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EU Regulators Bow to Pressure from American Trade Lobby on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

(Beyond Pesticides, May 28, 2015) The same day that trade representatives from United States met with Secretary-General Catherine Day of the European Commission (EC), she sent a letter to the EC’s Environment Director-General Karl Falkenberg telling him to scrap draft criteria that could have led to a ban on over 30 endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemical (EDCs) in the European Union (EU). As reported by The Guardian, with resources obtained by Pesticide Action Network- Europe (PAN-Europe), the U.S. Chambers of Commerce and European-based chemical manufacturers (including Dupont, Bayer, and BASF) pushed to change the EC’s criteria for evaluating EDCs because they fear it would impede EU-US negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

TTIP2Two regulations, one concerning “plant pest protectants” (EU 1107), and another on biocidal products (EU 528), should prohibit from use chemicals categorized as having endocrine disrupting properties that may cause adverse effects in humans. However, last year, when the EC released a roadmap for evaluating EDCs, recommendations fell far short of what health advocates assert that EU regulations require. Earlier this year, the Guardian reported that a scientific paper that would have adequately established ways to identify problematic EDCs was suppressed by EU officials at the behest of the chemical industry.

“We were ready to go with the criteria and a strategy proposal as well but we were told to forget about it by the secretary general’s office,” a commission source told The Guardian. “Effectively, the criteria were suppressed. We allowed the biocides and pesticides legislation to roll over.”

The options outlined in the weaker criteria are based upon a traditional risk assessment approach that would fail to take into account the health effects of lose-dose exposure to EDCs. Traditional risk assessments do not adequately address these impacts because they are based on an assumption that “the dose makes the poison,” and higher doses result in a greater effect. In a 2012 study on the low dose effects of EDCs published in Endocrine Reviews, scientists issue a stark warning on this under reported problem.

“We illustrate that nonmonotonic responses and low-dose effects are remarkably common in studies of natural hormones and EDCs. Whether low doses of EDCs influence certain human disorders is no longer conjecture, because epidemiological studies show that environmental exposures to EDCs are associated with human diseases and disabilities. We conclude that when nonmonotonic dose-response curves occur, the effects of low doses cannot be predicted by the effects observed at high doses. Thus, fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination are needed to protect human health.”

An international team of scientists tasked by the EC to study the impact of EDCs on health care costs published research finding that these chemicals result in over €150 billion ($162 billion) in health care costs in the EU each year. Pesticides were found to be the most costly of the EDCs analyzed, accounting for €120 billion ($130 billion) of the estimated total in healthcare expenditures each year. This total is approximately 1.23% of the EU’s GDP. Nearly 100 percent of people have detectable amounts of EDCs in their bodies, according to the introductory guide to EDCs published by the Endocrine Society and IPEN. As a recent article in Ars Technica notes, an “ambitious” assessment of TTIP’s economic benefits is approximately £100 billion (€ 140 billion/$153 billion) in 2027, meaning that Europe would save more money enacting its EDC regulations than it gains from TTIP.

The nefarious connection of these actions to trade with the US is certain to further intensify public distrust of TTIP trade negotiations both in Europe and America. In 2014, Beyond Pesticides joined with a broad array of health, environmental, labor, consumer and other organizations to express strong opposition to TTIP. Efforts in the U.S. have focused on blocking legislation which would grant “fast-track authority” to the President for six years, which would allow trade deals like TTIP to be completed without Congressional oversight.

Despite attempts from a number of U.S. Senators, including Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), fast-track legislation has passed the Senate and is on its way to the U.S. House of Representatives. In an opinion article to the Washington Post, Senator Warren wrote on a clause within TTIP regarding “investor-state dispute settlements,” which would allow multinational corporations to challenge US laws it views as unfavorable by leapfroging the court system, and pleading its case in front of an international panel of arbitrators. “If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages,” Senator Warren wrote. “If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next.”

Thus, in addition to lowering the entire EU’s criteria regarding toxic pesticides, TTIP has the potential to undermine local ordinances that restrict bee-toxic neonicotinoids and cosmetic pesticide use. Concerned residents must work as hard against fast-track as multinational corporations are working to make it happen. Take Action: Tell your Representative to oppose fast-track today!

For more information on EDCs, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database on Endocrine Disruption.

Sources: The Guardian, Pesticide Action Network Europe

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




Local Hardware Stores Continue to Out-Pace National Retailers in Providing Neonicotinoid Alternatives

(Beyond Pesticides, May 27, 2015) As summer approaches, local stores continue to set the pace for protecting pollinator populations from the harms of neonicotinoid pesticide use. In southern Maine, Kittery Ace Hardware joins Eldredge Lumber and Hardware in its efforts to actively seek alternatives to pesticides that contain neonicotinoids and other toxic pesticides by consciously stocking their shelves with organic compatible products as opposed to lawn and garden products that contain toxic chemicals. This shift by local stores like Eldredge and Kittery highlights the role retailers can play in responding to community concerns over dangerous pesticide use, and indicates their desire to be part of the solution when it comes to protecting pollinators. Local stores’ increasing attention to local concerns over a common problem is juxtaposed with big box hardware stores’ response to neonicotinoid concerns that respond to public pressure with vague language, drawn out or nonexistent timelines, and failure to take a stance on overwhelming scientific evidence that neonicotinoids cause harm to pollinator populations. As more national retailers respond to public pressure to ban neonicotinoid-containing products, it becomes clear that local, small-scale efforts to stock shelves with alternative products offer a better and more concrete approach to stopping neonicotinoid use.EldredgeMaine

Neonicotinoid use is concerning because it affects the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and eventual death. These pesticides have consistently been implicated as a key issue in pollinator declines, not only through immediate bee deaths, but also through sublethal exposure that causes changes in bee reproduction, navigation, and foraging. The science has become increasingly clear that pesticides, either working individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of honey bees.  Pesticide exposure can impair both detoxification mechanisms and immune responses, rendering bees more susceptible to viruses, parasites, and other diseases, and leading to devastating bee losses.

In response to public pressure raised about these concerns, Ace Hardware Corporation recently joined Lowe’s in its commitment to phase out neonicotinoids. However, Ace’s plan fails to set a concrete timeline, stating that it will replace neonicotinoid-containing products “as new and appropriate replacement products are made available by suppliers.” In contrast, Lowe’s set a 48-month timeline for phasing out neonicotinoid products, and Eldredge was able to bring in alternative products immediately, indicating that they are readily available on the marketplace. However, Ace does claim to have been monitoring issues related to bee health for some time now, citing the varied viewpoints related to stressors on honey bees as the driving force in its decision to move away from carrying products that contain neonicotinoids. Contrast this against yet another hardware retailer, Home Depot, which has yet to make a decision as to whether to continue to carry neonicotinoid-containing products due to varying opinions about their role in harming pollinator populations.

In 2014, Friends of the Earth, Beyond Pesticides and other allies released a report that found over half of garden plant samples purchased at major retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot contained neonicotinoid pesticides, which when applied makes the entire plant poisonous to bees and other wild pollinators. After a year and a half long campaign asking for direct action to be taken, Lowe’s announced it was phasing out the sale of all products that contain neonicotinoid pesticides within 48 months. Ace is not following suit, although an absence of details regarding its plan leaves the door open for scrutiny and raises questions as to whether chain officials are genuinely trying to provide consumers with viable alternatives, or just reap the benefits of public praise for their surface level commitment to addressing the issue. Some action is better than no action, however, and compared to Home Depot, which has failed to even feign commitment to eliminating neonicotinoid products, the actions of Lowe’s and Ace are at least a step in the right direction.  Home Depot has not announced any intentions to phase out the use of neonicotinoids on their plants, although they have started requiring suppliers to label plants treated with neonicotinoids so that customers that are concerned about the effects of their use can make informed decisions.

In contrast to the slow movement to eliminate neonicotinoids in the market place, individual municipalities, encouraged by local interests, have seen success in taking meaningful action against the use of neonicotinoids. The City of Portland, Oregon recently voted unanimously to ban the use of neonicotinoid insecticides on city-owned property because these pesticides are persistent in the environment, harmful to pollinators, and have been involved in acute bee kills in other areas of the state. Similar actions have been seen in Eugene, Oregon, Skagway (Alaska), Shorewood, Minnesota, Boulder, Colorado and, in Washington State, Thurston County, Seattle, and Spokane.

These local actions show the power of communities to protect and conserve their natural resources from the dangers of products containing neonicotinoids. Efforts by local businesses, like Elderdge Lumber and Hardware, to stock alternatives and educate consumers on their use is a wonderful example of creating change through grassroots efforts and a bottom-up approach, and offers an alternative to waiting for big box hardware stores to carry neonicotinoid-free products. If you are a consumer looking for more information on how to manage pests without using harmful neonicotinoids, check out these Beyond Pesticides resources.

Source: Businesswire and Portland Press Herald

Photo: (left to right) Landscape Department Manager John Bochert and Scott Eldredge of Eldredge Lumber and Hardware, York, Maine.

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



Study Shows Neonicotinoid Pesticide Has Devastating Effect on Termites Due to Eusocial Behavior, Similar to Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, May 26, 2015) A study led by Purdue University Entomology Professor Michael Scharf, Ph.D. finds that small doses of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid pesticide, can halt the normal functioning of termite behavior, leaving colonies vulnerable to disease and eventual death. While this effect may be celebrated by the pesticide industry as a victory for termite control, it has serious implications for the use of imidacloprid and other neonicotinoid pesticides on all eusocial insects, such as ants and bees.

Eusocial insects thrive as a colony, working, living and sometimes even fighting diseases as one organism, rather than as many individuals existing together. Termites, specifically, exhibit a remarkable resistance to many diseases because termitesthey engage in social grooming, clearing pathogens off of one another. Other examples of eusociality can be found in ant and bee colonies. Ant colonies create foraging trails and engage in cooperative transport, where they create long chains of ant individuals to form a whole assembly line to transport food back to the colony and work as one to carry large prey that would not be otherwise attainable. Honeybee colonies send out foragers to report back with the location of plentiful food sources so that other bees know where to go and don’t waste time searching. Although we may often think of ants and termites as pests within structures, they also play important ecological roles. Termites are important decomposers. Ants perform many ecosystem functions –they are predators on many herbivores and their construction of nests and tunnels has impacts on chemical, physical, and biological properties of the soil. E.O. Wilson estimates that the biomass of ants on the earth is roughly the same as the biomass of humans. If low levels of neonicotinoids affect the eusocial behavior of these essential insects, there is a potential for serious ecosystem disruption.

The study, Molecular Signatures of Nicotinoid-Pathogen Synergy in the Termite Gut, found that small doses of imidacloprid in combination with the introduction of a previously manageable fungal disease wiped out the termite colony. When imidacloprid was introduced, termite social grooming slowed to a halt, leading to more pathogens left on the termite body. Termites have a symbiotic relationship with microbes in their gut, which normally help destroy any pathogenic threats. In addition to impairing grooming behavior, imidacloprid destroyed these microbial gut organisms, leaving the termites exposed to a fungal disease that normally would pose little threat.

A similar result was found in ants when exposed to low doses of imidacloprid. A 2012 study found that the grooming behavior of ants exposed to low doses of imidacloprid slowed, leaving them more vulnerable to disease and infection. For other eusocial insects like bumble bees, researchers have found that sublethal exposure to imidacloprid leads to mitochondrial dysfunction, which then negatively impacts navigation and foraging skills. Exposed bees will have greater difficulty, for instance, in recognizing the smell of a flower, or how to find their way back to their colony, which in turn can affect the colony as a whole. The United States Department of Agriculture completed a study on bees that found exposure to certain types of pesticides led to a higher occurrence of parasitic infection. While the study was not explicitly on neonicotinoids, it still demonstrates that pesticides create a vulnerability in insects that leave them open to destruction from a variety of other factors.

