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Millions of Eggs in Europe Found Contaminated with Insecticide Fipronil

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

EU(Beyond Pesticides, August 16, 2017) Millions of eggs and egg products have been pulled from supermarket shelves in 15 countries in Europe after it was discovered that the eggs were contaminated with the insecticide fipronil. Now,  the European Commissioner in charge of food safety has called for a meeting of ministers and national regulatory agencies to discuss the widespread European contamination. However, fipronil is not allowed for use in food production in Europe, raising concerns over food safety and regulatory oversight. This incident reminds U.S. consumers about the disarray of the U.S. food safety system, as reported by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2014. According to the GAO report, Food Safety: FDA and USDA Should Strengthen Pesticide Residue Monitoring Programs and Further Disclose Monitoring Limitations, there is a lack of government coordination on food safety and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not test food for several commonly used pesticides with established tolerance levels. The report sounds an alarm that GAO began sounding  in the 1980’s in several reports that identify shocking limitations of  FDA’s approach to monitoring for pesticide residue violations in food. (See Beyond Pesticides’ coverage.) Since that report, FDA announced, then withdrew its announcement, […]

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Monsanto Papers Redux: More on Industry Suppression and Regulatory Collusion

Friday, August 11th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, August 11, 2017) On August 1, a second round of internal Monsanto documents became public, stirring up additional questions and speculation about Monsanto’s potential malfeasance — i.e., its efforts to hide information about impacts of its popular glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup. This follows on the heels of the March 2017 unsealing, by federal judge Vince Chhabria, of internal Monsanto documents — the “Monsanto Papers” — that evidenced questionable research practices by the company, inappropriate ties to a top EPA official, and possible “ghostwriting” of purportedly “independent” research studies. This latest release, of more than 700 documents, came courtesy of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, one of many law firms representing thousands of families who claim that exposure to Roundup caused non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL), a blood cancer, in their loved ones. Such litigation has been triggered, in part, by the 2015 finding of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a branch of the U.N.’s World Health Organization) that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The plaintiffs allege that the combination of glyphosate and surfactants used in Monsanto’s Roundup products is even more toxic than glyphosate alone, and that Monsanto has sought to cover up that information. Monsanto has continued to […]

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Sustained Glyphosate Use Reveals Risks to Soil and Environmental Health

Friday, July 21st, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, July 21, 2017) A March 2017 review of studies on the agricultural use of glyphosate (the active ingredient in “Roundup” and other formulated herbicides) points to widespread persistence in soils subject to long-term, intensive glyphosate use, and myriad resulting concerns about impacts on soil and environmental health. The review, by Robert J. Kremer, PhD, of the University of Missouri School of Natural Resources, cites concerns that include: reduction of nutrient availability for plants and organisms; disruption to organism diversity, especially in the areas around plant roots; reductions of beneficial soil bacteria; increases in plant root pathogens; disturbed earthworm activity; reduced nitrogen fixing at plant roots; and compromised growth and reproduction in some soil and aquatic organisms. Globally, glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide compound: in 2017, worldwide use is estimated to be approximately 1.35 million metric tons. Use in the U.S. has risen dramatically — from 2.72–3.62 million kg in 1987 to approximately 108 million kg in 2014, and 15-fold since 1996, when genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-tolerant crops were introduced. Use has grown for a number of reasons, including more-intensive use as resistance to the herbicide grows. Researchers have found that, after years of consistent application to […]

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Western Australian Researchers Mine Antimalarial Compounds as Potential Herbicides

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, July 12, 2017) In a move that threatens to further the spread of antibiotic resistance, researchers at the University of Western Australia (UWA) mining a collection of antimalarial drugs for potential new herbicides. Joshua Mylne, PhD, a senior lecturer in the School of Molecular Sciences (SMS) who directs the project, got started based on work he did while in the Australian Army Reserve. There he discovered that “malarial parasites are actually closely related to plants.” Due to widespread resistance of weeds to the popular herbicide glyphosate, Dr. Mylne began investigating antimalarial drugs as potential replacements. Malaria parasites are actually protozoans in the genus Plasmodium. Their crucial connection with plants is that the parasite contains a plastid similar to the chloroplast in plants. Like the chloroplast in plants, this plastid is critical for the survival of the parasite. Along with organic chemist Keith Stubbs, PhD, associate professor in SMS, Dr. Mylne began screening chemicals in the “Malaria Box,” an open source collection of potential anti-malarial drugs that have never been commercialized. Of the 20 chemicals tested on the small weed Arabidopsis thaliana, 11 were found to have some herbicidal activity. They were then compared to the herbicides glyphosate, glufosinate, asulam, […]

