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USDA Publishes Review Schedule for Materials Used in Organic Production and Handling

(Beyond Pesticides, December 19, 2011) The National Organic Program (NOP) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a comprehensive list of the expiration dates for all materials currently allowed for use in organic production and handling. These materials, which are collectively referred to as the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List), must be reviewed by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) every five years. Since materials have been added to the National List on an irregular schedule, a unique subset of them comes up for reconsideration each year in a process commonly referred to as “sunset review.” The NOSB is then responsible for recommending whether to renew, remove, or restrict the use conditions for each material after which the public is invited to express its opinion through public comment proceedings. The sunset review process is separate from the NOSB’s additional responsibility to review petitions for new materials under consideration for addition to the National List. While the Secretary of Agriculture has final authority for adding materials to the National List, only those materials positively recommended by the NOSB – whether through the sunset process or new petition review – may be added.

The National List is divided into several subcategories, the most commonly known being the synthetic materials allowed in organic crop and livestock operations. It also contains numerous natural materials which are prohibited for use in organic crop and livestock production because of their adverse environmental and/or toxicological impacts. With regards to handling (processing) operations, the National List identifies all nonagricultural substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic” or “made with organic” ingredients. Finally, the National List specifies which nonorganically produced agricultural products are allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic” due to the provision for commercial availability.

The allowance for materials used in organic crop, livestock and handling operations has become a heavily debated issue at recent NOSB meetings. A number of Board members have increasingly expressed the opinion that, since the allowance for synthetic materials is recognized as an exception to a system of organic production, the National List should be kept short and materials removed when they are no longer essential. Other NOSB members have adopted an approach based on deference to earlier Board decisions that recognized the material as essential at that time. Disputes have arisen over how changes in production practices and new information about the material’s environmental impact should be weighed during the sunset review. For its part, the NOP has enforced the statutory provisions for material evaluation, review and rulemaking but has stressed repeatedly that there is no inherent reason to minimize the size of the National List. For more information on key material review decisions as they arise, please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Keep Organic Strong webpage.

The next meeting of the NOSB will be held in Albuquerque, NM between May 21 and 24, 2012. More information about this meeting will be posted as it becomes available.

Source: The NOP Organic Insider

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



Save the Date: National Pesticide Forum, March 30-31, Yale University

(Beyond Pesticides, December 19, 2011) The 30th National Pesticide Forum, Healthy Communities: Green solutions for safe environments, will be held March 30-31, 2012 (Friday evening and all day Saturday) in partnership with Connecticut and New England groups at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The conference will focus on organic landcare, urban/ suburban pesticide use, organic food, and protective national, state, and local policies.

The conference is convened by Beyond Pesticides, Environment and Human Health, Inc., and the Watershed Partnership, Inc., and co-sponsored by local, state and regional public health and environmental organizations. Contact us if your organization is interested in co-sponsoring this event.

Registration fees begin at $25. Online registration coming soon.

Sessions will be held in the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies’ Kroon Hall. It is a truly sustainable building: a showcase of the latest developments in green building technology, a healthy and supportive environment for work and study, and a beautiful building that actively connects students, faculty, staff, and visitors with the natural world.

Watch videos from the 29th National Pesticide Forum. We would like to thank everyone who was able to be a part of Sustainable Community: Practical solutions for health and the environment, the 29th National Pesticide Forum, at the Colorado School of Public Health. We believe the opportunity to get together and share information and strategy is vital to public health and environmental protection, and we are glad that so many people were part of this important gathering.



ACT NOW: Senators Write Letter Seeking Consideration of Misguided Bill

(Beyond Pesticides, December 16, 2011) A group of U.S. Senators has drafted and sent a letter to the offices of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in an attempt to convince them to set aside time in the Senate schedule for consideration of the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, H.R. 872.

ACTION IS NEEDED to show Senators Reid and McConnell that the public does not want this bill and that pesticides should not be exempted from critical safety and environmental protections. Consideration of this bill would take valuable time out of the Senate’s schedule to debate a bill that would weaken important policies that protect human health and the natural environment.

The letter, dated December 8th, aims to communicate a sense of bipartisan agreement that the issue should move forward. It was drafted by Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) and was signed by 13 other Republicans and 10 other Democrats. However, despite this apparent bipartisan support, many Senators have expressed serious concern regarding the effects that would result from passage of the bill.

Your help is needed. Please call the offices of Senator Reid and Senator McConnell today and tell them that you do not want the application of pesticides to be exempted from common sense health and environmental review and that the Senate should not be spending time to consider weakening protections for public health and safety. Here are the phone numbers for the Senators’ Washington, DC offices:

U.S. Senator Harry Reid – Nevada: (202) 224-3542
U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell – Kentucky: (202) 224-2541

When you speak with the Senators’ legislative aides, consider these points in communicating your message:

— Much misinformation is swirling about the Clean Water Act general permit at issue. The permit, which took effect on November 1, 2011 but will not be enforced for 120 days, will have no significant effect on farmers. The permit will in no way affect land applications of pesticides for the purpose of controlling pests. Irrigation return flows and agricultural stormwater runoff will not require permits, even when they contain pesticides. Existing agricultural exemptions in the Clean Water Act will remain.

— This Clean Water Act general permit simply lays out commonsense practices for applying pesticides directly to waters that currently fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

Background on HR 872 / S 718

The so-called “Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011,” would ensure that Clean Water Act (CWA) permits are not required for the application of pesticides. The bill states, “A permit shall not be required by the Administrator or a State under [the Clean Water Act] for a discharge from a point source into navigable waters of a pesticide authorized for sale, distribution, or use under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), or the residue of such a pesticide, resulting from the application of such pesticide.”

FIFRA and CWA are complementary laws. The two statutes have fundamentally different standards and methods in determining whether a pesticide will have unreasonable adverse effects on the environment and/or human health. The CWA statute is more stringent than FIFRA. CWA has a “zero discharge” standard, meaning any amount of discharge, no matter how small, without a permit, constitutes a violation of the CWA. Risk assessment, on the other hand, used under FIFRA, is weaker than a “zero harm” standard. Risk/benefit allows a certain amount of pollution (i.e. risk) in exchange for controversial calculations of benefit and use a threshold of harm that can vary upon EPA discretion. Since the CWA statute is more stringent in its oversight of U.S. waterways, FIFRA should not be allowed to override the CWA.

In March 2011, HR 872 passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 292-130. The bill, introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), seeks to amended FIFRA and CWA to eliminate provisions requiring pesticide applicators to obtain a permit to allow pesticides or their residues to enter waterways. It would reverse a 2009 Sixth Circuit court decision which ruled that, under FIFRA and CWA, EPA must require such permits.

EPA first proposed draft language in June 2010 for a Pesticide General Permit (PGP) in response to the court ruling. Its decision to issue a permit stems from the 2009 court decision in the case of the National Cotton Council et al. v. EPA in which the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that pesticide discharges into water are pollutants and require CWA permits. This ruling overturned the Bush administration policy that exempted pesticides from regulation under the CWA, and instead applied the less protective standards of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). CWA uses a kind of health-based standard known as maximum contamination levels to protect waterways and requires permits when chemicals are directly deposited into rivers, lakes and streams, while FIFRA uses a highly generalized risk assessment that does not consider safer alternatives.

The PGP went into effect in November, when negotiations for a comromise bill in the Senate broke down.

EPA will issue permits in territories, Indian Country Lands, six states, and the District of Columbia where the agency is the NPDES permitting authority. EPA is working closely with the other 44 states as they develop their own permit regulations. The PGP does not authorize coverage for discharges of pesticides or their degradates to waters already impaired by these specific pesticides or degradates or discharges to outstanding national resource waters. These discharges will require coverage under the individual NPDES permits, rather than a general permit. Also outside the scope of this permit are terrestrial applications to control pests on agricultural crops or forest floors. Irrigation return flows and agricultural stormwater runoff do not require NPDES permits, even when they contain pesticides or pesticide residues, as the CWA specifically exempts these categories of discharges from requiring NPDES permit coverage.

Under the PGP, pesticide applicators will be required to reduce pesticide discharges by using the lowest effective amount of pesticide, and prevent leaks and spills, in addition to reporting any adverse incidents. Pesticide applicators that exceed annual treatment area threshold would also be required to apply integrated pest management (IPM) practices, as defined by the agency. EPA’s brand of IPM is “a program of prevention, monitoring, and control, that when done correctly can greatly reduce or eliminate the amount of pesticides used.” Before the application of a pesticide, the applicator would be required to identify the specific pests, and causes of infestation. The pesticide applicator must evaluate following management options: (1) no action, (2) preventive measures, (3) mechanical control, (4) cultural methods, and (5) biological control agents; before selecting a pesticide. EPA estimates the regulations will affect 365,000 pesticide applicators that use an estimated 5.6 million pounds of pesticides annually.



Insecticidal Nets May Be Source for Bed Bug Resistance

(Beyond Pesticides, December 15, 2011) New research suggests that the recent re-emergence of bed bug infestations may originate from insecticide use in the tropics. According to the results, which were presented at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s 60th annual meeting, exposure to treated bed nets and linens caused populations of bed-bugs to build resistance to those chemicals. The findings presented at the gathering showed that 90% of 66 populations sampled from 21 U.S. states were resistant to a group of insecticides, known as pyrethroids, commonly used to kill unwanted bugs and flies. Other research has already shown that an over-reliance on chemical controls over the years has helped bed bugs evolve to be resistant to these chemicals.

One of the co-authors, evolutionary biologist Warren Booth, Ph.D. from North Caroline State University in Raleigh, told the BBC news that the genetic evidence he and his colleagues had collected show that the bed-bugs infecting households in the U.S. and Canada in the last decade are not domestic bed bugs, but imports.

The team collected samples from across the eastern U.S. and discovered populations of bed-bugs that are genetically very diverse. “If bed-bugs emerged from local refugia, such as poultry farms, you would expect the bed-bugs to be genetically very similar to each other,” explained entomologist and co-author Coby Schal, Ph.D. also from North Carolina State University. “This isn’t what we found.” Dr. Schall explained to the BBC news that this suggests that the bugs originated from elsewhere, and relatively recently because the different populations had not had time to interbreed.

“The obvious answer is the tropics, where they have used treated bed nets [and] high levels of insecticides on clothing and bedding to protect the military,” Dr Booth told BBC News.

Bed bugs have slowly been developing resistance mechanisms and have become resistant to most, if not all, insecticides on the market. On average, insecticides labeled for bed bug control can take over 150 hours to kill a bed bug, compared to seconds or minutes in previous years. An Ohio State study, “Transcriptomics of the Bed Bug,” published January 2011 in the journal PLoS One confirms bed bug resistance to pyrethroid insecticides and highlights the need to adopt non-chemical methods for controlling bed bugs and other insect pests.

