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27
Jan

Report Calls for Greater Review of Nanomaterials While Suit Seeks to Block Nanosilver Approval

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 2012) The National Research Council (NRC) released a report on Wednesday, finding that, despite extensive investment in nanotechnology and increasing commercialization over the last decade, insufficient understanding remains about the environmental, health, and safety aspects of nanomaterials. Just one day later, a lawsuit was filed in court by the Natural Resources Defense Council challenging approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of a particular nanomaterial, nanosilver, citing the lack of scientific grounding. The suit, filed in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, seeks to block EPA from allowing nanosilver on the market without legally-required data about its suspected harmful effects on humans and wildlife. Starting in December 2011, EPA allowed the company HeiQ Materials to sell nanosilver used in fabrics for the next four years as the company generates the required data on toxicity to human health and aquatic organisms.

According to the NRC report, without a coordinated research plan to help guide efforts to manage and avoid potential risks, the future of safe and sustainable nanotechnology is uncertain. The report presents a strategic approach for developing research and a scientific infrastructure needed to address potential health and environmental risks of nanomaterials. Its effective implementation would require sufficient management and budgetary authority to direct research across federal agencies.

Nanoscale engineering manipulates materials at the molecular level to create structures with unique and useful properties -materials that are both very strong and very light, for example. Many of the products containing nanomaterials on the market now are for skin care and cosmetics, but nanomaterials are also increasingly being used in products ranging from medical therapies to food additives to electronics. In 2009, developers generated $1 billion from the sale of nanomaterials, and the market for products that rely on these materials is expected to grow to $3 trillion by 2015.

Nanotechnology is a powerful new platform technology for taking apart and reconstructing nature at the atomic and molecular level. Just as the size and chemical characteristics of manufactured nanoparticles can give them unique properties, those same new properties – tiny size, vastly increased surface area to volume ratio, high reactivity – can also create unique and unpredictable human health and environmental risks. Scientists and researchers are becoming increasingly concerned with the potential impacts of these particles on public health and the environment. A 2010 study by scientists from Oregon State University and the European Union highlights the major regulatory and educational issues that they believe should be considered before nanoparticles are used in pesticides.

The NRC committee that wrote the report found that over the last seven years there has been considerable effort internationally to identify research needs for the development and safe use of nanotechnology, including those of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), which coordinates U.S. federal investments in nanoscale research and development. However, there has not been sufficient linkage between research and research findings and the creation of strategies to prevent and manage any risks. For instance, little progress has been made on the effects of ingested nanomaterials on human health and other potential health and environmental effects of complex nanomaterials that are expected to enter the market over the next decade. Therefore, there is the need for a research strategy that is independent of any one stakeholder group, has human and environmental health as its primary focus, builds on past efforts, and is flexible in anticipating and adjusting to emerging challenges, the committee said.

Implementation of the committee’s recommended research strategy should also include the integration of domestic and international participants involved in nanotechnology-related research, including the NNI, federal agencies, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and the academic community. The committee said that the current structure of the NNI -which has only coordinating functions across federal agencies and no top-down budgetary or management authority to direct nanotechnology-related environmental, health, and safety research- hinders its accountability for effective implementation. In addition, there is concern that dual and potentially conflicting roles of the NNI, such as developing and promoting nanotechnology while identifying and mitigating risks that arise from its use, impede application and evaluation of health and environmental risk research. To carry out the research strategy effectively, a clear separation of management and budgetary authority and accountability between promoting nanotechnology and assessing potential environmental and safety risks is essential.

In May 2008, the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA) and a coalition of consumer, health, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, filed a legal petition with 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.

Additionally, in December 2011, a coalition of six consumer safety groups filed suit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), citing the agency’s chronic failure to regulate nanomaterials used in sunscreens, cosmetics and drugs. The lawsuit demands that FDA respond to a May 2006 petition the coalition filed calling for regulatory actions, including nano-specific product labeling, health and safety testing, and an analysis of the environmental impacts of nanomaterials in products regulated by FDA. The lawsuit cites numerous studies and reports published since 2006 that establish significant data gaps concerning nanomaterials’ potential effects on human health and the environment. Led by ICTA, the coalition calls for FDA to take immediate action to assess the actual risks from nanomaterials and implement appropriate protective measures for consumers. FDA recently released draft guidelines to industries about when the use of nanomaterials might trigger regulatory interest.

In October 2010, the National Organic Standards Board passed a recommendation directing the USDA National Organic Program to prohibit engineered nanomaterials from certified organic products as expeditiously as possible. While there is overwhelming agreement to prohibit nanotechnology in organics generally, there is still confusion over the definition of what exactly should be prohibited and how to prohibit nanotech products in the organic industry. The recommendation deals specifically with engineered nanomaterials and purposefully omits those that are naturally occurring. Further it would block petitions seeking an exemption and keep nanomaterials out of food packaging and contact surfaces.

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 Beyond Pesticides’ antibacterials page.

Source: The National Academies

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

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26
Jan

EPA Awards Grant to Help Farm Workers Reduce Pesticide Risks

(Beyond Pesticides, January 26, 2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Monday that it is providing a $25,000 grant to the Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas (CATA) to reduce exposure to pesticides for farm workers in southern New Jersey. CATA, a Latino-led nonprofit organization, will educate migrant farm workers throughout the counties of Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem, New Jersey about the risks of pesticide exposure and how to protect their health during field work.

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.

Southern New Jersey has a large population of migrant farm workers. For the past 20 years, CATA has managed an environmental program that provides information on pesticide protection, the reduction of harmful chemicals in the workplace and general health and safety training. The EPA funding to CATA will help farm workers implement worker protection standards and identify training needs. Under the project funded by the grant, the group will survey workers and train them using the We Work with Pesticides curriculum developed by the Farm Worker Health and Safety Institute and approved by the EPA.

“EPA environmental justice grants provide much needed funds to tackle local pollution problems in low income communities,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “Exposure to pesticides can have serious effects on people’s health. The grant to Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas will train migrant farm workers in southern New Jersey about steps they can take to better protect their health on the job.”

According to EPA, environmental justice means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race or income, in the environmental decision-making process. Since 1994, the environmental justice small grants program has provided more than $23 million in funding to community-based nonprofit organizations and local governments working to address environmental justice issues in more than 1,200 communities. The grants further EPA’s commitment to expand the conversation on environmentalism and advance environmental justice in communities across the nation.

Though the grant program is an important and necessary tool to help solve the problem with environmental justice issues, much work still needs to be done on EPA’s behalf to effectively protect workers. A 2006 report released by the Inspector General (IG), EPA Needs to Conduct Environmental Reviews of Its Programs, Policies and Activities, found that senior management at EPA has not directed program and regional offices to conduct environmental justice reviews as required by the Environmental Justice Executive Order 12898. The report said, “Until these program and regional offices perform environmental justice reviews, the Agency cannot determine whether its programs cause disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority and low-income populations.” In late 2011, several farmworker groups filed a petition with EPA to implement stronger protections for farmworkers, with particular regard to health effects of exposure to toxic pesticides on the job.More information on EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants program and a list of grantees, see: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/environmentaljustice/grants/ej-smgrants.html.

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: EPA Press Release

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25
Jan

Apple Growers Request Use of Unregistered Pesticide, Public Comments Needed

(Beyond Pesticides, January 25, 2012) Apple growers in Michigan are seeking a Section 18 emergency exemption from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for an unregistered pesticide to curb fire blight on 10,000 acres of apples trees that are susceptible to a deadly disease. Even though Section 18 exemptions from federal pesticide law are only to be used in ‘emergency conditions,’ this request has been petitioned and granted over the past three years, leading to questions on the of the “emergency” that triggered the section 18 exemption request.

In December 2011, the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) asked EPA to grant the use of the antibiotic, kasugamycin, to control streptomycin-resistant strains of Erwinia amylovora, the causal pathogen of fire blight, maintaining that there are no available chemical alternatives and effective control practices. The agency has requested comments until February 6, 2012 at www.regulations.gov, docket number EPA–HQ–OPP–2011–1016. Kasugamycin is not registered for use in the U.S. under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), but has import tolerances for residues on food imported. Fire blight has been on the increase in Michigan orchards and other states for the past few springs due to resistance the disease has to current treatments. The request entails no more than three applications of the pesticide, on no more than 10,000 acres between April 1 and May 31, 2012. The maximum amount sprayed will be approximately 30,000 gallons. MDA estimates that total losses to fire blight would be close to 90 million for apple growers in the state. According to the letter, MDA states that “In order to stay competitive in the current marketplace, Michigan growers much continue to plant today’s popular varieties, most of which are highly susceptible to fire blight disease.”

Under a controversial provision in federal pesticide law, known as a Section 18 exemption in FIFRA, EPA can grant temporary approval for an unregistered pesticide or an unregistered use of a registered pesticide if it determines that “emergency conditions exist which require such exemption.” The Section 18 emergency exemption loophole has been used in the past to skirt pesticide regulations meant to ensure health and safety and has resulted in the widespread application of unreviewed, and often unnecessary hazardous substances. To grant a Section 18 exemption EPA must perform a multi-disciplinary evaluation of the request including an assessment of the validity of the emergency claim and economic loss, as well as human and environmental health assessments. However, these assessments have been criticized for their inadequacies. Section 18 exemptions have been granted every spring since 2009 for kasugamycin on apples in Michigan, challenging the concept that this is an urgent, non-routine situation as ‘emergency’ is defined under section 18. Reoccurring problems like the fire blight in Michigan should be the wakeup call for farmers and EPA to reevaluate and implement alternative biological and cultural management practices for the long-term prevention of diseases and end the reliance on the “chemical fix” that will exacerbate the problem when pest resistance to the chemical inevitably occurs.