These studies add merit to the growing body of work that implicates neonicotinoid pesticides as the cause of bee declines. It has already been indicated that exposure to neonicotinoids can leave honey bees and other important non-target species vulnerable to viruses and predators, such as the Varroa mite. The pesticide industry likes to point to studies that conclude these viruses and predators are the only factors causing bee declines, but the refuting point that can be extracted from the study described above is that low-dose exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides is the tipping point, the first domino in a long line of implicated causes. Neonicotinoids such as imidacloprid break down normal functioning of eusocial insects, only then leaving them dangerously vulnerable to viruses and predators.

These findings showcase the inadequacies of pesticide testing, registration and regulatory standards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA’s methods fall short by failing to study the interactions between different pesticides, the combination of pesticides and pathogens, and the detrimental impacts caused by these interactions. EPA employs a risk-assessment approach for approving pesticides that characterizes the magnitude of health risks to humans and wildlife from chemical contaminants in the environment based on exposure probabilities. EPA would better protect the environment by employing a precautionary approach, including more rigorous and complex testing of chemical interactions before approving a pesticide. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments, an approach that differs most dramatically from a risk assessment-based policy by rejecting uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations given that there are safer alternatives.

It is important to explore the implications that this “victory” for termite control has on other non-target species. The pesticide industry will tout this study as a breakthrough in pest control, but it is essential to note that the same mechanisms that break down termite functioning affects beneficial insect species, breaking down their own necessary functioning. There are mechanical and least-toxic methods that are available to manage pests, like termites. See Beyond Pesticides ManageSafe webpage, which is dedicated to pest management practices that are protective of non-target species. Utilizing these least-toxic methods managing pests in homes and gardens ensures your home will be free of pests, while also protecting you, your family and other species from the damaging effects of pesticides.

Source: Purdue Agriculture News

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



Now Available: Forum Videos to Inspire a Just and Healthy Future

(Beyond Pesticides, May 22, 2014) Beyond Pesticides is pleased to announce that videos from Agricultural Justice, Age of Organics, and Alligators: Protecting Health, biodiversity, and ecosystems, the 33rd National Pesticide Forum are now available! The videos cover the range of topics that were discussed at the Forum and include keynote speeches, panel discussions, and workshops. The themes central to this year’s conference were creating a fair and organic food system, and utilizing the science to create sound policy protective of human health and the environment. While there is no substitution for the actual energy that comes from bringing scientists, practitioners and activists together in the same room, we publish these videos with the goal of sharing the incredible knowledge of the experts with the broader public to help inspire and inform community action. Program Image

Watch the videos here. You can access the playlist, which includes all of the available videos of the 2015 forum, as well as previous years, on Beyond Pesticides’ YouTube page.

Notable presentations include:

Sentinel Wildlife Species: What are they telling us about our health, by Louis Guillette, Ph.D. Dr. Guillette is a pioneer research scientist on endocrine disruption and reproductive health effects, who has studied the decline of Lake Apopka’s alligator population, where farmworkers were also exposed to agricultural pesticides. He is currently the Director of the Marine Biomedicine & Environmental Sciences Center and a Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). He is also Professor at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the SmartState Endowed Chair in Marine Genomics, at the SC Center of Economic Excellence. His current work examines the effect of environmental pollutants on the genetic-endocrine signaling associated with the development and functioning of the genitalia and gonads of various vertebrate species. His talk specifically describes how his work on endocrine disruption and reproductive health effects on alligators can teach us about health effects in the human population.

Learning from an Environmental Tragedy, by Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D. A trailblazing research biologist whose research finds that the herbicide atrazine feminizes male frogs, Dr. Hayes’ work has shown that current regulatory reviews allow widespread use of pesticides that cause serious adverse effects well below legal standards. He is the professor of Integrated Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. 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.” One of the driving points of Dr. Hayes’ keynote address is the need for independent research, and the importance of combining science with activism.

Organic Citrus Production in Florida, by Benny McLean II, production manager at Uncle Matt’s Organic Farm, in Clermont, FL. Mr. McLean has been working in the Florida citrus industry since the 1950’s when he was put on his dad’s hand crew at the young age of ten, and he is currently responsible for implementing Uncle Matt’s organic farm plan which includes all aspects of grove care and growing citrus. With his vast knowledge over his long career in the Florida citrus industry, Benny’s talk describes the challenges and benefits of organic farming, particularly in the face of one of the most devastating diseases of our time, citrus greening.

Agricultural Justice Initiatives Panel, featuring three domestic fair food standards organizations that are working to address and challenge the current food system: Agricultural Justice Project, Equitable Food Initiative, and the Fair Food Standards Council. Speakers on the panel include: Tirso Moreno, general coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida, Apopka, FL; Leah Cohen, program coordinator, Agricultural Justice Project, Gainesville, FL; Sean Sellers, senior investigator/monitor, Fair Food Standards Council, Sarasota, FL; Margaret Reeves, PhD, senior scientist/program coordinator, Pesticide Action Network North America, Oakland, CA; with Nelson Carrasquillo, Beyond Pesticides board member, and executive director of CATA-The Farmworkers’ Support Committee as the moderator.

Also included are several other presentations and workshops, including, State of the Science and Law, plus an in-depth discussion on Pesticides and Farmworker Health, Organic Management Approaches and Cutting-Edge Alternatives, Pollinator Protection, and more. 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 in person to get together, share information, and elevate the pesticide reform movement; however these videos provide valuable information for those unable to attend. Beyond Pesticides believes that sharing this information beyond the Forum as an educational and organizing tool will prove extremely valuable, and encourages folks to share presentations with friends, community organizations, networks, and state and local decision makers.

Beyond Pesticides thanks everyone who helped make the 33rd National Pesticide Forum a success! The Forum, held April 17-18 at the Florida A&M University College of Law, was convened by Beyond Pesticides, the Farmworker Association of Florida, Florida Organic Growers and Consumers, and the Florida A&M University Small Farms Program, and co-sponsored by a diverse range of local groups. For more details about the conference, download the program here, or see www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

The playlist, which includes all of the available videos of the 2015 Forum, as well as previous conferences are available on Beyond Pesticides’ YouTube page.

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




California Department of Pesticide Regulation Report Raises Concerns Over Increased Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, May 21, 2015) The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) published its Annual Pesticide Use Report last week, which finds that overall pesticide use for agricultural purposes has increased by 3.7 percent between 2012 and 2013. Pesticide use increased by 6.4 million pounds in 2013, the most recent data available, making for a grand total of 178 million pounds of pesticides used annually in California’s agricultural industry. The study also revealed several insights on trends in pesticide use, the most troubling of which is the increased use of organophosphates, and more specifically, the insecticide chlorpyrifos. This raises concerns that, absent aggressive efforts by CDPR to ban chlorpyrifos’ use in food production, industry reliance on the pesticide may continue to increase.

dpr logoChlorpyrifos was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for nearly all residential uses in 2000, but since then has remained widely available for agricultural use. Efforts to limit the agricultural use of chlorpyrifos in the state of California have been in the works since the fall of 2014, and a regulation Designating Chlorpyrifos as a Restricted Material was recently adopted by California’s DPR.  The new regulation classifies as ‘restrictive use’ all pesticide products containing the organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos “when labeled for the production of an agricultural commodity.”  With the submission of the regulation on May 6, 2015 (effective as of July 1, 2015), now only trained and licensed professionals who file a notice of intent to apply, and have a permit from a local county agricultural commissioner (CAC) will be able to use products containing chlorpyrifos, adding an additional regulatory step not required in the federal regulatory scheme under EPA.

This new regulation will not necessarily reduce the chemical’s use, and, as a result, falls far short of a more stringent and desirable program that would ban the use of chlorpyrifos altogether. Absent such a ban, there is no indication that the use of chlorpyrifos in agriculture will decrease, as the numbers released from CDPR’s recent study show an upward trend in the volume of chlorpyrifos being used. This failure on the part of California, which has long been known for having the most comprehensive and protective regulatory program in the nation, to ban the use of chlorpyrifos is a missed opportunity to fully protect workers from toxic exposure on the farm, consumers from residues on the food, and the environment and wildlife from contamination.

Along with the state of California, EPA has also failed to take meaningful action on protecting citizens from chlorpyrifos. In January, the agency finally released a revised human health assessment for chlorpyrifos that found risks to workers who mix, load and apply chlorpyrifos, and that the chemical has the potential to pose risks to drinking water in small watersheds. The assessment, which was partly a response to a petition submitted by several environmental organizations in 2007, also noted that EPA will retain the 10X (10-fold) safety factor to protect children from all routes of exposures. This 10X “safety” factor refers to the margin of error for uncertain factors in risk determinations used by the EPA, a method that has consistently been criticized by Beyond Pesticides. The 10X factor is intended to protect children and infants from exposure and toxicity from pesticides, but has proven to be easily manipulated by the agency and fails to keep harmful pesticide use in check.

Beyond Pesticides submitted comments to the EPA encouraging the agency to ban the use of chlorpyrifos completely. The comments cited serious toxicological issues associated with the pesticide’s use and exposures in support of its position that use of chlorpyrifos poses “unreasonable adverse effects on the environment” under Section 3(c)(5)(C) of Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Despite these comments and the findings of the revised human health assessment, EPA only proposed to place additional restrictions on chlorpyrifos’ use, falling short of an opportunity to protect human health by implementing a widespread ban.

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide that is known to be neurotoxic. It is a cholinesterase inhibitor, which means that it can bind irreversibly to acetylcholine esterase (AchE), an essential enzyme for normal nerve impulse transmission in the brain, inactivating the enzyme. Studies have documented that exposure to even low levels of organophosphates like chlorpyrifos during pregnancy can impair learning, change brain function and alter thyroid levels of offspring into adulthood. The evidence of the neurotoxic dangers associated with chlorpyrifos’ exposure is extensive and consistent. One study from the University of California, Berkeley, which examined families in the intensive agricultural region of Salinas Valley, California, found that IQ levels for children with the most organophosphate exposure were a full seven IQ points lower than those with the lowest exposure levels. The Berkeley team also found that every tenfold increase in measures of organophosphates detected during a mother’s pregnancy corresponded to a 5.5 point drop in overall IQ scores in the 7-year-olds. Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine also found that prenatal exposure to organophosphates is negatively associated with cognitive development, particularly perceptual reasoning, with evidence of effects beginning at 12 months and continuing through early childhood. See Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced-Disease Database (PIDD).

It is important to note that the DPR pesticide report indicated positive trends as well, showing noteworthy reductions in pesticide use including a 23% decrease in pesticides that could contaminate ground water (246,000 pounds), a 4.9% decrease in both pesticides with the potential to cause air pollution and fumigant pesticides (2.4 million and 2.2 million pounds respectively), and a 5.1% decrease in the use of carcinogenic pesticides (1.7 million pounds). The overall increase is also largely attributed to the growing use of biopesticides, which increased by 17% (653,000 pounds) and petroleum-based pesticides derived from petroleum distillation, which increased by over 25% (7.1 million pounds).

Positive trends aside, the fact remains that chlorpyrifos is an old organophosphate pesticide that is highly toxic and has no place in modern agriculture. With the number of alternatives available, both California and EPA should be working to phase this chemical out of production and use. In light of public health concerns associated with the pesticide, Beyond Pesticides will continue working to revoke chlorpyrifos’ registration at the federal level, and will encourage states to ban the chemical from use, as we advance organic agriculture, which prohibits chlorpyrifos and other synthetic toxic insecticides.

Source: California Department of Pesticide Regulation Annual Pesticide Use Report

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




White House Plan Does Little to Take the Sting Out of Pollinator Declines

(Washington, DC, May 20, 2015) Yesterday, the White House released its much awaited plan for protecting American pollinators, which identifies key threats, but falls short of recommendations submitted by Beyond Pesticides, beekeepers, and others who stress that pollinator protection begins with strong regulatory action and suspension of bee-toxic pesticides. The Pollinator Health Task Force, established by President Obama in June 2014, brought together most federal agencies to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels,” and involved developing a National Pollinator Health Strategy and a Pollinator Research Action Plan. The Strategy outlines several components, such as a focus on increased pollinator habitat, public education and outreach, and further research into a range of environmental stressors, including systemic neonicotinoid pesticides. Although well-intentioned, the Strategy ultimately works at cross-purposes by encouraging habitat, but continuing to allow pesticides that contaminate landscapes.