Pyrethroids, some of the most common chemicals used in attempts to treat bed bug infestations, are a class of pesticides that are synthetic versions of pyrethrin, a natural insecticide found in certain species of chrysanthemum. They were initially introduced on the market as ‘safer’ alternatives to the heavily regulated and highly toxic organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos and diazinon, which were banned for residential use in 2001 and 2004, respectively. Despite the fact that there are plenty of effective pest control methods that are not nearly as toxic, pyrethroids are now some of the most popular household pesticides. They are cause for concern to consumers because of their link to serious chronic health problems. Synthetic pyrethroids are suspected endocrine disruptors, and have been found lingering in the dust at daycare centers.

The bed bug resurgence in the U.S. in recent years has been met by increasingly widespread pesticide resistance, as people have tried to manage them with chemicals. This has led to public anxiety about the pests and drastic attempts to stem their spread through various means, often including the use of highly toxic and harmful chemicals. For example, the State of Ohio, dealing with infestation in several major cities in 2009, petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve the indoor use of the pesticide propoxur. The agency considers propoxur to be a probable carcinogen and, due to concerns posed to children, banned it for in-home use in 2007. About 25 other states supported Ohio’s request for an emergency exemption. In comments to the agency objecting to the petition for propoxur, Beyond Pesticides and other environmental and public health advocates urged the agency to reject the request, citing numerous serious public health threats associated with the chemical, as well as the availability of alternatives. EPA rejected Ohio’s petition in June.

The good news is that these pests can be effectively controlled with non-toxic approaches. An IPM approach, which includes methods such as vacuuming, steaming, and exposing the bugs to high heat, can control an infestation without the dangerous side effects. This approach, as well as taking steps such as sealing cracks and crevices, reducing clutter and encasing mattresses, can also help to prevent an infestation in the first place.

For more information on bed bugs and least-toxic control methods, see our factsheet, “Got Bed Bugs, Don’t Panic,” on our Bed Bug program page.

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



EPA Grants Conditional Registration to Nanosilver Product Before Reviewing Pertinent Data

(Beyond Pesticides, December 14, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conditionally registering a pesticide product containing nanosilver as a new active ingredient. The antimicrobial pesticide product, HeiQ AGS-20, a silver-based product for use as a preservative for textiles to help control odors, is being granted registration despite a long list of outstanding studies that have yet to be submitted and reviewed by EPA. As a testament to EPA’s flawed registration process, the agency will now require additional data on the product after it has entered the marketplace to confirm its assumption that the product will not cause ‘unreasonable adverse effects on human health or the environment,’ the general standard for registration under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

HeiQ AGS-20 is a nanosilver-silica composite with nanosilver particles that are incorporated into textiles and release of silver ions to suppress the growth of bacteria, which cause textile odors, stains, and degradation. Despite an emerging database that shows that nanosilver is much more toxic than conventional-sized silver and can cause damage in new ways, the agency pressed forward with registration of a product for which it has not fully evaluated human and environmental health data. For conditional registration, which is allowed under Section 3(c)(7) of FIFRA, pesticide registration can be granted even though all data requirements have not been satisfied or reviewed, by assuming that no unreasonable adverse effects on the environment will occur. Conditional registration allows pesticides to be introduced to the market with unknown and unevaluated risks to human and environmental health, which oftentimes leads to serious consequences. EPA is giving the registrant, HeiQ, four years to submit its data.

While all data must eventually be submitted, it often takes years before EPA acquires relevant data. It is rare that the regulatory decision will be altered once data has been submitted. Recent cases have illustrated just how flawed and dangerous granting conditional registration can be. Thousands of spruce trees were killed or severely damaged this past spring after being exposed to the herbicide Imprelis, which was granted conditional registration before an adequate review of environmental effects. Similarly, it was revealed that the pesticide clothianidin, also granted conditional registration, did not have required bee field studies adequately reviewed even though it is known that this chemical is highly toxic to important pollinators like honey bees.

In its decision document, EPA states that for the period of conditional registration for HeiQ AGS-20 there is a low probability of adverse risk to children and the environment from treated textiles, and concludes that use of HeiQ AGS-20 will not cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment during the period when newly required data are being developed. Several studies are required and include route-specific toxicity studies for occupational exposure scenarios, as well as tests to determine if nanosilver detaches from treated articles. Additionally, EPA continues to place industry needs ahead of public health. The agency states that allowing HeiQ’s product on the market pending generation of data allows HeiQ to participate in the textile economy along with the other registrants with like-situated products. In 2008, HeiQ AGS-20 was submitted for registration on the grounds that it was identical or substantially similar to currently registered products and thus would not need to submit data to support its registration. However, EPA determined that HeiQ AGS-20, since it contained a nanoscale ingredient, may have properties that are different from those of conventionally-scaled ingredients. This decision is part of EPA’s recognition that nanomaterials should be considered new active ingredients under FIFRA, which triggered a new rulemaking process that has yet to be completed.

In the few independent studies that EPA looked at for this registration, adverse effects were identified for inhalation, oral and dermal exposures to nanosilver. Other studies have found that nanomaterials pass easily into cells and affect cellular function, depending on their shape and size. Preliminary research with laboratory rats has found that silver nanoparticles can traverse into the brain, and can induce neuronal degeneration and necrosis (death of cells or tissue) by accumulating in the brain over a long period of time. A study conducted in 2008 and confirmed by another study in 2009 shows that washing nano-silver textiles releases substantial amounts of the nanosilver into the laundry discharge water, which will ultimately reach natural waterways and potentially poison fish and other aquatic organisms. One study found nanosilver to cause malformations and to be lethal to small fish at various stages of development since they are able to cross the egg membranes and move into the fish embryos. Wastewater treatment officials, who first raised an alarm over nanomaterials in water back in 2006, are concerned that the influx of nanomaterials into wastewater will adversely impact the efficacy of wastewater treatment processes and reduce beneficial bacteria used in vital nutrient removal processes. Needless to say, EPA has not evaluated these environmental fate risks and threats to public health and drinking water quality when granting registration.

Nanotechnology, the science involving manipulation of materials on an atomic or molecular scale, is an emerging technology with a broad range of potential applications, such as increasing bioavailability of a drug, improving food packaging and in cosmetics. There are hundreds of products currently on the market that contain nanomaterials of various types and functions, the most popular application being the use of nanosilver as an antibacterial substance in many consumer products. Given this, the federal government at this point is playing a game of ‘catch-up.’ The International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) and a coalition of consumer, health, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, filed a legal petition on May 1, 2008 with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), demanding the agency use its pesticide regulation authority to stop the sale of 250+ consumer products now using nanosized versions of silver. As a result of this petition, EPA announced plans to obtain information on nanoscale materials in pesticide products. At the same time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released draft guidelines to industries about when the use of nanomaterials might trigger regulatory interest. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) also passed a recommendation directing the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to prohibit engineered nanomaterials from certified organic products as expeditiously as possible.

In the meantime, consumer products that contain nanosilver and other nanomaterials continue to grow with little to no regulatory oversight. So far, there are hundreds of products with nanosilver from toys to band-aids. For more information on nanosilver, visit the program page.

Source: EPA NEWS



Lake Tahoe Pesticide “Ban” Overturned by Local Water Control Board

(Beyond Pesticides, December 13, 2011) Despite opposition from Lake Tahoe water providers and environmental groups, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board (LRWQCB) voted last week to allow the use of pesticides to control invasive species like Asian clams and the underwater plants Eurasian watermilfoil and curly leaf pondweed. For years, the rules regulating pesticide use in Lake Tahoe limited their use to below detectable levels, creating a “de facto prohibition,” explains Mary Fiore-Wagner, an environmental scientist with the LRWQCB. The decision to allow the use of pesticides in the lake now rests in the hands of California State Water Resources Control Board.

Carl Young, interim executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe/Keep Tahoe Blue, told the Associated Press that the plan poses a threat to the lake’s water quality and the public’s health, and he’s concerned visitors and residents could be exposed to pesticides through Tahoe’s fish and drinking water. The League is urging regulators to use non-chemical methods, including bottom barriers that involve the use of large mats to starve the species of sunlight and oxygen. The aquatic plants can be managed through mechanical harvesting.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates economic impacts from introductions of new aquatic invasive species at $417.5 million over 50 years. It cites property values and lost tourism spending as the largest impacts. Asian clams were brought to the U.S. in the 1920’s for food and have become a nuisance in Lake Tahoe. Because of their nutrient-rich waste, they are blamed for contributing to cloudiness in of the lake’s famously clear water. The nonnative plant species, Eurasian watermilfoil and curly leaf pondweed, are considered a problem because they could clog intakes for the region’s water supply system. Despite these concerns, the head of the local water supply association still opposes the use of pesticides.

Greg Reed, Board Chairman of Tahoe Water Suppliers Associations, told the Tahoe Daily Tribune that he is “very concerned” about the impacts aquatic pesticides could have on drinking water at Lake Tahoe. He told the newspaper that he was “appreciated of water board staff’s efforts to diminish any effects of pesticide use on water quality,” but said, “The possibility of contaminated water is a frightening one.” Many water providers draw drinking water directly from the lake and would be unable to filter out any pesticides that reach their intake pipes, Mr. Reed added. The Tahoe Water Suppliers Associations unsuccessfully lobbied the LRWQCB to impose a five-year moratorium on any chemical use on projects at Lake Tahoe, giving more time to study potential adverse impacts.

Pesticides that are likely to be used to control these species include copper sulfate (Asian clams) and glyphosate (Eurasian watermilfoil and curly leaf pondweed). Copper sulfate is an irritant and is linked to adverse reproductive effects and organ damage. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp and its aquatic counterpart Rodeo, is linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, neurotoxicity, adverse reproductive effects, and organ damage. As expected, both copper and glyphosate have been shown in the scientific literature to have adverse impacts on aquatic ecosystems.

“I think honestly this is coming down to human health issues,” Carl Young told the Associated Press. “They can say all they want that [pesticides] won’t harm people, but it’s poison and it can kill things.”

Take Action: Before pesticides can be used in Lake Tahoe, the California State Water Resources Control Board and then the Environmental Protection Agency must weigh in. Beyond Pesticides will update this story when the public comment period opens in California.