Kasugamycin is a low-use-rate wide-spectrum aminoglycoside antibiotic fungicide produced from Streptomyces kasugaensis that was originally developed for control of rice blast and has been granted a tolerance for its use on imported peppers and tomatoes. According to EPA, kasugamycin exhibits low acute toxicity. In chronic animal studies, reproductive toxicity was observed and included decreased fertility and fecundity in males and females. Testicular effects were also noted. Kasugamycin may also impact the kidneys. Since kasugamycin is currently used only on imported fruiting vegetable commodities, the EPA has not officially conducted an environmental assessment for this chemical. Although kasugamycin is not anticipated to be useful as an antibiotic in human or veterinary medicine, the import of its differential impacts on soil dwelling microorganisms has yet to be assessed.

Over the past few years, a trend toward greater dependence on antibiotics has been observed; however, the use of antibiotics as a “quick fix” is not sustainable since it inevitably leads to resistance. Antibiotic management poses a challenge to apple and other fruit producers. Indeed, researchers have found that some bacteria in apple orchards are resistant to kasugamycin, and kasugamycin-resistant strains could be selected through a process of exposure to increasing doses of the antibiotic. Due to the pervasive problem that fire blight has become, a systematic approach to fire blight prevention should be implemented, including resistant varieties, site selection, careful fertilization, adequate spacing of trees, and proper pruning practices.

There are now additional products available for use against fire blight, including several new biological controls. Effective organic systems can encourage and enhance preventive techniques with cultural and biological controls that include choosing varieties not susceptible to diseases. Apples that have only been introduced and become popular in the last ten years -Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, McIntosh- are very susceptible to bacterial disease, making them increasingly chemical-intensive. Varieties that are now less well-known –Jonathan, Gold Rush, Empire, Prima, RedFree, Golden Delicious- are more resistant to fire blight, but are not widely available in the market. Beyond Pesticides recommends educating conusumers to create a demand for these varieties by purchasing them when available. This can help shift the market away from chemical dependence and encourage farmers to grow more resistant varieties. For more information on resistant varieties and organic cultivation, read our article “Antibiotics in Fruit Production.”

Take Action:
Submit your comments at www.regulations.gov, identified by docket identification (ID) number EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-1016. Comment period ends February 6, 2012.

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24
Jan

Pesticide Toxic to Bees and Aquatic Life Contaminates Surface Waters

(Beyond Pesticides, January 24, 2012) Research published this month in the online edition of the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology finds that the neonicotinoid pesticide imidacloprid contaminates surface waters in agricultural regions. Imidacloprid is a systemic pesticide, meaning it is taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen, nectar, and gutation droplets, and is highly toxic to bees, birds and aquatic organisms. The study, “Detections of the Neonicotinoid Insecticide Imidacloprid in Surface Waters of Three Agricultural Regions of California, USA, 2010–2011,” concludes that imidacloprid commonly moves offsite and contaminates surface waters at concentrations that could harm aquatic organisms following use under irrigated agriculture conditions.

Researchers at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation collected 75 surface water samples from three agricultural regions of California and analyzed them for contamination with imidacloprid. Samples were collected during California’s relatively dry-weather irrigation seasons in 2010 and 2011. Imidacloprid was detected in 67 samples (89%); concentrations exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) chronic invertebrate Aquatic Life Benchmark of 1.05 μg/L (micrograms per liter) in 14 samples (19%). Concentrations were also frequently greater than similar toxicity guidelines developed for use in Europe and Canada. A benchmark is a chemical concentration, specific to either water or sediment, above which there is the possibility of harm or risk to the humans or animals in the environment.

Neonicotinoids are a class of chemicals that target nerve cells in a similar way as nicotine, acting as neurotoxins to insects. One of the most commonly used neonicotinoids is the insecticide imidacloprid, manufactured by Bayer Crop Science and used in agriculture to control aphids, beetles, and other sucking insects. Imidacloprid has been linked to neural effects in honey bees, including disruptions in mobility, navigation, and feeding behavior – similar behaviors that are being displayed by bees suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). In CCD, bees are flying off in search of pollen and nectar and simply never returning to their colonies.

Another study looking at neonicotinoid pesticides published this month -conducted by Christian Krupke, PhD, a Purdue University entomologist who will be speaking at the 30th National Pesticide Forum- shows that EPA underestimates the environmental exposure of neonicotinoid pesticides to honey bees, exposing bees even through dandelions grown in contaminated soil. The researchers found even greater exposure to bees during the planting process when bees are exposed to contaminated dust originating on the pesticide-treated seeds. The neonicotinoid pesticides examined in this study were clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

For more information on pesticides, honey bees and other pollinators, as well as what you can do, see Beyond Pesticides Pollinator Protection program page.

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23
Jan

EPA Seeks Input on Steps to Protect Endangered Wildlife from Prairie Dog Bait

(Beyond Pesticides, January 23, 2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking comments on draft Reasonable and Prudent Measures (RPMs) included in a draft Biological Opinion received from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on January 17, 2012. This draft Biological Opinion addresses the potential effects from Rozol Prairie Dog Bait on wildlife listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. EPA initially issued a final cancellation order back last August for Rozol Prairie Dog Bait, following a court order issued on July 27, 2011 that found EPA had failed to consult with FWS.

Rozol (active ingredient chlorophacinone) is an anti-coagulant rodenticide in the chemical class of indandiones. It works by blocking vitamin K-dependent synthesis of the blood clotting substance prothrombin. Animals that ingest anti-coagulant rodenticides suffer from the following list of immediate toxic effects: nosebleeds, bleeding gums, blood in urine and feces; bruises due to ruptured blood vessels; and skin damage.

EPA is encouraging input from state, tribal and local governments, pesticide users, registrants, public interest groups, and other interested parties on the draft RPMs and RPAs to determine whether the measures can be reasonably implemented and whether there are different measures that may provide adequate protection but result in less impact on pesticide users.

The draft Biological Opinion is included as document number EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0909 in the docket at Regulations.gov. Comments on the draft RPMs and RPAs must be submitted by February 17, 2012, 30 days after the Biological Opinion was included in the docket, in order for EPA to consider these comments in its final response to the draft Biological Opinion. Comments received by EPA on other aspects of the draft Biological Opinion will be forwarded to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for consideration. No extensions to this comment period will be provided.

Submit your comments to the the regulations.gov website by February 17, 2012.

Source: EPA Press Release

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20
Jan

Judge Questions California Approval of Methyl Iodide

(Beyond Pesticides, January 20, 2012) A California Superior Court Judge has questioned whether the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) complied with its legal obligation to consider alternative options before approving use of the toxic fumigant methyl iodide in 2010. Judge Frank Roesch raised the concern in comments from the bench during a January 13 hearing involving a lawsuit filed by farm worker and environmental organizations against CDPR and the Arysta LifeScience Corporation, which manufactures the methyl iodide products used in the state.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that state agencies consider alternative options to a regulatory action that meets the definition of a “project.” Projects include an action undertaken by a public agency which may cause either a direct physical change in the environment or a reasonably foreseeable indirect change in the environment. A project may not be approved as submitted if feasible alternatives or mitigation measures are able to substantially lessen the significant environmental effects of the project. While CDPR’s pesticide regulations have previously been recognized as “projects” as defined in the CEQA, it is unusual for judicial review to raise concerns about the validity of the alternatives assessments.

“Did you consider not approving methyl iodide? I don’t see it,” Judge Roesch asked. “Absent that, I don’t see how you can prevail in the lawsuit.” Representing CDPR, California Deputy Attorney General Cecilia Dennis could not produce such documentation. Ms. Dennis responded that the assessment was implicit in the overall documentation and that CDPR leaves it up to local agricultural districts to weigh the pros and cons of using the chemical before they grant final authorization for its use. Judge Roesch gave the CDPR’s attorneys a week to draft a brief to persuade him that the agency is not required to comply with the CEQA requirement. Earthjustice and California Rural Legal Assistance, lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, will then have one week to respond before Judge Roesch issues a final ruling on the legality of the CPDR’s decision.

The current lawsuit also raises significant epidemiological issues related to methyl iodide in addition to the CEQA procedural requirements. In approving the fumigant, CDPR shunned the findings of top scientists —including the state’s own Scientific Review Committee— who have consistently said that the chemical is too dangerous to be used in agriculture. Mr. Greg Loarie, attorney with Earthjustice, said, “The public has been shocked, wondering how methyl iodide could be approved under California law. The truth is that CDPR played too fast and loose with their decision. They exceeded their legal authority and have put the public and farmworkers at great risk of harm.”

Methyl iodide poses the most direct risks to farmworkers and those in the surrounding communities because of the volume that would be applied to fields and its tendency to drift off site through the air. Methyl iodide causes late term miscarriages, contaminates groundwater, and is so reliably carcinogenic that it’s used to create cancer cells in laboratories. It is on California’s official list of known carcinogenic chemicals and has been linked to serious risks in reproductive and neurological health. It is approved to be applied to California’s strawberry fields at rates up to 100 pounds per acre on much of the state’s 38,000 acres in strawberry production, totaling millions of pounds of use. Though methyl iodide will likely be used primarily on strawberries, it is also registered for use on tomatoes, peppers, nurseries, and on soils prior to replanting orchards and vineyards.

In 2007, EPA fast-tracked the registration of methyl iodide for use as a soil fumigant, despite serious concerns raised by a group of over 50 eminent scientists, including six Nobel Laureates in Chemistry. These scientists sent a letter of concern to EPA explaining, “Because of methyl iodide’s high volatility and water solubility, broad use of this chemical in agriculture will guarantee substantial releases to air, surface waters and groundwater, and will result in exposures for many people. In addition to the potential for increased cancer incidence, EPA’s own evaluation of the chemical also indicates that methyl iodide causes thyroid toxicity, permanent neurological damage, and fetal losses in experimental animals.” The letter concludes, “It is astonishing that the Office of Pesticide Programs (of EPA) is working to legalize broadcast releases of one of the more toxic chemicals used in manufacturing into the environment.”

