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Research Finds Bees Prefer Foods Treated with Bee-Killing Insecticides

(Beyond Pesticides, April 24, 2015) Two new studies reporting on the adverse effects of neonicotinoids on bees were published Wednesday in the journal Nature, adding to a growing body of scientific literature linking the controversial class of pesticides to the global decline in bee populations. The conclusions reached by the two studies find that not only does neonicotinoid exposure result in reduced bee density, nesting, colony growth, and reproduction, but also that bees in fact prefer foods containing neonicotinoid pesticides despite their adverse effects.

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

In one study, “Seed coating with a neonicotinoid insecticide negatively affects wild bees,” Swedish scientists report that wild bees and bumblebees foraging in crops treated with a commonly used insecticide seed coating, a combination of the neonicotinoid clothianidin and the non-systemic pyrethroid β-cyfluthrin, were less likely to reproduce when compared to bees in untreated fields, and that bumblebee colonies in treated fields gained less weight. Additionally, fewer wild bees and bumblebees were found in treated fields than in untreated ones.

The second study, “Bees prefer foods containing neonicotinoid pesticides,” finds that contrary to theories that bees would avoid treated plants because neonicotinoids taste bad, results find that honeybees and bumblebees were unable to taste the compounds, apparently consuming it anyway even though consumption of these pesticides caused them to eat less food overall.

According to The New York Times, this finding, which emerged from a broader test of bees’ sensitivity to chemicals in their food, was a complete surprise, said one author of the study, Geraldine Wright, Ph.D., of the University of Oxford.

The studies come on the heels of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement of a moratorium on new uses of neonicotinoids. Also this month, the home and garden retailer Lowe’s announced its commitment to phasing out the sale of products containing neonicotinoid pesticides within 48 months.

With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other insects for pollination, the decline of honey bees and other pollinators due to pesticides, and other man-made causes demands immediate action. For more on this and what you can do to protect pollinators, visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage.

Source: New York Times, Nature

Photo Source: Eric S, MA

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



Two New Local Policies Showcase the Good and the Bad of IPM

(Beyond Pesticides, April 23, 2015) Just in time for Earth Day, two localities took action this week to advance their own pesticide policies. The city of Evanston, IL improved upon its previous IPM policy by announcing a new pilot organic land care program on five city parks, however, Charlottesville, VA put in place an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) policy which codifies existing efforts by city officials, yet lacks clear and concise efforts to reduce dependency on toxic chemicals.

charlottesville sealDisappointment in Charlottesville, VA
Despite pressure from local advocates, including over 1,000 signatures from community members, the city of Charlottesville, VA merely adopted a pest management policy that makes official practices that were already in place for the past ten years. Though one could argue that enacting a formal policy is a step in the right direction, the new policy does not address recommendations advanced by local environmentalists, which called for an increase in organic-compatible products while reducing harmful synthetic pesticides.

The local advocates, part of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club, were pushing for pesticide-free parks and school grounds throughout the city of Charlottesville. According to John Cruickshank, chairman of the local chapter, at the very least, there should be a waiver process for pesticide use, which would come from the city manager. “Synthetic chemical pesticides should not be used unless all other options fail,” Mr. Cruickshank told Charlottesville Tomorrow back in February. “Our campaign is focused on city parks, school grounds and any other property maintained by the city. That could include the traffic islands, roadsides and the flower pots on the [Downtown] Mall.”

However, the actual IPM plan that the town adopted drastically falls short of the recommendations by the local groups. Though the resolution states that efforts will be made to minimize the use of pesticides, there are no required measures in place to ensure that this will actually happen. The plan states that it will: eliminate significant threats caused by pests to the health and safety of staff and the public; prevent loss or damage to City owned assets or property by pests; protect environmental quality; and will over time progressively move to reduce chemical pest controls. General strategies of the IPM program include selecting a pest management approach that is based on current information, and available financial and human resources. While it does push for structural modifications and non-pesticide technologies, it is vague in allowing the use of “appropriate pesticide compounds” that present the “lowest potential hazard to humans and the environment in the most effective manner,” and calling for the evaluation and use of non-synthetic pesticide products only as a final step. The good news is that according to Brian Daly, parks and recreation director, the city will be providing 24-hour advance notice of applications on school property, and posting notifications will be made available for 24 hours following any pesticide application.

The problem with the city of Charlottesville’s IPM plan echoes Beyond Pesticides’ concern with the general use of the term IPM, which can have different definitions and methods of implementation, meaning virtually anything the practitioner wants it to mean. The term has largely been co-opted by the chemical-dependent programs masquerading as IPM, and often allows for use of hazardous, synthetic pesticides as one component in the “toolbox” of options available to manage a pest problem. However, those who argue that IPM requires the ability to spray pesticides immediately after identifying a pest problem are not describing IPM. Thus, Beyond Pesticides has, in recent years, worked with local communities to shift the focus from IPM policies for playing fields, gardens, and turf to organic land management policies, while advocating for strong, well-defined structural IPM practices for indoors.

City of EvanstonImprovements in Evanston, IL
To mark the fifth anniversary of the city’s pesticide reduction policy, the city of Evanston, IL will launch a new pesticide-free park program on five of the city’s parks. The local parks, Ackerman, Burnham Shores, Eiden, Perry, and Trahan, will all be maintained without the use of pesticides for one year, and, if successful, the program will be extended expanded to include more parks. The program is being launched with the help of the local company Greenwise Landscaping & Lawn Care Services, along with the Midwest Pesticide Action Center. Instead of relying on chemical pesticides, the city will utilize organic management methods, including high mowing to increase root strength and shade out weeds, and focus on improving soil health for natural weed resistance.

“The City of Evanston strives to keep our parks a healthy place for all our residents and visitors to enjoy, and we are excited to launch this Pesticide-Free Parks Pilot Program, which is our largest Adopt-a-Park partnership to date,” said Evanston’s Public Works Department Assistant Director Paul D’Agostino.

The city’s initial reduction policy, the City of Evanston sustainable Pest Control and Pesticide Reduction Policy, which passed in the spring of 2010, requires city employees, agent employees, agents and contractors to follow natural lawn care and “least-toxic Integrated Pest Management” (IPM) and prohibits high hazards pesticides. Unlike Charlottesville’s policy, Evanston’s does at least define which pesticides are prohibited on city property, including:

  • U.S. EPA known, probable, likely, possible or suspected carcinogens;
  • U.S. EPA Toxicity Category I and II pesticides (These pesticides are identified by the words ‘DANGER’ or ‘WARNING’ on the label); and,
  • Chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity (Proposition 65).