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



Public Makes Voice Heard at National Organic Standards Board Meeting

(Beyond Pesticides, December 12, 2011) Continuing a long tradition of public participation in setting organic standards, more than one thousand people submitted comments leading up to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting in Savannah, GA between November 30 and December 1. View webcast of 4-day meeting. The comments were in response to specific agenda items which the NOSB was convening to consider, including many important materials review decisions. At the meeting, NOSB members frequently cited both individual comments and the collective weight of public opinion as decisive factors in determining how they voted. Beyond Pesticides thanks everyone who used our Keeping Organic Strong webpage as a resource for developing their comments and encourages the public to continue making your voice heard in the development of organic standards.

The NOSB was established under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) which authorizes the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to operate an organic certification program. Appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, the 15-member NOSB is responsible for making recommendations on whether a substance should be allowed or prohibited in organic production or handling, assisting in the development of standards for substances used in organic production, and advising the Secretary on other aspects of implementing OFPA. No substance can be added to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances that governs material use on certified production and handling operations without a supportive recommendation from the NOSB. Beyond Pesticides Executive Director Jay Feldman received a five-year appointment to the NOSB beginning January 2010 as an Environmentalist, one of seven constituencies represented on the Board.

Here is a brief summary of some of the NOSB’s major votes on Crop and Handling materials taken in Savannah:

Propane (odorized)

This material was petitioned for use in exploding underground devises used to kill burrowing pests including ground squirrels. The Crops Committee voted against this allowance in advance of the meeting and the full Board affirmed that decision in Savannah. Those opposed to the petition stated that there is a full range of alternative materials to odorized propane and that methods already allowed in organic systems that can effectively control rodents, including habitat modification, traps, introduction of predators (such as dogs), rodenticide baits, and many others, without the adverse impacts on biodiversity and with greater efficacy. These alternatives, in a more effective and less costly manner, achieve with management what propane would achieve with off-farm synthetic inputs.

Sulfur dioxide

Under existing organic standards, sulfur dioxide can only be added to wine labeled ‘made with organic grapes,’ provided that the total concentration of sulfite does not exceed 100 parts per million (ppm). Only wines to which no sulfites, which function as a preservative, have been added can be labeled ‘organic’ and display the USDA organic seal. Arguing that this restriction holds back growth in the marketplace for organically produced wines, a number of wineries petitione with a request that the annotation be amended to allow sulfur dioxide use and resultant concentrations of sulfites not exceeding 100 ppm in wines labeled as ‘organic’ and displaying the USDA organic seal.Those opposing the petition commented that the addition of sulfites to wine has not been proven to be essential and argued against adding sulfites, which are a recognized allergen, to ‘organic’ wine. The NOSB rejected the petition, thereby retaining the distinction between wines that are ‘organic’ and “made with organic grapes.’

Copper sulfate

In advance of the Savannah meeting, the Crop Committee recommended placing additional protections on the use of copper sulfate in rice production. The Committee cited concerns that routine application rates of this material results in residual copper levels that threaten aquatic organisms including amphibians both in the rice fields and downstream after the irrigation water is released. When the Committee proposed a preference for a well-established cultural practice – drill seeding of rice – in lieu of chronic dependence of synthetic copper sulfate, some rice producers questioned the practicality of such a solution. In the final vote in Savannah, copper sulfate in organic rice production was retained on the national list without the preference for drill seeding when conditions allowed.

Ammonium nonanoate

This material was petitioned for use in spray applications to control weeds prior to planting food crops, at the base of grape vines and fruit trees and on the soil surface between crop rows or at the edges of plastic film mulch. Citing concerns about compatibility with organic pracdtices and toxicity to aquatic invertebrates and the availability of several alternatives that do not require using a synthetic substance, the Crops Committee had rejected this petition and the NOSB concurred with that position.


The Handling Committee had proposed a recommendation to bring the use of chlorine in handling into compliance with the existing guidance policy established by the National Organic Program. This guidance will permit use of chlorine up to maximum labeled rates for sanitation of equipment and labeled uses in direct contact with products like fruit or vegetables, as long as there is a potable water rinse with no higher than drinking water levels after use. Additionally, it restricts chlorine in water used as an ingredient must to the level permitted in drinking water. Beyond Pesticides argued that this recommendation did not adequately address the significant human health and environmental risks known to result from chlorine’s manufacture and release into the environment. Furthermore, adoption of this recommendation means that there will be no differentiation between the allowance for chlorine use in organic and nonorganic products. Despite Jay Feldman’s dissenting vote, the NOSB approved the Handling Committee’s recommendation.

In other Board activity, Barry Flam, who holds an Environmentalist position on the Board, was elected NOSB Chairman, Mac Stone as Vice-Chairman and Wendy Fulwider as Secretary. The USDA also announced the five incoming NOSB members whose appointments will begin in January 2012. They are Harold V. Austin, IV, Director of Orchard Administration for Zirkle Fruit Company (Handler); Carmela Beck, National Organic Program Supervisor and Organic Certification Grower Liaison for Driscoll’s, an organic berry producer (Producer); Tracy Favre, Chief Operating Officer for Holistic Management International (Environmentalist); Jean Richardson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of Natural Resources, Environmental Studies and Geography at the University of Vermont (Consumer / Public Interest); and Andrea (Zea) Sonnabend, Policy Specialist and Organic Inspector Specialist for California Certified Organic Farmers (Scientist).

The next meeting of the NOSB will be held in Albuquerque, NM between May 21 and 24, 2012. More information about this meeting will be posted as it becomes available.

Source: National Organic Program Newsletter

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



New Research Links Propoxur to Abnormal Neurodevelopment in Children

(Beyond Pesticides, December 9, 2011) A recent study published in the journal NeuroToxicology has found a positive link between exposure to the pesticide propoxur and poor motor development in infants. At the age of two, children exposed to propoxur in the womb experience poor development of motor skills, according to a test of mental development. The study joins numerous others that consistently show birth defects and developmental problems when fetuses and infants are exposed to pesticides.

The study, undertaken by researchers at Wayne State University in Michigan, the University of the Philippines, and Davao Regional Hospital in the Philippines, is entitled “Fetal exposure to propoxur and abnormal child neurodevelopment at 2 years of age.” It examines levels of exposure to multiple pesticides in pregnant women living in areas of high pesticide use in the Philippines. Pesticide exposure was monitored by measuring the pesticide content of hair and blood for both mothers and children. The researchers then compare these exposure levels to adverse outcomes regarding the health of the infants once they were born. To accomplish this, the team used a method called path analysis modeling in order to determine what effects the pesticides might have on fetal development. The striking findings show that, controlling for a number of variables, there is a strong connection between high fetal exposure to propoxur and poor development of motor skills at two years of age.

Propoxur is a carbamate insecticide first registered in the U.S. in 1963 for the control of household pests, such as ants, cockroaches, and bed bugs. It is also commonly used in flea and tick collars. Propoxur can be very dangerous to humans and the environment. Common symptoms of poisoning include malaise, muscle weakness, dizziness, and sweating. Headache, nausea, and diarrhea may also result. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers propoxur a possible human carcinogen, while the state of California classifies it as a known human carcinogen. Propoxur is also highly toxic to beneficial insects such as honey bees as well as crustaceans, fish, and aquatic insects.

Although banned for indoor uses to which children would be exposed in 2007 due to concerns over potential health effects, propoxur has recently begun to be touted again as the answer to resurgent bed bug infestations. In 2009, the state of Ohio asked EPA for a special exemption to begin using propoxur again to eradicate bed bugs. Ohio was joined in its petition by 25 other states. Fortunately, the agency wisely denied the states’ petition citing concerns over potential ill effects and the “unacceptable risk to children.”

As many pest control operators now know, chemical treatments for bed bugs are not actually necessary and are often more harmful than the pests themselves. Additionally, due to an over-reliance on chemical controls over the years, bed bugs are now evolving resistance to pyrethroid chemicals. However, these pests can be effectively controlled with non-toxic approaches. An IPM approach, which includes methods such as vacuuming, steaming, and exposing the bugs to high heat, can control an infestation without the dangerous side effects. This approach, as well as taking steps such as sealing cracks and crevices, reducing clutter and encasing mattresses, can also help to prevent an infestation in the first place.

For more information on treating bedbugs, read our factsheet, “Got Bed Bugs? Don’t Panic” on our Bed Bug Program Page.

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



Beyond Pesticides Welcomes Senior Scientist and Policy Expert

(Beyond Pesticides, December 8, 2011) We are pleased to announce that Mark Keating, a conservation biologist with over 16 years’ experience in the organic science and policy, most recently as policy expert with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program, is the latest addition to the Beyond Pesticides staff. Mr. Keating will serve as Beyond Pesticides’ Senior Scientist. Among other things, he will bring his expertise to Beyond Pesticides’ work on organic agriculture, while applying the principles of organics to broader land management and beyond.

Since the mid-1990’s, Mr. Keating’s professional experience has been connected to government service and academia. He served as a county cooperative extension agent in northeastern North Carolina before coming to Washington, DC in 1998 to work for the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture. Writing research papers, reports and technical comments to federal agencies for the Wallace Institute, Mark began to develop an expertise in organic production and certification, pesticide regulation, and the federal agricultural research system.

Mark joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program in 1999 as the principal staff person working on organic crop and livestock production standards under the Organic Foods Production Act. He drafted proposed rules and other submissions for the Federal Register and responded to ensuing public comments. Collaborating with National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) members and private sector stakeholders, he helped develop the federal organic standards. Mark was part of the team that received the USDA’s Group Honor Award in 2001 for its work on the organic certification program. He subsequently worked for the USDA’s Marketing Services Branch where he provided assistance to farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer marketing operations.

Between 2006 and 2009, Mark was a lecturer with the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture and played a lead role in designing and implementing its undergraduate major in sustainable agriculture. He also served as the state assistant for the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program at the University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University during that period. Following his work at the University of Kentucky, he returned to USDA as an Agricultural Marketing Specialist with the National Organic Program. Mark has dedicated his career to raising the public consciousness that the defining challenge of the 21st century will be how, where and by whom our food is produced.

Prior to this work, Mark’s interest in the connections between agriculture, community and environment dates back to 1982 when he began working at a slow food-inspired restaurant. He was impressed by the capacity for food, when fully appreciated, to bring people together and he recognized the connections between proper agricultural practices and environmental stewardship. These themes have remained the central thread of his professional and personal life ever since.

Mark received a B.A. in Studies in the Environment and History from Yale University in 1988 and went back into food service, first as a tofu and soy milk processor and subsequently as an organic farm laborer. With a growing interest in a global perspective on food systems, he began visiting El Salvador in 1990 and was deeply inspired by the campesino cooperative movement and its commitment to economic justice and a democratic society. This work formed the basis of his graduate studies. With a Master’s thesis titled, Defending the Land: Sustainable Agriculture in El Salvador, Mark received an M.S. in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development from the University of Wisconsin in 1995.