Organic certification standards require crop farmers to establish a preventive pest management strategy based on crop rotation, variety selection, biological controls, and sanitation and fertility practices. Synthetic materials that are allowed in organic crop production must satisfy a rigorous review process to insure their necessity, efficacy and safety to humans and the environment throughout their production and utilization. This review process must be updated every five years for the material to remain in use. A journal article from 2010 shows that organic farms produce more flavorful and nutritious strawberries while leaving the soil healthier and more biologically diverse than conventional strawberry farms. For more information on organic versus conventional agricultural practices, see Beyond Pesticides’ guide, Organic Food: Eating with a Conscience as well as our organic program page. In addition to the personal health risks posed by pesticide residues, Beyond Pesticides urges consumers to consider the impacts on the environment, farmworker and farm families’ health when making food choices.

Source: Center for Investigative Reporting

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

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19
Jan

New Details: 30th National Pesticide Forum, March 30-31 at Yale

(Beyond Pesticides, January 19, 2012) Although organic farming and land management continue to grow, policies to protect people from pesticides are threatened in the Northeast and around the country. At the same time, cutting-edge science links pesticide exposure to health problems, honey bee colony collapse, and other environmental issues. Join researchers, authors, beekeepers, organic business leaders, elected officials, activists, and others at Beyond Pesticides’ 30th National Pesticide Forum to discuss the latest science, policy solutions, and grassroots action. This national conference, Healthy Communities: Green solutions for safe environments, will be held March 30-31 at Yale University in New Haven, CT.

Registration
Register online. Fees start at $35 ($15 for students) and include all sessions, conference materials, and organic food and drink.

Speakers
Confirmed speaker highlights include:

Gary Hirshberg is chairman and co-founder of Stonyfield Farm, the world’s leading organic yogurt producer, and the author of Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World. Previously, he directed the Rural Education Center, the small organic farming school from which Stonyfield was spawned. Before that, Gary had served as executive director of The New Alchemy Institute, a research and education center dedicated to organic farming, aquaculture and renewable energy. He has also authored books on wind power and organic gardening. Gary is a speaker on sustainability, climate change, the profitability of green and socially responsible business, organic agriculture and sustainable economic development.

David Hackenberg is the beekeeper who first discovered the disappearance of honeybees known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Mr. Hackenberg believes that pesticides contribute to CCD and that honeybees are a barometer of the environment. He is featured in the film Vanishing of the Bees and various media reports, including this 60 Minutes segment. Mr. Hackenberg founded Hackenberg Apiaries in 1962 as a high school vo-ag project. Today, he and his son operate approximately 3,000 hives of bees in 5 states for pollination and honey. David is a past president of the American Beekeeping Federation, and currently serves as co-chair of the National Honey Bee Advisory Board.

John Wargo, PhD. is a professor of risk analysis, environmental policy, and political science at Yale University. He has lectured extensively on the limits and potential of environmental law, with a focus on human health.He has recently written Green Intelligence: Creating Environments that Protect Human Health. The book won the Independent Publishers Award of Gold Medal in the field of “environment, ecology, and nature” for 2010. He compares the history of five serious and global environmental threats to children’s health in the twentieth century: nuclear weapons testing, pesticides, hazardous sites, vehicle particulate emissions, and hormonally active ingredients in plastics.

Christian Krupke, PhD is a professor of entomology at Purdue University. His recent research examines the impacts of neonictinoid pesticides applied on corn to honey bees. The results demonstrate that bees are exposed to neonicotinoids and several other agricultural pesticides in several ways throughout the foraging period, including exposure through dust, soil corn pollen, and through dandelions growing in contaminated soil. Dr. Krupke is also the chairman of a group of university researchers that sent a letter to EPA stating that biotechnology companies are keeping university scientists from fully researching the effectiveness and environmental impact of genetically engineered crops.

Curt Spalding is head of EPA’s New England Region (Region 1 Adminstrator) and has extensive experience in the environmental protection field as an advocate, policy analyst and administrator. For almost 20 years, he served as Executive Director of Save the Bay in Rhode Island. He established the Narragansett BayKeeper and Habitat Restoration programs, which reconnected Save the Bay to ecologically important bay issues. Since joining the EPA leadership team in February 2010, Mr. Spalding has been leading a holistic approach to finding environmental solutions in New England. He’s emphasized efforts in environmental justice and green economy.

Chip Osborne, founder and President of Osborne Organics (Marblehead, MA), has over 10 years experience in creating safe, sustainable and healthy athletic fields and landscapes, and 35 years experience as a professional horticulturist. As a wholesale and retail nurseryman he has first hand experience with the pesticides routinely used in landscape and horticultural industry. Personal experience led him to believe there must be a safer way to grow plants. His personal investigation, study of conventional and organic soil science practices, and hands-on experimentation led him to become one of the country’s leading experts on growing sustainable, natural turf.

See updated speaker list.

Location
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. Directions and hotel information are available on the Forum website.

Organizers
The conference is convened by Beyond Pesticides, Environment and Human Health, Inc., and the Watershed Partnership, Inc., and co-sponsored by Audubon Connecticut, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Connecticut Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), Grassroots Environmental Education, Green Decade/ Newton, GreenCape, Hartford Food System, NOFA Massachusetts Chapter, Northern New Jersey Safe Yards Alliance, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, SafeLawns Foundation, Sierra Club-Connecticut Chapter, and Toxics Action Center. Contact Beyond Pesticides if your organization is interested in co-sponsoring this event.

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18
Jan

GMO Development in Europe Takes a Hit, Focus on U.S. Markets To Intensify

(Beyond Pesticides, January 18, 2012) Given the persistent wariness of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Europe, Germany’s BASF will stop developing new products targeting the European market. The group announced on January 16 that it plans to refocus its activities in the sector on more receptive regions. Unfortunately, this means BASF will redouble its efforts in the U.S. to develop new GMO products, leading to public and environmental health concerns in this country.

In a statement, a BASF representative announced, “Biotechnologies are not accepted enough in many parts of Europe by the majority of consumers, farmers and political leaders. That is why it does not make sense economically to continue to invest in products aimed exclusively at this market.” BASF promotion of its GMO products has been stalled in the last couple years. BASF fought for a decade before obtaining European Union (EU) marketing authorization in 2010 for Amflora, a genetically modified high-starch potato. Shortly afterwards BASF mistakenly planted in an Amflora field in Sweden another of its GMO potatoes, Amadea, which had not received authorization from European officials. According to the company, after this scandal, “European sentiment towards transgenic products declined further.” BASF plans to halt the planting and marketing of Amflora, initially grown on around 300 hectares in three countries, but limited last year to a two hectare field in Germany. Its sales in 2011 were close to zero. Research and development on other transgenic products aimed solely at the European market, including a mildew resistant high-starch potato and a variety of fungus resistant wheat, will also be halted.

Greenpeace hailed the BASF decision as a “a victory for consumers” and a “step towards the development of safe biotechnologies.” Friends of the Earth Europe echoed the same view. “This is another nail in the coffin for genetically modified foods in Europe. No one wants to eat them and few farmers want to grow them,” said Adrian Bebb, a representative for Friends of the Earth.

However, in setting its sights on the North and South American markets, BASF has decided to relocate the seat of its biotechnology activities to Raleigh, North Carolina from two German sites and one in Sweden.

European farmers have long defended their right to grow non-GMO food. The EU has several policies that strongly regulate genetically modified materials from food including one for honey, which states that honey produced though cross-pollination with a GM crop must be authorized as a GM product before being sold. In 2009, Ireland passed a policy banning the cultivation of all GM crops and introduced a voluntary GM-free label for food.

Conversely, the U.S. has in recent times moved to deregulate GMOs. Most recently, USDA approved another GM seed by industry giant Monsanto, a drought-tolerant variety of corn, MON87460, and opened up a 60-day public comment period on corn that has been genetically engineered to resist the herbicide 2,4-D. This follows other decisions to deregulate and allow the cultivation GM alfalfa and sugar beets, despite contamination risks posed to both organic and conventional farmers. Monsanto also announced plans to renew its efforts to develop genetically modified wheat. Just last week a U.S. District Judge issued a ruling, finding that the decision to deregulate GM alfalfa was not unlawful, as was charged by organic and environmental advocates, including Beyond Pesticides.

The U.S. decision to deregulate GM crops fails to take into account several scientifically-validated environmental concerns, such as the indiscriminate nature of genetically modified gene flow in crops, a heavy reliance on faulty data, and a high degree of uncertainties in making safety determinations. It also overlooks the problem of herbicide resistant weeds and insects, as well as the widespread corruption of conventional seed varieties by GM strains, along with documented severe economic injury to farmers and markets. There is also an oversight of possible health consequences from eating GMOs, despite the fact that long-term health effects of consuming GM food are still largely unstudied and unknown. A recent report highlights scientific research and empirical evidence around the globe demonstrating the failure of GMOs to deliver on their advertised promises to increase yields, reduce pesticide usage, and tolerate drought with “climate ready” traits. In March 2011, 60 family farmers, seed businesses, and organic agricultural organizations preemptively filed suit against Monsanto in an effort to protect them from patent infringement in the event of drift contamination by Monsanto’s GM seed.

Fortunately, GM 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 and visit the Organic Program page. For more information on the failure of genetically engineered food, read “Genetically Engineered Food Failed promises and hazardous outcomes,” from the Summer 2011 issue of Pesticides and You, or go to our Genetic Engineering web page.

Source: Europolitics

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17
Jan

New Grants to Advance Organic Farming Practices Announced

(Beyond Pesticides, January 17, 2011) The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) Board of Directors announced last week that it will invest $50,640 in four new grants to improve the success of organic farmers. The projects include helping organic growers to increase yields while decreasing nitrogen and impacts on surrounding waterways, preventing organic seed-producing crops from being contaminated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), producing sweeter corn in Oregon, and testing new varieties of broccoli best suited for farmers in North Carolina.

“The benefits to OFRF grant awards are far reaching,” states OFRF Board President Deirdre Birmingham. “After more than 20 years and $3 million investment in organic research, we continue to experience sustainability benefits for both organic and non-organic farming.”