“Greenwise loves this opportunity to give back to the community we call home and is thrilled to partner with the Evanston to promote organic land management,” Marc Wise, the founder of Greenwise said. “This is a great way to tell the folks of Evanston to get out and enjoy your parks.

In addition to the five pesticide-free parks, the city is encouraging residents to follow the city’s example by providing natural lawn care tips on their website. Specifically, the city urges residents to follow four simple, cost-effective strategies in their own yards: water 1”per week; mow 3” high; use organic fertilizers; and weed naturally.

Organic Land Management: A Growing Movement
There are many alternatives for safer lawn care, which reduce pest and weed pressure through a “feel the soil” approach that centers on natural, organic fertilization, and proper cultural practices such as correct mowing height, aeration, and overseeding. Creating a toxic-free lawn is possible when you understand why weeds occur in the first place, and take steps to eliminate conditions that allow their growth. And, given the alarming health effects of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides, it’s no surprise that there is a growing demand from local communities to regulate pesticides in a way that prevents the pollution of local waters, and stops putting residents at risk of pesticide-induced diseases.

Take Action: Are you interested in getting a strong policy passed in your community? See Beyond Pesticides’ How to Start Your Own Local Movement factsheet. We also have a model ordinance and implementation plan that outlines exactly how municipalities, lawn care operators and homeowners can create healthy lawns and landscapes without relying on hazardous pesticides. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email ([email protected]) for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to have an impact.

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



EPA’s Expansion of 2,4-D Enlist Duo Challenged

(Beyond Pesticides, April 22, 2015) A coalition of conservation, food safety, and public health groups filed a motion Monday challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s decision to expand the use of “Enlist Duo” on genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybean crops to nine additional states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and North Dakota. Enlist Duo, which contains the toxic herbicide, 2,4-D, was approved by EPA to be used on 2,4-D-resistant crops, despite concerns for human and environmental contamination.

epa_seal_profilesThe motion was filed in the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety on behalf of Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group, the National Family Farm Coalition, and Pesticide Action Network North America. This motion builds on the coalition’s earlier challenge of Enlist Duo, which already includes six Midwestern states where EPA previously first approved the herbicide’s use on GE corn and soybean crops. Another legal challenge cites EPA’s failure to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regarding the impact of the herbicide on two endangered species –the whooping crane and the Indiana bat– with the approval of Enlist Duo for use on GE crops.

The groups are challenging EPA’s decision to allow the use of Enlist Duo in 15 Midwestern states because of the serious impacts the powerful new herbicide cocktail will have on farmworkers, neighboring farms, and ground and surface water, as well as endangered species. For instance, 2,4-D, half the mixture of the infamous Agent Orange, has been linked to serious illnesses, including Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and reproductive problems. The EPA’s analyses also demonstrate plainly that the herbicide may affect endangered species, like the whooping crane, Louisiana black bear, and Indiana bat, through consumption of prey contaminated with the toxic chemical.

Enlist Duo, a new herbicide that incorporates a cocktail of glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D, was registered by EPA last fall and is intended for use on GE corn and soybean crops- deregulated last year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Enlist Duo is being marketed as a “solution” for the control of glyphosate-resistant weeds brought on by the widespread use of glyphosate on glyphosate-resistant (Roundup Ready) crops over the last decade. Glyphosate-resistant super weeds now infest tens of millions of acres of U.S. farmland. EPA and Dow AgroScience are now allowing farmers to douse their fields with both 2,4-D and glyphosate to kill these resistant weeds. However, independent and USDA scientists, however, predict that the Enlist Duo “crop system” will only foster resistance to 2,4-D in addition to glyphosate, continuing the GE crop pesticide treadmill. USDA’s own analysis finds that approval of 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans will lead to an unprecedented 2- to 7-fold increase in agricultural use of the herbicide by 2020, from 26 million to as much as 176 million pounds per year.

“Big chemical is profiting over dumping more and more toxins in our air, water and bodies and killing our endangered wildlife,” said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff.  “Instead of being an environmental watchdog, the EPA is playing lapdog and allowing this deadly herbicide to be sprayed on millions of acres without adequate impact assessment. We filed our motion so we can finally stop the cycle of more and more pesticides with less and less oversight.”

States that are now approved to use Enlist Duo on GE corn and soybean crops:

  • Arkansas – NEW
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas – NEW
  • Louisiana – NEW
  • Minnesota – NEW
  • Missouri – NEW
  • Mississippi – NEW
  • Nebraska – NEW
  • North Dakota – NEW
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma – NEW
  • South Dakota
  • Wisconsin

Public opposition to both the approval of Enlist Duo-tolerant crops and registration of Enlist Duo has been loud and clear. During the 2014 public comment period for the Enlist Duo corn and soybean, USDA received over 10,000 comments on its draft environmental impact statement and plant pest risk assessments. Of these comments, over 88%, including Beyond Pesticides, were opposed to the non-regulated status of the Enlist-tolerant varieties. Additionally the agency received over 240,000 signatures from three non-government organizations opposing the deregulation of the Enlist crops. Along with human health concerns surrounding expanded 2,4-D use, its drift is responsible for more episodes of crop injury than any other herbicide. These alarming and ongoing problems point to systematic deficiencies in the current regulatory system and pesticide-use paradigm —new GE crops will not “solve” resistance issues, but merely push the problems of weed management further down the road.

Visit our website to learn more about GE crops and how to keep them out of our environment and food!

 Source: Center for Food Safety


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



Health Canada Mulls Label Changes to Monsanto’s Roundup and other Glyphosate Products

(Beyond Pesticides, April 21, 2015) Last week, Health Canada opened public comments on its reevaluation decision for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. The agency chose to continue allowance of the herbicide, but include some changes to the label of glyphosate-containing products. The decision comes shortly after the International Agency for Research on Cancer determined that the chemical is a human carcinogen based on laboratory animal test data, and a recent study revealed that glyphosate accelerates antibiotic resistance.