Eric Stavale This pollinator was taken at Otis Reservoir in Tolland, MA. As he was so busy collecting pollen, I was able to get within inches to snap a few great shots.“Waiting for additional research before taking action on neonicotinoid pesticides, which current science shows are highly toxic to bees, will not effectively stem pollinator declines, and is unlikely to achieve the National Pollinator Health Strategy’s goal of reducing honey bee losses to no more than 15% within 10 years,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

A major component of the federal plan is the creation and stewardship of habitat and forage for pollinators. However, without restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids, these areas are at risk for pesticide contamination and provide no real safe-haven for bees and other pollinators. Beyond Pesticides continues to encourage federal agencies to adopt organic management practices that are inherently protective of pollinators.

Under the plan, EPA will propose prohibitions on foliar applications of bee-toxic pesticides during bloom only when a beekeeper is on-site and under contract. For all other situations, states have been tasked with creating their own pollinator protection plans that rely heavily on notification requirements and best management practices for farmers, placing an undue burden on beekeepers. The federal government’s emphasis on creating “physical and temporal space” between the use of pesticides and the presence of pollinators does little to address the chronic, sublethal threat of systemic, neonicotinoid pesticides.

“Though mitigating the effects of pesticides on bees is identified as a priority, the actions listed in the Strategy fail to address the immediate threats native and managed pollinators are experiencing from systemic chemicals that persist in soil, water, and the pollen and nectar which these critical insects feed upon,” said Mr. Feldman.

Beyond Pesticides and its allies have called for suspensions on neonicotinoid pesticides, particularly the most widely used and toxic: imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. These pesticides are used in a variety of home and garden products, and most commonly in corn and soybean seed treatment, where they remain in plant tissues, including pollen and nectar, for long periods of time. Along with suspensions to registrations, groups have urged EPA to conduct broader reviews on the impact of these systemic pesticides on other beneficial non-target organisms, including endangered species, and impacts to ecosystem biodiversity.

There are several factors that contribute to pollinator decline. However, it is the neonicotinoid class of pesticides that is receiving the most scrutiny from scientists and beekeepers. A growing number of studies find that even at low levels neonicotinoids impair foraging ability, navigation, learning behavior, and suppress the immune system, making bees more susceptible to pathogens and disease. A recent study finds that bees will favor neonicotinoid contaminated food over uncontaminated food, indicating that these chemicals can pose unique risks within supposedly bee-friendly habitat. In April, EPA announced a moratorium on new neonicotinoid pesticide products and uses, and its draft report on treated soybean seeds concluded that the neonicotinoid treatments were not efficacious.

The White House announcement certainly elevates the importance of pollinators and the impact their dwindling numbers will have on U.S. agriculture. One in three bites of food is reliant on pollination, which translates into $20-30 billion to the agricultural economy. But while the action taken today is well-meaning, widespread, pervasive, systemic pesticide contamination will continue to place bees, both wild and managed, and other pollinator species at risk.

Source: Whitehouse.gov

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



Denver Pushes Back Against Pesticide Use in Marijuana Production

(Beyond Pesticides, May 19, 2015) Last week in Denver, Colorado a U.S. District Court judge handed down a preliminary decision that may dramatically alter how marijuana is grown across the state. On Friday, Judge John Madden sided with the Denver Department of Environmental Health (DDOH), refusing to lift a quarantine that has been keeping tens of thousands of marijuana plants off the market since March over suspected use of certain pesticides. In the absence of federal regulations governing pesticide use on marijuana plants, as highlighted in a report written by Beyond Pesticides this March, the state-level decisions coming out of Colorado on this issue have the potential to set important precedents for pesticide regulation and pot production in other states that have legalized marijuana.

Cannabis_sativa_edenThe plaintiff, marijuana producer Organic Greens, took the fight to court to ask a judge to determine whether Denver health officials and state agriculture inspectors have the right to quarantine and test marijuana they believe has been improperly contaminated with certain pesticides. On March 25, DDOH found “sufficient evidence that marijuana plants or marijuana product on the [Organic Greens] premises may have been contaminated by pesticides that have been determined by the Colorado Department of Agriculture to be a violation to use on marijuana.” In its finding, the city ordered the grower to place the plants on hold. The plants could still stay on site and employees could still harvest and water the plants, but no product could end up for sale. The marijuana currently under quarantine is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, with Organic Greens’ portion estimated to have a $50,000 wholesale value.

The dispute centers primarily around a fungicide called Eagle 20, which has not been approved for use on marijuana. Eagle 20 is 19% myclobutanil, an endocrine (hormone) disruptor classified as “toxic” by Beyond Pesticides. Myclobutanil is also listed as a reproductive toxicant in the California Environmental Protection Agency Proposition 65: Chemicals Know to the State to Cause Cancer or Reproductive Toxicity. Greens is asking for a preliminary injunction so that they can resume sale of their plants, claiming that the chemical is widely used within the industry and by other farmers to fight powdery mildew and that it poses little risk to consumers.

In response to these claims, officials cite potential harm to sick children if they were to inhale or ingest marijuana treated with Eagle 20 as their rationale for taking control of the plants, a charge that is directly disputed by Organic Greens owner. Concerns over lack of science and lack of testing in the area are also core to the city’s argument and are explored in depth by Beyond Pesticides’ report. Preliminary studies, such as a 2013 study published in the Journal of Toxicology, have found that up to 69.5% of pesticide residues can remain in smoked marijuana, strengthening city officials’ cause for concern and highlighting the need for preventive and precautionary action in this area.

Arguing to uphold the quarantine, Denver and state officials say that Organic Greens is violating state and federal law by using a chemical not approved for marijuana. Under Colorado’s legal marijuana system, licensed growers may use only approved pesticides on their plants, and to-date no official list of approved pesticides has been established. City officials raise valid concerns over the uncertainties and risks associated with using pesticides for marijuana, with a lack of peer reviewed research and continued abstinence on the part of the federal government to regulate the area making it hard to issue well informed decisions on the subject.

In light of its status as a schedule 1 narcotic, no pesticides have been approved for use on marijuana, which the state argues gives it the power to seize any pot plants testing positive for pesticides like Eagle 20. City officials may choose to look at what other states have done with pesticide allowances for marijuana production to determine the best way to regulate their use. Both New Hampshire and Massachusetts are leaders in this area, having developed comprehensive regulatory requirements that cannabis growers follow organic practices and create an organic system plan. California also recently released new guidelines for pesticide use on marijuana that do a good deal to promote a safer trajectory of the state’s marijuana industry, though they are not as comprehensive as the policies in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Over the course of the hearing, which lasted four days, attorneys for Organic Greens tried to argue the city’s enforcement was “arbitrary” and unnecessary because the levels of pesticides found on the plants didn’t constitute any health risk. That argument was ultimately defeated, however, when the judge ruled that city health inspectors had the legal right to quarantine the marijuana. In his decision the judge stated:

“…The issuance of an order preventing the sale of marijuana plants containing a substance that may be harmful if ingested by purchasers of the marijuana until it can be determined whether the substance is actually safe is absolutely within the scope of the Department of Environmental Health’s authority. Ultimately, the Plaintiff is seeking an injunction which would allow it to distribute marijuana in violation of federal law.”

This court ruling emboldens Denver health officials to even more aggressively inspect for pesticide use, an action necessary to ensure the safety of individuals using marijuana recreationally or for medicinal purposes. It allows city health inspectors to fill a void left by state regulators, who have repeatedly delayed the rollout of a program to test all consumer marijuana for pesticide contamination, and the federal government, which has chosen not to approve pesticides for marijuana because of its continued classification as an illegal drug under federal law. By highlighting the shortfalls of Colorado’s regulatory inaction, it is possible that this court hearing will spur the state to develop a regulatory scheme for marijuana growth like we have seen in the states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

For more information about pesticide use and marijuana production, see here.
Download Beyond Pesticides’ investigative report here

Source: USA Today, 1 and 2.

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




International Treaty Bans Pentachlorophenal, U.S. Continues Use on Utility Poles and Railroad Ties

(Beyond Pesticides, May 18, 2015) Delegates from more than 90 countries took the unprecedented step of voting last week for a global ban on pentachlorophenol (penta) – a proven toxic pesticide and contaminant found in wildlife and human biomonitoring studies worldwide. The historic vote came at the combined meetings of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions – which usually make decisions by consensus – after India repeatedly blocked action. The U.S. is not a signatory to the Stockholm Convention, which provides the framework to moving persistent organic pollutants out of commerce.

Pole_RouteDuring the meeting, India surprisingly rejected the findings of the Stockholm Convention’s own scientific expert committee in which it participated. Switzerland triggered the voting procedure – the first in the history of the convention. Ninety-four countries voted in favor of global prohibition of pentachlorophenol; two opposed; and eight countries abstained.

“We commend the global community for this important decision which will help ensure that the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic and the traditional foods on which they depend are protected against toxic pentachlorophenol,” said Pamela Miller of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. The delegates of the Stockholm Convention also supported international bans on two other industrial chemicals that harm the global environment and human health: chlorinated naphthalenes and hexachlorobutadiene. Delegates at the Rotterdam Convention failed to list two deadly substances, chrysotile asbestos and a paraquat formulation, despite the fact that exporters would simply have been required to notify and get permission from importing countries. Belarus, Cuba, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Russia all opposed listing chrysotile asbestos. Guatemala, India, Indonesia, and Paraguay blocked listing of the paraquat formulation.

“All the candidate substances meet the Convention criteria according to the treaty’s own expert committee,” said Mariann Lloyd-Smith, IPEN Sr. Policy Advisor. “That means that a small handful of opposing countries and their powerful industry representatives undermined the treaty with a political decision that disrespects governments’ right to know what substances are entering their borders. They simply put their own economic and trade interests before the health and well-being of the global environment and its inhabitants.”

Wood preservatives used to chemically treat wood utility poles contain dangerous chemicals, including dioxins, which harm human health and the environment. They are ranked among the most potent cancer agents. They are also promoters of birth defects, reproductive problems and nervous system toxicants. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assigned a cancer risk 3.4 million times higher than acceptable for people that apply penta to poles in the field. There are many, safer options for poles to be made of alternative materials, such as recycled steel, concrete, composite, or there is the option to bury the lines. The steel, concrete, and composite alternatives yield a lifespan of 80 to 100 years. There are differences in maintenance costs associated with different materials. For example, wood may require retreatment, which some utilities perform on a set cycle, while steel, concrete and fiberglass do not. In addition, disposal costs for chemicals used in wood treatment are high and growing, while steel is recycled.

New research on  the chemical components of Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) treated utility poles found that heavy rainfall, damp conditions and weathered poles leads to the highest rate of leaching, groundwater contamination and toxic chemical runoff. CCA is one of three major chemical wood preservatives that Beyond Pesticides has long sounded the alarm on, along with creosote and penta. The study, Leaching of Chromium, Copper, and Arsenic from CCA-Treated Utility Poles, was published in Applied and Environmental Soil Science in Canada. Researchers looked at the concentrations of Chromium (Cr), Copper (Cu), and Arsenic (As) in soils surrounding 26 Douglas Fir CCA treated utility poles. They also suspended a segment of a new CCA treated pole to study rainwater runoff. Of the three metals, they found that As was the most mobile in soil and prominent in water. The average soil concentrations of As at all distances from the poles exceeded the acceptable allowable limit, and the As concentration in water was 8 to 42 times the drinking water guideline limits. The study concluded that the use of CCA is cause for concern, as As could leach from treated timber, migrate to groundwater, and reach wells or ponds. These findings demonstrate that there is a possibility of leaching and groundwater contamination from other wood preservatives as well, such as penta and creosote.