Organic food sales have grown significantly each year since 1997 as more and more consumers make healthier food choices and turn away from the use of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. It is the fastest growing sector of U.S. agriculture despite its premium prices. Today OFRF estimates that there are nearly 14,500 certified organic farmers who raise fruits, vegetables, grains and textile crops that improve the soil and the health of consumers and the planet while supplying a $29 billion industry.

That’s not to say that organic food production hasn’t had its setbacks. Growers may initially be hesitant to adapt to organic agricultural methods because of the substantial investment required to adopt new methods of production. A farm must go through a three-year transition phase, producing food without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or sewage sludge before it can be certified organic. The high demand and relatively low supply allows producers to charge retailers higher prices.

The higher prices also have to do with the fact that organic farmers absorb the costs that chemical-intensive farmers externalize. Chemical-intensive agriculture uses inputs that may save time and money for the farmer, but create other costs that are passed off to society in the form of adverse health effects and depletion of natural resources. See “The Real Story on the Affordability of Organic Food” from Pesticides and You. Funding projects such as OFRFs grants help to advance scientific information on the benefits of organic agriculture and make it more accessible to everyone. And, as organic agriculture continues to grow and evolve, researchers are continuing to find new evidence of the benefits of choosing and growing organic foods.

This year, with funding from OFRF, researchers from Washington State University will conduct field tests at eight organic farms in western Washington to help match the requirements of a variety of crops with the amount of natural fertilizer needed for maximum productivity. The overall goal of the project is for farmers to reduce the use of fertilizers, saving money and preventing unused nutrients from washing into nearby streams or rivers. The project will be headed by Douglas Collins from the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, who was awarded a $14,996 grant from the OFRF.

Farmers who produce organic seeds will benefit from a $12,500 grant awarded to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Preservation. In recent years, organic growers have become increasingly concerned that pollinating bees may contaminate organic plants with pollen from non-organic crops. The project will identify native bee species that are drawn to specific crops. By improving conditions for such pollinators, researchers expect seed production to increase significantly. That would lead to lower costs to farmers purchasing the seed, lower prices for consumers and decrease in genetic contamination.

The OFRF teamed up with the Clif Bar Family Foundation to award two additional grants to researchers in Oregon creating new varieties of sweet corn and broccoli best suited for organic farmers in North Carolina. The $8,410 grant awarded to Jonathan Spero of Lupine Knoll Farm in Williams, Oregon, continues sweet corn research started last year. Jeanine Davis of the North Carolina State University, Mountain Research Station in Mills River, North Carolina, will use the $14,734 grant to develop and test new varieties of broccoli for organic production in the western part of the state.

“Investment in organic agriculture research was important in 1997.” states Maureen Wilmot, Executive Director of OFRF. “It’s even more relevant today, as we experience 20% growth in organic agriculture. The imperative is on us all to invest in vital research that sustains organic supply in our country,” adds Ms. Wilmot.

For more information on the importance of organic, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience page. For more information on organic food and farming, visit our organic program page.

Source: Organic Farming Research Foundation Press Release

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

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13
Jan

Judge Rules GE Alfalfa Deregulation Was Legal, Decision To Be Appealed

(Beyond Pesticides, January 13, 2012) A U.S. District Judge in San Francisco has issued a ruling finding that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to deregulate genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa was not unlawful, as has been charged by organic and environmental advocates, including Beyond Pesticides. Judge Samuel Conti of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found that USDA did not act improperly by deregulating the GE Roundup Ready alfalfa, developed by Monsanto Co., and that the agency’s environmental review of the product was adequate.

The plaintiffs in the case, including conventional farmers and seed growers, with Center for Food Safety serving as legal counsel, argued that the environmental impact statement (EIS) the agency prepared failed to take several critical matters into consideration in its evaluation. Among the issues neglected by the EIS are the impacts that the crop would have on endangered species, which advocates hold is required to be considered under the Endangered Species Act, as well as the potential effects that the likely increased pesticide applications would have on the environment. For these reasons, the groups argued that the EIS was woefully incomplete and that the agency’s subsequent deregulation of the GE alfalfa was therefore illegal.

The plaintiffs were also motivated by concerns that widespread release of GE alfalfa pollen into the environment would affect neighboring farms, including organic and non-GE producers, contaminating their crops. Organic farms are prohibited from using GE technology and shipments from organic farms are often inspected to ensure that they are not contaminated with GE material. Rejected shipments can have seriously economic consequences for small organic farms.

However, Judge Conti disagreed that the considerations at issue were required by law to be included in the EIS evaluation process. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Judge Conti stated that USDA is not required to “‘account for the effects of cross-pollination on other commercial crops’ in assessing the risks posed by a new crop.” The Chronicle also notes that,

“He rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the USDA’s analysis had failed to consider the effects of increased herbicide use that would inevitably follow the approval of herbicide-resistant alfalfa. That possible consequence, and the impact on other crops and species, are beyond the scope of the environmental review that the department was required to conduct, Conti said.”

Environmental and organic advocates are extremely disappointed in the ruling and plan to continue the fight. George Kimbrell, a lawyer with the Center for Food Safety, told the Chronicle that the decision will be appealed.

The suit against USDA was originally filed in March of 2011, challenging the agency’s deregulation of the GE alfalfa. The suit, Center for Food Safety, et al., v. Vilsack, et al., argues that the agency’s deregulation of the Roundup Ready alfalfa is unlawful and seeks to prevent any future planting of the engineered crop. The plaintiffs in the suit include a diverse coalition of conventional and organic farmers, dairies and agricultural associations, and environmental and consumer groups: Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Cornucopia Institute, California Farmers Union, Dakota Resources Council, Geertson Seed Farms, National Family Farm Coalition, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Sierra Club, Trask Family Seeds and Western Organization of Resource Councils.

The suit was filed following USDA’s announcement in January of last year that it plans to fully deregulate GE alfalfa. With full deregulation underway, USDA estimates that up to 23 million more pounds of toxic herbicides will be released into the environment each year. The announcement came after signs from Secretary Vilsack that he wished to seek a middle ground regarding the crop, so that organic, conventional, and GE farmers could coexist. After a series of meetings and discussions among stakeholders, the agency’s final decision infuriated organic farmers and environmentalists, who felt the agency ignored their concerns.

This is the second case challenging the legality of USDA’s handling of GE alfalfa. In 2007, in another case brought by the Center for Food Safety, a federal court ruled that the USDA’s approval of the engineered crop violated environmental laws by failing to analyze risks, such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa, the evolution of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and increased use of Roundup. The case resulted in USDA undertaking a court-ordered four-year study of GE alfalfa’s impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Remarkably, it marked the first time USDA had ever undertaken an EIS in over 15 years of approving GE crops for commercial production. While USDA worked on the EIS, GE alfalfa remained unlawful to plant or sell, a ban that remained in place despite Monsanto appealing the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision to fully deregulate GE alfalfa fails to take into account several scientifically-validated environmental concerns, such as the indiscriminate nature of GE gene flow in crops, a heavy reliance on faulty data, and a high degree of uncertainties in making safety determinations. It also overlooks the problem of herbicide resistant weeds as well as the widespread corruption of conventional seed varieties by GE strains, along with documented severe economic injury to farmers and markets. And, there is no mention at all of possible health consequences from eating GE crops, despite the fact that long-term health effects of consuming GE food are still largely unstudied and unknown. A coalition of environmental and farm groups, as well as the National Organic Coalition, opposed the decision and wrote to USDA decrying the decision.

Known as the “queen of forages,” alfalfa is the key feedstock for the dairy industry. Organic dairies stand to lose their source of organic feed, a requirement for organic dairy, including milk and yogurt products. The organic sector is the most vibrant part of U.S. agriculture, now a 26 billion dollar a year industry and growing 20% annually. The latest USDA data show that less than 10 percent of alfalfa acres are sprayed with any herbicide, and consequently, GE alfalfa will dramatically increase the use of such chemicals across the country, with all of their attendant hazards to wildlife, plants, groundwater, and people.

For more information on GE crops, please see Beyond Pesticides’ page on Genetic Engineering.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

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

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12
Jan

FDA To Test for Fungicide in Orange Juice

(Beyond Pesticides, January 12, 2012) The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it will step up testing for a fungicide not registered for use in the U.S. that has been found in low levels in orange juice. The fungicide, carbendazim, does not have any food tolerances and thus its presence in orange juice is unlawful under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Despite this, FDA does not intend to take action to remove from domestic commerce orange juice containing the reported low levels of carbendazim, but will deny future imports.

FDA said in a letter to the Juice Products Association that an unnamed juice company contacted the agency in late December and said it had detected low levels of carbendazim, a fungicide, in the company’s own orange juice and also its competitors’ juice. Carbendazim is not currently approved for use on citrus in the U.S., but is used in Brazil, which exports orange juice to the U.S. Testing found levels up to 35 parts per billion (ppb) of the fungicide, far below the European Union’s maximum residue level of 200 ppb. The U.S. does not have an established maximum residue level (tolerance level) for carbendazim in oranges.

According to the FDA letter, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a preliminary risk assessment based on the recent report of carbendazim in orange juice, and concluded that consumption of orange juice with carbendazim at the low levels that have been reported does not raise safety concerns. However, when carbendazim was evaluated along with its parent chemical -thiophanate-methyl, also a fungicide, by EPA in 2004, both were determined to cause liver and thyroid effects in animal studies and have been classified as probable human carcinogens. Repeated exposure to carbendazim causes spermatogenic effects in rats and hepatic tumours in mice. The liver and thyroid are the primary target organs in several species following subchronic or chronic dietary exposures and the testes are the main known target organ for carbendazim. Carbendazim is also listed as a potential endocrine disruptor in the European Union.