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G20 Health Ministers Craft Plan to Address Antimicrobial Resistance

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, May 23, 2017) Health ministers from the G20 nations, the largest advanced and emerging economies, identified Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) as a “current and increasing threat and challenge to global health” and committed the member countries to several actions aimed at reducing the occurrence of AMR. The outcome of the first meeting of G20 health ministers, the Berlin Declaration of the G20 Health Ministers, addresses a wide range of global health issues, including AMR. The G20 declaration contains little more than a mention of antimicrobials in agriculture, but both it and the G20 Agriculture Ministers’ Declaration support WHO’s Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance. WHO’s action plan includes measures of effectiveness of actions, including member state adoption of “policies on use of antimicrobial agents in terrestrial and aquatic animals and agriculture, including: implementation of Codex Alimentarius and OIE [Organization for Animal Health] international standards and guidelines as well as WHO/OIE guidance on the use of critically important antibiotics; phasing out of use of antibiotics for animal growth promotion and crop protection in the absence of risk analysis; and reduction in nontherapeutic use of antimicrobial medicines in animal health.” The G20 meeting last weekend was not the first time world […]

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NOSB Decides on Organic Livestock, Delays Hydroponics Decision

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, April 26, 2017) Last week, at its spring meeting in Denver, Colorado, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted unanimously to recommend that the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule become effective immediately. This recommendation was originally made by the NOSB in 2011, and requires organic meat and poultry producers to allow animals to “exhibit natural behavior, such as the ability to sit, walk, stretch and stand without touching other animals or the sides of their pen, as well as having free and clear access to the outside.” Decisions were also made regarding a wide range of materials and practices, including synthetic additives in infant formula, mulch, sanitizers, and disinfectants. A decision on hydroponic growing methods and their eligibility for organic certification ultimately ended up being delayed again at the spring meeting, with no formal vote or action being taken. At the meeting, Beyond Pesticides maintained its position on hydroponics, aeroponics, bioponics and aquaponics methods, stating that it should not be considered eligible for organic certification. Organic production depends upon the “Law of Return,” which together with the rule “Feed the soil, not the plant,” and the promotion of biodiversity, provide the ecological basis for organic systems. These hydroponic […]

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Got Antibiotics Straight from Your “100% Pure” Orange Juice? EPA Allows Them in Florida Citrus, Contributing to Bacterial Resistance Crisis

Monday, March 20th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, March 20, 2017) Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is allowing residues of antibiotics in Florida orange juice, after approving an emergency exemption for the antibiotics streptomycin and oxytetracycline –allowing their use for a bacterial disease, citrus greening (Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) bacterium that causes Huanglongbing), in Florida citrus crops through December of 2019, and further exacerbating bacterial resistance. The World Health Organization has called bacterial resistance “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.” The agency announced March 15, “EPA is issuing these tolerances without notice and opportunity for public comment as provided in FFDCA section 408(l)(6).” EPA states “time-limited tolerances are established for residues of streptomycin in or on fruit, citrus, group 10-10, at 2 ppm, and the dried pulp of these commodities at 6 ppm.” For oxytetracycline, EPA is allowing residues ” in or on all commodities of fruit, citrus, group 10-10, at 0.4 ppm.” [See below; organic standards do not allow antibiotic use.] In its review, EPA has determined that the toxicological endpoints of dietary exposure under the allowed tolerances meet the safety standard of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, but does not consider the public health impact of bacterial resistance to […]

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Protect Organic Integrity; Comments Due March 30!