Health Canada’s label changes include the following:

  • A requirement for a statement indicating to apply only when the potential for drift to residential or populated areas is minimal. This includes houses, cottages, schools and recreational areas
  • A restricted entry interval (REI) of 12 hours for agricultural uses to better protect agricultural workers;
  • New environmental hazard statements to inform users that, at high enough doses, it can be toxic to non-target species;
  • Recommended spray buffer zones to protect non-target terrestrial and aquatic habitats from unintended exposure; and,
  • Precautionary statements to reduce the potential for run off of glyphosate to adjacent aquatic habitats, particularly when heavy rain is forecasted. This includes a recommendation to keep a strip of vegetation between the treatment area and the edge of a water body to reduce runoff of glyphosate to aquatic areas.

Although these changes are a small step in the right direction, in the face of readily available alternative products and practices that do not require Roundup or other toxic herbicides, allowing glyphosate to remain on the market will continue to put people and the environment at risk. As both Health Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is aware, label language is often neglected by homeowners and even trained professionals, as a recent mistake at a Utah cemetery prominently shows.

EPA is also in the process of reviewing glyphosate, which it is doing in collaboration with Health Canada. Thus, Health Canada’s proposal may indicate the action that EPA will take on the chemical.

In addition to its designation as a probable carcinogen and links to antibiotic resistance, glyphosate has been associated with an increased risk of birth defects, and studies have shown that the “inert” ingredient used in formulated Roundup, polyethoxylated tallowamine (POEA), can kill human embroyonic, placental, and umbilical cord cells. Glyphosate has been implicated in an epidemic of kidney disease in Sri Lanka and Central American farmers and farm workers. The chemical has been shown to have significant impacts on the environment, as a 2012 study associated Roundup with stress-included alterations in frog morphology.

Glyphosate’s use in genetically engineered (GE) agriculture has been well documented to cause resistance in target weed species. According to the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds, 236 weed species throughout the world have been shown to exhibit resistance to glyphosate-based herbicides. Moreover, the use of herbicides like glyphosate in agriculture contributes to erosion by creating permanently bare soil, resulting in the release of older, even more toxic chemicals like DDT stored in sediment.

Preventing pollution at the source is the only way to ensure that health will be protected. Organic landscape management is an effective alternative to the use of risky products like Roundup. By learning how to read what your weeds are telling you about your soil, and focusing on proper cultural practices like mowing your lawn high (over 3 inches), aeration, overseeding, and correcting nutrient imbalances based on soil test results, you can eliminate the need to even least-toxic pesticide products. In fact, 100s of towns in the U.S. and Canada and a number of Canadian provinces have embraced a similar approach. Beyond Pesticides encourages concerned residents to sign the petition to EPA to stop glyphosate use now, before the agency renews glyphosate’s registration, as Health Canada has done.

Source: Health Canada

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



Canada Fights Toxic Mosquito Spraying Near Homes and Parks

(Beyond Pesticides, April 20, 2015) New details emerged last week after a Canadian volunteer group, Pesticide Free Alberta (PFA), received records from the City of Edmonton regarding ground and aerial application of Dursban 2.5, a restricted insecticide (in both Canada and the US), in close proximity to residential areas to kill off mosquito larvae. The coordinator of PFA, Sheryl McCumsey, fought for months for the data to be released.

Health Canada does not recommend using Dursban in areas where children will be exposed, such as homes, parks, school grounds or playing fields, but the City of Edmonton justifies the use of the product by its label language, citing that it can be used in industrial areas. These areas often end up bordering residential neighborhoods and natural lands, such as parks.

The active ingredient in Dursban is chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic insecticide that has been linked to many detrimental health and environmental effects, such as endocrine disruption, reproductive and birth effects, toxicity to birds, bees and aquatic wildlife.In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Dow AgroSciences restricted the sale and use of most home, lawn and garden product due to its health risks for children. However, it is still used agriculturally and for mosquito management.

After the City of Winnipeg, Alberta, voted to phase out Dursban in 2005, Edmonton spent $79, 600 on the city’s remaining supply. As for phasing out the toxic chemical in Edmonton, “someone has to be the last person to use it,” said David Aitken, branch manager for community standards. “It’s about increasing livability in Edmonton so we can enjoy our summers.”

However, there are many options that don’t involve the use of dangerous pesticides in order to manage mosquitoes and “increase livability to enjoy summers.” The city of Calgary, Alberta has been using a bacterial product for the last 15 years that is environmentally friendly and specific just to mosquitoes. Winnipeg followed suit, using the same product to manage their mosquitoes after Dursban was phased out.

In Sarasota County, Florida, their mosquito control has been breeding mosquito-eating fish, called Gambusia Holbrooki, the first of their kind in the state. These fish feed off of mosquito larvae, so if there is a problem area with mosquitoes, the fish are brought out to manage them. The mosquito control technicians are also equipped with high tech tools that emit powerful sound waves that cause mosquito larvae to explode.

In 2012, one county in New Jersey began using 10,000 tiny shrimp-like crustaceans to eat through mosquito larvae in the county’s swamps. The crustaceans, known as cope pods, are cousins to crayfish and water fleas, and do not get much bigger than two millimeters. They are voracious predators of mosquito larvae.

Toxic chemicals like chlorpyrifos should never be part of a responsible mosquito management program. Beyond Pesticides can provide alternatives. For more information on safe and effective mosquito management strategies, see Beyond Pesticides’ page on Mosquitoes and Insect Borne Diseases, or contact us at [email protected] 

Source: Edmonton Journal

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



33rd National Pesticide Forum Convenes in Orlando, FL

(Beyond Pesticides, April 17, 2015) Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum begins tonight at the Florida A&M University College of Law in Orlando, Florida, bringing together scientists, policy makers, farmworkers, and public health and environmental advocates to interact and strategize on solutions that are protective of health, the environment and workers. The forum provides an opportunity to share current science and policy, and discuss local, state, and national issues surrounding pesticides, health, the environment and worker safety. The conference, including a tour of the Lake Apopka area in the afternoon, runs through the evening of April 18. 

This year’s conference will focus on agricultural justice, including the impact of pesticide use on human health and the environment, particularly as it relates to farmworker protections and organic agriculture. Biodiversity, pollinator protection, and other relevant issues for Central Florida, including West Nile virus, pesticides in schools and hospitals, and genetic engineering will also be covered.