Section 408 of the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) authorizes EPA to establish, modify, or maintain tolerances or tolerance exemptions for pesticide residues in or on food. According to the law, any food with pesticide residues not covered by a tolerance or tolerance exemption, and any food with residues in excess of the tolerance, may be subject to regulatory action, including seizure, by the U.S. government. Pesticide tolerances and exemptions are enforced by FDA (for most foods), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (for meat, poultry, and some egg products), and the individual states. According to EPA’s 2004 registration documents for thiophosphate-methyl and its degradate carbendazim, there are no registered food uses in the U.S., nor import tolerances for carbendazim. Food with pesticide residues cannot be imported to the U.S. without an established food tolerance (the legal maximum pesticide residue allowed in or on food.)

FDA states it is sampling import shipments of orange juice and will deny entry to shipments that test positive for carbendazim. FDA does not intend to take action to remove from domestic commerce orange juice containing the reported low levels of carbendazim. The discovery comes after the agency said it would also step up testing for arsenic in apple juice. FDA officials said last year that the agency is considering tightening restrictions for the levels of arsenic allowed in the juice after consumer groups pushed the agency to crack down on the contaminant. Studies show that apple juice has generally low levels of arsenic, and the government says it is safe to drink. But consumer advocates say the FDA is allowing too much of the chemical.

Carbendazim is a systemic benzimidazole fungicide that plays a role in plant disease control with the global market worth over $200 million and is an approved fungicide in many countries. According to an FDA notification, it “learned from a juice company that it had detected low levels of carbendazim (in the low parts per billion range) in its and competitors’ currently marketed finished products, and in certain orange juice concentrate that is not on the market.” It is thought that the chemical was in the juice because it had been imported from Brazil, where the chemical is legal and used against black spot.

The use of hazardous chemicals in food production, especially chemicals not allowed for use in the U.S. and Europe, is still a common practice in much of the developing world where food is routinely imported into the U.S. By purchasing food commodities with legal tolerances for pesticides no longer used or restricted in the U.S., consumers inadvertently support agricultural production practices in other countries that are associated with the range of adverse effects as noted in the Pesticide Induced-Disease Database, including poor labor practices and environmental degradation. The Eating with a Conscience database, based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), describes a food production system that enables toxic pesticide use both domestically in the U.S. and internationally, and provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use.

To avoid potentially dangerous chemical residues in food, whose origins may be domestic or international, choose organic. The most important organic food products to purchase, especially for children, are those that are consumed in great quantity, such as juice. Purchasing organic juice is particularly important to reduce their pesticide exposure. Research has shown that switching children to an organic diet drastically reduces their exposure. For more information, visit our Organic Food page.

Source: Associated Press

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11
Jan

Honey Bee Losses Impact Food System and Economy

(Beyond Pesticides, January 11, 2012) On January 10, beekeepers from across the country gathered at a national conference, with environmental organizations at their side, to draw attention to the growing plight facing their industry –the decline of honey bees, a problem that has far reaching implications for the U.S. economy. The disappearance of the bees alerts us to a fundamental and systemic flaw in our approach to the use of toxic chemicals -and highlights the question as to whether our risk assessment approach to regulation will destroy our food system, environment, and economy.

“Bees and other pollinators are the underpinnings of a successful agricultural economy,” said Brett Adee, Co-Chair of the National Honey Bee Advisory Board and owner of Adee Honey Farms. “Without healthy, successful pollinators, billions of dollars are at stake.”

Many family-owned beekeeping operations are migratory, with beekeepers traveling the country from state-to-state, during different months of the year to provide pollination services and harvest honey and wax. Bees in particular are responsible for pollinating many high-value crops, including pumpkins, cherries, cranberries, almonds, apples, watermelons, and blueberries. So any decline in bee populations, health and productivity can have especially large impacts on the agricultural economy (see factsheet).

Honey bees are the most economically important pollinators in the world, according to a recent United Nations report on the global decline of pollinator populations.

“Because EPA has not adequately regulated certain pesticides, the food system, including many of the foods we enjoy eating most, are at risk,” said John Kepner, Project Director at Beyond Pesticides. “We can’t afford not to take action to protect pollinators –for wallets and dinner tables alike.”

On Tuesday, commercial beekeepers shared first-hand accounts of the value of beekeeping, and of the dramatic impact of bee declines. Beekeepers estimate that one single bee kill from a pesticide exposure incident, representing 200 bee colonies, is responsible for an estimated $5 million of value to the agricultural economy. David Hackenberg, Co-Chair of the National Honey Bee Advisory Board and owner of Hackenberg Apiaries, estimates that his colonies alone generate $5 million in value over six months: $500,000 from California almonds in January, $800,000 from Georgia blueberries in March, $2 million from Pennsylvania apples and cherries in April, $500,000 from Maine blueberries in May, and $1 million from Pennsylvania pumpkins in June.

Economic impact of a single bee-kill incident by pesticides

Economic impact of a single bee-kill incident by pesticides

“If you think about it, bees and other pollinators are Mother Nature’s ultimate economic stimulus,” said Mr. Hackenberg. Economists quantify pollination as an ‘ecosystem service’ although these figures are often unaccounted for in the traditional measures like the GDP.”

In 2000, the last official study, the value of pollination was estimated at $14.6 million. Beekeepers suggest number that under-calculates the value of their services. They suggest the real value of their operations is $50 billion, based on retail value of food and crop grown from seed that relies upon bee pollination.

Beekeepers have survived the economic recession only to find their operations are still threatened. Recent, catastrophic declines in honey bee populations, termed “Colony Collapse Disorder,” have been linked to a wide variety of factors, including parasites, habitat loss, and pesticides.

“The threats facing pollinators should raise concerns, as sub-lethal impacts on bees are more serious than we had initially thought,” said Dr. Jim Frazier, professor of Entomology at Penn State University. “Every time someone looks, they find something new.”

Beekeepers also note they are partnering with environmental organizations, highlighting the threat of pesticides to the continued success of the profession and the agricultural economy. They raise special concerns with neonicotinoids, a class of systemic pesticides that is taken up by a plant and expressed through the plants that bees then forage and pollinate. Research released last week in the journal PLoS ONE underscores the threat of these pesticides through a previously undocumented exposure route –planter exhaust– the talc and air mix expelled into the environment as automated planters place neonicotinoid-treated seeds into the ground during spring planting.

“Independent research links pollinator declines, especially honey bees, to a wide range of problems with industrial agriculture, especially pesticides,” said Paul Towers, spokesperson for Pesticide Action Network.

Threats to pollinators, especially commercial honey bees, concern the entire food system. With one in three bites of food reliant on pollination, beekeepers and environmental organizations alike call out the wide-scale problem.

For more information on pesticides, honey bees and other pollinators, including tips on what you can do, see Beyond Pesticides Protecting Pollinators program page.

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10
Jan

Study Shows Honey Bees Exposed to High Levels of Bee-Killing Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, January 10, 2012) A Purdue University study shows that honey bees’ exposure to the highly toxic neonicotinoid pesticide clothianidin, as well as thiamethoxam, is greater than previously thought. Beyond Pesticides, as a part of a coalition of beekeeping and environmental groups, challenged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a December 2010 letter for allowing the continued use of this bee-killing pesticide after EPA admitted in a leaked memo that its field study on bees is inadequate. The study, “Multiple Routes of Pesticide Exposure for Honey Bees Living Near Agricultural Fields,” was published January 3, 2012 in the online edition of PLoS ONE.

Like other neonicotinoid pesticides, clothianidin is a systemic pesticide, which is taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen, nectar, and gutation droplets. It is most commonly applied by seed treatment. Most pesticides that are toxic to bees carry a warning that the product cannot be applied while foraging bees are present. As this study shows, systemic pesticides continue to expose and poison bees throughout foraging season. The study authors decided to take a closer look at clothianidin routes of exposure because of its prevalence in honey bee pollen and comb material, combined with its high toxicity to bees and global bee decline.

Using liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry to analyze samples of honey bees, pollen stored in the hive, and several potential exposure routes associated with plantings of neonicotinoid treated corn, the researchers demonstrate several routes of exposure, some not previously accounted for in EPA’s evaluation for approval under federal pesticide regulations.

During the spring planting season, the researchers found extremely high levels of both clothianidin and another neonicotinoid, thiamethoxam, in planter exhaust material produced during the planting of seed treated corn. The field soil is also found to be contaminated with these neonicotiods, including unplanted fields. Plants visited by foraging bees, dandelions in particular, growing near these fields were found to contain neonicotinoids in their plant material as well. According to the research team, this indicates deposition of neonicotinoids on the flowers, uptake by the root system, or both.

During the spring, when neonicotinoid levels are highest, dead bees collected near hive entrances were found to contain clothianidin as well, although whether exposure was oral (consuming pollen) or by contact (soil/planter dust) is unclear. Clothianidin is also detected in pollen collected by bees and stored in the hive.

After the spring planting season, bees foraging through the summer continue to be exposed. When the corn begins to flower, the pollen is also contaminated with clothianidin and other pesticides. The authors note that the levels of clothianidin in bee-collected pollen that they sampled are approximately 10-fold higher than reported from experiments conducted in canola grown from clothianidin-treated seed. This is a critical finding, because clothianidin is even more toxic orally, as they would be exposed through pollen, rather than by spray contact. Advocates maintain that all of these findings must be evaluated by EPA as part of its registration process.

Clothianidin is in the neonicotinoid family of systemic pesticides, which are taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen, nectar and gutation droplets from which bees forage and drink. Scientists are concerned about the mix and cumulative effects of the multiple pesticides bees are exposed to in these ways. Neonicotinoids are of particular concern because they have cumulative, sublethal effects on insect pollinators that correspond to CCD symptoms – namely, neurobehavioral and immune system disruptions.