Friday, March 17th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2017) Make your voice heard and submit comments NOW on allowed materials in organic production! The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting dates for spring 2017 have been announced and public comments are due by March 30, 2017. As usual, there are many important issues that are under NOSB consideration, which you can view by clicking here. Your comments and participation are critical to the integrity of the organic label. The NOSB is not immune to delays experienced by agencies throughout the federal government. NOSB proposals were scheduled to be made available to the public on March 1, allowing 30 days for the public to formulate responses before the comment period closes. As of this writing, the proposals have still not been published, but much can be inferred from Subcommittee notes, petition materials, and past experience. Many of the issues before the NOSB are materials due to sunset off the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List) in 2017. Some others are perennial issues of special concern for us –such as “inerts” (undisclosed ingredients) and chlorine-based sanitizers. So, we have written what we can, and we encourage you to make use of our efforts […]

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Organic Agriculture Offers Clear Human Health Benefits, According to European Report

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, March 9, 2017) A recent European Parliament (EP) report concludes that organic agriculture and food offer clear human health benefits over chemical-intensive agriculture. The report, Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture, which was written by scientists from universities across Europe, used existing scientific literature to assess the human health effects from organic agricultural systems. The authors determined that organic agriculture has considerable benefits, including reduction in antibiotic resistance, lowered levels of cadmium in organic crops, and decreased dietary pesticide exposure levels. According to the EP report, “Overall, consumption of organic food substantially decreases the consumer’s dietary pesticide exposure, as well as acute and chronic risks from such exposure.” Organic farming is a systems approach that values healthy, biologically active soils to support plant life and provide critical environmental benefits, such as improved water infiltration, pest suppression, and carbon storage. It is through this preventive, systems approach that organic agriculture eliminates the necessity for pesticides, and instead relies upon soil health to prevent the problems that chemical-intensive agriculture cannot. This report adds to the growing body of evidence on impaired learning and lowered IQs in children prenatally exposed to low levels of certain pesticides, such as organophosphates. The […]

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U.S. Agriculture Still Using Antibiotics that Cause Bacterial Resistance to Life-Saving Medicines, Problem Eliminated in Organic Production

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

(Beyond Pesticides, March 3, 2017) A new report identifies antibiotic use in conventional plant and animal agriculture as contributing to bacterial resistance to critical life-saving human medicines and the importance of organic agriculture in eliminating antibiotic use. The report, Agricultural Uses of Antibiotics Escalate Bacterial Resistance, published in the latest issue of Pesticides and You, finds that while antibiotic use in animal agriculture is widely acknowledged as harmful, the use of antibiotics in chemical-intensive crop production also pose unnecessary and significant risks. The World Health Organization in 2016 identified bacterial resistance to antibiotics as “one of the biggest threats to global health.” The report notes that the herbicide glyphosate, one of the most widely used pesticides in the U.S., is patented by its manufacturer, Monsanto, for its antibacterial properties. As a result, glyphosate leads as the most   widely used antibiotic in agriculture and around homes, gardens, schools, and communities in the U.S. Other antibiotics used widely in apple and pear production are oxytetracycline and streptomycin, which is also used in the production of peaches, beans, celery, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. These uses at environmentally relevant levels increase bacterial resistance to important antibiotics in medicine. “Resistant bacteria move from farms […]

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Choose Organic this Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

(Beyond Pesticides, November 23, 2016)  With Thanksgiving just a day away, there is no better time to think about how we can more effectively join together as families and communities across divisions and different points of view to find a common purpose in protecting human health and the environment. Thanksgiving meals are commonly made with conventional agricultural products, which include a plethora of pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) ingredients that can affect  the health of consumers and agricultural workers alike. Read below to find out how you can combat the shortcomings of conventional agriculture with an organic Thanksgiving Day feast. Now, more than ever, it’s important to support organic and continue to demand agricultural practices that are protective of human and environmental health. According to GMO Inside, some common foods with GE ingredients purchased during Thanksgiving include: Campbell’s Tomato Soup, Wesson Canola Oil, Bruce’s Canned Yams, Hershey Milk Chocolate, Pepperidge Farm Crackers, Kraft Classic Ranch Dressing, Rice-a-Roni chicken flavored rice, Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce, and Kraft’s Stove Top Stuffing. Glyphosate, produced and sold as Roundup by Monsanto, is the most commonly used chemical in the U.S., primarily as a weedkiller in chemical-intensive agriculture. Glyphosate has been  found to cause changes […]

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United Nations Addresses the Alarming Rise of Antibiotic Resistance