Mark and his wife Barbara Lynch, a botanist and herbalist, are the proud parents of their daughter, Celeste.

Please join us in welcoming Mark to the staff of Beyond Pesticides. He can be reached at [email protected] and 202-543-5450.



Aspen City Council Considers Pesticides Pre-Notification Law

(Beyond Pesticides, December 7, 2011) Aspen City, Colorado, is considering mandating pre-notification of pesticide use so that neighbors and passersby can avoid being exposed to possible toxic chemicals. The notification provides for a 48-hour notice before application, as well as information on the pesticide to be used and its potential health effects. However, the Council stopped short of banning pesticide use outright throughout the city until it could gather additional information on the legal ramification of challenging state preemption law.

City Council staff last week requested direction from the Council on whether notification should be required before spraying pesticides, whether minimal restrictions should be imposed on homeowners who spray and whether the city should draft an ordinance that would challenge state preemption laws. Council members are in consensus that the city should move toward mandating pre-notification, and in the meantime continue educational outreach regarding land management practices, which can be more effective than pesticide use. Currently, state law requires pesticide applicators to post notices on properties after they have been sprayed, but not before. While an outright ban would challenge state law, mandating pre-notification would sidestep it. Local governments cannot directly regulate commercial pesticide applicators, but they can regulate homeowners’ pesticide use and require them to provide notice before they spray. The state of Colorado currently has a preemption law, which means local municipalities cannot pass stricter pesticide laws than the state. Currently, 41 states prohibit local jurisdictions from restricting pesticides. However, in January this year Connecticut introduced a bill in the state legislature to overturn its preemption law which currently prohibits local governments from imposing pesticide restrictions on private property and allow municipalities to ban and regulate the use of lawn care pesticides. This bill did not advance in the state Senate.

Aspen City’s draft ordinance provides for notification of pesticide application 48 hours before application along with the posting of clearly visible signs that must remain posted 72 hours after application. The notification is also to include: name and registration of pesticide; location, date and time of application; the statement, “The EPA cannot guarantee that registered pesticides do not pose risks, and unnecessary exposure to pesticides should be avoided”; and a description of potential adverse effects of the pesticide based on the material safety data sheet of the pesticide as well as any additional warning information related to the pesticide, along with the name and telephone number of the pesticide coordinator.

The neighboring city of Boulder enacted a pesticide pre-notification ordinance in 1981. In order to comply with state law, the ordinance makes the homeowner or property manager responsible for pre-notification. Aspen City’s environmental health director, Lee Casin, noted that the city’s parks department is one of the most progressive in the state and does not need to spray because of its turf management practices. The city council agreed that Aspen should be a leader in its approach to pesticides, but that a battle with the state would have to wait.

The issue originally came to City Council in June after Aspenite Chris Wurtele lobbied elected officials to enact an ordinance that would, at a minimum, require City Hall to use organic or “least toxic” pesticides on city property and notify the public prior to their application. Mr. Wurtele was exposed to the pesticide bifenthrin (a synethic pyrethroid) a year ago when he spent about 15 minutes in his driveway after the chemical was applied to his and his neighbor’s trees. Shortly after the exposure, he began suffering from chills, sweats and temple pressure. Mr. Wurtele proposed to the city an ordinance that would mandate that toxic pesticides can only be used as a last resort and the location, notification and time the chemicals are used be regulated.

Pre-notification is important to allow people, especially those chemically sensitive, to avoid unwanted chemical exposures. Numerous incidents resulting from a failure to notify the public of chemical applications have led to serious injuries and even death. Recently, in Ohio 47 students reportedly fell ill after their school’s hired pest control company sprayed herbicides on nearby playing fields without children and parents aware of the spraying. Children are especially vulnerable to pesticide exposures and can become exposed in parks, playing fields and other community areas. Numerous scientific studies find that pesticides typically used in schools are linked to chronic health effects such as cancer, asthma, neurological and immune system diseases, reproductive problems, and developmental and learning disabilities.

Many communities across the country have taken a stand against the use of toxic pesticides on their lawns and landscapes. Most recently, the state of New York passed the Child Safe Playing Fields Act (A 7937-C) that prohibits the use of toxic pesticides on school and daycare center playgrounds, turf, athletic and playing fields. In New Jersey, over 30 communities have made their parks pesticide-free zones and have adopted an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program for managing town property by passing a resolution adopting a pesticide reduction policy. Connecticut and Illinois have also moved forward to reduce children’s exposures to lawn pesticides.

Take Action: To see what pesticide laws are enacted in your state see Beyond Pesticides’ state pages. Know of a policy that’s not listed, or do you know of efforts to change policy in your state or community? Send and email to [email protected].

Source: Aspen Daily News Online



Protect Kids’ Health, Bees and Clean Water in 2012

(Beyond Pesticides, December 6, 2011) After three decades, we are in deep gratitude to our members for their continued support, as well as individuals who enjoy our online resources, like the Daily News Blog, or those who have joined us through online efforts to defend clean water from pesticides, get the antibacterial triclosan out of consumer products, or fight for strong organic standards as an alternative to pesticide-intensive and genetically engineered food.

That’s why we’re reaching out to ask you, as we do twice a year, to support our work and make a donation this holiday season.

Please consider a tax-deductible donation to Beyond Pesticides to help support work in these areas:

Children’s Health. Children are even more vulnerable to pesticides than adults. Studies link exposure to ADHD, lower IQ and more. We fight to protect kids from pesticides at schools, in the community, and on the food they eat.

Organic Food. Pesticides pose a hazard to your family, as well as farmworkers and the environment. Our work, including the online Eating with a Conscience guide, pushes for an end to chemical-intensive farming.

Protecting Pollinators. We need pollinators to grow many of the foods we eat. The disappearance of honey bees identifies a serious flaw in our approach to the use of pesticides.

Lawns and Landscapes. Huge quantities of toxic pesticides are being applied to lawns and parks for purely aesthetic purposes. Our work supports a nationwide transition from unnecessary chemical use to proven organic methods.

Public Education. We provide support to grassroots activists, policy makers, and others by phone, online and in person. We also publish the quarterly magazine, Pesticides and You, and maintain an information-rich website.

For a donation of $150, we will send you a copy of the award-winning film Vanishing of the Bees. Thank you for your support. Donate here.

Best wishes for a healthy holiday season and new year –
Jay Feldman, Executive Director



Six Largest Pesticide Manufacturers Stand Trial at International People’s Court

(Beyond Pesticides, December 5, 2011) On December 3, the 27th anniversary of the Bhopal pesticide plant disaster in Bhopal, India, a trial began in an international people’s court in India involving the world’s six largest pesticide companies: Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow and Dupont. These companies, collectively known as the “Big 6,” are cited by prosecutors for their human rights violations, including internationally recognized rights to life, livelihood and health. Beyond Pesticides joined Pesticide Action Network (PAN) and others in signing a joint statement demanding that these companies be held accountable for their human rights violations, which was presented at the trial. The trial, hosted by PAN International, is facilitated by the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PTT), an international opinion tribunal independent from State authorities.

The prosecution’s 230-page indictment outlines the global threats to human rights. It begins: The victims and survivors of [pesticide industry] aggression are the poor peasants, small-scale farmers, agricultural workers, rural women, children, and indigenous and agricultural communities around the world. They are at the mercy of the expanding power of the agrochemical [corporations] and are losing their control over their seeds and knowledge, and suffering debilitating physical and chronic effects due to pesticide poisoning, including coping with the destruction of their children’s health. These small food producers are losing their livelihoods, suffering increased hunger and malnutrition, and having their very means of survival threatened. Even children have been victimized and forced to carry the legacy of pesticide poisoning in their bodies, which is then passed onto their descendants.

“Rights to life, health and livelihood are inherent to our humanity,” said Kathryn Gilje, co-director of Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). “Pesticide corporations have jeopardized these rights because there is no system of accountability that follows actions across national borders or over the decades it takes to prove guilt. Until we hold them accountable, pesticide corporations will continue to avoid responsibility for their human rights violations.”

Below are samples of the more than 25 specific cases included in the indictment.

People of Kasargod vs. Bayer. In the district of Kasargod (India) the Plantation Corporation of Kerala aerially sprayed endosulfan on cashew nut plantations for over 20 years, beginning in 1976. As a consequence of the aerial endosulfan spraying, people who live, work and play there have suffered significant congenital, reproductive and long-­‐term neurological damage. In Kasargod, 500 deaths from endosulfan poisoning are officially acknowledged; unofficial estimates place the figure at around 4,000. More than 9,000 people are reported to have had health problems resulting from exposure to endosulfan. More than 1,000 still suffer from long-­‐term health problems.

Family of Silvino Talavera vs. Monsanto. Countless people have suffered severe health effects from direct exposure to the chemical cocktail RoundUp, and some have even died. Silvino Talavera, an 11-year-old, is one such example from Paraguay. Silvino was on his way home from school one day when he was enveloped in a cloud of RoundUp being sprayed by a crop duster. He arrived home barely able to breathe and was rushed to the nearest hospital, where he died five days later.

Quechua Community vs. Bayer. In violation of FAO’s Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides, Bayer AG marketed its organophosphate insecticide, methyl parathion, in unmarked plastic bags in a largely illiterate Quechua Indian community in Peru. Because of this, the insecticide was unknowingly mixed with the breakfast served to 50 young children at an educational center. 24 out of the 50 children lost their lives and the rest suffered, among other health problems, from neurological damage.

Farmers of India vs. Monsanto. In India, Monsanto has monopolized the cottonseed market, resulting in the following: Increased royalties on their seeds, pushing farmers ever deeper into debt; Damaged livestock health as a result of grazing on Bt cotton, often leading to cattle sickness and death; and, Mass farmer suicides in multiple states in India due to inability to make a living.

U.S. Farmers vs. Monsanto. Through an aggressive strategy of patenting seed and buying up seed companies, Monsanto has taken over the seed market. The corporation has made it nearly impossible for U.S. farmers to buy non-Monsanto commercial seed crops (cotton, soy, corn & canola). Monsanto has dedicated a staff of 75 people and a budget of $10 million solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers whose crops have cross-pollinated with Monsanto crops. Through this strategy, Monsanto has made between 85 and 160 million dollars off of farmers.

The Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) was founded in Italy in 1979 as a people’s court to raise awareness of massive human rights violations in the absence of another international justice system. The PPT draws its authority from the people while remaining rooted in the rigors of a conventional court format. Citing relevant international human rights laws, precedents and documents such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in its findings, the Tribunal examines and passes judgment on complaints of human rights violations brought by victims and their representative groups.