According to James Frazier, Ph.D., professor of entomology at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, “Among the neonicotinoids, clothianidin is among those most toxic for honey bees; and this combined with its systemic movement in plants has produced a troubling mix of scientific results pointing to its potential risk for honey bees through current agricultural practices. Our own research indicates that systemic pesticides occur in pollen and nectar in much greater quantities than has been previously thought, and that interactions among pesticides occurs often and should be of wide concern.” Dr. Frazier said that the most prudent course of action would be to take the pesticide off the market until EPA has the data necessary to fully evaluate the pesticide’s affect on bees.

Clothianidin has been on the market since 2003. With a soil half-life of up to 19 years in heavy soils, and over a year in the lightest of soils, commercial beekeepers are concerned that even an immediate stop-use of clothianidin won’t save their livelihoods or hives in time.

For more information on pesticides, honey bees and other pollinators, as well as what you can do, see Beyond Pesticides Pollinator Protection program page. Tell EPA it must consider this study as part of its reregistration process. Submit a comment here.

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09
Jan

FDA Backtracks on Removing Allowances for Antibiotics in Conventional Livestock Feed

(Beyond Pesticides, January 9, 2012) The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on December 22, 2011 that it was terminating a rulemaking process begun in 1977 to reduce or potentially eliminate feeding low doses of certain antibiotics to healthy farm animals in conventional livestock operations. FDA had initiated the rulemaking and taken intermediate actions for more than thirty years in response to concerns that feeding livestock sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics would spawn resistant microorganisms that could subsequently infect people. These concerns have been consistently validated by a substantial body of scientific evidence, including the emergence of bacterial strains resistant to many and sometimes all available antibiotic treatments. In announcing its decision to forgo binding regulatory action, FDA cited the potential for voluntary reforms imposed at the discretion of livestock producers and pharmaceutical makers to achieve an acceptable standard of public health protection.

Dating to the 1940s, feeding sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline to livestock has become so common that it accounts for upwards of 80% of those materials’ annual usage in the United States. The practice is chronic in the industrial-style production systems referred to as confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, in which the vast majority of the country’s swine, poultry and cattle are raised. The unsanitary conditions produced by packing excessive numbers of animals into an unnatural environment create the risk of infectious disease outbreaks that would be averted under living conditions appropriate to each species. CAFO operators capitalize on the accelerated weight gain and improved feed conversion efficiencies associated with animals fed sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics.

The American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and hundreds of other organizations have recommended that livestock producers be prohibited from using antibiotics for growth promotion if those antibiotics are also used in human medicine. Denmark, the world’s largest pork exporter, banned the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in broiler chickens and adult swine in 1998, and in young swine in 1999. Danish government and industry data collected since then show a sustained decrease both in overall antibiotic use and in the amount of antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in livestock and meat products, while livestock production has increased. Denmark and other countries which have eliminated using sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics for accelerated growth rates and prophylactic disease control do not prevent veterinarians from treating livestock with those materials when medically appropriate.

In May 2011, a coalition of environmental and public health groups filed a lawsuit against FDA to require the agency to complete the rulemaking process and enforce strict standards regarding the routine use of antibiotics in livestock feed. Avinash Kar, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which is a plaintiff in the suit, described the December 22 announcement as a “step backwards” for FDA. “This action by the FDA is a response to our lawsuit,” said Mr. Kar. “The findings in 1977 were included in the notice for opportunity for a hearing, and they think they can get around the lawsuit by withdrawing the notices for opportunities for a hearing. But we will not allow the FDA to ignore public health.” NRDC is also a member of a larger coalition called Keep Antibiotics Working engaged in an ongoing campaign against the misuse of these essential medicinal compounds.

Feeding sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics to healthy livestock is not the only reckless practice leading to accelerated resistance among dangerous infectious organisms. Beyond Pesticides and a national coalition of partners are leading a grassroots campaign to ban the use of the antimicrobial compound triclosan in consumer products. Widely used in antimicrobial soaps and personal care products and even clothing, triclosan has been detected in human milk samples and in urine at high concentrations that correlate with its use pattern in these products. Recent studies have found that triclosan interferes with the body’s thyroid hormone metabolism and may be a potential endocrine disruptor. Children exposed to antibacterial compounds at an early age also have an increased chance of developing allergies, asthma and eczema.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic certification standards prohibit treating livestock with any amount of antibiotics. The standards also require that producers maintain living conditions that prevent infectious diseases from becoming established and adversely impacting livestock health. Currently, organic farmers growing apples and pears are allowed to use the antibiotics streptomycin and tetracycline to control a fruit tree disease called fire blight. The National Organic Standards Board, the principle advisory body responsible for advising USDA on its organic certification program, has been increasingly reluctant to extend these allowances due to concerns about accelerated resistance in pathogenic organisms and the availability of effective cultural practices and biological treatments for managing fire blight. The NOSB has recommended extending the use of tetracycline and streptomycin to manage fire blight in pear and apple trees through October 2014 pending commercialization of alternative production options.

Source: Guardian UK article

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

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06
Jan

NJ Assembly Advances Bill To Protect Children from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 6, 2011) A law in the state of New Jersey aimed at protecting children by prohibiting pesticides on school grounds has advanced in the state’s General Assembly. Public health and environmental advocates are hoping that the bill will be considered by the full legislature within the next week, before the legislative session adjourns. Just prior to the holidays, the bill was released by the Environment and Solid Waste Committee of the New Jersey General Assembly. The current legislative session ends on Monday January, 9th and the bill must be approved before then, or it will need to be reintroduced in the legislature’s next session.

The Safe Playing Fields Act mirrors similar laws in nearby Connecticut and New York State and is designed to ensure that children have a healthy and safe place for outdoor activities while at school. If enacted, it would prohibit the use of lawn care pesticides on all school playgrounds and on recreational fields of schools that have children in grades K-8, except as an emergency response to an immediate threat to human health, as determined by the municipal or county governing body in consultation with the local health officer or if required by law. The bill also directs the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, in consultation with the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, to adopt rules and regulations concerning pesticide application, record keeping, and staff and parental notification procedures at child care centers with the goal of mitigating potential health risks to young children.

According to a statement from the committee, the bill also restricts access to an area that has been treated with an emergency pesticide for at least seven hours following application. The only pesticides excluded from the prohibition is a small class of “low impact pesticides.”

To learn more about children and pesticides, visit our program page.

TAKE ACTION:

In NJ: Currently, the bill has 44 co-sponsors in the Assembly and Senate. If you are located in New Jersey, you can go here to find your legislators and ask them to support the bill. You can also contact the offices of Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Senate President Steve Sweeney and urge them to ensure that bill is brought up for consideration in the current legislative session.

Nationally: Ask Your Congressional Representative to support the School Environment Protect Act.

Children need better protection from toxic chemical exposure while at school. Numerous scientific studies find that pesticides used in schools are linked to cancer, asthma and other health problems. A 2010 Harvard University study links everyday pesticide exposure to ADHD. While some states have taken limited action to protect children from pesticides in schools, these policies represent a patchwork of laws that are uneven and inadequate. The School Environment Protection Act (SEPA) establishes a minimum national standard to protect kids in their places of learning. Please ask your U.S. Representative to contact Rep. Holt to sign-on as an original SEPA co-sponsor.

It is time that our nation embraces a basic protection to ensure a healthy learning environment. Please see the chart in the Schooling of State Pesticides Laws-2010 report to see if your state requires some form of protection from pesticides in its schools. If your Rep. needs further information, please direct them to Beyond Pesticides’ SEPA webpage with bill text, summary, Mr. Holt’s “Dear Colleague” letter, and other useful information.

Source: NJtoday.net

Image credit: Bryan Littel

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

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05
Jan

USDA Deregulates Monsanto’s Drought Resistant Corn, Opens Comment Period on 2,4-D Resistant Corn

(Beyond Pesticides, January 5, 2012) Just as everyone was getting ready for the holidays, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved yet another genetically modified seed by Monsanto, a drought-tolerant variety of corn, MON87460. In addition to its announcement approving Monsanto’s newest GE corn variety, USDA also opened a 60-day public comment period for two additional petitions – one for Monsanto’s GE soybean containing higher levels of an omega-3 fatty acid, that does not naturally occur in soybeans, and the other from Dow AgroSciences for corn that has been genetically engineered to resist the poisonous herbicide 2,4-D.

“In 2012 the USDA is proposing approving a new GE corn variety that is resistant to a different toxic herbicide, escalating the toxic treadmill in chemical-dependent agriculture,” said Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides. “This is nothing more than a band-aid solution to a serious problem, and will only give rise to more superweeds, more herbicide pollution in our environment, more herbicide poisoning, while likely leading to the need for even more toxic herbicides a couple of years down the line. This foolish circle has to end,” he added. [To listen to a radio interview on 2,4-D by Jay Feldman click here.]

While the USDA attempts to assure the public that 2,4-D is safe, scientists have raised serious concerns about the safety of this herbicide, which was used as a key ingredient in “Agent Orange,” used to defoliate forests and croplands in the Vietnam War. 2,4-D is a chlorophenoxy herbicide, and scientists around the world have reported increased cancer risks in association with its use, especially for soft tissue sarcoma and malignant lymphoma. Four separate studies in the United States reported an association with chlorophenoxy herbicide use and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. When Monsanto introduced glyphosate, it was touted as a safer and less toxic alternative to herbicides like 2,4-D. Now, an emerging body of scientific literature is raising serious concerns about the safety of glyphosate as well.

Research by the EPA found that babies born in counties with high rates of 2,4-D application to farm fields were significantly more likely to be born with birth defects of the respiratory and circulatory systems, as well as defects of the musculoskeletal system like clubfoot, fused digits and extra digits. These birth defects were 60% to 90% more likely in counties with higher 2,4-D application rates. The results also showed a higher likelihood of birth defects in babies conceived in the spring, when herbicide application rates peak.

In its petition, Dow AgroSciences states that 2,4-D is increasingly important for chemical farmers because of the presence of weeds that have developed resistance to glyphosate, as a result of the widespread use of Monsanto’s genetically engineered glyphosate-resistant crops. Farm research groups are also concerned with the impact of genetically engineered crops on organic farmers, whose organic crops are already at risk of contamination with Monsanto’s unnatural DNA, from pollen drift.