>>Don’t miss the opportunity to engage with our amazing lineup of speakers! This year’s highlights include: 

  • Tyrone Hayes, PhD—trailblazing biologist whose research finds that the herbicide atrazine feminizes male frogs, is one of the leading scientists critical of the pesticide industry and regulatory process. He is a professor of Integrated Biology at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Louis Guillette, PhD—pioneer research scientist on endocrine disruption and reproductive health effects, who has studied the decline of Lake Apopka’s alligator population, where farmworkers were also exposed to agricultural pesticides. He is the director of the Marine Biomedicine and Environmental Sciences Center, and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Medical University of South Carolina.

…and more! Click here to see the lineup of speakers, and check out the forum schedule!

The 2015 conference is convened by Beyond Pesticides, Farmworker Association of Florida, and Florida A&M University College of Law. Co-sponsors include Agricultural Justice Project, Alliance for Fair Food, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Earthjustice, Florida A&M University Small Farms Program, Florida Organic Growers, Food and Water Watch Florida, Orange Audubon Society, and the Youth & Young Adult Network (YAYA) of the National Farmworker Ministry.


For those who have not yet registered, general admission is only $45, and $20 for students with current ID, which includes access to all sessions, workshops, and all-organic meals and beverages. Walk-ins are welcome! 

For more information, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

We hope to see you there!



Agricultural Insecticides Exceed Regulatory Limits in Surface Water on Global Scale

(Beyond Pesticides, April 16, 2015) According to a new study, regulatory limits for insecticides are exceeded in over half of contaminated water samples collected from around the world. The study was based on a review of more than 800 studies conducted in 73 countries over the past five decades and is the first to evaluate the exposure of surface waters to particularly toxic agricultural insecticides on a global scale.

Based on these results, the researchers ultimately conclude that “fundamental revisions of current regulatory procedures and pesticide application practices are needed to reverse the global environmental impacts of agro-chemical based high-intensity agriculture.”

waterThe analysis, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and titled “Agricultural insecticides threaten surface waters at the global scale,” was led by Sebastian Stehle, Ph.D., and Ralf Schulz, Ph.D, at the Institute for Environmental Sciences at University Koblenz-Landau in Germany. The researchers looked at 28 insecticides, the majority of which are currently approved in the United States and the European Union, represent all major insecticide classes, and are important for global agriculture in terms of annual application rates. While they found that just 2.6 percent of the 2,500 aquatic sites contained measurable levels of insecticides, 52.4 percent of the detections exceeded regulatory thresholds for either surface water or sediments, indicating that while pesticide pollution is uncommon, that when it does occur, the extent can be severe.  Researchers warned that this high level of pesticide contamination “constitutes an excessive threat to aquatic biodiversity.”

The study noted that threshold level exceedances “were high even in highly regulated countries.” For countries that have “high environmental regulatory quality” such as the U.S., Canada, Germany, Japan, and Australia, these exceedances were, surprisingly, only slightly lower than in countries with low environmental regulatory quality. The researchers also found a significant lack of scientific monitoring data for approximately 90 percent of global cropland.

Recent studies conducted at U.S. aquatic sites have similar findings. A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report from last year finds that levels of pesticides continue to be a concern for aquatic life in many of the nation’s rivers and streams in agricultural and urban areas. The study, which documents pesticide levels in U.S. waterways for two decades (1992-2011), finds pesticides and their breakdown products in U.S. streams more than 90 percent of the time. Known pesticide water contaminants, such as atrazine, metolachlor, and simazine, continue to be detected in streams more than 50 percent of the time, with fipronil being the pesticide most frequently found at levels of potential concern for aquatic organisms in urban streams. The report also found that for urban areas, 90 percent of the streams exceeded a chronic aquatic life benchmarks.

Aquatic organisms like algae and fish face numerous risks from pesticide exposures, even at low levels. In fact, USGS scientists identified pesticides as one of the contaminants in the Potomac River linked to intersex-fish (male fish producing eggs) observed there. Atrazine, one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world, has been shown to affect reproduction of fish at concentrations below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) water-quality guidelines. Concentrations of atrazine commonly found in agricultural streams and rivers have been associated with a reduction in reproduction and spawning, as well as tissue abnormalities. Recently, EPA finalized a settlement to restore no-spray buffer zones around waterways to protect imperiled salmon and steelhead from five toxic pesticides. The settlement follows litigation filed by Earthjustice, representing the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, and Defenders of Wildlife, back in 2010 that called for EPA adoption of reasonable fish protections from the insecticides.

In 2013, USGS for the first time released a national assessment depicting the distribution and trends of pesticide use from 1992-2009, with agricultural use maps of 459 pesticides. The maps show how many pounds per square miles were used for each year, and include details about which crops they were used on. Previous USGS reports maintain that the presence of pesticides in U.S. waterways remains a concern for aquatic life. Additionally, the agency also reports that more than20 percent of private domestic wells sampled nationwide contain at least one contaminant at levels of potential health concern, as well as in streams used as a source for public water systems.

Visit our Threatened Waters page and learn how organic land management practices contribute to healthy waters in the article, “Organic Land Management and the Protection of Water Quality.

Source: Phys.org

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



Groups Sue USDA for Failure to Seek Public Comment on Organic Compost Rule

(Beyond Pesticides, April 15, 2015)—The Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides, and the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a federal lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program’s (NOP) failure to follow the law in making a substantial rule change to the USDA organic standard. At issue is the contaminated compost guidance released by USDA, which weakens the long-standing prohibition of synthetic pesticide contaminants.

The plaintiff organizations are jointly represented by legal counsel at the Crag Law Center and CFS. The filing follows on the heels of a lawsuit filed last week by 15 farm, consumer and certifier organizations with a similar procedural challenge to a rule change to the organic sunset process, which regulates synthetic chemical exceptions in organic production.

Prior to the new contaminated compost guidance, organic regulations expressly prohibited fertilizers and compost from containing any synthetic substances not included on organic’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. According to Ralph Bloemers, staff attorney for the Crag Law Center, “The new guidance radically changes organic requirements, allowing organic producers to use compost materials treated with synthetic pesticides.” The USDA made this rule without the required rule-making process, usurping the public’s right to ensure USDA activities are consistent with the Organic Food Production Act.