On December 3, 1984, a pesticide manufacturing plant owned and operated by Union Carbide Corporation (now Dow Chemical) exploded in the middle of the night. Amnesty International estimated that more than 7,000 people died within days of the accident, 15,000 died in later years and 100,000 people have since suffered chronic and debilitating illnesses as a result of the catastrophe and the absence of a site remediation. Union Carbide did not properly clean the site and thousands of tons of toxic chemical waste have been contaminating drinking water. The Indian Council of Medical Research estimated that over a half million people were harmed in some way. Sicknesses including cancer, blindness, immune and neurological disorders and birth defects have affected local residents, many of whom live in surrounding slums. Dow Chemical, the world’s second largest chemical maker, bought Union Carbide in 2001 and therefore assumed its liabilities for the Indian chemical plant disaster in 1984. However, Dow Chemical has refused to clean up the site, provide safe drinking water, compensate the victims, or disclose chemical information to physicians.

Take Action: While much work needs to be done internationally to support the communities and individuals cited in the indictment (learn more about the trial here), Beyond Pesticides encourages individuals to start at home and hit the “Big 6” where it hurts the most -in their wallets. Learn more about how to get pesticides out of your home, community, and food at our Safer Choice webpage, and share the link with your friends, family, and neighbors. For more information on how our food system affects farmworkers and rural families around the world, as well as the environment, see our Eating with a Conscience webpage.



EPA Seeks Information on Resistance in Genetically Engineered Plants

(Beyond Pesticides, December 2, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened a pesticide docket for information and reviews relevant to insect resistance management for plant-incorporated protectants (PIPs) -plants engineered through biotechnology to express pesticidal properties. The agency intends to collect public information on insect resistance management and monitoring for genetically engineered (GE) PIPs after expressing concern that efforts to tackle resistance issues need to be “more proactive” and effective in light of “severe” and rapidly growing insect resistance to GE crops.

According to EPA’s Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division, the agency is reviewing insect resistance management assessments submitted by registrants in accordance with the ongoing terms and conditions of their registered PIP products. PIPs are genetically engineered to incorporate pesticidal properties in plant genes in order to ward off insects that prey on the plants. PIPs are registered as a pesticidal product under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Many GE plants such as corn, cotton and others include Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacterium with insecticidal properties whose genes have been incorporated into the plant’s own genetic material. However, recent reports have shown that these PIPs are spawning “superbugs” that have become resistant to this technology. Monsanto, the lead manufacturer of PIPs, has created several Bt genes including one called Cry3Bb1 which has been responsible for resistant populations of western corn rootworm no longer susceptible to Bt.

According to documents in the newly opened docket, (Docket No: EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0922) EPA reviewed Monsanto’s resistance monitoring data from 2009 for the western rootworm which was submitted for registrations on Bt corn containing the Cry3Bb1 gene. The agency concludes that based on multiple documented cases of unexpected “severe” corn rootworm damage to Cry3Bb1 fields and other undocumented reports from corn entomologists, “Cry3Bb1 resistance is suspected in at least some portions of four states in which “unexpected damage” reports originated and recommends that the Cry3Bb1 remedial action plan be implemented for “suspected resistance.” Further, EPA states that the registrant’s (Monsanto) current resistance monitoring program is inadequate and likely to miss early resistance events, stating for efforts to be meaningful “a more proactive, effective approach needs to be adopted.”

Roughly one-third of the corn grown in the U.S. carries Monsanto’s Cry3Bb1 gene, which means that, should populations of this rootworm spread, corn farmers across the U.S. will be faced with heavy losses. Researchers from Iowa State University discovered western corn rootworms in four Iowa fields that have evolved and can resist the pesticide built into Bt corn seeds. So far the cases are isolated, but can spread to neighboring regions. Farmers in Illinois, for example, have been seeing severe rootworm damage in fields planted in Monsanto’s Bt corn.

This past year EPA has been in touch with scientists in academia and at USDA-ARS regarding Bt cron resistance issues in the Mid-west, notably Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and Minnesota. In Nebraska, the 2011 growing season marked the fourth year where moderate to severe rootworm damage in Monsanto’s Cry3Bb1 corn was apparent. Resistance monitoring data for Cry3Bb1 show that field-collected populations are generally less susceptible to the toxin.

In 2009, every field-collected populations of rootworm had higher LC50 (concentration needed to kill 50 percent of the population) than laboratory controls, in some cases by an order of magnitude. Monitoring data collected from 2005 to 2009 appeared to show a large decrease in susceptibility over the time period. One county in Illinois showed a six-fold increase in mean LC50 from 2007 to 2008 (50.2μg/cm2 in 2007 to 300.9μg/cm2 in 2008). Contributing to the growing resistance is the domination of monoculture crops in this region. Records show that affected fields have been growing Monsanto’s Cry3Bb1 corn for many successive years without crop rotation. In fact, according to the data collected, a significant positive correlation was detected between the number of years growers chose to plant Cry3Bb1 and the survival on Cry3Bb1corn of insects from problem fields. Unfortunately, many growers still plant the Bt corn despite the incidences of rootworm damage and fall back on pesticide applications to control the adult corn rootworm.

Resistance to GE crops is not new. “Roundup Ready” crops engineered to survive exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, a glyphosate-based chemical, has also spawned a new generation of Round-up resistance weeds dubbed “superweeds.” These weeds, immune to Roundup, have spread to millions of acres in more than 20 states in the South and Midwest. In addition to resistant weeds, heavy use of Roundup sprayed on “Roundup Ready” crops appear to be causing harmful changes in soil and potentially hindering yields of crops that farmers are cultivating according to scientists at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Growing previous Roundup Ready crops, such as soy, cotton, and corn, have also led to greater use of herbicides, especially when these crops fail to control the pests they are marketed to thwart.

There has long been a concern that EPA’s allowance of PIPs with Bt would lead to the failure of a biological tool used in organic farming systems as an alternative to highly toxic synthetic inputs. Organic farmers have expressed concern since the introduction of PIPs in 2003 that the overuse of Bt, which is inevitable when Bt is genetically engineered into every cell of a plant, will lead to insect resistance and leave many farmers without an important tool of organic agriculture. For more on genetically engineered agriculture read Beyond Pesticides’ article “Ready or Not, Genetically Engineered Crops Explode on Market.”

Fortunately, GE crops are not permitted in organic food production. For more information about why organic is the right choice see our Organic Food: Eating with a Conscience Guide.

To access the docket, visit: www.regulations.gov and go to docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0922.

Source: EPA Pesticide News

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



Organic Grain Production Results in Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions

(Beyond Pesticides, December 1, 2011) Ongoing research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Sustainable Agricultural Systems Lab (SASL) finds that organic grain production reduces greenhouse gas emissions relative to chemical-intensive no-till and chisel-plow production systems. In fact, the research concludes that the organic system removes more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than it contributes, while the other systems result in net increases. The results are based on data from comparable three-year crop rotations maintained for each production system at the Lab’s farm in Beltsville, MD under the direction of Michel Cavigelli, PhD. The rotations mirror typical commercial grain production operations in the mid-Atlantic region that begin with corn followed by a rye grass cover crop, rotate to soybeans and winter wheat in the second year, and conclude with a legume crop. Dr. Cavigelli’s team identified the substantial energy savings achieved in the organic system by using natural fertility sources, especially for nitrogen, as the critical factor in reducing its overall impact on climate change.

Previous research shows that carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are the two most potent greenhouse gases that are produced and released as a consequence of crop production. It is also known that, due to its specific molecular properties, nitrous oxide is approximately three hundred times more powerful than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. The USDA research calculated how much carbon dioxide was gained or lost by measuring changes in soil organic matter and also measured the nitrogen added for crop consumption that instead escaped as nitrous oxide. Combining this data with standardized figures for the energy expended (and therefore carbon dioxide released through fuel consumption) to operate each system –the number of tractor passes, for example– provided a snapshot of their respective contributions to climate change.

Although the results find that organic systems are more management intensive than no-till systems and those additional tractor passes require excess and expensive energy, diesel fuel is only one component of the overall energy needed to operate the system. The energy expended to fix synthetic nitrogen actually far exceeds that used to operate machinery and accounts for an astonishing 30% of the total energy consumed by agriculture. Despite going back into the field multiple times to control weeds, resulting in nearly three times as much energy for machinery in organic corn than in no-till corn that incorporates two herbicide applications, the total energy costs in organic systems are less. While the no-till system which used herbicide-tolerant genetically modified seeds was twice as efficient with machinery energy as the chisel plow system, overall energy costs for the synthetic fertilizers applied in both the no-till and chisel till systems is greater than the total energy consumption of the organic system which utilizes poultry litter and cover crops.

Looking at what goes on within the soil itself, the research substantiated a tenet of conventional wisdom: organically managed soils are the best for adding organic matter. This is a vital process for mitigating climate change since it removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it in stable organic compounds that enhance the soil’s agronomic productivity. The no-till system outperformed the organic system at increasing organic matter very near the surface but such increases can be quickly lost once the soil is disturbed. By contrast, the organic system generated greater increases in organic matter further below the surface and a significantly greater total accumulation. Use of the chisel plow results in even further degradation of soil organic matter, turning a potential sink of a greenhouse gas into a source. Beyond Pesticides maintains an extensive list of resources assessing organic agriculture’s potential to mitigate global climate change on our Environmental Benefits of Organic agriculture webpage.

Dr. Cavigelli points out that agricultural research like agricultural production is site-specific and that no single experiment can capture the variety and complexity of the farming systems used around the globe. However, his work provides compelling evidence that two key principles –increasing the organic matter content in soils and cutting the amount of fossil fuel used in agriculture– offer tremendous potential to protect future generations of life on Earth and even redress some of the damage that human beings have already inflicted. Recognizing that organic systems may yield less than their conventional counterparts (as was the case in Beltsville), Dr. Cavigelli weighted the results to reflect the respective productivity. The conclusion did not change: bushel for bushel for corn, soybean and wheat, the organic system was superior at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Video presentations of Dr. Cavigelli’s research on global climate change and other results from the long-term cropping systems trials conducted at Beltsville are available at the eXtension organic homepage. This site offers an extensive collection of video and print resources addressing organic crop and livestock production, certification requirements and marketing strategies and an events calendar. The site also provides expert responses to inquiries about organic agriculture and offers a monthly e-newsletter.