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

(Beyond Pesticides, September 22, 2016) Yesterday, the United Nations (UN) gathered to address the alarming rise of antibiotic resistance at a day-long meeting in New York. The UN General Assembly, made up of delegates from 193 countries, has only convened health-related meetings on three other issues: Ebola, HIV, and noncommunicable diseases. According to the World Health Organization, which collaborates with the UN on health-related priorities, “Antimicrobial resistance has become one of the biggest threats to global health, such as human development.” At this high-profile meeting, Heads of State and Heads of Delegations addressed the urgency of the situation and discussed multisectoral approaches to addressing antimicrobial resistance. This UN meeting elevated the discussion to a historic level and led to the approval of a declaration, but did not result in legally binding actions and failed to include language to eliminate excessive antibiotic use in animal agriculture. In an interview with Vox, Kevin Outterson, Professor of Law at Boston University, stated that “it has taken 15 years to get [antimicrobial resistance] back on the global agenda” since the UN last tried to take action in September 2001. Experts are warning that we may be entering or have already entered a post-antibiotic era […]

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FDA Deliberating Release of GE Mosquitoes in Florida Keys

Friday, May 27th, 2016

(Beyond Pesticides, May 27, 2016) Oxitec, a self-described pioneer in using advanced genetics to control target  insects, has petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to grant emergency approval of genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes to fight the spread of the Zika virus. Oxitec has proposed a trial to determine the efficacy of their self-limiting mosquitoes for the control of Aedes aegypti, a type of mosquito known to transmit the Zika virus, in Key Haven, Monroe County, Florida. However, some in the environmental community are concerned about the possible non-target effects of releasing these genetically modified mosquitoes into nature and urge additional research in the lab. The plan for a release of these GE mosquitoes has been in the works for a while. In February 2015, it was reported that the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) was working alongside Oxitec to release these GE mosquitoes, but, at the time, the plan had not yet been finalized. A change.org petition against the release garnered over 146,000 signatures and continues to grow, with numbers around 168,000 to this date. In February 2016, Oxitec submitted a draft environmental assessment to FDA, and a month later, FDA published a preliminary finding of no […]

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Home Depot Announces Phase Out of Bee-Toxic Pesticides

Friday, December 4th, 2015

(Beyond Pesticides, December 4, 2015) Home Depot, the world’s largest home-improvement chain, has announced that it will no longer use  neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides (which have emerged as the leading class of pesticides responsible for bee declines) in  80 percent of its flowering plants, and that it will complete its phase-out in plants by 2018. This follows the announcement made by Lowe’s earlier this year to phase out the sale of products containing neonicotinoid pesticides within 48 months. On its Eco Options gardening page, Home Depot says the following: “Our live goods suppliers have reduced the number of plants that they treat with neonicotinoids, so that now over 80% of our flowering plants are not treated HomeDepotWinBPwith neonicotinoids. We will continue this decrease unless,  1) it is required by state or federal regulation, or  2) undisputed science proves that the use of neonicotinoids on our live goods does not have a lethal or sub lethal effect on pollinators. Otherwise we will have a complete phase-out of neonicotinoid use on our live goods by the end of 2018.” “It’s important that retailers begin to make the switch toward safer products for bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects,” said Jay Feldman, executive director […]

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Skip the Toxic Turkey This Thanksgiving Season!

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

(Beyond Pesticides, November 19, 2015) Thanksgiving offers an opportunity for family and friends to eat, drink and be thankful for the bounty of the organic harvest. Unfortunately, conventional Thanksgiving meals are more common, which include a host of pesticides, genetically engineered foods, and can affect  the health of consumers and agricultural workers alike. Read below to find out why now, more than ever, it’s important to go organic, and how you can combat the shortcomings of conventional agriculture with an organic Thanksgiving Day feast. Now, more than ever, it’s important to go organic. The most widely used weedkiller, glyphosate, has been classified as a probable carcinogen to humans, based on laboratory animal studies. Glyphosate, produced and sold as Roundup by Monsanto, is touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by EPA and industry and is widely used in food production and on lawns, gardens, parks, and children’s playing fields. However, IARC’s recent classification of glyphosate as a Group 2A “probable” carcinogen finds that glyphosate is anything but safe. According to IARC, Group 2A means that the chemical is probably carcinogenic to humans based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. The agency also notes that […]

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Cornell University Releases GE Moths without Thorough Evaluation of Risks