“Consumers want healthier choices and have a right to expect that the organic label insures that organic food was produced without harmful pesticides,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. “By allowing chemical residues to sneak into organic production through this undemocratic, back-door rule, the USDA is recklessly putting the integrity of the organic seal at risk.”

“The organic market is driven by consumer trust in an organic process that respects the historical commitment to public consultation and the legal requirement for public hearing and comment,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of plaintiff Beyond Pesticides and a former National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) member. “We are taking action to ensure the integrity of the regulations that guide organic production.”

“In this case USDA decided to unlawfully ignore vital public participation and transparency requirements while undermining the organic standard, creating a new loophole for pesticides,” said George Kimbrell, CFS senior attorney. “Worse, this decision is part of a larger USDA pattern and practice of decision-by-fiat. We will not let it continue.”

The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) requires that producers are responsible for identifying sources of feedstocks used in compost to ensure that only allowable plant and animal materials are used. The new NOP guidance violates OFPA by allowing green waste in compost to contain pesticide residues.  Beyond Pesticides submitted comments to NOSB on contaminated inputs in organic production, seeking to protect organic farms from off-farm contamination. The comments note that genetically engineered grasses, alfalfa, and wheat straw are potential contaminants of lawn/yard waste and compost. See more on Contamination Issues in Farm Inputs on Beyond Pesticides webpage Keeping Organic Strong.

“Public participation in governmental decision making is the hallmark of organic food production,” said Dr. Lisa J. Bunin, organic policy director at Center for Food Safety. “It’s also what ensures government accountability in maintaining and enhancing organic integrity throughout the entire supply chain.”

Plaintiffs allege that the USDA’s decision weakens the integrity of organic food production, not only by creating inconsistent organic production standards but also by undermining the essential public participation function of organic policy-making. Since USDA never subjected the contaminated-compost decision to formal notice and public comment rulemaking, USDA failed in its duty to ensure that its regulation is consistent with the OFPA and the standards set forth for approving the use of synthetic substances.

For more on organic standards and how you can play a part in maintaining the integrity of organic, visit the Keeping Organic Strong webpage.

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



California Releases New Guidelines for Pesticide Use on Marijuana

(Beyond Pesticides, April 14, 2015) Last week California released its first guidelines for the management of pests and use of pesticides on cannabis. Cannabis cultivation in California, particularly in the northern areas of the state, has been associated with rampant use of heavy construction equipment and pesticides to clear land and control pests, resulting in contamination and runoff in local streams, and widespread poisoning of non-target wildlife. Although growing cannabis on public lands in California has always been illegal, private production of the plant in environmentally sensitive sites has gone largely unregulated due the plant’s illegal status under federal law, but legally allowed in the state under California’s Compassionate Use Act.

CannabisWEBAccording to Beyond Pesticides’ recent report on state pesticide use on cannabis, California was one of six states silent on pesticide use on marijuana. Until now, the only discussion of the issue came from a 2012 report from the California Research Bureau, commissioned by CA Assembly member Linda Halderman, M.D. The report indicated that because no pesticide products were registered for use on cannabis by EPA, and given that applying a pesticide for an unregistered use is illegal under federal pesticide law, the state could confiscate any medical marijuana crop treated with a pesticide. However, it was noted that this conflicts with the state’s Compassionate Use Act, which guarantees ill Californians access to medical marijuana. Thus it was determined that growers could simply not spray pesticides in order to avoid potential confiscation. But because the state had not formulated any laws or regulations governing pesticide use on cannabis, the issue remained in a grey area.

The State Water Resources Control Board guidelines, released in coordination with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, represent a positive step for cannabis production in a state that still comprises comprises nearly 50% of legal cannabis sales nationally. According to the State Water Board, adherence to the pesticide guidelines will be part of requirements for a new permitting process governing cannabis production, which will also cover construction, fertilizer runoff, and diversion of water from local streams. Regarding enforcement, the State Water Board indicates they are “increasing the resources they will devote to investigation and prosecuting cultivation activities that threaten to impact water quality, aquatic life, or wildlife habitat.”

Although California’s guidelines are similar to those recently issued by Washington State, in that they allow pesticides a) registered by EPA, exempt from a tolerance for food crops, and with generalized label language; or b) minimum risk pesticides with generalized label language, the list of allowed pesticides produced by California is more restrictive than that produced by Washington State. While California’s guidelines list 16 allowed active ingredients, Washington State’s list includes over 270 products. Further, Washington State’s list contains allowances for the synthetic pesticide piperonyl butoxide, which has been linked to numerous adverse human health impacts, including cancer, neurotoxicity, and adverse impacts on liver function.

Although Washington State has approved the use of broad spectrum herbicides prior to the planting of cannabis, California’s guidelines says, “We’ll add weeds to this compendium when we have more information.” It is important that the state require a holistic approach to weed management through least-toxic products.

There are indications from the new guidelines that the state is putting a focus on a systems approach to pest control in cannabis production. The document lists a number of common pests encountered by growers, the damage they can cause, integrated pest management practices that can be taken before the use of pesticides, and pesticides that can be used if IPM practices fail. While not as comprehensive as rules in states like Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which have codified requirements that cannabis growers follow organic practices and create an organic system plan, California’s new rules do a good deal to promote a safer trajectory of the state’s marijuana industry.

Next, the state must institute a strong system of testing and labeling, to ensure accountability from grower to consumer. See here to read Beyond Pesticides report, Pesticide Use in Marijuana Production: Safety Issues and Sustainable Options.


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



Lowe’s Commits to Phasing Out Neonic Pesticides, Moving Towards More Organics

(Beyond Pesticides, April 13, 2015) Last week home and garden retailer Lowe’s announced its commitment to phasing out the sale of products containing neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides within 48 months. The announcement is encouraging for consumers and environmental groups, as it comes after nearly two years of direct action urging the retailer to remove bee-toxic insecticides from store shelves. A 2014 report released by Friends of the Earth, Beyond Pesticides and allies found that over half of garden plant samples purchased at major retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot contained neonic pesticides, which when applied makes the entire plant poisonous to bees and other wild pollinators. Neonics have been consistently implicated in the decline of honey bees and other wild pollinators.

