaches, Take Preventive Action Without Toxic Chemicals

(Beyond Pesticides, May 21, 2013) The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently concluded that 2012 was the deadliest year for West Nile Virus (WNv) in the United States. “A total of 5,674 cases of West Nile virus disease in people, including 286 deaths, were reported to CDC from 48 states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii),” said the CDC in a statement.

While it is still too early to determine whether this year will be as bad as last year’s outbreak (experts say the largest disease outbreaks  is strongly driven by weather patterns characterized by hot wet summers), one thing is certain: There are simple mosquito control techniques that can be performed in your community and backyard that will prevent the spread of WNv and nuisance biting mosquitoes without the use of highly toxic pesticides.

Aedes_aegypti_feedingBeyond Pesticides fielded calls from concerned residents across the U.S. whose communities were doused with pesticides in attempts to control WNv. Yet, these controls have been shown to be ineffective at managing mosquito populations. According to David Pimentel, PhD, professor emeritus of entomology at Cornell University, less than .0001% of adulticides (mosquito insecticides) reach target adult mosquitoes. Dr. Pimentel notes, “Thus by both ground and aerial application 99.999% of the insecticide spreads into the environment, where it can cause public health and other environmental problems.”

The widespread spraying of toxic pesticides (typically chemicals known as synthetic pyrethroids, organophosphates, or other nervous system poisons) does not provide a long-term sustainable solution to mosquito control. Those who are most at risk from mosquito-borne illnesses, such as young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are also those most at risk from pesticide exposure. Surely there are better ways to deal with mosquito problems then replacing one hazard with another.

Beyond Pesticides finds that the ideal mosquito management strategy comes from an integrated approach emphasizing education, aggressive removal of standing water sources, larval control, monitoring, and surveillance for both mosquito-borne illness and pesticide-related illness. We’d like to reinforce this point: public education is the key component to successful mosquito management. Spreading the word in your community is critical to addressing mosquito pests at the small and large scale – in your backyard and across your region. To get the word out, communities should utilize all forms of educational tools: the media; websites; posters placed around schools, libraries, post offices, and markets; and, pamphlets distributed to doctors’ offices and libraries. Public officials should also communicate mosquito prevention methods.

Beyond Pesticides advises communities to adopt a preventive, health-based mosquito management plan, and has several resource publications on the issue, including the Public Health Mosquito Management Strategy: For Decision Makers and Communities.

In your own backyard, avoid repellents containing DEET, as the product is quickly absorbed through the skin and has been linked to a range of health effects, including birth defects and nervous system disruption. Moreover, recent reports show mosquitoes developing a resistance to DEET after one application. Co-author of the recent report, James Logan, PhD, explains, “There is something about being exposed to the chemical that first time that changes their olfactory system – changes their sense of smell – and their ability to smell DEET, which makes it less effective.”

A wide range of least-toxic solutions are available in place of harmful products such as DEET and other synthetic-pyrethroid based sprays. The best preventive measure you can take is to avoid being outdoors during the evening hours when mosquitoes are most active, or wear long-sleeved clothing if you do. However, since this is not ideal for many people, essential oils can be used as repellents. Some of the most effective include cedarwood, soybean oil, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and geraniol (make sure to seek out organic products!). You can also make your own mosquito repellent by combining 10 drops of essential oils to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, and apply a few drops on your skin and/or clothing. Be sure to take some with you if going outside for a prolonged period, and reapply often.

Here are some of the simple solutions you and your community can take to prevent and control mosquitoes:

Clean up – Cut back any overgrown vegetation – mosquitoes use these areas to hide. Ensure waterways are clear of debris; eliminate pooled or stagnant waters from debris, containers, drains, and anywhere that pools water. Watch out for leaky faucets. Mosquitoes can breed in puddles the size of dimes, so keep a keen eye out for stagnant water!

Natural Predators – Use indigenous fish populations, like bluegills or minnows, to eat mosquito larvae in shallow waters and ornamental pools. Copepod crustaceans can also be used to eat mosquito larvae in ditches, pools and other areas of stagnant water. Don’t forget about bats either! One bat can consume 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour, and many bats are in trouble from a disease wiping out their population. Help conserve these important mammals while keeping the mosquito population down by installing a bat house!

Behavior Modification –As indicated above, wear long sleeves and long pants/skirts, and use least-toxic mosquito repellent when outdoors. Try to avoid being outside at dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

Attentive Monitoring – Check sources of water for signs of mosquito larvae often.

Least-toxic Pesticide Options – Use Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bt), a biological larvicide (“mosquito dunk”) that prevents mosquitoes from developing into breeding, biting adults in standing waters that cannot be drained.

Take Action – Let your local council members, mayor, or state delegates know that safer, more sustainable options exist. Download our sample letter (opens in Word) to send to public health officials in your area.

Communities across the country, from Lyndhurst, OH to Marblehead, MA, Nashville, TN and the District of Columbia, have taken these steps towards safe, effective mosquito management. By focusing on a program of prevention through public education, strict monitoring, and control by least-toxic larvacides, mosquito populations and the diseases they carry are minimized.