Recognition of the hazards of wood preservatives has led to some reduction of use, but not enough. In the U.S., EPA has classified CCA, penta and creosote as restricted use products, for use only by certified pesticide applicators, and has banned the residential use, with some exceptions. However, the U.S. lags behind other nations in its restrictions. The EU has banned CCA and creosote treated wood completely, and twenty six countries, including Canada, currently ban penta completely.

Meanwhile, as the Stockholm Convention delegates met last week and affirmed the United Nation’s call for a global elimination of penta, the U.S. continues to allow the use of toxic wood preservatives with blatant disregard for human and environmental effects. The U.S., as mentioned above, is not a signatory to the Stockholm Convention, and is, in fact, the largest producer and user of penta in the world. U.S. government agencies such as the EPA have even sought to oppose efforts to ban the chemical. The U.S. has had a long struggle adhering to the guidelines put forth by the Stockholm Convention POPs committee. In 2009, the committee called for global action on a dangerous, DDT-era insecticide, and it took the EPA over three years to respond and finally begin phasing out the toxic chemical.

In absence of regulatory action at the federal level in the U.S., environmental groups and politicians have worked tirelessly to stop the use of these harmful chemicals. In early 2015, Beyond Pesticides submitted comments to EPA calling for the immediate ban of pentachlorophenol, and in 2014, a Long Island town began requiring warning labels on any poles treated with penta. Following that, state legislation was introduced to ban the use of penta in the future, and U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) called on EPA to investigate its specific use on utility poles.

For more extensive information about pesticide-treated wood for utility poles and railroad ties, see Beyond Pesticides Wood Preservatives program page, and read Beyond Poison Poles: Elected officials say no to toxic utility poles in their communities, from the Fall 2014 issue of Pesticides and You.

Take Action:
Join Beyond Pesticides’ Poison Pole Campaign. Take a photo of the ugly pole in your neighborhood, on your street, at a bus stop, in a park, or even at your local playground. If people walk, live or play near the pole, show that in the photo, if possible. Include your name and the location of the photo and send it to [email protected].

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

Source: IPEN; Leaching of Chromium, Copper, and Arsenic from CCA-Treated Utility Poles



Groups’ Petition to Ban Harmful Antibacterial Pesticide Rejected by EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, May 15, 2015) ­­­In a response that took over five years, yesterday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its long-awaited response to a Citizen Petition filed by Beyond Pesticides and Food & Water Watch, denying the request to cancel registered products that contain the antibacterial pesticide triclosan, often sold under the trade name microban. The decision allows this toxic substance to continue to be sold nationwide in common household products, from toys, cutting boards, hair brushes, sponges, computer keyboards to socks and undergarments. The agency did, however, grant one request, and will evaluate and conduct a biological assessment of the potential for effects on listed species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the ongoing triclosan registration review. The cosmetic uses of triclosan, such as toothpaste and liquid soaps, are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and subject to a separate petition for which there has been no response since its filing in 2005 and again in 2009.

“Numerous studies have shown that antibacterial soaps cause more harm than any of their perceived benefits,” said Nichelle Harriott, science and regulatory director at Beyond Pesticides. “For the protection of human health and the environment, we are troubled that EPA has decided not to ban triclosan, but are glad that they will finally evaluate potential for effects on wildlife –something the agency should have done before allowing its widespread use.”

The petition, submitted in January 2010, requested EPA to cancel registered pesticide products that contain triclosan, as well as reassess the risks associated with the chemical under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, Clean Water Act (CWA), Safe Drinking Water Act, and ESA.

“Given all the available science, EPA should ban this pesticide while it is conducting further review,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

Research indicates that the toxic antibacterial can interfere with the action of hormones, potentially causing developmental problems in fetuses and newborns, among other health concerns. In December 2013,  FDA announced that the growing body of scientific evidence warranted requiring manufacturers to prove that their antibacterial soaps are safe and effective against bacteria, as product label claims stipulate, but no action has been taken by the agency.

Public pressure, led by Beyond Pesticides and other groups, has contributed to a growing awareness of the dangers of triclosan’s use. As a result, several major manufacturers have already taken steps to exclude the chemical, including Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive, which reformulated its popular line of liquid soaps, but continues to formulate Total¼ toothpaste with triclosan. Furthermore, Minnesota became the first state to ban the toxic antibacterial, announcing that retailers would no longer be able to sell cleaning products that contain triclosan, effective January 2017.

In the face of continued EPA inaction, Beyond Pesticides urges consumers, along with manufacturers, retailers, school districts, businesses and communities to wash their hands of triclosan and protect our water and health from this toxic pesticide. For additional information and resources on the human health and environmental effects of triclosan, join the ban triclosan campaign at http://bit.ly/BanTriclosanCampaign.


Click here for PDF version of the press release.

Click here to see the original petition.

For more information, contact:
Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides
202-543-5450, [email protected]
Patty Lovera, Food and Water Watch
202-683-2465, [email protected]



Trust in Organic Label Suffering as USDA Undermines Organic Integrity

(Beyond Pesticides, May 15, 2015) Why do you buy organic? Recent research by Mintel, a business research firm, reveals that Americans buy organic for different reasons. The perception that the products are healthier (72 percent) is the biggest draw, even more so than any environmental or ethical reason (69 percent). Only 29 percent of consumers recognize that organic products are highly regulated, while 51 percent believe that the organic label is an excuse to charge more. While sales of organic products are on the rise, actual consumer penetration has plateaued. With the barrage of attacks by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the organic label, it comes as no surprise that consumer skepticism remains high. Many consumer and farm organizations believe that public trust will continue to decline if USDA continues its attack on the procedures and public process that has built the organic industry to its $40 billion size.

A further look into why consumers choose organic reveals that female shoppers choose products to avoid certain characteristics – 43 percent do so because they do not contain unnecessary ingredients and chemicals, and the same percentage SaveOurOrganicIntegritydo so to avoid food grown with pesticides. Thirty-one percent of women and 29 percent of men purchase organic because they are less processed than their conventional, non-organic counterparts, and 20 percent of women and 16 percent of men purchase organic because animals are treated more ethically by organic companies. Generational differences also exist. Over half of Millennials (51 percent) indicate they feel better about themselves when they purchase organic products, a factor that declines notably among older generations, to less than a quarter of Baby Boomers (24 percent).

Older generations are especially distrustful of the organic label. While 42 percent of Millennials indicate they purchased an organic food or drink in the last three months, purchase rates drop dramatically among Baby Boomers and older consumers, who indicate different reasons for not choosing organic.  Fifty-one percent of Generation X (those born in the mid-1960s to early 1980s) and 57 percent of the Swing Generation (those 65 and older) regard the organic label as a premium price tag. Only 39 percent of Gen X trust that products labeled as organic are actually organic, and this number dips to 35 percent of Swing Generation consumers. Additionally, only 40 percent of Millennials, although they are the demographic that most supports organic, recognize that organic products are highly regulated. For all consumers, 38 percent view organic as simply a marketing term with no definition or real value.

The fight to maintain organic’s integrity is ongoing. USDA is threatening the future of organic with changes that will further weaken public trust in the organic label. In April, organic farm and certification, environmental, and food safety groups and organic producers challenged a major USDA change to the organic rule, maintaining that the agency violated the federal rulemaking process when it changed without public hearing and comment long standing procedures for reviewing the potential hazards and need for allowed synthetic and prohibited natural substances used in producing organic food. Environmental and food safety groups also sued the agency for failing to follow the law and not seeking public comment on the organic compost rule.

Beyond Pesticides promotes organic agriculture because organic food contributes to better health through reduced pesticide exposure for all and increased nutritional quality. In order to understand the importance of eating organic food from the perspective of toxic pesticide contamination, we need to look at the whole picture—from the farmworkers who do the valuable work of growing food, to the waterways from which we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. Organic food can feed us and keep us healthy without producing the toxic effects of chemical agriculture. Consumers can help maintain the integrity of the organic label, and thus protect the food we eat as well as the environment, by reading more about the issues at our Save Our Organic page. Consumers can also check out Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience database, which documents the impacts on the environment and farmworkers of the toxic chemicals used in conventional agriculture.

Source: Mintel

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



With Second Highest Honey Bee Losses, Congressional Hearing Ignores Pesticide Effects

(Beyond Pesticides, May 14, 2015) For the first time on record, summer losses of managed honey bee colonies have exceeded winter losses, according to preliminary results of the annual survey released yesterday by the Bee Informed Partnership, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Apiary Inspectors of America. This is the second highest annual loss recorded to date: beekeepers lost a total of 42.1 percent of the number of colonies managed over the last year (total annual loss, between April 2014 and April 2015), which is up from 34.2 percent for the previous year. On the same day that this survey was released, the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture, Biotechnology and Research held a hearing on pollinator health, but failed to advance policy solutions that would protect pollinators from the unnecessary use of pesticides.Figure 1: Summary of the total colony losses overwinter (October 1 – April 1) and over the year (April 1 – April 1) of managed honey bee colonies in the United States. The acceptable range is the average percentage of acceptable colony losses declared by the survey participants in each of the nine years of the survey. Winter and Annual losses are calculated based on different respondent pools.

“What we’re seeing with this bee problem is just a loud signal that there’s some bad things happening with our agro-ecosystems,” Keith Delaplane, PhD at the University of Georgia and one of the co-authors of the study told Phys.Org. “We just happen to notice it with the honeybee because they are so easy to count.”

About two-thirds of the beekeepers responding to the survey report losses greater than the 18.7 percent level that beekeepers say is economically acceptable. This underlines the seriousness of the health problems stressing honey bees in this country, according to Jeff Pettis, a survey co-author and a senior entomologist at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. More than 6,100 beekeepers across the country who manage almost 400,000 colonies in during October 2014, representing nearly 15.5 percent of the country’s 2.74 million colonies, responded to the survey.

“We traditionally thought of winter losses as a more important indicator of health, because surviving the cold winter months is a crucial test for any bee colony,” said Dennis van Engelsdorp, Ph.D., an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership. “But we now know that summer loss rates are significant too. This is especially so for commercial beekeepers, who are now losing more colonies in the summertime compared to the winter. Years ago, this was unheard of.”

Federal Inaction
Yesterday’s Congressional hearing was slated to focus on pollinator health, however it failed to address the impacts of systemic pesticides, like neonicotinoids (neonics), on bees, birds and other pollinators and the lack of a coordinated federal response to pollinator declines. Instead, the hearing questioned federal disagreement over the value of neonicotinoid-coated seeds for farmers, despite recent findings which demonstrate that neonic-coated seeds fail to increase yields or provide protection from target pests during critical times of plant activity.

“EPA has already found that neonic-treated soybean seeds are not providing our nation’s farmers any added benefit,” said Nichelle Harriott, science and regulatory director at Beyond Pesticides. “In light of safer alternative options, Congress should be directing USDA and EPA to encourage farmers to get off the toxic treadmill and return to more sustainable agricultural practices.”

Last week, Beyond Pesticides along with a diverse group of environmentalists, beekeepers, and advocates, sent a letter to the USDA Inspector General and the co-chairs of the White House Task Force on Pollinator Health this Tuesday, urging a thorough investigation into recent reports that USDA scientists are being harassed and censored. The letter expresses particular concern over the suppression of research related to bee-killing neonicotinoid insecticides and glyphosate, a key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, which has been linked to cancer. The White House Task Force on Pollinator Health, co-chaired by USDA, is expected to release a plan on bee protection in the near future; however the more than 25 groups, which include farmers, fisheries, and food safety advocates, are concerned that the plan will lack meaningful protections if USDA’s research has been compromised.

To date, USDA has released funds for pollinator habitat, the Council on Environmental Quality has released new guidelines for creating pollinator habitat around federal buildings and the Fish and Wildlife Service has banned the use of neonic pesticides on National Wildlife Refuges. On April 2, the EPA announced a moratorium on new or expanded uses of neonicotinoids while it evaluates the risks posed to pollinators. However, EPA has failed to take any action on the hundreds of approved neonicotinoid products already on the market. Advocates say a sensible response to the continuing decline of pollinators must address the use of neonic pesticides, and encourage the development of least-toxic and organic alternatives. In agriculture, for home pest control, landscape care, and in nurseries, there are effective and economic organic techniques can that be successfully employed.