Lowe’s commitment to phasing out neonics is being combined with a promise by the company to include greater organic product selection in its stores, encourage growers to use biological control programs, and educate employees and consumers through brochures, fact sheets, and product labels. Lowe’s now joins BJ’s Wholesale Club, Home Depot, and a number of plant nurseries in committing to transition away from the use of bee-toxic pesticides. The elimination of neonicotinoid pesticides on store shelves and in plants promoted as pollinator friendly will go a long way helping residents create truly safe pollinator habitat in their backyard and neighborhoods.

Ed Szymanski Franklin MA Honey bee on Turkish Rocket, my front yardHowever, holdouts remain within the nursery industry. Although the White House Council on Environmental Quality released new guidelines requiring federal agencies forgo planting neonic-treated seeds or plants when adding pollinator friendly habitat to federal facilities or federal lands, AmericanHort and the Society of American florists criticized the recommendations, calling them “largely unachievable.” But while these two national industry groups charge that creating pollinator habitat without toxic inputs cannot be done to protect pollinators, several smaller nurseries and retail outlets have already pledged to not use systemic neonicotinoids to grow their plants and protect pollinators. Focused on their owe operations, Behnke Nurseries Co. in Maryland has issued a policy statement to their stores that prohibits the application of neonicotinoids to its plants and recommends using least-toxic alternatives. Bachman’s 21 locations in Minnesota are eliminating neonicotinoids on their nursery stock and outdoor plants. Taking it to the next level, Bachman’s is also working with suppliers to discontinue the use of neonicotinoids. Cavano’s Perennials, MD, Blooming Nursery, OR, North Creek Nurseries, PA, Suncrest Nurseries Inc, CA, Desert Canyon Farm, CO, and others have either discontinued or never used neonicotinoid pesticides in their nursery operations

Beyond Pesticides also has a comprehensive directory of companies and organizations that sell organic seeds and plants. Included in this directory are seeds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs, as well as live plants and seedlings.

A large and growing body of scientific evidence continues to point to neonic pesticides has having substantial impacts not only on honey bees, but on numerous other native pollinators and birds. Last week a new report from the European Academies Science Advisory Council determined that “[T]here is more and more evidence that widespread use of neonicotinoids has severe effects on a range of organisms that provide ecosystem services like pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity.” In the United States, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a small step towards pollinator health by placing a moratorium on any new uses of neonicotinoid pesticides. However, the beekeeper and environmental groups have roundly asserted that this action falls short of the comprehensive approach that is needed to reverse pollinator declines.

As the White House Pollinator Task Force plan is expected imminently, changes from retailers like Lowe’s highlights that there are ways to avoid the use of these toxic products and move towards organic alternatives, if the impetus is there. Certainly concerned residents in the U.S. will continue to fight to protect the health of pollinators as well as themselves from the impacts of toxic pesticides. Over 1 million people delivered their signatures to Lowe’s asking the company to stop selling bee-toxic products. And over 4 million people urged the President to protect bees from neonic pesticides. According to a new poll, over half (56%) of folks in the U.S. consider declining pollinator populations a serious problem. Hopefully the Obama Administration will understand the will of the American people, that swift, overarching action and meaningful action protecting bees from pesticides is needed now.

Source: Friends of the Earth, Lowe’s Social Responsibility Report

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



Family of Four Poisoned by Illegal Pesticide Use, Remain in Critical Condition

(Beyond Pesticides, April 10, 2015) Three members of a Delaware family, a father and his two teenage sons, remain hospitalized after being exposed last month to methyl bromide, a highly neurotoxic pesticide, while on vacation at their luxury condo in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Methyl bromide is a restricted use pesticide and is not registered for residential use, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2013 Methyl Bromide Preliminary Workplan (pg. 6). Although mostly banned in the U.S., it can still be used in certain agricultural and food storage sites under a controversial “critical use exemption” loophole in federal (and international) law.

According to James Maron, a family spokesman, Steve Esmond, his wife, Theresa Devine, and their two teenage sons are being treated at hospitals in the mainland United States. Mr. Esmond has regained consciousness, but his sons are in critical condition and remain in a coma weeks after the exposure.

StJohnVIUse of methyl bromide was confirmed the day after the family became ill, which has helped inform doctors and medical experts on how to treat the family, said Judith Enck, EPA’s regional administrator in New York City, which has jurisdiction over the U.S Virgin Islands. “We have confirmed that the problem is indeed methyl bromide,” she said. “Methyl bromide is a potent neurotoxin. It’s a gas. It can cause convulsions, coma, cognitive deficits, inflammation of the lungs. A lot depends on how much a person is exposed to and for what period of time.” So far the investigation has revealed a certified applicator working for Memphis, Tennessee-based Terminix applied the methyl bromide in the complex while targeting an indoor beetle that consumes wood, Ms. Enck said.

Investigators also learned methyl bromide has been used in the complex before, but it’s not clear why the ban was ignored. “Certified pesticide applicators know this is not approved for indoor residential use,” Ms. Enck said. “The health effects are quite serious.” EPA officials said the agency is looking into the use of the pesticide with the U.S. Virgin Islands government at the Sirenusa Condominium Resort in Cruz Bay, St. John. The Justice Department is also investigating the company that may be responsible.

Because methyl bromide is an ozone-depleting substance, its production is controlled under both the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances, which is legally binding on all signatories to the treaty, of which the United States is one, and the Clean Air Act. These laws mandate that the substance was to be completely phased out, according to a precise schedule, by January 1, 2005. However, due to the “critical use exemption” (CUE) loophole in the which allows the chemical to continue to be used if users petition that there are “no feasible alternatives.” As a result of uses under CUEs, application rates of methyl bromide in the U.S. have remained persistently high.

While it should be noted that there are no CUEs for residential uses, methyl bromide has CUEs for its use as a pre-plant soil fumigant and in the post-harvest treatment of commodities and structural (food storage sites) fumigation. For example, CUEs for 2014 and 2015 include pre-plant use on strawberries and post-harvest use for California storage facilities for walnuts, dried plums, figs, raisins, and dates. Other current CUEs exist for dry cured pork products, rice millers, and pet food manufacturing facilities. As a result of methyl bromide’s continued use on crops, there currently exist food tolerances for inorganic bromide residues resulting from fumigation with methyl bromide on nearly 90 commodities, as well as a tolerance for methyl bromide on cotton. The continued existence of CUEs for methyl bromide in agriculture is alarming, especially due to the fact that viable alternatives do already exist. For instance, when it comes to strawberries, alternatives to methyl bromide include selecting more resilient varieties and improved cultivars of strawberries, as well as incorporating traditional cultural practices such as crop rotation, cover crops, and physical methods such as soil solarization and anaerobic disinfestation. Despite these alternatives, strawberries continue to make up a large proportion of methyl bromide use in the U.S.