Citizens can comment on the proposed approval of Dow’s 2,4-D tolerant corn and Monsanto’s stearidonic acid soybeans until February 27, 2012.

An online petition by The Cornucopia Institute opposing Dow’s 2,4-D corn variety, which will be sent to President Obama and Secretary Vilsack, can be signed here.

The news of the approval of drought-tolerant corn comes despite nearly 45,000 public comments in opposition to MON87460 and only 23 in favor, according to a Cornucopia press release. In addition, there are a host of problems with the new variety, including lack efficacy and health data. Back in May, USDA found that the crop did not perform well.

According to Reuters, the major U.S. area for adoption of drought-tolerant corn would be the Plains, which produce one-quarter of the U.S. crop, Monsanto estimated, as well as similar dryland regions of Africa, Europe and Latin America. Corn is the most widely grown U.S. crop and farmers grew 91.9 million acres of the feed grain this year, the second-largest area since World War Two.

The Cornucopia Institute reports that in the Environmental Assessment of the “drought tolerant” Monsanto corn USDA concedes that gene flow of corn pollen is likely to occur. It is well-established that corn pollen travels, and pollen from genetically engineered plants will contaminate natural corn plants.

“The irony, of course, is that organic fields and crops are much more drought tolerant, because common sense and field trials show healthy and biologically active organic soil retains moisture much better than tired and depleted soil on conventional monoculture farms, and organic crops are healthier and more robust than conventional crops,” said Charlotte Vallaeys, a researcher at Cornucopia Institute.

For more information on the failure of genetically engineered food, read “Genetically Engineered Food Failed promises and hazardous outcomes,” from the Summer 2011 issue of Pesticides and You, or go to our Genetic Engineering web page.

Take Action:
Send comments on the proposed approval of Dow’s 2,4-D tolerant corn until February 27, 2012. Submit comments at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2010-0103-0001. You only need to fill out fields that have an asterisk (*) beside it.

Additionally, an online petition by The Cornucopia Institute opposing Dow’s 2,4-D corn variety, which will be sent to President Obama and Secretary Vilsack, can be signed here.

Sources: Cornucopia Institute press release, Reuters, and TreeHugger

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04
Jan

Pesticide Use in California Increases after Four-Year Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, January 4, 2012) Pesticide use in California rose in 2010 after declining for four consecutive years, according to data released by the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). More than 173 million pounds of pesticides were reported applied statewide, an increase of nearly 15 million pounds – or 9.5 percent – from 2009. Overall, most of the growth in pesticide use was in production agriculture, where applications increased by 12 million pounds.

California’s DPR, which has the most extensive pesticide use reporting system in the United States and oversees one of the most comprehensive pesticide regulatory programs in the world, published its pesticide usage data for the state last week. Along with increases in agricultural pesticide use which reflects a 15 percent jump in acres treated with pesticides, post-harvest treatments went up by 657,000 pounds, structural pest control by 760,000 and landscape maintenance by 374,000 pounds. Reports are mandatory for agricultural and pest control business applications, while most home, industrial and institutional uses are exempt.

Pesticides with the greatest increase include 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D). commonly known as Telone, a fumigant whose use went up by 2.4 million pounds, or 37 percent. It is used on strawberries, almonds, sweet potatoes, carrots, and table and raisin grapes. This fumigant is an alternative to methyl bromide, which is being phased out under an international treaty to protect the ozone layer, even though recent research shows that methyl bromide is continuing to be used in alarming amounts across the state due to a sizeable loophole in the regulations. For more on the methyl bromide phase out, read here.

Other pesticides that show growth in pounds applied are metam-sodium, a fumigant used on carrots, processing tomatoes and potatoes; glyphosate, an herbicide used on orchard floors, rights-of-way and pre-planting for row crops; metam-potassium, a fumigant used to prepare fields for processing tomatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots prior to planting; and kaolin, a clay-based fungicide and insecticide commonly used on organic crops.

The new data also reports:

-Chemicals classified as reproductive toxins increased marginally in pounds applied from 2009 to 2010 (up 123,000 pounds or 0.8 percent) and decreased slightly in acres treated (down 770 acres or 0.1 percent).
-Use of chemicals classified as carcinogens increased from 2009 to 2010 (up 5.1 million pounds or 26 percent and up 566,000 acres or 18 percent). The increase in pounds was mainly due to increases in use of the fumigants 1,3-dichloropropene and metam-sodium.
– Use of cholinesterase-inhibiting pesticides (organophosphate [OP] and carbamate
pesticides), which include compounds of high regulatory concern, increased. Use increased both in pounds (up 165,000 pounds or 4 percent) and in acres treated (up 509,000 acres or 14 percent). The greatest increase in pounds was the plant growth regulator ethephon, used mostly in cotton while the greatest increases in acres treated were ethephon and the insecticides chlorpyrifos and malathion.
– Use of chemicals categorized as ground water contaminants decreased by pounds (down 62,000 pounds or 5 percent) and increased by acres treated (up 65,000 acres or 8 percent).
– Chemicals categorized as toxic air contaminants increased from 2009 to 2010 both in
pounds (up 4.7 million pounds or 15 percent) and by acres treated (up 129,000 acres or 5 percent).
– The pounds of fumigant chemicals applied increased (up 4.1 million pounds or 12 percent) and the acres treated decreased (down 8,000 acres or 2 percent). Pounds of 5 of the 6 major fumigants (metam-sodium, potassium n-methyldithiocarbamate, 1,3-D, sulfuryl fluoride, and chloropicrin) increased and pounds of one fumigant (methyl bromide) decreased.

Major crops that showed an overall increase in pounds of pesticides applied over the previous year included wine grapes, carrots, cotton, almonds, and table and raisin grapes. The data indicated declines in pounds applied to rice, processing tomatoes, alfalfa, peaches, nectarines and applications to fields before crops are planted to control pests. California farmers, especially those in the San Joaquin Valley planted more cotton, which increased the use of some pesticides. In addition to cotton, crops that showed an increase in pounds of pesticides applied included wine grapes, carrots, almonds, and table and raisin grapes.

Generally, pesticide use fluctuates from year to year due to weather and economic factors, said department spokeswoman Lea Brooks. According to DPR, last year’s increase was mainly due to an abundant rainfall, better water availability for crop irrigation and the pricing of crops. An especially cool, wet winter and spring required more fungicide use to control mildew, Ms. Brooks said. Low summer and fall temperatures resulted in late harvests and led to more insect damage to some crops and additional treatments.

Beyond Pesticides sees it differently. “This increase relfects a failure of conventional, chemical-intensive agricultural systems, including so-called integrated pest management (IPM) systems, to curtail the most hazardous chemicals in U.S. agriculture, despite the availabiltiy of effective and profitable organic systems,” said Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides’ executive director.

These new statistics are troubling and show that pesticide usage continues to be a serious threat to human and environmental health. Despite the viability of organic agriculture, millions of pounds of highly toxic pesticides continue to be used unnecessarily throughout the state. The top five pesticides being used in the state, sulfur, petroleum and mineral oils, metam-sodium, 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D), and glyphosate along with a host of others that include methyl bromide, pendimethalin and chlorpyrifos, are linked to a myriad of adverse health effects including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disruption and reproductive effects.

“The numbers released indicate that we’re stuck on the pesticide treadmill,” said Paul Towers, spokesman of Pesticide Action Network. “Instead of providing support and forward thinking policies to help farmers transition from pesticide use, our state is continuing the use of unsafe and outdated chemicals.”

Most alarming was the increase in the use of fumigants, Mr. Towers said, which are prone to drift and some of which are linked to cancer and groundwater contamination. The published data covers only pesticides used in agriculture, termite treatment and professional landscaping. About two-thirds of the pesticides sold in California, including chlorine used for municipal water treatment and home-use pesticide products, are not subject to reporting. Reported pesticide applications are only a portion of the pesticides sold each year. Approximately two-thirds of the pesticides sold, including chlorine used primarily for municipal water treatment and home-use pesticide products, typically are not subject to reporting.

Take Action: Want to do your own part to help reduce the release of dangerous and damaging chemicals in our homes, farms, and environment? Support organic agriculture and institutional IPM programs at schools and hospitals! You can even go organic in your own home, lawn, and garden. There are alternatives to toxic pesticides available for a wide range of pests whether in agriculture, or throughout the urban environment including structural and landscape pest problems. Contact Beyond Pesticides for more information.

Source: California DPR

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03
Jan

Consumer Safety Groups Sue Food and Drug Administration Over Lax Nanotechnology Review

(Beyond Pesticides, January 3, 2012) A coalition of six consumer safety groups filed suit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on December 21, 2011, citing the FDA’s chronic failure to regulate materials derived from nanotechnology (nanomaterials) used in sunscreens, cosmetics and drugs. The lawsuit demands that FDA respond to a May 2006 petition the coalition filed calling for regulatory actions, including nano-specific product labeling, health and safety testing, and an analysis of the environmental impacts of nanomaterials in products regulated by FDA. The lawsuit cites numerous studies and reports published since 2006 that establish significant data gaps concerning nanomaterials’ potential effects on human health and the environment. Led by the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA), the coalition is calling for FDA to take immediate action to assess the actual risks from nanomaterials and implement appropriate protective measures for consumers.

While receiving minimal regulatory scrutiny or public attention, nanotechnology is becoming an increasingly prevalent practice for developing the next generation of ingredients in a wide range of consumer products. Generally defined, nanotechnology is the practice of manipulating matter on an atomic or molecular level to produce materials between 1 and 100 nanometers (nm) in size. A nanometer is equivalent to one billionth of a meter and a typical human hair measures approximately 50,000 nm in width. The extreme reduction in size that nanomaterials undergo imparts many novel properties including greater strength, mobility and richness of color as well as increased conductivity and elasticity. These characteristics have raised concerns that nanomaterials may become highly reactive and toxic and, once released into the environment, impossible to contain or monitor.