For more information, including expert positions on mosquito adulticiding, fact sheets, media tips, sample public service announcements, sample petitions and opt-out forms, and tips on organizing those in your community, see Beyond Pesticides mosquito management program page. You can also contact Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450 or info@beyondpesticides.org for our WNv and Mosquito Management Toolkit for Concerned Citizens.

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

Source: NBC News

 

 

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20
May

USGS Documents Threat of Pesticides to Waterways; Farm Bill Amendment Undermines Clean Water Act

(Beyond Pesticides, May 20, 2013) The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a national assessment that shows the distribution and trends of pesticide use from 1992-2009, providing visible evidence that contamination of pesticides in our nation’s water is clearly a continuing threat. Meanwhile, U.S. Senators are gearing up to put their version of the Farm  Bill on the table that would eliminate common sense protections from pesticide applications into our nation’s waterways. These highly controversial amendments would undermine the Clean Water Act and put our health and the environment at risk. Tell your Senators to oppose any efforts to undermine the Clean Water Act.

The USGS maps provide, for the first time, a visible depiction of the agricultural use of 459 pesticides for each year during 1992-2009. Maps were created by allocating county-level use estimates to agricultural land within each county. A graph accompanies each map, which shows annual national use by major crop for the mapped pesticide for each year during the period. These pesticide use estimates are suitable for evaluating national and regional patterns and trends of annual pesticide use.

glyphosate mapTo see the maps, go to USGS’s Pesticide National Synthesis Project Page and click on a pesticide. The map not only shows you how many pounds per square miles were used for each year, but also includes details about which crops they were used on. Glyphosate (pictured right) shows an increase of over 100 lbs from 2001 to 2009.

Pesticide use estimates from USGS’s study help provide national, regional, and watershed assessments of annual pesticide use, however the agency points out that reliability of estimates generally decreases with scale.  For example, detailed interpretation of use intensity distribution within a county cannot be gleaned from the maps.  Although county-level estimates were used to create the maps and are provided in the data set, surveyed pesticide-by-crop use was not available for all crop reporting districts (CRDs) and, therefore, extrapolation methods were used to estimate pesticide use for some counties. Also, surveyed pesticide-by-crop use may not reflect all agricultural use on all crops grown. With these caveats in mind, the maps, graphs, and associated county-level use data are critical data for water-quality models and provide a comprehensive graphical overview of the geographic distribution and trends in agricultural use in the conterminous United States.

Waterways in the U.S. are increasingly imperiled from various agents, including agricultural and industrial discharges, nutrient loading (nitrogen and phosphorus), and biological agents such as pathogens. Pesticides discharged into our nation’s rivers, lakes and streams can harm or kill fish and amphibians. These toxicants have the potential to accumulate in the fish we eat and the water we drink. The spirit of the Clean Water Act is that every community in the United States has the right to enjoy fishable and swimmable bodies of water. These regulations are currently under attack in Farm Bill amendments that would strip away critical protections from our nation’s rivers, lakes, and streams. Without the Clean Water Act, there are no common sense backstops requiring applicators to at least consider alternatives to spraying toxic pesticides directly into waterways.

Act Now! We can’t afford to lose these protections. Tell your Senators to oppose any efforts to undermine the Clean Water Act.

For more information, read our factsheet, Clearing up the Confusion Surrounding the New NPDES General Permit and visit our Threatened Waters page. To keep up to date on Congressional and government agency actions, sign-up for Beyond Pesticides’ action alerts

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17
May

California Regulators Propose Restrictions of Soil Fumigant

(Beyond Pesticides, May 17, 2013) California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) have proposed restrictions on the use of chloropicrin, a fumigant commonly applied to strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, raspberries, and blackberries. The proposed rule would not only increase buffer zones around application sites, but also restrict application acreage, impose notification requirements, enhance emergency preparedness requirements, and prolong the time that chloropicrin-applied fields must remain covered. Public comments will be accepted until July 31.

The move is in response to recent data released by the California DPR, which indicates pesticide use in California has risen, causing 1,015 cases of illness between 1992 and 2007 for chloropicrin exposure alone. In total, more than 173 million pounds of pesticides were reported applied statewide, an increase of nearly 15 million pounds –or 9.5 percent– from 2009. For chloropicrin, injuries ranged from eye or respiratory problems to skin irritation, rashes, and burns.farm worker2

Additional evidence from a 2010 report released by the Pesticide Action Network of North American and local community members of Sisquoc, California, reveals that chloropicrin contaminated half of the 57 air samples collected, with average levels of exposure over the 19-day period at 23 to 151 times higher than acceptable cancer risks.

Fumigant pesticides, like chloropicrin, are used to sterilize soil prior to planting and are ubiquitous in California’s $2 billion strawberry industry. While it is a far cry from establishing permanent restrictions to toxic chemicals, the state of California has begun to seriously consider the need for more protective soil fumigant regulations. “California does always put its extra layer of precaution above and beyond (federal regulators),” said Carolyn O’Donnell, spokeswoman for the California Strawberry Commission, “It presents more challenges, particularly for strawberries. People like to live where strawberries like to grow… We want to make sure our communities are protected. If they’re not, we’re not going to be able to farm.”