An extensive overview of major studies showing the effects of neonics on pollinator health can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows webpage.

A complete analysis of the survey data will be published later this year. The abstract for the analysis is at http://beeinformed.org/results-categories/winter-loss-2014-2015/.

Source: USDA ARS Press Release

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





Montgomery MD Councilmembers Ask County Hospitals to Ban Landscape Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, May 13, 2015) In a letter sent this week, two Montgomery County Councilmembers are requesting that hospitals in the county assume a leading role in increasing awareness of the health concerns regarding pesticides by voluntarily agreeing to eliminate their use on hospital grounds. The letter states that this step would help to reduce pesticide exposure for some of the county’s most vulnerable residents, and would increase awareness in the community of pesticides’ potential harmful effects. Currently, Montgomery County is considering a bill that would limit the non-essential pesticide use on county property.

On Monday, Council President George Leventhal, who chairs the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee, and Councilmember Roger Berliner, who chairs the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, wrote to the leaders of the five organizations that operate hospitals in Montgomery County and asked them to voluntarily stop using pesticides on the grounds of their respective facilities. The text of the letter can be found here.

mgcntyIn Monday’s press releases from the their’ offices, Councilmembers Leventhal and Berliner said, “We are writing today to ask that hospitals in our County assume a leading role in increasing awareness of the health concerns regarding pesticides by voluntarily agreeing to eliminate their use on hospital grounds.” They continued, “As you know, in 2013, Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park ceased using insecticides or herbicides in advance of the Takoma Park City Council passing its ordinance restricting pesticide use. We believe it is time for every hospital to take a similar stance.”

According to the letter, “There are strong signals from leading medical professionals that there is a fundamental need to reduce the amount of pesticides to which individuals are exposed.” Efforts behind the county bill and this latest request for hospitals to limit toxic pesticide use are driven in large part by concerns that have been raised by concerned residents, as well as the medical community about the potential negative impacts of exposure to pesticides on human health.

In addition to this new request, the Council is currently considering Bill 52-14, introduced last fall that would limit the use of non-essential pesticides on County lawns, certain athletic playing fields and County-owned public grass areas. Council President Leventhal is the lead sponsor of the bill that is considered a landmark ordinance that would protect children, pets, wildlife, and the wider environment from the hazards of unnecessary lawn and landscape pesticide. The bill is supported by Safe Grow Montgomery, a local coalition of individual volunteers, organizations and businesses, working to prevent exposure to chemicals that run-off, drift, and volatilize from their application site, causing involuntary poisoning of children and pets, polluting local water bodies such as the Chesapeake Bay, and widespread declines of honey bees and other wild pollinators. Only one locality in the county, Takoma Park, has already enacted a similar provision that prohibits the non-essential use of pesticides on public and private property, based on human and environmental health concerns. Learn more about the Safe Grow Act of 2013. The Town of Ogunquit, ME adopted a similar ordinance by ballot initiative in November, 2014.

Maryland is one of seven states that does not prohibit local governments from enacting protections from pesticides that are stricter than state laws. The role of local government in imposing pesticide use restrictions is important to the protection of public health and the environment. This right was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Wisconsin Public Intervenor, Town of Casey v. Mortier, June 21, 1991. In this case, the Court affirmed the rights of U.S. cities and towns to regulate pesticides that are not explicitly curtailed by state legislatures. However, after the Supreme Court ruling, the chemical industry, both manufacturer and service provider trade groups, went to state legislatures across the country and lobbied the states to take away or restrict the authority of local political subdivisions to restrict pesticide use on private property. In protecting the rights of local political subdivisions within Maryland to exercise their authority to impose pesticide use restrictions, the state is enabling the protection of the health and welfare of Maryland residents.

Pesticides have long been associated with adverse human health outcomes. Recently, one of the most widely used herbicides, glyphosate (Roundup), was definitively linked to the onset of cancer when and was identified as a human carcinogen based on laboratory animal studies (classified as a Group 2A “probable” carcinogen) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Other chemicals used on lawn and turf have also been associated with cancer and a host of other chronic human health outcomes including, endocrine disruption, reproductive and sexual dysfunction, birth defects and others. Visit the Pesticide-Induced Disease Database (PIDD) for more on the human health impacts of pesticides.

In a hospital setting, pesticides can be sprayed on the grounds or in rooms where patients with compromised immune systems can be exposed. It is therefore imperative that medical care settings are pesticide free safe havens for the vulnerable. This is especially true for children who have unique susceptibilities to the toxicity of pesticides due to their developing bodies. Given the numerous adverse health effects associated with pesticide exposure, hospitals must take the lead in reducing these exposures. Several hospitals in the Baltimore region have taken the steps necessary to reduce pesticide use in and on their facilities. For more information, visit the Healthy Hospitals page.

The letter from Councilmembers Leventhal and Berliner was sent to Terry Forde, the President and CEO of Adventist Healthcare; Gene Green, President of Suburban Hospital; Peter Monge, President of MedStar Montgomery Medical Center; Kevin Sexton, President and CEO of Holy Cross Health; and Kurt Newman, President of Children’s National Health System.

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

Source: Montgomery County Council Press Releases & Statements



Kaua’i Activists Take Fight to Syngenta’s Swiss Headquarters, Residents Win Damages from DuPont Pioneer

(Beyond Pesticides, May 12, 2015) Last week Kaua’i County Councilmember Gary Hooser returned from agrichemical giant Syngenta’s shareholder meeting in Basel, Switzerland, where he addressed the company and its stakeholders on the corporation’s lawsuit against the small Hawaiian island of Kaua’i. The Councilmember indicates that, although the company is unlikely to meet his request to drop its lawsuit against Ordinance 960, which generally creates buffer zones prohibiting pesticide use around schools, hospitals, and parks, the trip overall was a success. “Our main purpose was one of education and information, to tell our story in the home city of Syngenta, and we were greeted with open arms and really managed to get the word out,” Mr. Hooser said to The Garden Isle on Monday.

VIDEO: See Councilmember Hooser’s speech to Syngenta: Part 1 | Part 2 (Note: Credit and thanks to Kauai activist Fern Rosenstiel for filming this video despite attempts by Syngenta to suppress her ability to do so.)

GaryHooserSyngentaIn a related matter, it was announced earlier this week that a federal court awarded over $500,000 to 15 Kaua’i residents who launched a lawsuit (separate from the one above) against another agrichemical company on the island, DuPont Pioneer. Residents won on grounds of property damage and loss of use and enjoyment of their property after being subject to the incessant blowing of pesticide-laden red dust from the company’s Waimea Research Center field. The verdict indicates that the “seriousness of the harm to each plaintiff outweighs the public benefit of Pioneer’s farming operation.”

Kauai, along with Maui and the Big Island, have been locked in legal battles with agrichemical corporations after successfully passing modest reforms aimed at limiting their residents exposure to the pesticides sprayed on genetically engineered (GE) crops grown in the state. Chemical companies claim that local governments are preempted from enacting pesticide legislation more restrictive than Hawai’i state law.

At the Syngenta shareholder meeting, Councilmember Hooser brought a straightforward message to the corporation and its shareholders. “Withdraw the lawsuit from the County of Kauaʻi, honor and comply with our laws. Treat us with the same respect, the same dignity and the same protections that you give the people of Switzerland. Do not spray chemicals in my community that you cannot spray in your own community,” he said. The Councilmember was referencing the use of the herbicides atrazine and paraquat, chemicals which are banned from use in Switzerland, but sprayed constantly and even found in drinking water in Hawaii communities.

Councilmember Hooser attended the shareholder event as an individual with support from the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action, for which he is the volunteer President of the Board, and not as a representative of the Kauai County Council. He was invited by the Swiss nonprofit Multiwatch, which transferred a share of Syngenta stock to him in order to allow him to speak.

“What we can say about our role on Kauai is that Syngenta has been part of the community on Kauai for more than 40 years providing jobs and other benefits to the rural economy since sugar cane and pineapple production declined,” Syngenta spokesman Mark Phillipson wrote in an email to The Garden Isle. “The island offers unrivaled climatic and agronomic conditions for crop research, which has benefited millions of growers around the world. We take very seriously our responsibility toward Kauai’s natural environment and the communities where we work.”

In a recent email to supporters, Councilmember Hooser wrote, “What kind of good neighbor uses toxic pesticides by the ton in their neighbor’s yard but yet uses zero of these chemicals in their own yard back home in Switzerland because their laws will not allow it (all the while telling you how safe it is)?” He referenced a recent New York Times article of the company misrepresenting the use of atrazine in its own country.

In response to the Dupont Pioneer ruling, he added, “The façade presented through the “Good Neighbor” persona created by the community relations and media guru’s of these companies is quickly evaporating.”

VIDEO: Councilmember Hooser’s visit was covered by Swiss media, and is viewable here.

For more information about the fight to protect Hawaiian communities from an onslaught of pesticide spraying, see Beyond Pesticides previous Daily News coverage, or the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action webpage. Additional information about the hazards associated with pesticide use on GE crops is available on Beyond Pesticides’ program page.

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

Source: The Garden Isle, Hawaii Tribune-Herald
Photo Credit: GaryHooser.Wordpress.com



Toxic Chemicals and Oil Byproducts Found In Treated Irrigation Water

(Beyond Pesticides, May 11, 2015) Oil giant Chevron has been helping farmers in Kern County, CA find a solution to raising crops during the ongoing drought — but it may cause long-term health effects. The county is using treated oil field wastewater from the corporation to irrigate crops. As of now, the government only requires limited testing of treated wastewater, checking for naturally occurring toxins rather than screening for chemicals used in current oil-extraction processes. Legislation was passed last year that requires oil companies to identify for the state the chemicals they use in the oil-extraction process, but the Central Valley water authority, which regulates the water recycling program, gave producers until June 15 to report their results. To pick up the slack in the meantime, the advocacy group Water Defense, founded by actor and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo, collected samples of the treated irrigation water. The group works to promote access to clean water by testing local supplies and documenting contamination, and their findings indicated extremely high levels of oil, acetone and methylene chloride, a potential carcinogen, in the treated irrigation water.

Beyond Pesticides has investigated treated wastewater from homes and residential areas. This research indicates that treated wastewater acts as a prominent food contaminant when used for irrigation. While wastewater recycling has many benefits, there are a host of issues that must be addressed before using wastewater for irrigation can be considered safe. Chief among them is contaminants of emerging concern. Contaminants of emerging concern are chemicals that typically have not been monitored in the environment, but have only recently been detected in waterways and municipal wastewater. Chemicals include are flame retardants, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and pesticides. Although Beyond Pesticides’ research specifically looked at treated wastewater from homes and the specific types of contaminants that are found in this water, it highlights the fact that current technology is unable to remove all toxicants from wastewater.

As for Kern County, the treated wastewater from Chevron Oil is so unclean that farmers can smell the oil while they irrigate their fields. Blake Sanden, an agriculture extension agent and irrigation water expert with UC Davis, told the Los Angeles Times, “Everyone smells the petrochemicals in the irrigation water, but local farmers trust that organisms in the soil remove toxins or impurities in water.” While this may be possible in organic farming systems due to the fact that these systems follow a “feed-the-soil” approach which fosters microbial health, conventional agriculture relies on pesticides, which reduce species diversity within the soil, impacting microorganisms’ ability to break down toxic elements.

Although eating organic provides consumers with a healthier alternative to the problems associated with conventional agriculture, even the organic label does not fully address the possible contamination that may result from using treated wastewater for irrigation. Organic agriculture uses the same water that conventional agriculture uses. In this USDA guide for organic producers, it addresses wastewaster very briefly, stating: “The USDA organic regulations have very little to say about irrigation and irrigation water quality. However, since it is the general intent of these regulations that crops and soils not be contaminated with prohibited substances, producers should take precautions to ensure that irrigation water is not loaded with agricultural pesticides or other polluting chemicals.” While this is a nice sentiment, the aforementioned “should” language doesn’t actually guarantee consumers who are eating organic that their food is grown with chemical or pesticide-free water. Organic law recognizes that we live in a polluted world, however the National Organic Standards Board is now evaluating contaminated farm inputs, has published a work plan, and is seeking public input. See Beyond Pesticides’ comment here.