The U.N.’s Climate Change Conference currently underway in Durban, South Africa is the continuation of nearly two decades of negotiations by governments and private sector organizations from around the world to limit average global temperature increases and cope with the unavoidable impacts already underway. In its most recent findings from 2007, the U.N’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that “It is virtually certain that increases in the frequency of warm daily temperature extremes and decreases in cold extremes will occur throughout the 21st century on a global scale.” The IPCC also concludes that, “It is very likely—90 per cent to 100 per cent probability—that heat waves will increase in length, frequency, and/or intensity over most land areas.” The 2007 report attributed 10 to 12% of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity to agriculture and cautioned that increased utilization of synthetic nitrogen sources and destruction of biomass would lead to a future spikes in such emissions.

Beyond Pesticides actively supports conversion to organic production for the multiple environmental, human health and economic benefits it offers. In addition to its potential to mitigate and even reverse the effects of climate change, organic agriculture can conserve natural resources including soil, water and biodiversity while matching or exceeding the productivity of conventional production systems. To learn more, visit Beyond Pesticides’ page on organic food and agriculture.

Source: eXtention

Image Courtesy Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

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



Syngenta Ordered To Appear in Court in Atrazine Lawsuit

(Beyond Pesticides, November 30, 2011) A federal judge in southern Illinois has ordered the Swiss parent company of Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. (SCPI), maker of the herbicide atrazine, to appear in court to defend its actions in a water-contamination lawsuit brought last year by Midwestern public water providers. The suit was filed by the law firm Korein Tillery of St. Louis, MO and holds that Syngenta is responsible for the costs the water utilities incurred in order to clean municipal drinking water supplies of atrazine. The order marked the first time the Swiss company has ever been held subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.

The notably detailed opinion by District Judge J. Phil Gilbert of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois was handed down the day before Thanksgiving and found that Syngenta AG (SAG) – the Basel, Switzerland-based international conglomerate – “has organized its group of subsidiary companies, including SCPI, purposefully to limit the jurisdictions in which it is subject to court authority.”

Judge Gilbert focused on substance over form, however, and exercised jurisdiction because voluminous evidence revealed SAG’s pervasive operational control over SCPI – the agrochem giant based in Greensboro, N.C. that manufactures and distributes atrazine. The Judge found that the evidence of actual day-to-day control cited by lead plaintiff’s attorney Stephen M. Tillery undermined SAG’s claim that it is simply a passive financial holding company.

“The evidence shows that SAG exercises an ‘unusually high degree of control over’ and, in fact, dominates SCPI despite multiple layers of corporate ownership between them,” the Judge wrote. “SAG’s control of SCPI exceeds that which is consistent with investor status, and SAG is therefore subject to the personal jurisdiction of this Court.”

The ruling means that SAG must now actively defend the lawsuit filed by Korein Tillery and Baron & Budd of Dallas on behalf of 22 public water providers from six Midwestern states. The suit alleges that SAG and SCPI consciously chose to reap considerable profit by continuing to sell atrazine in the U.S., even while knowing that the weed killer’s chemical properties made it certain to contaminate the water sources that water providers use to supply drinking water to the American public. The suit seeks to recover the substantial costs of removing atrazine from drinking water before delivery to customers. It also seeks a declaration that SAG and SCPI will be legally responsible for reimbursing water providers the future costs associated with atrazine removal.

“We included SAG in the lawsuit because it was Syngenta’s Swiss-based management that made the important decisions that ultimately injured our clients,” Mr. Tillery said. “Judge Gilbert’s ruling vindicates our position that the upper management of foreign companies that earn billions of dollars in the U.S. cannot hide behind convoluted corporate structures to escape answering for their decisions in U.S. courts.”
Judge Gilbert’s findings largely confirm Mr. Tillery’s contentions about SAG’s direct control over SCPI presented at a jurisdictional hearing in July. In his order, the Judge also found the following:

• “It is clear that Illinois has a substantial interest in this litigation in that the allegations are that SAG is responsible for contaminating the water supply of numerous municipalities within the state.”
• “It is worth noting that SAG centralizes uniform marketing in which it represents that ‘Syngenta’ is a single-integrated globally managed entity. SCPI uses the same corporate insignia, marks and logos as SAG and does not have an independent website for its business.”
• “Some SCPI employees take orders from global managers who work for Syngenta entities that have no ownership interest in SCPI. … That the formal decision regarding those SCPI employees are technically made by SCPI’s managers does not change the reality that higher levels actually make the real decisions. … Indeed, a number of employees of Syngenta entities cannot identify for which Syngenta entity they or their coworkers work.”
• “The defendant bears the burden of showing jurisdiction is unreasonable despite its contacts with the jurisdiction. … SAG has not made such a showing. As a preliminary matter, by its actions to control SCPI within this forum, SAG has purposefully availed itself of this forum’s laws such that it should not be surprised that it is being haled into court here.”

Atrazine is used to control broad leaf weeds and annual grasses in crops, golf courses, and even residential lawns. It is used extensively for broad leaf weed control in corn. The herbicide does not cling to soil particles, but washes into surface water or leaches into groundwater, and then finds its way into municipal drinking water. It is the most commonly detected pesticide in rivers, streams and wells, with an estimated 76.4 million pounds of atrazine applied in the U.S. annually. It has been linked to a myriad of environmental concerns and health problems in humans including disruption of hormone activity, birth defects, and cancer, as well as effects on human reproductive systems, as we noted yesterday.

Atrazine is also a major threat to wildlife. It harms the immune, hormone, and reproductive systems of aquatic animals. Fish and amphibians exposed to atrazine can exhibit hermaphrodism. Male frogs exposed to atrazine concentrations within federal standards can become so completely female that they can mate and lay viable eggs.

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a petition filed by the group Save the Frogs to ban atrazine. Beyond Pesticides submitted comments earlier this month in support of this petition in which we outline in detail the numerous reasons that this chemical is harmful and unnecessary. Read our full comments here.

Source: Korein Tillery

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



Atrazine in Drinking Water May Cause Menstrual Cycle Irregularities in Women

(Beyond Pesticides, November 29, 2011) New research shows that women who drink water containing the widely used herbicide atrazine may be more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles and low estrogen levels, even at concentrations far below federal drinking water standards considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Researchers compared women living in Illinois farm towns where atrazine is used regularly to women living in Vermont where the herbicide is used sparingly, and found that the women in Illinois were almost five times more likely to report irregular menstrual cycles, including more than six weeks between periods. Consumption of over two cups of unfiltered Illinois water daily was associated with increased risk of irregular periods.

The study, entitled “Menstrual cycle characteristics and reproductive hormone levels in women exposed to atrazine in drinking water,” was published in the journal Environmental Research earlier this month, and is based on municipal tap water tested between July and September of 2005. In the study, participants maintained menstrual cycle diaries, answered a questionnaire, and provided daily urine samples for analyses of luteinizing hormone and estradiol and progesterone metabolites. To measure exposure, analysts looked at the state of residence, concentrations of atrazine and chlorotriazine in tap water, municipal water and urine, and estimated dose from water consumption.

According to researchers, the average concentration of atrazine in Illinois water was 0.7 parts per billion (ppb) – which is well below EPA’s standard of 3ppb. What’s more alarming is that co-author Lori Cragin, Ph.D. says that drought conditions at the time of sampling for this study in 2005 would have slowed the runoff from farm fields.

Beyond Pesticides submitted comments to EPA earlier this month in response to a petition by the group Save the Frogs urging the agency to ban atrazine. In Beyond Pesticides’ comments, several studies are highlighed that have been published in the scientific literature since EPA began reevaluating atrazine under its registration review process in 2009. This research includes a 2011 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, showing that prenatal exposure to atrazine is linked to small head circumference and fetal growth restriction; a study published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology in 2010 finds male rats prenatally exposed to low doses of atrazine are more likely to develop prostate inflammation and to go through puberty later than non-exposed animals; and, a 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that male frogs exposed to atrazine can become so completely female that they can mate and lay viable eggs.

Even at low levels that are considered “safe” by EPA standards, atrazine is known to harm fish, and has been associated with reproductive and developmental effects as well as endocrine disruption. Research by UC Berkeley professor, Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D. demonstrates that exposure to doses of atrazine as small as 0.1 parts per billion turns tadpoles into hermaphrodites -creatures with both male and female sexual characteristics.

As the most commonly detected pesticide in rivers, streams and wells, an estimated 76.4 million pounds of atrazine are applied in the U.S. annually. It has a tendency to persist in soils and move with water, making it a common water contaminant.

Source: Environmental Health News

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



EPA Launches New Pesticide Chemical Search

(Beyond Pesticides, November 28, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released Pesticide Chemical Search, a new database that allows users to easily access information related to pesticide active ingredients, including regulatory and scientific information. Pesticide Chemical Search is designed to consolidate information from the Office of Pesticide Program’s website and several other important sources. Though the database makes searching for pesticide information more user-friendly, it does not offer additional information on chemical adverse effects.

The new application collects existing web pages on specific chemicals on EPA’s Office of Pesticide Program’s website and allows users access to this information through a single portal. Users will also be able to quickly find the current status of a chemical and where it is in the review process. Another key feature is the ability to determine if there are any dockets open for public comment for a given chemical.

Other key features of Pesticide Chemical search include:
• 20,000+ regulatory documents such as fact sheets and REDs
• Links to over 800 dockets in Regulations.gov
• Links to important information, including pesticide tolerances in the eCFR
• Web services that provide a wide variety and depth of information about a particular chemical
• 100,000+ chemical synonyms to power the search engine

Pesticide Chemical Search will be expanded to include pesticide product labels and other relevant information in the near future.

The new Pesticide Chemical Search tool can be found at www.epa.gov/pesticides/chemicalsearch.

Source: EPA News



Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving

(Beyond Pesticides, November 24, 2011) On Thanksgiving, thank you for being a part of Beyond Pesticides and sharing and contributing to the vision necessary to protect the web and fragility of life. We believe that there is no time like Thanksgiving to think about how we can more effectively join together as families and communities across divisions and different points of view to find a common purpose in protecting the health of the environment and all that inhabit it.

Best wishes for a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving




Canada To Examine the Impact of Monsanto’s Roundup on Amphibians

(Beyond Pesticides, November 23, 2011) A Federal Court of Canada has ordered Health Canada -the nation’s public health department- to take a second look at the impacts on amphibians of glyphosate-based pesticides, one of the most widely-used pesticides in Canada and the U.S., which includes products like Monsanto’s Roundup. The decision was the result of an action brought by a pesticide-activist and pediatrician, Josette Wier, M.D., and orders Health Canada to address requests by the public for a review of the safety of a pesticide where there is serious scientific concern about its risks.