Fumigants are highly volatile and prone to drift, with severe implications for human health. Some of the health effects linked to exposure can include headaches, vomiting, severe lung irritation, and neurological effects. Some fumigants are linked to cancer, reduced fertility, birth defects and higher rates of miscarriage.

Though this proposed rule is a move away from the use of toxic fumigants, it does not fully acknowledge the alternatives that already exists in organic production. The only way for consumers to prevent use of  hazardous soil fumigants is to buy organically produced food. Beyond Pesticides advocates for the national conversion to organic systems planning, which moves chemicals off the market quickly and replaces them with green management practices. To learn more about organic agriculture please visit Beyond Pesticides organic agriculture page.

Take Action (California): Public comments will be excepted until July 31, fax 916-445-4280, e-mail loconnell@cdpr.ca.gov, or write Linda O’Connell, Department of Pesticide Regulation, Worker Health and Safety Branch, 1001 I St., P.O. Box 4015, Sacramento, CA 95812. Additionally, a public meeting will be held 6-8 p.m. June 10 and 10 a.m. to noon June 11 to discuss proposed chloropicrin rules. The meeting will be held in the Agricultural Center conference room, 1428 Abbott St., Salinas. For more information, see the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s Chloropicirin page.

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel

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

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16
May

Manufacturer to Restrict Atrazine Sales, Use, and Distribution on Long Island

(Beyond Pesticides, May 15, 2013) Recent public outcry over atrazine contamination of drinking water supplies on Long Island has pressured pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide manufacturer Makhteshim Agan of North America (MANA) to restrict the sale, use, and distribution of the toxic chemical. The move has been lauded by environmental advocacy groups, including Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE).

“Atrazine is a dangerous chemical that poses an unacceptable risk to public health and the environment on Long Island,” said Adrienne Esposito, CCE Executive Director. “Removing this product from the shelves is an essential first step in protecting Long Island drinking water from unnecessary pesticide contamination. We are delighted by this news.”

Unfortunately, stores will continue to sell its atrazine inventory until MANA implements the anticipated restriction date of spring of 2014.

Atrazine is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world and is used on most corn, sugarcane and sorghum acreage in the United States; and can also be used on golf courses and residential lawns. In the U.S. alone, 60-80 million pounds are used per year to stop pre- and post-emergent broadleaf and annual grassy weeds, and is generally applied in the spring.

The herbicide is a common contaminant of municipal drinking water because it does not cling to soil particles and washes easily with the rain into surface and ground water. In previous studies, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found atrazine in approximately 75 percent of stream waters and 40 percent of all groundwater samples from agricultural areas tested.

Atrazine has been linked to a myriad of health problems in humans, including disruption of hormone activity, low sperm quality, low birth weight, impaired immune system function and cancer. A 2009 study by Paul Winchester, MD, linked birth defects to time of conception, with the greatest impact on children conceived when concentrations of atrazine and other pesticides are highest in the local drinking water.

Studies show that atrazine harms the immune, hormone, and reproductive systems of aquatic animals. For example, a study of fish and amphibians exposed to atrazine exhibit hermaphrodism, creatures with both male and female sexual characteristics. Male frogs exposed to atrazine concentrations within federal standards can become so completely feminized that they can mate and lay viable eggs. Other research by Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D. and others demonstrates that exposure to doses of atrazine as small as 0.1 parts per billion, turns tadpoles into hermaphrodites. In yet another study, a mixture of small amounts of ten of the most commonly used pesticides, including atrazine, was found to kill 99 percent of leopard frog tadpoles.

“Results of studies over the past 20 years show that atrazine is the most frequently detected pesticide in agricultural streams and rivers nationwide, and particularly in the Corn Belt states,” according to Robert Gilliom, Chief of the National Water Quality Assessment Program’s (NAWQA) Pesticide National Synthesis Project. “Atrazine concentration data for Corn Belt streams and rivers show that 21-day average concentrations, similar to the exposure conditions studied by Dr. Tillitt, exceeded levels found to affect fish reproduction for most sites and years sampled.”

Despite this evidence, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  re-approved the use of atrazine in 2006, concluding that there was no evidence that atrazine was causing adverse impacts on the amphibians’ development, and initiated a new evaluation of its potential health effects after well-publicized reports and a New York Times investigative piece found EPA’s regulations of atrazine in water to be insufficient. Even at levels considered “safe” under EPA drinking water standards, atrazine is linked to endocrine-disrupting effects.

In March 2012, U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) reintroduced legislation to ban atrazine, HR 4318. “No one should ever have to worry if the water they drink is making them sick or affecting fertility,” said Rep. Ellison. “Germany and Italy banned atrazine use in 1991 and EU health officials banned its use in 2003. Yet, almost 10 years later the United States is still using it. We need to remove toxins like atrazine from our waterways.”

With over 50% of the population drawing its drinking water supply from groundwater, much of which is contaminated with pesticides like atrazine, local efforts to implement restrictions will continue to play an integral role in the protection of human health and the environment.

For more information on pesticides and water quality please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Threatened Waters page.

Source: Citizens Campaign for the Environment

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

 

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