While the USDA organic label is something to support and protect, organic practices should always follow tough standards that do not compromise the health of people and the planet. The organic regulatory process provides numerous opportunities for the public to weigh in on what is allowable in organic production. Beyond Pesticides has already rebuked USDA for its failure to seek public comment on contaminants used in organic agriculture by filing a lawsuit against the government agency.  We also ask you to help defend organic standards against any other USDA changes or inconsistencies that will weaken public trust in the organic food label. If you are not satisfied with USDA’s lax regulations for treated waste water used for irrigation in organically-grown agriculture, speak up! You can contact Beyond Pesticides by calling 202-543-5450 or through email, at [email protected] for more information.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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



Groups Urge Investigation of USDA Censorship of Its Scientists

(Beyond Pesticides, May 8, 2015) A diverse group of environmentalists, beekeepers, farm workers, and advocates, along with Beyond Pesticides, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Inspector General and the co-chairs of the White House Task Force on Pollinator Health this Tuesday, urging a thorough investigation into recent reports that USDA scientists are being harassed and censored. The letter expresses particular concern over the suppression of research related to bee-killing neonicotinoid insecticides and glyphosate, a key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, which has been linked to cancer. The White House Task Force on Pollinator Health, co-chaired by USDA, is expected to release a plan on bee protection in the near future; the more than 25 groups, which include farmers, fisheries, and food safety advocates, are concerned that the plan will lack meaningful protections if USDA’s research has been compromised.

pulled scienceIn March, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Group (PEER), an advocacy group for government researchers, filed a petition for rule-making with USDA seeking new rules to strengthen USDA’s Scientific Integrity Policy, and urging the agency to adopt best practices used in other federal agencies in order to prevent political suppression or alteration of studies.

USDA adopted a new integrity policy in 2013 in response to a 2009 memorandum issued by President Obama to ensure “the highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch’s involvement with scientific and technological processes.” PEER alleges that USDA’s policy falls far short of this aim, citing language that is used to actively suppress scientific work for political purposes. USDA’s current policy reads, “Scientists should refrain from making statements that could be construed as being judgments of or recommendations on USDA or any other federal government policy, either intentionally or inadvertently.” PEER explains that USDA management regularly uses this provision as reason for suppressing technical work of employees when industry stakeholders disagree with the scientific conclusions reached.

“We are concerned that the important work of scientists at USDA is being stifled, including research on the relationship between severe declines in bee populations and the use of pesticides,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

“How can the American public expect USDA to develop a federal strategy that will protect bees instead of  pesticide industry profits if it is harassing and suppressing its own scientists for conducting research that runs counter to industry claims?” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “If USDA wants to employ a kill-the-messenger approach, it will only delay critical action to address the bee crisis that threatens our nation’s food supply.”

“If we cannot trust the scientific integrity of our scientists to protect bees, how can farmworkers be assured that their health and safety are not in jeopardy from a scientific community that is beholden to the interests of corporations and not to the protection of their own health and safety?” said Jeannie Economos, pesticide safety and environmental health project coordinator with Farmworker Association of Florida. “The issue goes beyond only protecting bees, but to protecting the public health, especially the most vulnerable, as well.”

Along with demanding a thorough investigation into the problem and making the investigation publicly available once it is complete, the organizations also call for taking necessary steps to ensure that USDA maintains scientific integrity and does not interfere with the valuable work of its scientists by prohibiting political suppression and alteration, employing clear and enforceable procedures for conducting scientific misconduct, assuring transparency in the administration of policies and adopting strong protections for scientists who file misconduct complaints, and participating in misconduct investigations or whose work faces interference.

With independent science both in and outside of the U.S. pointing to a growing list of impacts from pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) crops, ranging from the decline of bees to the carcinogenicity of the widely used herbicide glyphosate, it is critical that federal scientific agencies tasked with protecting human and environmental health be able to inform the public without the taint of an industry whose only interest is in protecting profits.

Source: Friends of the Earth

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



Tests Confirm Rare Cancer in Susquehanna River Smallmouth Bass

(Beyond Pesticides, May 7, 2015) The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) has confirmed that a rare malignant tumor was found on a smallmouth bass caught in the Susquehanna River by an angler late last summer. The finding was confirmed by two independent laboratory tests, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory at Michigan State University.  Although it only represents one individual fish from the overall population, it provides additional evidence –which includes the prevalence of intersex fish discovered last summer— that the health of the fish community residing in the river is being compromised, according to PFBC executive director John Arway.

Though the findings do not point to a specific cause for the cancer found on the smallmouth bass (SMB), agricultural pesticides, particularly endocrine disrupting chemicals, that have been found in the watershed, likely play a part in the rampant disease issues in SMB in the Susquehanna River.Smallmouth bass with confirmed malignant tumor

“As we continue to study the river, we find young-of-year and now adult bass with sores, lesions and more recently a cancerous tumor, all of which continue to negatively impact population levels and recreational fishing,” Mr. Arway said. “The weight-of-evidence continues to build a case that we need to take some action on behalf of the fish.” Cancerous growths and tumors on fish are extremely rare throughout the U.S., but they do occur.

Since 2005, PFBC biologists have observed more than 22,000 adult SMB as part of routine surveys in the Susquehanna River basin and have not documented any fish with obvious signs of tumors. However, PFBC biologists continue to find sores and lesions on young-of-year bass during late spring and early summer surveys at alarming rates.

The PFBC first documented disease-related mortality of young-of-year SMB in the Susquehanna River in 2005. The continued mortality has contributed to the decline in abundance of SMB. Since 2012, the PFBC has unsuccessfully petitioned the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to add the river to the state’s bi-annual list of impaired waterways.

“The impairment designation is critical because it starts a timeline for developing a restoration plan,” said Mr. Arway. “We’ve known the river has been sick since 2005, when we first started seeing lesions on the smallmouth. Now we have more evidence to further the case for impairment.”

Last summer, research by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) showed a strong correlation between the occurrence of intersex characteristics on fish and areas of high agricultural use in Pennsylvania. Three species of fish were examined in three separate watersheds in the state to assess whether characteristics caused by hormones and hormone-mimicking compounds, such as immature eggs in male fish, were present. In aquatic environments, the presence of these intersex characteristics is widely used as a biomarker for assessing exposure to estrogenic chemicals, as well as anti-androgenic chemicals which inhibit development of male characteristics. Male smallmouth bass from all sites sampled had immature eggs in their testes; however, SMB in the Susquehanna drainage had a significantly higher prevalence and severity of these effects than sites in the Ohio drainage. When compared against the percentage of agricultural land use, which is higher in the Susquehanna, a link was established.

Fish and other aquatic organisms face numerous risks from pesticide exposures, even at low levels. In fact, USGS scientists identified pesticides as one of the contaminants in the Potomac River linked to intersex-fish observed there. Atrazine, one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world, has been shown to affect reproduction of fish at concentrations below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) water-quality guidelines. Concentrations of atrazine commonly found in agricultural streams and rivers have been associated with a reduction in reproduction and spawning, as well as tissue abnormalities.

In fish and humans, endocrine disrupting effects include direct effects on traditional endocrine glands, their hormones and receptors, such as estrogens, anti-androgens, and thyroid hormones, as well as signaling cascades that affect many of the body’s systems, including reproductive function and fetal development, the nervous system and behavior, the immune and metabolic systems, the liver, bones and many other organs, glands and tissues. Hundreds of scientific articles have been published across the globe demonstrating how a broad selection of chemicals can interfere with the normal development at all ranges of exposure. Scientists discovered effects for some widely used chemicals at concentrations thousands of times less than federal “safe” levels of exposure derived through traditional toxicological tests. Whatever the exposure level, neither fish nor human are protected from most endocrine-disrupting chemicals present in our waterways.

“If we do not act to address the water quality issues in the Susquehanna River, Pennsylvania risks losing what is left of what was once considered a world-class smallmouth bass fishery,” Mr. Arway said. “DEP is expected to release its 2016 list of impaired waters in late fall. We are urging them once again to follow the science and add the Susquehanna River to the list.”

PFBC biologists conduct annual young-of-year and adult SMB surveys on this stretch of the river from late June through the end of October when sampling conditions are appropriate. In addition, PFBC has enlisted the assistance of certain anglers and guides to provide fish with obvious masses or lesions if they encounter any when fishing the river.

PFBC staff are continuing to work with DEP, FWS, USGS, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other partners to focus efforts on better understanding what factors are impacting the SMB inhabiting the middle Susquehanna and lower Juniata rivers. In the meantime, catch-and-release regulations for SMB are already in place on 98 miles of the middle portion of the Susquehanna River where the symptomatic fish was captured and on the lower 31.7 miles of the Juniata River from Port Royal to the mouth.

Beyond Pesticides continues to fight to prevent water pollution and harmful agricultural practices. Visit our Threatened Waters page and learn how organic land management practices contribute to healthy waters in the article, “Organic Land Management and the Protection of Water Quality.”

Source: Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission Press Release

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

Image: Smallmouth bass with confirmed malignant tumor. Caught by angler in Susquehanna River near Duncannon, Dauphin County, on Nov. 3, 2014. Photo credit: John Arway



Boulder, CO Passes “Bee Safe” Resolution Restricting Use of Bee-Toxic Neonicotinoids

(Beyond Pesticides, May 6, 2015) The City of Boulder, Colorado yesterday became the most recent locality in the U.S. to restrict the use of bee-toxic neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides on city property. The resolution moved forward primarily as a result of efforts by grassroots activists with the local organization Bee Safe Boulder, but also received strong support from city officials. “We at Bee Safe Boulder, along with city staff and elected city council members, believe that this resolution will become the go-to template for other local governments with similar aspirations in the near future,” said David Wheeler, co-founder of the local group.

Bee pic with David, Kathy and Cindy

Under the new resolution, Boulder has committed to:

  • Not applying neonicotinoid pesticides to city property;
  • Encouraging “all related parties,” including county, state, and federal governments and private individuals to suspend their use of neonicotinoids until a thorough review is completed and a public health and environmental assessment can prove their safety;
  • Seeking out plants and seeds not treated with neonicotinoids, and encouraging all businesses, homeowners, and HOAs within the city to make efforts to ensure no neonic-containing products are sold or used within the city;
  • Engaging in efforts to educate the broader community about reducing neonicotinoid pesticides, and encouraging other states, localities, and government agencies to adopt similar policies.

Boulder’s resolution essentially codifies current policies in the city, as Boulder’s integrated pest management coordinator and Beyond Pesticides’ board member, Rella Abernathy, Ph.D., indicated to the Daily Camera.

However, the resolution does carve out certain exceptions that would allow neonicotinoid use. This includes when it is part of a well-defined research study, or when the health of a valuable tree is threatened and a neonicotinoid application is the least environmentally damaging option. “In certain cases, we wanted to have a very stringent exemption process,” said Dr. Abernathy. “In the case we might need to use a neonic for a tree pest and it was a significant and valuable tree, we would be able to, but we would have a very transparent process and have it reviewed by the community.”

Boulder City is now the first locality in Colorado to pass a comprehensive resolution restricting neonicotinoid use on government-owned property. Because of the state’s regressive pesticide preemption law, the city is barred from passing legislation that halts the use of pesticides on private property.

In spite of regressive preemption laws, activists at Bee Safe Boulder have had success in getting private individuals to pledge to stop the use of neonicotinoids and other bee-toxic chemicals on their own property. Once one neighborhood forms at least 75 contiguous pledged properties, the group certifies the neighborhood as a “Bee Safe Community.” “We are saving the bees, and by extension our environment, one neighborhood at a time,” said Bee Safe Boulder co-founder Molly Greacen. The organization also launched a retailer campaign earlier this year, targeting local businesses, and encouraging them to source seeds and plant starts not pre-treated with neonicotinoid pesticides – jump-starting the education and outreach efforts the city will now undertake.