Due to its use in agriculture, reports over the years have highlighted additional risks of exposure, particularly for children who attend school where pesticides like methyl bromide are used. According to a California State report, issued by the California Environmental Health Tracking Program (CEHTP) and titled “Agricultural Pesticide Use near Public Schools in California,” methyl bromide was one of the toxic pesticides found to be applied near schools.  Additionally, Latino children are also more likely to attend schools near areas with the highest use of pesticides of concern. The civil rights complaint Angelita C. v. California Department of Pesticide Regulation alleged that California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) discriminated against Latino school children by allowing unhealthy levels of methyl bromide to be applied near schools populated by mostly Latino children. The complaint alleged that this pattern and practice of allowing methyl bromide to be applied near schools caused an unhealthy and racially discriminatory condition for Latino school children and their parents.

Fumigants like methyl bromide are some of the most dangerous pesticides on the market. Other fumigants include methyl iodide, which was previously proposed as an alternative to methyl bromide but was soon slated for phase out after EPA and the registrant, Arysta LifeScience North America, LLC, entered into a Memorandum of Agreement to formally terminate all agricultural use of the chemical in the U.S. by the end of 2012 and ultimately remove all methyl iodide products from the U.S.; methyl iodide has been linked to thyroid toxicity, permanent neurological damage, and fetal losses in experimental animals. Another methyl bromide alternative is sulfuryl fluoride, which EPA will also be phasing out over a period of three years due to concerns over fluoride residues; EPA concluded that the tolerance no longer meets the safety standard under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) when combined with other fluoride exposure pathways. Fumigants like these are applied in large quantities, vaporize easily, drift and expose nearby farmworkers and other community members to harm, with health effects linked to headaches, vomiting, severe lung irritation, and neurological effects. Some fumigants are linked to cancer, reduced fertility, birth defects and higher rates of miscarriage. Despite these concerns, EPA has continued to allow these chemicals to remain on the market. In the case of sulfuryl flouride, Congress intervened to undermine its plan to phase-out agricultural uses. As such, the poisoning of the Esmond family raises serious issues about the continued availability and use of highly hazardous chemicals like methyl bromide, sanctioned by EPA, and compliance and enforcement of the use of restricted pesticides, in light of federal and international bans and phase out.

For the management of structures and buildings, Beyond Pesticides advocates the use of integrated pest management (IPM) as a vital tool that aids in the adoption of non-toxic methods to control pests and facilitates the transition toward a pesticide-free (and healthier) world. It offers the opportunity to eliminate or drastically reduce pesticide use and to minimize the toxicity of and exposure to any products that are used. Sanitation, structural repairs, mechanical and biological control, population monitoring are some IPM methods that can be undertaken to control pests.

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

Source: CBS News




Neonicotinoids Adversely Affect Biodiversity, According to New Report

(Beyond Pesticides, April 9, 2015) – A new report released yesterday by the European Academies Science Advisory Council on neonicotinoid insecticides finds that “[T]here is more and more evidence that widespread use of neonicotinoids has severe effects on a range of organisms that provide ecosystem services like pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity.” The report points to major declines of wild bee species, other pollinators, insect species with natural pest control functions and biodiversity indicators such as farmland birds. The report, Ecosystem Services, agriculture and neonicotinoids, finds the following:

1. There is an increasing body of evidence that the widespread prophylactic use of neonicotinoids has severe negative effects on non-target organisms that provide ecosystem services including pollination and natural pest control.
2. There is clear scientific evidence for sublethal effects of very low levels of neonicotinoids over extended periods on non-target beneficial organisms.   These should be addressed in EU approval procedures.
3. Current practice of prophylactic usage of neonicotinoids is inconsistent with the basic principles of integrated pest management as expressed in the EU’s Sustainable Pesticides Directive.
4. Widespread use of neonicotinoids (as well as other pesticides) constrains the potential for restoring biodiversity   in farmland under the EU’s Agri-environment Regulation.

Regarding the economic effect of natural pollination services, the report says,

The value of pollination services to agriculture is relatively straightforward to quantify compared with other ecosystem services; a study by Gallai et al. (2009) assessed the contribution of insect pollination to agricultural output worldwide, and concluded that the total annual economic value of pollination services amounts to approximately €153 billion. Recent studies on economic gains attributed to insect (particularly honey bee) pollination suggest that, across Europe, crop pollination by insects accounted for €14.6 billion (±€3.3 billion) annually, which equalled 12% (±0.8%) of the total economic value of annual crop production (Leonhardt et al., 2013).

In the USA, Losey and Vaughan (2006) estimated that native pollinators, almost exclusively bees, were responsible for US$3.07 billion of fruits and vegetables produced. Estimates of the value of species other than the honey bee are few, but the solitary bee (Megachile rotundata) – the major pollinator of alfalfa – contributed US$5.26 billion to the value of alfalfa hay in 2009 (Calderone, 2012). In the UK, the value of insect pollination was estimated at £603 million per year in 2010 (Hanley et al., 2013), while the UK NEA noted that many field crops (e.g. oilseed rape, linseed), top fruits (e.g. apples, pears, plums), soft fruits (e.g. strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants) and vegetables (e.g. tomatoes and peas) are dependent, at least in part, on insect pollination. A recent study of the value of pollination to UK apple production showed that insects were essential for the two varieties studied and contributed £36.7 million per annum (Garratt et al., 2014). In Ireland, the economic value of insect pollination to oilseed rape was estimated at an overall value of €3.9 million per annum (Stanley et al., 2013).