Friday, June 12th, 2015

(Beyond Pesticides, June 12, 2015) Without input from or notification to the public, Cornell University  has released genetically engineered (GE) diamondback moths at its  agricultural experiment station in Geneva, New York. The university is testing a new way to  control agricultural  pests, much to the dismay of environmentalists. The moths, which are engineered to be autocidal (self-killing), pose a possible threat to the certification of organic farmers and create environmental risks. Environmental groups such as Food and Water Watch, Center for Food Safety, and Friends of the Earth, among others, sent a letter expressing concern over the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s assessment process, which neglected to address  the possibility of moth movement past the trial area, and the impacts that diamondback moth declines will have on their natural predators and the larger ecosystem. These groups are recommending that  all outdoor trials be stopped until more information is available. Cornell has partnered with Oxitec, a self-described  pioneer in using advanced genetics to control target  insects. They plan on controlling the population growth of these GE moths through their genetic design that kills the moth  in the larval stage on plants. Normally, these larvae feed on crops such as broccoli and […]

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Common Herbicides Linked to Antibiotic Resistance

Monday, March 30th, 2015

(Beyond Pesticides, March 30, 2015) Last week, following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration that glyphosate is carcinogenic to humans  based on animal studies, a new study was published in the American Society of Microbiology’s journal, mBio, linking glyphosate, 2,4-D and dicamba to antibiotic resistance after testing the sub-lethal effects of these pesticides in certain bacteria. The new mBio study finds  that when bacteria, specifically Salmonella and E. coli, are exposed to the herbicides described above, they responded differently to the common antibiotics ampicillin, ciprofloxacin, chloramphenicol, kanamycin, and tetracycline. Researchers replicated real-world scenarios by purchasing weed killers from a local store and using the exact levels that are specified on the product label. This provided researchers with the opportunity to observe how the bacteria reacted when exposed to the herbicides at sublethal levels; that is, those that did n0t kill them. When the bacteria are exposed to the herbicides and the antibiotics at the same time, the exposure to the herbicides trigger a defense mechanism that otherwise would not have been triggered solely by the antibiotics. This defense mechanism seeks to rid the bacteria of toxins and is non-specific, which means while it builds resistance to the toxic effects of […]

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Changes to Canadian Aquaculture Rule Raises Pesticide Concerns

Friday, February 20th, 2015

(Beyond Pesticides, February 20, 2015) A broad-based coalition is urging Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper to put a stop to proposed changes to federal aquaculture regulations, citing damage to the environment and existing businesses. The proposed amendments to the federal Fisheries Act would exempt the aquaculture industry from provisions that “prohibit the release of deleterious substances into water frequented by fish.” Coalition members are worried that the changes will result in pesticides routinely being dumped into the Bay of Fundy,  located between the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and remove Environment Canada’s role in aquaculture activities, said spokeswoman Maria Recchia, the executive director of the Fundy North Fishermen’s Association. Aquaculture, which refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of aquatic organisms such as fish, shellfish, and plants, provides half of the world’s seafood. According to  Food and Water Watch, offshore aquaculture follows an industrial agriculture model which grows thousands of animals in a confined environment. For fish, however, this confined space is in the ocean, meaning all of the waste products from the operation flow directly into the ocean. This includes excess feed and chemicals that are used, such as antibiotics and pesticides, to treat or prevent […]

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Florida Officials, FDA, Consider Release of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

(Beyond Pesticides, February 3, 2015) Officials in the Florida Keys are seeking approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to release a wave of mosquitoes that have been genetically engineered to produce offspring whose larvae are unable to survive. The plan to introduce these mosquitoes has been met with intense skepticism by local residents. A change.org petition against the release has garnered over 146,000 signatures to date. Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) officials have been planning the release alongside British biotechnology company Oxitec, which has already conducted similar experiments with the genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes in Brazil and the Cayman Islands. Websites for Oxitec and the FKMCD assert that the GE aedes aegypti mosquitoes will significantly lower the numbers of the disease spreading insects, and reduce the need to spray insecticides. Opponents counter that the introduction of the modified mosquitoes is unacceptably risky, as there has been little research on possible non-target effects of the novel insect, and current control methods and public education have been successful at controlling exotic diseases. Opportunity for public comment to FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is likely to occur in the near future. Behind the Technology […]

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Iowa Farmers Group Asks for Improved Pesticide Drift Protections