You can contribute to Bee Safe Boulder’s efforts to expand pollinator-safe habitat by going to their Indiegogo campaign, launched yesterday as the city council passed the Bee Safe resolution.

Neonicotinoids have been widely cited in the demise of both managed and wild bee and pollinator populations. Acting as potent neurotoxins, studies have found the insecticides have the ability to disrupt the reproduction, navigation, and foraging of bees exposed even to infinitesimal concentrations. These systemic chemicals, or “whole plant poisons,” which are taken up by plants and expressed in pollen nectar, and dew droplets, cause systemic changes in ecosystems. Beyond pollination, damage to natural pest control services, soil fertility, and changes within the food web ultimately compromise the biodiversity of wild and managed landscapes.

In the absence of strong action from federal regulators or the White House, whose Pollinator Health Task Force is expected to submit its report soon, localities like Boulder have stepped in to support pollinator and ecosystem health in their community. Since Beyond Pesticides published a list of localities that have taken BEE Protective action in the fall 2014 issue of Pesticides and You, numerous local governments, including Portland, OR, Thurston County, WA, and St. Louis Park, MN, among others, have joined the fray.

To become active in your community, contact Beyond Pesticides and the BEE Protective campaign, launched with our partners at the Center for Food Safety. The more communities that pass resolutions like Boulder’s, the more pressure that will be felt to take strong action on this issue at the federal level. “We believe it has to be a grassroots effort that spreads bit by bit,” said Bee Safe Boulder’s David Wheeler to the Daily Camera. “If the citizens don’t speak up for the place that they live, who will?”

Source: Bee Safe Boulder, Daily Camera

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



Plans to Spray Toxic Insecticide in Washington Bays Are Canceled

(Beyond Pesticides, May 5, 2015) In a major victory for the environment and health, the Washington state Department of Ecology (Ecology) and oyster growers association agreed to withdraw a permit allowing the use of the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid to control burrowing shrimp in oyster beds in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. The decision was reached in large part due to vocal public outrage over the plan, as consumers, environmental organizations, and prominent local chefs spoke out against the spraying.

willapa“One of our agency’s goals is to reduce toxics in our environment,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon in a News Release published by the agency over the weekend. “We’ve heard loud and clear from people across Washington that this permit didn’t meet their expectations, and we respect the growers’ response.”

In an article published in the Seattle Times Friday, the largest shellfish producer in country, Taylor Shellfish, announced it will not treat its oyster beds with imidacloprid in response to numerous calls, emails, and social media comments made by its customers. “Our customers spoke loud and clear today, and that speaks volumes to us,” said Bill Dewey, spokesman for Taylor Shellfish. Given Taylor Shellfish’s size, it is likely that the Willapa/Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association (WGHOGA) did not have the resources to move forward with the pesticide application.

“We believe we have no choice but to withdraw our permit and address these issues to the satisfaction of our customer base, and the public,” said Don Gillies, president of the WGHOGA, in the letter requesting withdrawal of the permit.

Imidacloprid is a systemic, neonicotinoid class insecticide that has been shown to be highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates as it is water soluble and highly persistent. Studies show the ability for ecotoxicologically relevant concentrations to remain up to a year after an initial application, according to a 2015 scientific review by Christy Morrissey, PhD, Pierre Mineau, PhD, and others. Even at low concentrations, the researchers found imidacloprid and other neonicotinoid chemicals adversely affect survival, growth, emergence, mobility, and behavior of many sensitive aquatic invertebrate taxa.

WGHOGA growers invested approximately $1 million over the past five years in attempts to register imidacloprid for use on their oyster beds. The chemical was intended to replace carbaryl, another toxic insecticide whose use was recently phased out by the association. Taylor Shellfish and other growers indicated to the Seattle Times that there are no plans to return to carbaryl use.

A letter written by Xerces Society and supported by Beyond Pesticides urged Ecology and WGHOGA growers to focus on an integrated pest management approach to problems associated with burrowing shrimp in oyster cultivation. This includes setting requirements for increased monitoring, the creation of mandatory threshold limits at which action may be required, and the inclusion of alternative non-chemical control methods such as water jets and the development of predator populations. Although native, the shrimp borrow into shellfish beds and make the ground too soft for oysters, resulting in suffocation. Although alternative plans have not been announced, the Seattle Times indicates that producers such as FMO Aquaculture in Grays Harbor are successfully harvesting oysters without the use of any pesticides.

Earlier this month, EPA announced a moratorium on new uses and products of neonicotinoid insecticides, largely in response to the impacts of these chemicals on the health of honey bees and other native pollinators. Advocates continue to call for a suspension on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in light of devastating declines in managed honey bees and untold impacts to wild pollinator species in the U.S.

For more information on the environmental impacts of neonicotinoids, visit Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows webpage.

Source: Washington Department of Ecology, Seattle Times (1, 2, 3, 4)

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



Groups Urge Michelle Obama to Publicly Commit to Pollinator Health

(Beyond Pesticides, May 4, 2015) Beekeepers, farmworkers, environmental and consumer groups last week sent a letter, signed by over 200,000 Americans, urging Michelle Obama to publicly commit to ensuring the White House gardens and grounds are free of dangerous neonicotinoid pesticides. The letter also asks that the First Lady use her influence to encourage the Obama administration’s  White House Pollinator Health Task Force (Task Force) to take a strong stand against these bee-toxic pesticides.

organicwhitehousegarden2More specifically, the letter urges Mrs. Obama to follow the guidelines outlined by the Council on Environmental Quality in October of last year by publicly pledging to eliminate systemic insecticides from the White House gardens and grounds, including not sourcing plants pre-treated with these pesticides.

In a memorandum announced in the summer of 2014, President Obama called forth the heads of executive departments to create a federal strategy promoting the health and safety of honey bees and other pollinators. The memorandum directed federal agencies to establish the Task Force to develop a pollinator health strategy within 180 days, and support and create pollinator habitat. This federal strategy included a pollinator research action plan, with a focus on preventing and recovering from pollinator losses, including studying how various stressors, including systemic pesticides, contribute to pollinator losses.

Although the President’s memorandum was applauded by Beyond Pesticides and other environmental organizations for recognizing the plight of the honey bee, the Task Force failed to reach its assigned deadline and delayed its recommendations in late 2014.

These lengthy delays have concerned beekeepers and environmental groups, which continue to urge the need for the White House to take swift and meaningful action to protect honey bees and other pollinators from toxic pesticides. In March of this year, over 125 conservation, beekeeping, food safety, religious, ethnic and farming advocacy groups, raised their voice through a letter sent in advance of the pending report, urging President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action immediately. A coalition of beekeepers, farmers, business leaders, environmental and food safety advocates rallied in front of the White House and delivered more than 4 million petition signatures calling on the Obama administration to put forth strong protections for bees and other pollinators. “Through bold and decisive action from the White House and EPA, we can begin to reverse bee declines and protect pollinator populations for future generations,” said Nichelle Harriott, science and regulatory director at Beyond Pesticides.

The necessity to push the White House and EPA toward immediate action is even more critical, as new information about the dangers of neonicotinoids to bees emerged last month. Two new studies found that not only does neonicotinoid exposure result in reduced bee density, nesting, colony growth, and reproduction, but also bees in fact prefer foods containing neonicotinoid pesticides, despite their adverse effects. Essentially, bees can become addicted to foods treated with neonicotinoids in the same way that humans can become addicted to cigarettes.

Beyond Pesticides and other groups continue to fight for the suspension of bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides. Individuals can support these needed changes by going to save-bees.org and signing the petition to the White House. Call Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450 or send an email to [email protected] for other ways to get involved!

Source: Friends of the Earth

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



California Mom Successfully Gets Cancer-Causing Herbicide Eliminated from Community- You Can, Too!

(Beyond Pesticides, May 1, 2015) A recent success in grassroots activism comes through Tracy Madlener, a mother of two, who got her neighborhood in Laguna Hills, California to eliminate the use of Roundup, a widely-used weedkiller. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an intergovernmental agency forming part of the World Health Organization (WHO) recently classified Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, as carcinogenic in people based on animal studies. The classification is technically “probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A),”  sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity based on laboratory studies. Gravely concerned, Ms. Madlener began her mission to eliminate the use of toxic Roundup in her neighborhood, with some help from Beyond Pesticides, sharing her progress on a new Facebook page ‘How to Create a Toxic-Free Community’ along the way.

hg_homeJust five days in she posted a video blog about getting started: organizing, sending emails, making a to-do list, and making phone calls for research purposes. She also built up a network and informed others in the area, contacted other moms doing similar work to ban harmful chemicals in their areas for advice, spoke with landscapers to suggest healthier options, researched environmentally- and health-conscious alternatives to Roundup for local use, and made folders with information to hand out to her local Home Owners’ Association board members, meeting them and writing personal letters to help them understand her mission.

With summer just around the corner, grassroots activism is as important as ever in stemming the use of hazardous chemicals around the country. Beyond Pesticides has the tools necessary for activists like you to increase environmental awareness in your community through our Databases that Support Action. We promote getting active to safeguard your community and the surrounding environment from toxic insults: teach your neighbors how to maintain their land without toxic pesticides, protect honeybees from neonicotinoids insecticides, aquatic species from endocrine disrupting chemicals, and the streams, lakes, and rivers we all depend on from the widespread use of harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

Beyond Pesticides promotes these actions and many more through our Tools for Change page. This page is designed to help activists and other concerned citizens organize around a variety of pesticide issues on the local, state, and national level. Learn how to organize a campaign and talk to your neighbors about pesticides with our factsheets. With these efforts, your community can join those of: Boulder, Colorado, where the first “bee-safe” neighborhood was established; Portland, Oregon and others, where bee-killing neonicotinoids were banned; and Maryland’s Takoma Park, where all pesticides were outlawed from public and private use; as well as many more.

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

To make your community sustainable and take it off the pesticide treadmill, join Beyond Pesticides’ community-based campaigns through our website, or contact us directly at [email protected].

Source: AltHealthWorks

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



Vermont Wins Legal Challenge to Its GE Labeling Law

(Beyond Pesticides, April 30, 2015) On Monday, a U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Vermont found that the state’s genetically engineered food (GE) labeling law, Act 120, is constitutional under the First Amendment, and thus rejected the motion to stop its implementation. The legal challenge was brought by the same industrial food companies  –Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA), Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and National Association of Manufacturers – that had poured money into defeating the measure, before it overwhelmingly passed in the state legislature. The judge also dismissed a number of the plaintiffs’ claims, including assertions that the law violates the commerce clause and was expressly preempted by federal law. Read the full text of the decision here.

VermontGMOlabelingAndrea Stander, executive director of Rural Vermont noted, “This decision by the federal court is a strong validation of the three long years that Vermonters worked tirelessly to pass the GMO Food Labeling Bill. We are one step closer to securing our right to know if GMOs are in our food.”

Despite overwhelming support for the passage by the state legislature last year, Act 120, which was the first of its kind in the nation, was met with substantial but expected industrial backlash. The major trade association groups that were plaintiffs in this case announced their plans to file suit immediately after it was signed into law on May 8, 2014, stating that the labeling requirement would be “a costly and misguided measure.” However, analysis of published research negated this claim. Furthermore, genetically engineered foods are already required to be labeled in 64 foreign countries, including many where American food producers sell their wares. Fortunately, legislators anticipated that the major food companies would challenge the law in courts, and wrote in the creation of the Food Fight Fund, which allows individuals to donate to defend the law if it were to be challenged in court.

“As Attorney General Sorrell has said, Monday’s ruling upheld the heart and soul of Vermont’s GMO labeling law,” said Madison Monty of NOFA-VT. “The court’s findings have affirmed the solid legal standing of Act 120, and we are excited to have reached this important landmark on the road to the right to know.”