The original 2006 petition directed FDA to address concerns about nanomaterials within two areas under its jurisdiction. First, it requested that FDA issue a formal opinion characterizing the known and potential risks of nanomaterials related to their toxicity and mobility and establish overarching definitions and regulations for handling such materials. Second, the petition requested that FDA reverse its 1999 decision that nano-sized ingredients used in sunscreens, including titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, are not functionally different from the larger-sized particles previously approved as human drugs. Finding otherwise would have required sunscreen formulators seeking to use the nano-sized ingredients to conduct and submit safety and efficacy studies as part of a new human drug approval review. The petition questions how the nano-sized ingredients could be sufficiently novel to receive patents, yet are not functionally different from the ingredients already in use. Citing the lack of required safety and efficacy studies, the petition requests that FDA declare any sunscreen products containing nanomaterials to be an imminent hazard to human health and order manufacturers to cease production.

“Nano means more than tiny; it means materials that have the capacity to be fundamentally different. Yet more and more novel nanomaterials are being infused into new consumer products every day, while FDA sits idly by,” said George Kimbrell, ICTA attorney. “The agency’s unlawful delay unnecessarily places consumers and the environment at risk.”

FDA is not the only federal agency to act precipitously in approving the use of nanomaterials before completing its pre-marketing regulatory review. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has conditionally registered 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.

At its October 2010 meeting, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) passed a recommendation to prohibit engineered nanomaterials in certified organic products as expeditiously as possible. The NOSB, the expert citizen advisory panel set up by Congress to advise the USDA on organic policy, reviews materials and provides recommendations to the National Organic Program (NOP) on what should be allowed and prohibited in organic agriculture and processing, as materials and methods change over time. Organic advocates, members of the organic industry, and the NOSB expressed concern that engineered nanomaterials could contaminate organic food and fibers.

Source: ICTA Press Release

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

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23
Dec

Happy Holidays from Beyond Pesticides!

Beyond Pesticides wishes our members and friends a healthy, happy and organic New Year! Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News is taking a holiday break and will return on Monday, January 3, 2012 with restored energy and vision to continue charging ahead.

After three decades, we are in deep gratitude to our members for their continued support, as well as 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 cancer, respiratory illness, neurological and immune system problems, 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 (trailer). Thank you for your support. Donate here.

Best wishes for a healthy holiday season and new year! See us again on January 3, 2012.

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22
Dec

Go Organic with Upcoming Accreditation Courses in Organic Land Care

(Beyond Pesticides, December 22, 2011) For the tenth consecutive year, the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Organic Land Care Program (NOFA OLC) is hosting an accreditation course in organic land care in three different locations around the New England area starting January 9, 2012. Attendees will learn the how to design and maintain ecological landscapes without the use of toxic pesticides. The course is for any land care professional, including school grounds or municipal employees, conservation property managers, master gardeners, entrepreneurs or landscape enthusiast to learn the ecology of residential yards or municipal and school grounds and to learn how to care for these spaces using sustainable and safe products and methods.

Over 1,200 students from 22 different states have taken the course, and there are currently about 550 Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals (AOLCPs) bringing this expertise to their jobs as landscapers, groundskeepers, conservationists, planners, garden center employees, and a number of other fields.

Students of the accreditation course come away with a practical understanding of landscape ecology and organic methods. Frank Crandall, owner of Frank Crandall Horticultural Solutions in Rhode Island, described the course as “the best educational course I have ever taken . . . I immediately made a plan to convert my landscape business into a completely organic company over three years.”

Caro Roszell, the NOFA/Mass OLC Coordinator credited “a lot of motivation from professionals to create safer, healthier, and more naturally beautiful landscapes, and their clients are demanding it too. They want to offer an effective, competitive organic program, so they come to us.”

This 5-day, 30-hour course features a faculty of respected scientists and experienced organic land care practitioners. Class topics include: site analysis, design and maintenance; rain gardens and storm water infiltration; soil health; fertilizer and soil amendments; lawn alternatives; wetlands; pest management; wildlife management; disease control; mulches; invasive plants; and, client relations and running a business. Four hands-on case studies are also included in the course and attendees may take an optional exam to become NOFA Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals (AOLCPs). Bill Duesing, Executive Director of Connecticut NOFA and one of NOFA OLC’s founders explains, “Our course instructs students on landscaping that is healthier for people and the environment. Organic land care replaces toxic chemicals that get in our skin, lungs and water with methods that promote biodiversity, create habitat and protect water quality.”

The course is offered three times in 2012:
January 9, 10, 11, 12, 13
Worcester State University
Worcester, MA

February 15, 16, 17, 21, 22
The Connecticut Agricultural Station-New Haven Laboratory
New Haven, CT

February 27, 28, 29, March 1, 2
Kettle Pond Visitor Center
Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge
Charlestown, RI

The NOFA Organic Land Care Program was founded by a volunteer committee of scientists, activists, and landscapers from the Massachusetts and Connecticut Chapters of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. The Accreditation Course curriculum is based on the committee’s Standards for Organic Land Care: Practices for Design and Maintenance of Ecological Landscapes published in 2001, now recognized and implemented across the U.S. and accepted into the International Family of Standards regulated by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.

Please visit www.organiclandcare.net for more information on the accreditation course or to search for AOLCPs in your area. For information about the Rhode Island and Connecticut course please e-mail Kristiane Huber at [email protected] or call the CT NOFA office at (203) 888-5146. For information about the Massachusetts Course please contact Caro Roszell at [email protected] or (508) 360-0874.

Beyond Pesticides offers online training as well. ‘Organic Land Care Basic Training for Municipal Officials and Transitioning Landscapers,’ is taught by Beyond Pesticides’ board member Chip Osborne, a professional horticulturist with over 30 years’ experience, and an expert on building and transitioning turf to organic care. For more information, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes page.

In addition, Beyond Pesticides’ 30th National Pesticide Forum, Healthy Communities: Green solutions for safe environments, will be held in New Haven, Connecticut March 30-31, 2012. The conference will focus on organic landcare, urban/ suburban pesticide use, organic food, and protective national, state, and local policies. The forum is being held in partnership with Connecticut and New England groups at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. For more information and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

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21
Dec

Report Highlights Risk From Antibacterial Chemicals In Clothing

(Beyond Pesticides, December 21, 2011) The Swedish Chemicals Agency (Kemi) has published an analysis of the antibacterial chemicals triclosan, triclocarban and silver textile products that finds these antibacterial chemicals to significantly leach out of treated products after washing. In the case of triclosan and triclocarban, about half or more of the original content is washed out after ten washes. The report questions the necessity of antibacterial textiles and highlights concerns about the increasing use of antibacterial products, and the hazards these substances pose to waterways and human health.

The antibacterial treatment is usually marketed and labeled with the stated purpose of preventing odors in textiles. The Swedish Chemicals Agency analyzed 30 textile articles (English summary on page 7), specifically three antibacterial agents incorporated into the fabric, including silver (nanosilver), triclosan, and triclocarban. Concentrations of the antibacterials in fabrics fell after washing. In the case of triclosan and triclocarban, about half or more of the original content was washed out after ten washes. In the case of silver, the original concentration and washed-out content varied to a large extent. After ten washes, 10-98 percent of the silver had been washed out of the textiles. After three washes, half of the silver had been washed out in several textiles.

The report notes that it is remarkable that such a large proportion of added antibacterial chemicals is washed out of textiles and thus enters treatment plants and the environment. The three analyzed chemicals are not degraded at all (silver) or slowly (triclocarban and triclosan) in the environment. Silver in ionic form, triclosan and triclocarban are very toxic to aquatic organisms. Triclocarban in studies demonstrates reproductive properties, and triclosan exhibits endocrine-disrupting properties. Triclosan and its cousin triclocarban have come under fire for their link to many serious human and environmental health threats, including water contamination and an ever increasing body burden expressed in breast milk, urine, and umbilical cord blood. As an endocrine disruptor, triclosan has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development, and also shown to alter thyroid function. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has found that triclosan is present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 42% since 2004. Silver, triclosan, and triclocarban leaching from textiles contaminate the sludge from treatment plants, which then gets recycled as compost for agricultural lands or home gardens.

Studies conducted in 2008 and 2009 show that washing nanosilver 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.

The recommendations coming from this report further emphasize the importance of efforts to reduce the risks connected with chemicals used in today´s society and particularly the phasing out of hazardous substances in newly produced articles. Above all, consumer articles and articles that may expose children to hazardous substances should be given priority. The report’s authors question whether the function of antibacterial-treated clothing and other textiles is necessary, considering risks that may arise. Also a factor is the difficulty consumers have determining what antibacterial chemicals the clothes contain. It is rarely explicitly declared that clothes are treated with antibacterial agents. However, if the garment is marketed under labels such as “anti-odor,” “treated against bad smell,” “for lasting freshness”, “hygienic protection”, “antimicrobial” etc., there is reason to suspect that they have been treated with an antibacterial substance.

Beyond Pesticides in 2004 began voicing concern about the dangers of the antibacterial pesticide triclosan and in 2009 and 2010 submitted petitions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling for the removal of triclosan from consumer products. Since then, many major companies are quietly and quickly removing triclosan from their products. Colgate-Palmolive, makers of SoftSoap, and GlaxoSmithKline, makers of Aquafresh and Sensodyne toothpastes, have reformulated these products to exclude triclosan, according to media reports. Others, including Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, The Body Shop, and Staples, have started phasing it out of products. Over 10,000 individuals told EPA this spring, via email and docketed comments supporting Beyond Pesticides and Food and Water Watch’s petition, to ban the dangerous antibacterial triclosan. Additionally, scores of public health and advocacy groups, local state departments of health and the environment, as well as municipal and national wastewater treatment agencies submitted comments requesting an end to triclosan in consumer products.

Source: KEMI Press Release

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20
Dec

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.

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19
Dec

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.

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