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

(Beyond Pesticides, January 22, 2015) The Iowa Farmers Union filed  a petition yesterday with  the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) for rulemaking to improve pesticide drift incident responses, penalties, and support to farmers harmed by pesticide drift. “Pesticide  drift from nearby fields is a very real problem for farmers in Iowa,” says Jordan Scheibel, a diversified vegetable farmer from Grinnell, Iowa. “Not only can pesticide drift delay or cause a farm to lose its organic certification, it results in products that farmers – certified organic or not – may not be able to sell legally, safely, or in good conscience, and it exposes the farmers and their workers to potentially harmful pesticides.” Pesticide drift is an inevitable problem in chemical-intensive pest management strategies that rely on spray and dust pesticide formulations.There are essentially two types of drift: particle drift (off-target movement during application) and vapor drift (off-target movement when a pesticide evaporates from a sprayed surface), also known as volatilization. Both forms of drift present serious problems to unaware farmers and surrounding communities. IDAL, which oversees pesticide application in the state, collects information about the location of farmers with sensitive crops, such as grapes, certain vegetables, organic […]

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Aerial Photos Show “Factory Farms” Certified Organic in Violation of Law

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

(Beyond Pesticides, December 22, 2014) Stunning aerial photographs of certified  organic farms taken in an investigation launched by The Cornucopia Institute reveal industrial-scale operations housing thousands of animals in cramped conditions with no access to the outdoors. Access to pasture for ruminants like dairy cows is required under National Organic Program (NOP) regulations, and all livestock certified organic must have a means of reaching the outdoors year-round. “The vast majority of these massive, industrial-scale facilities, some managing 10,000-20,000 head of cattle, and upwards of 1 million laying hens, had 100% of their animals confined in giant buildings or feedlots,” said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute, which has filed a legal complaint against 14 livestock operations it alleges are illegally marketing themselves as organic. It is important to note that not all organic farms house their animals in conditions seen in the aerial photographs. “Many of our dairy farmer-members have animals, they truly care for, that have names, not numbers,” Kastel explained. However, environmental and consumer groups have been sounding an alarm over the increased dependency many larger industry-owned farms have developed  on synthetic inputs temporarily allowed in organic production. These practices undermine the values […]

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Organic Certification System Experiences Growing Pains

Friday, December 12th, 2014

(Beyond Pesticides, December 12, 2014) Bursting at the seams, the $35 billion organic food industry has tripled in size over the past decade, severely outpacing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ability to monitor the more than 25,000 farms and other organizations that sell organic crops and livestock. As a result, certifying agents, or USDA-accredited entities that inspect and certify organic farms and suppliers, have increasingly fallen out of compliance, according to a piece in the Wall Street Journal. Advocates point out that while improvements should be made  in the organic certification system, there is no equivalent inspection system in chemical-intensive agriculture, where inspections are mostly complaint-driven, infrequent, and conducted in most states by state departments of agriculture, which typically promote pesticides and have suffered declines in resources and inspectors. There are currently 81 accredited certifying agents, which include small nonprofit groups, state-run agencies, and large multinationals. However, according to an internal USDA report, of the 37 that had a complete review this year, 23 were cited for failing to correctly enforce certification requirements on farms in audits. These 23 firms did not manage to properly conduct onsite inspections or correctly review applications for organic certifications, among other things, the […]

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Nursery Stops Use of Neonic after Home Depot Adopts Labeling Requirement

Monday, December 8th, 2014

(Beyond Pesticides, December 8, 2014) In response to Home Depot’s decision to start requiring all nursery plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids to carry a label to inform customers, at least one nursery supplier has decided to change its management practices. J.Berry Nurseries, a company based out of Grand Saline, Texas, which supplies plants to over 1,000 Home Depot stores throughout Texas, surrounding states and the Midwest, says that since the issue has become publicly recognized for its impacts on bees and other pollinators, it will stop using neonics and start to look at alternative practices. This news provides testament to the power of consumer demand, and along with Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinator-Friendly Seeds and Nursery Directory, should encourage other growers to ditch the neonics in favor of better management practices. “We view it as the labeling of a plant with that tag is potentially creating customers’ perception that that plant should not be purchased,” Jim Berry, the president of J. Berry Nurseries, told Nursery Management Magazine. “Whether it’s a valid assumption or not, perception is reality. So you have to go with that. We certainly want consumers to be attracted to our plants instead of repelled by them.” The […]

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