According to Vermont Right to Know, which is a collaborative project by Cedar Circle Farm, NOFA-VT, Rural Vermont, VPIRG, the next steps in the case may include proceeding to trial to resolve outstanding claims, or an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Though the court found that plaintiffs are not likely to succeed in blocking the GE disclosure requirement, the ruling indicated that the prohibition on using the word “natural” will face an uphill battle. The law is set to go into effect on July 1, 2016.

The court finding sets a precedent for other states that may want to move forward with labeling initiatives. Nearby states Maine and Connecticut have already passed legislation on GE labeling, however, these states currently contain a “trigger clause” that delays implementation until similar legislation is passed in neighboring states, including one bordering state in the case of Connecticut. Labeling laws were proposed and defeated in California, Oregon and Washington in recent years, after millions of dollars of corporate spending entered into the equation. Polls and surveys show overwhelming public support for labeling of genetically engineered foods, yet the same food and chemical companies continue to ignore consumers fight for the right to know every chance they get.

Beyond Pesticides believes that consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and human health. GE agriculture is associated with the increased use of herbicides –particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup— that crops are developed to tolerate. In light of the recent findings by International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) that glyphosate is a human carcinogen based upon laboratory animal test data, consumers have even more cause for concern about the health risks that these products pose.

Furthermore, there are many environmental consequences of reliance on chemical-intensive, genetically engineered agriculture. Repeated spraying of these herbicides destroys refuge areas for beneficial insects, such as the monarch butterfly, and leads to resistance in the very weed species that GE technology is intended to control. Yet, despite rampant glyphosate resistance and the presence of organic management practices that are more protective of human health and the environment, the agrichemical industry continues to resort to increasingly toxic combinations of chemicals. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has registered Enlist DuoŸ, officially approving the sale and use of a new wave of genetically-engineered (GE) 2,4-D tolerant crops and their accompanying herbicide formulations.

It’s important to note that currently the best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. To learn more about organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture, and Eating With a Conscious pages. For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website.

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

Source: Vermont Right to Know GMO

Photo Source: Vermont Right To Know GMOs



Toxic Imidacloprid To Be Sprayed on Oyster Beds in Washington Bays

(Beyond Pesticides, April 29, 2015) Much to the dismay of activists and concerned local residents, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) approved a permit for the use of imidacloprid (a neonicotinoid) to combat a growing native population of burrowing shrimp that threatens valuable shellfish (oyster) beds in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor in Washington state. Imidacloprid is known to be toxic to bees but is also toxic to aquatic organisms, raising questions on the impacts of its use on the long-term ecological health of the bays.

willapaThe shellfish industry is important to the Pacific Northwest, injecting an estimated $270 million or more into the region’s economy, and providing jobs for many. Washington’s tidelands, especially those in Willapa Bay, have been particularly productive for more than 100 years. However, according to shellfish growers, the burrowing shrimp (ghost shrimp, Neotrypaea californiensis, and mud shrimp, Upogebia pugettensis) undermines the industry. The creatures burrow into shellfish beds, making the beds too soft for shellfish cultivation. Their burrowing churns the tidelands into a sticky muck, smothering the oysters. After several years of deliberations and studies, Ecology identified imidacloprid as its preferred choice for eradicating the shrimp. According to the agency, imidacloprid disrupts the burrowing shrimps’ ability to maintain their burrows. A risk assessment conducted by Ecology concludes that, “The proposed use of imidacloprid to treat burrowing shrimp in shellfish beds located in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor is expected to have little or no impact on the local estuarine and marine species
.. , and will not significantly impact human health.”

However, in comments submitted by the Xerces Society, supported by Beyond Pesticides, and others, Ecology failed to consider existing published research that demonstrates the potential for wide-range ecological damage from imidacloprid. The groups say that the risks, coupled with the lack of data on how imidacloprid will impact sensitive marine environments like Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, warrant greater caution. The comments urged the agency to review existing data which shows imidaclorpid’s potential to damage the rich marine ecosystems of Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. Imidaclorpid is water soluble and highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates. Its persistence and largely irreversible mode of action in invertebrates make it particularly dangerous in these ecosystems. Further, the comments note, imidacloprid’s impact on these key species can also cause a cascading trophic effect, harming the fish, birds, and other organisms that rely on them for sustenance.

But environmental organizations were not the only ones to raise concern for the use of imidacloprid. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) voiced many concerns over the application of imidacloprid to the bays. Among them include concerns surrounding the large size of the area to be treated. NMFS believes that the proposed acreage should be reduced because of many unknowns regarding impact to other aquatic and terrestrial biota. Further, NMFS states that the burrowing shrimp are native to the region and play an important role in the natural ecosystem. The agency also voiced concern for the green sturgeon – a “species of concern” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the potential direct and indirect impacts to its food sources in the designated critical habitat. The agency believes that effects and damages will not be limited to the treatment sites. Similarly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) also expressed reservations over imidacloprid use. FWS wrote Ecology expressing its opposition to the imidacloprid permit, citing a lack of scientific information regarding fate and transport, efficacy, persistence, and effects to non-target organisms. It went on to dispute claims that shrimp control improves biodiversity, citing the possibility of significant alterations occurring to the bay’s ecosystem without burrowing shrimp control, disagreeing with Ecology’s conclusion that “no significant adverse impacts” would be expected. Read Ecology’s EIS.

The permit -a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit under the Clean Water Act- to use imidacloprid to control burrowing shrimp came at the request of the Willapa/Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association. Ecology and members of the shellfish industry believe the neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, is a “safer” choice compared with other, older pesticides classes like the carbamate, carbaryl. Carbaryl is still currently used as a control option, despite many objections to its use based on its toxicity. However, a 2015 scientific review by Christy Morrissey, PhD, Pierre Mineau, PhD, and others, on the impacts of neonicotinoids in surface waters from 29 studies in 9 countries finds that these chemicals adversely affect survival, growth, emergence, mobility, and behavior of many sensitive aquatic invertebrate taxa, even at low concentrations. Neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid, were also recently evaluated by a large panel of international experts chartered under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which found that neonicotinoids have “wide ranging negative biological and ecological impacts on a wide range of non-target invertebrates in terrestrial, aquatic, marine and benthic habitats.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which oversees the registration and use of imidacloprid and other pesticides, is currently reviewing the human and environmental health impacts of imidacloprid and other neonicotinoids pesticides. EPA has stated that it will not be completed before 2018/19. According to agency documents, in 2012 Willipa-Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association petitioned for imidacloprid use for intertidal oyster beds to control burrowing shrimp. This represented a new use for imidacloprid. As such, the agency established tolerances for residues, in or on fish at 0.05 parts per million (ppm), and fish-shellfish, mollusk at 0.05 ppm. The petition for new use was issued a conditional registration on June 6, 2013 for the imidacloprid products, Protector 0.5G and Protector 2F, which can only be used in Willipa Bay/Grays Harbor, according to the product labels. The label for Protector notes, “This product is toxic to wildlife and highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates.” The risk assessment conducted by EPA for this new use states that “the proposed use of imidacloprid on oyster beds in WA can result in residential exposure via potential contact with residues in oyster bed water or sediment during recreational swimming,” including Native American tribes and subsistence farmers.

Earlier this month, EPA announced a moratorium on new uses and products of neonicotinoid insecticides, however, imidacloprid’s use in Willipa/Grays Harbor precedes this new moratorium, and so will be allowed. Advocates have been calling a suspension of neonicotinoids due to their association with bee and pollinator decline across the country. This call includes an expansion of the moratorium to include products already on the market. Learn more at Bee Protective.

Under the new permit, the Willapa-Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association must submit an annual operations plan for Ecology to approve before any use of the pesticide. Growers will be able to use pesticide on up to 1,500 acres of commercial tidelands in Willapa Bay and on up to 500 acres in Grays Harbor. It can be applied no more than once a year and only in low-wind conditions. Throughout the five-year term of the permit, Ecology will require growers to conduct water and sediment monitoring through a partnership with the Washington State University Long Beach extension research facility. For more on the permit see here.

But local residents are concerned that shellfish growers will apply imidacloprid irresponsibly and contaminate not just the oyster beds but surrounding areas as well. For instance, the permit will allow for aerial spraying so long as wind speeds do not exceed 10 miles per hour. However, pesticide drift -a concern with any aerial application, is worrying residents on the potential impacts to non-target organisms like pollinators and others. Other concerns include the contamination of oysters, fish, and other aquatic organisms in the Bay, as well as those consuming contaminated organisms.

For more information on the environmental impacts of neonicotinoids, visit What the Science Shows.

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

Source: Chinook Observer 

Photo Source: The Oregonian



Chipotle Removes Genetically Engineered Food from Its Menu

(Beyond Pesticides, April 28, 2015) Beginning this week, Chipotle Mexican Grill will stop serving food containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. The restaurant’s announcement is the first of any major fast food chain, and fits with the company’s long-held mission of providing its customers “food with integrity.” In 2013, Chipotle also became the first major restaurant chain to label foods it sold that contained GE ingredients, and in 2010 the company announced its support for organic production practices by increasing the percentage of organic ingredients it serves, and committing to eventually transition the entire menu to organic.

Chipotle“Just because food is served fast doesn’t mean it has to be made with cheap raw ingredients, highly processed with preservatives and fillers and stabilizers and artificial colors and flavors,” said Steve Ells, Chipotle’s founder and co-chief executive to The New York Times. Although the meat and dairy served at the chain will still come from animals fed GE grain, the company indicates it will continue to work on the issue. Over 90% of corn and soybeans grown in the United States are GE, making sourcing difficult for larger restaurants.

More and more retailers, from restaurants to the grocery aisle, are eliminating foods produced though GE agriculture, a method of food production used primarily to genetically alter crops to withstand repeated herbicide applications or produce its own insecticide. Last year, General Mills agreed to remove GE ingredients from its flagship Cheerios cereal, and last month Hersey’s announced it would stop using GE sugar beets in the production of its milk chocolate bars and “kisses.” These campaigns were led by GMO Inside, which is currently encouraging Starbucks to source organic milk at its stores.

In the wake of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s determination that glyphosate is a human carcinogen based upon laboratory animal test data, consumers are becoming increasingly wary of GE crops reliant on the chemical, and formulations mixed with even more toxic herbicides such as 2,4-D. Last year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency increased the allowable levels of glyphosate on food products sold in the states. A study released early last year found that GE “Roundup Ready” soybeans retained glyphosate residues at higher levels than conventionally produced soy.

Despite the growing call for the elimination of glyphosate-laced GE products in our food supply, or transparency when it is present in our food, chemical and grocery manufacturers have worked in tandem to deny American’s the right to know. Money poured in from these vested interests to defeat labeling initiatives in California, Washington State, Oregon, and Colorado. However, last year Vermont’s legislature voted to become the first state to require labels on GE products by 2016. Despite a court challenge from the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, Vermont has moved forward with its law, releasing a draft of the proposed GE labeling rule late last year.

At the federal level, a mandatory GE labeling bill, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, S. 809 and H.R. 1699, introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Peter Defazio (D-OR) has languished without a vote since 2013, but was reintroduced this February to applause from consumer and environmental groups, as well as renowned chefs like Tom Colicchio. Over 700 high-profile chefs from throughout the country joined together last year to promote the Right-to-Know Act, and speak out against HR 4432, dubbed the dubbed the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know Act” (DARK Act) by activists, as it would give full authority of GE labeling to FDA, which currently favors a voluntary approach to the issue.

The wave of marketplace transitions towards food produced with safer practices is a sign of the growing power of consumers and the food movement to protect not only human health, but the health of farmworkers that grow the food we eat, and pollinators and other wildlife that may be impacted in the course of its production. Beyond Pesticides has long sought for a broad-scale marketplace transition to organic practices that disallow the use of GE crops and toxic synthetic pesticides and fertilizers by law. The Eating with a Conscience database developed by Beyond Pesticides shows consumers not only the pesticides that may be present on the food you eat, but the impacts food cultivation can have on farmworkers and the wider environment. Although non-GE crops are a step forward, ultimately the widespread adoption of organic agriculture is necessary to protect consumers and the environment in the long-term.

Source: Chipotle, The New York Times

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