Dr. Wier’s legal challenge focused on wetlands that provide critical habitat for many species of frogs and amphibians. The original request for a special review of glyphosate-pesticides, especially those containing the “inert” ingredient polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA), and a subsequent 2009 legal challenge was brought because of her concern about possible aerial spraying of Monsanto’s pesticide in the forests near her community in Smithers. In her suit, Dr. Weir stated that the evidence “challenges the scientific validity of the previous evaluations” that led to the registration of the glyphosate herbicides containing POEA. Judge Michael Kelen of the Federal Court of Canada in his decision wrote, “[Dr. Wier] is entitled to a proper analysis as to whether the pesticide in issue presents an environmental risk to amphibians inhabiting ephemeral wetlands [those that are sometimes dry] which are subject to the aerial spraying of the pesticide in silviculture.”

“Health Canada knew that there were risks with these pesticides, and yet failed to act to protect amphibian species, many of which are endangered,” said Dr. Wier. “The judge affirmed that Health Canada should take a precautionary approach –and re-examine their approval of pesticides where scientists don’t agree on the risks.”

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is a general herbicide used for eradication of broadleaf weeds. It has been linked to a number of serious human health effects, including increased cancer risk and neurotoxicity, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. The inert ingredient, POEA, has been shown to kill human embryonic cells. It is also of particular concern due to its toxicity to aquatic species as well as instances of serious human health effects from acute exposure. One study found that Roundup alone is “extremely lethal” to amphibians in concentrations found in the environment. Another found that Rana pipiens tadpoles chronically exposed to environmentally-relevant concentrations of glyphosate formulations, containing POEA, exhibits decreased snout-vent length at metamorphosis, increased time to metamorphosis, tail damage, and gonadal abnormalities. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its registration documents for glyphosate determined that glyphosate, its salts and metabolites are likely to impact adversely the endangered California red-legged frog based on prey and habitat reduction.

A report released earlier this year finds that industry regulators have known for a long time that glyphosate causes birth defects. The report, “RoundUp and Birth Defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?” published by Earth Open Source, says that regulators misled the public about the safety of glyphosate for over 20 years! In 2009, Beyond Pesticides, submitted comments to the EPA showing new and emerging science, which illustrates that glyphosate and its formulated products pose unreasonable risks to human and environmental health, and as such should not be considered eligible for continued registration. Some of the most widespread uses of glyphosate that have been attracting public attention include its use in invasive weed management and home gardening. The increase of glyphosate use in these areas is directly tied to the larger problem of poor land management, including over grazing, over development, soil compaction, and other stressors.

Recently, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) official speaking at an agricultural conference said that the heavy use of Roundup, an herbicide manufactured by Monsanto and used heavily on Roundup Ready genetically engineered (GE) crops, appears to be causing harmful changes in soil and potentially hindering yields of crops that farmers are cultivating. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has detected glyphosate in significant levels in rain and rivers in agricultural areas across the Mississippi River watershed, according to one of their recent reports. The greatest glyphosate use, according to USGS, is in the Mississippi River basin where most applications are for weed control on GE corn, soybeans, and cotton. Overall, agricultural use of glyphosate has increased from less than 11,000 tons in 1992 to more than 88,000 tons in 2007.

Monsanto created “Roundup Ready” crops to withstand its Roundup herbicide and so, growing Roundup Ready crops such as soy, cotton, and corn has led to greater use of herbicides. It has also led to the spread of herbicide resistant weeds on millions of acres throughout the U.S. and other countries where such crops are grown, as well as contamination of conventional and organic crops, which has been costly to U.S. farmers. Because of GE crops, Roundup has become the most popular pesticide ever. USGS has submitted the studies to EPA to be included in data that is being considered as EPA reviews the registration of glyphosate. The agency expects the review to be complete by 2015, at which point it will issue a decision to either continue to allow unrestricted use of glyphosate or institute limitations or a ban on the chemical in light of emerging science.

Beyond Pesticides is currently involved in multiple lawsuits involving Roundup Ready and other GE crops. One lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and seeks to end cultivation of GE crops on 25 national wildlife refuges across the U.S. Southeast. The suit charges that FWS unlawfully entered into cooperative farming agreements and approved planting of GE crops in eight states without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and in violation of FWS policy. This is the third in a series of lawsuits challenging FWS’s practice of permitting GE crops on wildlife refuges. In 2009 and 2010, groups successfully challenged approval of GE plantings on two wildlife refuges in Delaware –Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, which forced FWS to end GE planting in the entire 12-state Northeastern region.

As researchers scramble to find new ways of chemically coping with weed control and increased weed resistance brought about by Roundup and other chemicals, they overlook the glaring fact that there already exist alternative systems such as organic farming, which erases the need for these drastic measures through its systemic pest prevention approaches. Organic farming can be at least as productive as conventional chemically-reliant farming, while having none of the toxic side effects that create significant risks to ecosystems and human health. To learn more, see Beyond Pesticides’ page on organic food and agriculture.

Source: Pacific Free Press

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



Groups Ask EPA to Strengthen Overdue Pesticide Protections for Farmworkers

(Beyond Pesticides, November 22, 2011) Several farmworker groups filed a petition last week with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), urging the agency to implement stronger protections for farmworkers, with particular regard to health effects of exposure to toxic pesticides on the job. The petition seeks to eliminate the existing dual standard providing fewer workplace protections against pesticide exposures for farmworkers than for workers using hazardous chemicals in non-agricultural sectors.

“Most American workers enjoy workplace protections created by the federal Office of Safety and Health Administration, but not farmworkers,” said Eve Gartner, lead attorney for Earthjustice, the public interest law firm representing the groups. “They get second class treatment which exposes them to high levels of very dangerous pesticides which is not only unhealthy but also fundamentally unfair.”

According to Earth Justice, the health and safety of industrial workers falls under the jurisdiction of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Farmworkers must rely on EPA’s Worker Protection Standard of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) which is far more lenient than the OSHA rules that protect industrial workers encountering potentially dangerous chemicals.

“All we are asking is that the EPA protect farmworkers with standards that are as protective as industrial workers enjoy under OSHA,” said Virginia Ruiz, attorney for co-counsel Farmworker Justice. “Revisions to WPS are long overdue. EPA has not substantively updated it since 1992.”

Farm work is demanding and dangerous physical labor. A 2008 study by a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researcher finds that the incidence rate of pesticide poisoning is extremely high among U.S. agricultural workers. An average of 57.6 out of every 100,000 agricultural workers experience acute pesticide poisoning, illness or injury each year, the same order of magnitude as the annual incidence rate of breast cancer in the United States. As a result of cumulative long-term exposures, they and their children are at risk of developing serious chronic health problems such as cancer, neurological impairments and Parkinson’s disease. Despite the overwhelming evidence, EPA has not effectively updated worker protections for almost 20 years.

EPA has said that it expects to publish proposed revisions to the WPS early next year. The groups’ recommendations for those revisions focus on three key protections for the workers who handle and apply pesticides:
• Medical monitoring of workers using pesticides that inhibit enzymes necessary to the functioning of the nervous system;
• Use of “closed systems” for mixing and loading pesticides, which prevent splashing and blowing of pesticides onto workers;
• Use of enclosed cabs in tractors from which pesticides are being sprayed using an airblaster.

In addition, the petition requests a range of basic measures that would afford stronger protections for agricultural fieldworkers.

The groups argue that EPA is required to incorporate these protections into its revisions both under FIFRA, the federal statute regulating pesticides, and under the agency’s stated obligation to achieve environmental justice by addressing the disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs and policies on minority populations and low-income populations.

The petition, which was prepared by Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice, is submitted on behalf of United Farm Workers, Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), Farm Worker Pesticide Project (FWPP), California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation (CRLAF), Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) and The Farmworker Association of Florida, Inc.

“We must speak up for the very people who help to put food on our tables,” said Ms. Gartner. “Their work is integral to our daily lives and further delay in providing these basic protections is just unacceptable.”

Our food choices have a direct effect on those who grow and harvest what we eat around the world. This is why it’s important to eat organic. USDA organic certification is the only system of food labeling that is subject to independent public review and oversight, assuring consumers that toxic, synthetic pesticides used in conventional agriculture are replaced by management practices focused on soil biology, biodiversity, and plant health. This eliminates commonly used toxic chemicals in the production and processing of conventional food, which harms farmworkers and farm families.

For more information on the importance of eating organic food for you, workers and the environment, check out Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience food guide and organic food program page.

Source: Earth Justice Press Release

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



Recent Reports Help Consumers Reduce Pesticide Exposure and Improve Nutrition

(Beyond Pesticides, November 21, 2011) Two recent reports from the Organic Center can help consumers identify food choices that will reduce their intake of pesticides while enhancing the overall nutritional content of their diets. The reports, entitled Dietary Risk Index and Transforming Jane Doe’s Diet are based upon state-of-the-art pesticide residue and risk assessment research conducted by USDA and EPA. The reports establish that switching to organically produced and handled foods significantly reduces the amount of pesticides consumers will receive from their diet and that a few simple changes in behavior can drive such exposure to nearly zero.

Noting that extensive research has identified fresh fruits and vegetables as by far the greatest source of pesticide exposure and risk in our diets, the Dietary Risk Index (DRI) report focuses on the relative risk of choices within these food groups. The DRI calculates expected risk by weighing the toxicity of a specific pesticide with the amount of the substance to which consumers are likely to be exposed. This estimated risk is then measured against the EPA-established “level of concern”, the exposure level beyond which EPA can no longer assert a “reasonable certainty of no harm.” The DRI calculations for individual pesticides can then be combined to estimate the total dietary risks of a food by taking into account all of the residues found in that food. The Organic Center’s methodology is also capable of calculating the relative risk of eating organic fruit and vegetables exclusively compared to conventional produce, or consuming exclusively domestically raised produce compared to imported alternatives.

The DRI report determines that, in general, most pesticide dietary risk is caused by proverbial “hot potatoes”, or foods that sometimes contain relatively high residues of relatively toxic compounds. For example, the report cites residues of two pesticides – chlorpyrifos and dicofol – as driving the overall risk associated with domestically produced apples in 2009, despite a total of 51 different pesticides residues having been detected on the 724 samples collected that year. Significantly, the DRI report supports the Organic Center’s earlier conclusion that replacing conventional fresh and processed fruit and vegetable products with organic brands would reduce overall pesticide dietary risk by 97%.

The Transforming Jane Doe’s Diet (TJDD) report goes a step beyond calculating pesticide toxicity in the diet to include the intake of 27 essential nutrients. Working with a daily diet based on USDA My Plate recommendations, TJDD substituted organic and nutrient-dense options for conventionally produced and processed foods. For example, enriched white bread was replaced by whole wheat organic bread and fresh organic strawberries took the place of strawberry jam. By making these and other relatively simple changes, the report reported an increase of 79% increase in the measured nutrients and a reduction in pesticide toxicity using the DRI methodology of more than two-thirds.

“This is the first-ever analysis to offer recommendations on how to reduce pesticide risk level and increase the nutritional quality of an average person’s daily diet,” said Joan Boykin, Executive Director of the Organic Center. “We are particularly proud of this report and can only hope that it will further incentivize consumers to make the simple dietary changes that can improve their health, as well as the environment in which we live.”

Reducing dietary exposure to pesticide residues is just one of several powerful incentives for consumers to purchase organically produced and handled foods. Pesticides can have enormously detrimental effects on farmworkers who are exposed during application as well as non-target organisms impacted by contact with the toxic compounds. In fact, there are many hazardous pesticides that are not associated with food residues but do get into waterways and groundwater, contaminate nearby communities, poison farmworkers, and kill wildlife, while not all showing up at detectable levels on our food. For a comprehensive understanding of how your choice of organic fruits and vegetables impacts the environment as well as human health, please visit Beyond Pesticides Eating with A Conscience webpage.

Both of the Organic Center’s reports calculate dietary pesticide exposure using data from the Pesticide Data Program (PDP), which is USDA’s most comprehensive residue research initiative. First begun in 1991, the PDP was expanded significantly after passage of the Food Quality Protection Act in 1996 to gather the dietary exposure data necessary for an improved approach to calculating human health risks. Responding to press reports that the produce industry was seeking to suppress release of the 2010 PDP data, a group of leading pediatric health professionals wrote to USDA, EPA, and FDA urging that the results be promptly released. In their May 2011 letter, the pediatric health experts cited the elevated risk associated with pesticide residues on foods commonly consumed by infants and children including processed apples, berries and peaches and challenged the government to, among other measures, enhance efforts to promote organic fruits and vegetables as options for consumers. USDA currently estimates that the 2010 PDP data will not be released before January 2012.

Source: The Organic Center



Research Again Proves Equal Yields, Higher Profits from Organic Farming

(Beyond Pesticides, November 18, 2011) Organic crop systems can provide similar yields and much higher economic returns than a conventional corn-soybean rotation, according to thirteen years of data from a side-by-side comparison at Iowa State University’s Neely-Kinyon Research and Demonstration Farm. The University’s Long-Term Agroecological Research Experiment (LTAR) began in 1998 with support from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. LTAR is one of the longest running replicated comparisons in the country. Kathleen Delate, PhD., professor in ISU Agronomy and Horticulture, leads the project.

“The transitioning years are the hardest years,” Dr. Delate said, explaining that the project was originally designed to help farmers make the shift into an organic system. To sell a product as organic, the crop must be raised for three years prior to harvest in accordance with organic systems plans on land that has not been treated with synthetic fertilizers and has only been exposed to substances placed on the “NationL List, ” which is established by the Organic Foods Production Act.

The LTAR experiment shows that organic crops can remain competitive with conventional crops even during the three-year transition. Averaged over 13 years, yields of organic corn, soybean, and oats have been equivalent to or slightly greater than their conventional counterparts. Likewise, a 12-year average for alfalfa and an 8-year average for winter wheat also show no significant difference between organic yields and the Adair County average.

Organic crops fetch a premium price on the market and eliminate the need for expensive inputs like herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. As a result, they are far more profitable than conventional crops. Craig Chase, PhD., interim leader of the Leopold Center’s Marketing and Food Systems Initiative and extension farm management specialist, calculates the returns to management—that is, the money left over for family living after deducting labor, land, and production costs—for both systems. He bases his calculations on actual LTAR data from 1998 to 2004, as well as scenarios modeled with enterprise budgets.

Both methods gave the same result: On average, organic systems return roughly $200 per acre more than conventional crops.

In addition to its profitability, organic agriculture helps build healthy soils. While conventional LTAR plots receive synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, organic plots receive only local, manure-based amendments. Total nitrogen increased by 33 percent in the organic plots, and researchers measured higher concentrations of carbon, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, and calcium. The results suggest that organic farming can foster greater efficiency in nutrient use and higher potential for sequestrating carbon.

Dr. Delate said they use “a whole suite of practices to manage weeds” in the organic plots, including timely tillage and longer crop rotations. Allelopathic chemicals from rye and alfalfa help keep weed populations under control, as does growing an alfalfa cover crop in winter, which provided cover for beneficial insects and animals.

“I think there’s a strong future for organic agriculture,” Dr. Delate said. “My phone is ringing off the hook. The interest hasn’t waned.”

LTAR’s findings concur with recently published results from the Rodale Institute’s 30-year Farming Systems Trial in Pennsylvania. The Rodale Institute also concludes that organic systems can provide similar yields and greater profits. In addition, Rodale calculates that organic crops require 45 percent less energy, and contributes significantly less to greenhouse gas emissions. Organic corn proves especially profitable during drought years, when its yields jump up to 31 percent higher than conventional.

Download a brochure about the LTAR project here.

For more information on organic food and farming, visit our Organic program page.

Take Action: Organic agriculture has been proven time again to be equally viable for both farmers and consumers while having none of the ill effects of conventional industrial agriculture. However, organic systems receive very little federal support, especially compared to the billions of dollars in subsidies that are paid to conventional producers every year. A bill currently being considered in Congress seeks to work toward correcting this imbalance.

Tell your Congressional representatives to support the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (LFFJA), S. 1773 and H.R. 3286, which is a comprehensive bill intended for inclusion in the 2012 Farm Bill. The legislation helps farmers and ranchers by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs to access growing local and regional food markets. The bill would provide critical support for a number of programs that benefit organic farmers and the organic industry, as well. It also assists consumers by improving access to healthy food. The measure provides secure farm bill funding for critically important programs that support organic and family farms, expand new farming opportunities, create rural jobs, and invest in the local food and agriculture economy.

Source: Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

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



Take Action – Senate Threatens Clean Water with Pesticide Amendment

(Beyond Pesticides, November 17, 2011) Updated 1:00 p.m. – Thanks to everyone for taking action and putting pressure on your Senators. Senator Roberts filed an amendment yesterday to the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill opposing provisions to gut pesticide protections from the Clean Water Act. It is the same language we opposed this summer. He has tried to slip it into other bills as well. It’s important that we continue to put pressure on legislators to oppose the amendment offered by Senator Roberts and to support stronger pesticide restrictions around water.

PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATORS(Senate directory) with the following message:

“We urge you to oppose Senator Roberts’ amendment to the Energy and Water appropriations bill. Previously introduced as S. 718, the amendment would prevent the EPA from protecting our waterways from pesticide discharges. This bill will strip EPA’s ability to protect our waters from pollution by amending the Clean Water Act (CWA) and federal pesticide law to exempt applications of pesticides to waterways from CWA standards. There is already widespread contamination of our waterways by toxic pesticides, and we cannot rely solely on our weak pesticide law to protect those waters. This amendment is bad for public health and bad for our rivers, lakes and streams.

“EPA has already drafted its permit for these pesticides applications, which offers modest protections. This amendment is a last ditch effort to avoid any protections of our waterways from dangerous pesticides. We urge you to oppose this amendment and any Senate version of S.718 or related HR 872.”

Background on HR 872 / S 718

The so-called “Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011,” would ensure that CWA permits are not required for the application of pesticides. The bill states, “A permit shall not be required by the Administrator or a State under [the Clean Water Act] for a discharge from a point source into navigable waters of a pesticide authorized for sale, distribution, or use under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), or the residue of such a pesticide, resulting from the application of such pesticide.”

FIFRA and CWA are complementary laws. The two statutes have fundamentally different standards and methods in determining whether a pesticide will have unreasonable adverse effects on the environment and/or human health. The CWA statute is more stringent than FIFRA. CWA has a “zero discharge” standard, meaning any amount of discharge, no matter how small, without a permit, constitutes a violation of the CWA. Risk assessment, on the other hand, used under FIFRA, is weaker than a “zero harm” standard. Risk/benefit allows a certain amount of pollution (i.e. risk) in exchange for controversial calculations of benefit and use a threshold of harm that can vary upon EPA discretion. Since the CWA statute is more stringent in its oversight of U.S. waterways, FIFRA should not be allowed to override the CWA.

In March 2011, HR 872 passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 292-130. The bill, introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), seeks to amended FIFRA and CWA to eliminate provisions requiring pesticide applicators to obtain a permit to allow pesticides or their residues to enter waterways. It would reverse a 2009 Sixth Circuit court decision which ruled that, under FIFRA and CWA, EPA must require such permits.

The January 2009 Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in National Cotton Council v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, requires pesticide applications to be permitted under the Clean Water Act. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit would be in addition to the less protective label requirements under FIFRA. EPA drafted proposed rules in 2010 outlining the applicability of the permits for pesticide usage. Since then, industry has lobbied hard to get Congress to prevent this measure from going into effect this year.

Senator Roberts and the other cosponsors of the bill claim that NPDES permits are burdensome on farmers, even though the permits are only required for a narrow range of uses, and does not affect terrestrial agricultural spraying. NPDES permits will monitor the discharge of pesticides into waterways by local and state authorities, including evaluation of the potential risks discharges might present to aquatic and semi-aquatic species and help safeguard against contaminated fish and drinking water.

Meanwhile, stating that “the provisions of this permit are designed to improve protection of public health and our nation’s water quality,” EPA has posted a pre-publication version of its draft final pesticide general permit. The pre-publication version of the draft final pesticide general permit has concluded interagency review by the Office of Management and Budget. Since EPA is currently engaged in consultation with federal resource agencies under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), this version of the draft final permit does not contain any additional or revised conditions that may result from ongoing ESA consultation.

According to the agency, this draft final permit is not considered a “final agency action.” Even though legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives that would remove the need for the permit, EPA states that it is still providing a preview of the draft final permit to assist states in developing their own permits and for the regulated community to become familiar with the permit’s requirements before it becomes effective.

The draft has not significantly changed from the proposed permit in 2010. The draft version of the final permit covers operators who apply pesticides that result in discharges from the following use patterns: (1) mosquito and other flying insect pest control; (2) weed and algae control; (3) animal pest control; and (4) forest canopy pest control. The permit would not cover 1) non-target spray drift, or 2) discharges of pesticides to waterbodies that are impaired for that pesticide. Agricultural runoff and irrigation return flows are exempt from permitting under the Clean Water Act and, thus, do not require CWA permits. The permit also does not cover, nor is permit coverage required, for pesticide applications that do not result in a point source discharge to waters of the U.S. such as terrestrial applications for the purpose of controlling pests on agricultural crops, forest floors, or range lands.