The range of impacts that is considered in the report extends well beyond the considerations evaluated by the U.S. Environmental Protections when it conducts risk analysis under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) or when the U.S. Department of Agriculture considers the deregulation of genetically engineered crops under the Plant Protection Act to be used cropping herbicide-tolerant cropping systems that harmful to biodiversity and ultimately plant health. The range of diversity factors as it relates to agricultural productivity includes: pollination, natural pest control, maintenance of soil fertility and farmland biodiversity and its supporting habitats, as well as flowering plants, arthropods, birds and mammals (as well as other invertebrates, fungi, protists and prokaryotes), and maintaining farmland biodiversity. According to the report, “Biodiversity and associated ecosystem processes provide ecosystem services, with many species involved in delivering more than one ecosystem service. However, overall trends in abundance and species richness for many farmland species are downward or uncertain.” The report addresses the range of species in some detail.

As a persistent pesticide, neonicotinoids disrupts the function of the soil food web, which is important ecosystem service, according to the report. The report explains that, “The soil decomposer food web plays an essential role in key ecosystem services such as soil formation, nutrient cycling and soil carbon storage (de Vries et al., 2013). In natural ecosystems, a substantial majority of primary production enters the soil where it is gradually decomposed and turned into nutrients and carbon dioxide which returns to the atmosphere. At the same time, the decomposer food web contributes to stabilisation of soil organic matter, which forms an important pool of carbon (soil contains about three times as much carbon as the atmosphere) and contributes to formation of soil aggregates and other structures essential for soil services such as water retention and purification, control of greenhouse gas emissions and erosion control (MEA, 2005).”

While defenders of neonicotinoids repeatedly point to the varroa mite and viruses as key factors in bee decline, the report indicates a concern about the increased vulnerability of bees to these factors caused by the chemicals. The report says,” Several studies have demonstrated synergistic effects of neonicotinoid residues with bee parasites and viruses. Some effects are behavioural (e.g. blocking the ability of bees to sterilise the colony and their food). Others appear related to limiting the immune response leading either to earlier infection or to increased mortality from infection. Very recent work has shown that the limitation of the immune response after exposure to neonicotinoids can promote viral replication, allowing covert infections to become overt. Such effects reduce honey bee survival and increase developmental deformities. In view of the emphasis placed by some reviewers on assigning honey bee losses to diseases and parasites, this is a critical issue

Importantly, while advocates of neonicotinoid use often tout the benefits of integrated pest management (IPM), as a credential for sensitivity to environmental concerns, the report indicates that the general principles of IPM appear to be “incompatible with the prophylactic use of neonicotinoids in seed dressing because of the following:

• only a small proportion of the insecticide enters the plant and most is released into the environment immediately;
• neonicotinoids may be applied proactively, not reactively based on just-in-time-and-place monitoring of the need for pest control; and the first priority is placed on chemicals instead of seeing them as a last resort;
• principle 5 (which specifies that ‘the pesticides applied shall be as specific as possible for the target and shall have the least side effects on human health, non-target organisms and the environment’) is also inconsistent with the many toxic effects reported for neonicotinoids on non-target organisms.

This report provides a thorough analysis, with references, of the harm that neonicotinoids wreak on biodiversity and the scientific basis for advocates who argue that they should be suspended from use.

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



Groups Challenge Major USDA Change to Organic Rule

(Beyond Pesticides, April 8, 2015)  Organic stakeholders have filed a lawsuit in federal court, maintaining that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) violated the federal rulemaking process when it changed established procedures for reviewing the potential hazards and need for allowed synthetic and prohibited natural substances used in producing organic food. A coalition of 15 organic food producers and farmer, consumer, environmental, and certification groups asked the court to require USDA to reconsider its decision on the rule change and reinstitute the agency’s customary public hearing and comment process. Read the complaint here.

Takeaction organicWhen it comes to organic food production, consumers and producers expect a high level of scrutiny and are willing to pay a premium with the knowledge that a third-party certifier is evaluating compliance with organic standards. The burgeoning $35+ billion organic market relies heavily on a system of public review and input regarding decisions that affect organic production systems and the organic label.  The multi-stakeholder National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)[1], appointed to a 5-year term by the Secretary of Agriculture, holds semi-annual meetings to solicit public input and to write recommendations to the Secretary on organic policy matters, including the allowance of synthetic and non-organic agricultural materials and ingredients.

SaveOurOrganicIntegrityThe unilateral agency action taken to adopt major policy change without a public process, the plaintiffs maintain, violates one of the foundational principles and practices of OFPA —public participation in organic policy-making. In adopting the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), Congress created standards for organic certification and established the NOSB to oversee the allowance of synthetic materials based on a determination that they do not cause harm to human health and the environment and are necessary in organic food production and processing, given a lack of alternatives. Under the law, a review of these materials takes place on a five year cycle, with a procedure for relisting if consistent with OFPA criteria. Plaintiffs in this case maintain that the USDA organic rule establishes a public process that creates public trust in the USDA organic label, which has resulted in exponential growth in organic sales over the last two decades.

At issue in the lawsuit is a rule that implements the organic law’s “sunset provision,” which since its origins has been interpreted to require all listed materials to cycle off the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances every five years unless the NOSB votes by a two-thirds majority to relist them. In making its decision, the NOSB is charged with considering public input, new science, and new information on available alternatives.

In September, 2013, in a complete reversal of accepted process, USDA announced a definitive change in the rule it had been operating under since the inception of the organic program without any public input.  Now, materials can remain on the National List in perpetuity unless the NOSB takes initiative to vote it off the List.

In a joint statement, the plaintiffs, representing a broad cross-section of interests in organic, said:

We are filing this lawsuit today because we are deeply concerned that the organic decision making process is being undermined by USDA. The complaint challenges the unilateral agency action on the sunset procedure for synthetic materials review, which represents a dramatic departure from the organic community’s commitment to an open and fair decision making process, subject to public input. Legally, the agency’s decision represents a rule change and therefore must be subject to public comment. But equally important, it is a departure from the public process that we have built as a community. This process has created a unique opportunity within government for a community of stakeholders to come together, hear all points of view, and chart a course for the future of organic. It is a process that continually strengthens organic, supports its rapid growth, and builds the integrity of the USDA certified label in the marketplace.

The plaintiffs in the case, represented by counsel from Center for Food Safety, include: Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Equal Exchange, Food and Water Watch, Frey Vineyards, La Montanita Co-op, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, New Natives, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Northeast Organic Farmers Association Massachusetts, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Organic Consumers Association, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, PCC Natural Markets, and The Cornucopia Institute.

[1] The NOSB is a 15 member Board comprised of farmers, consumers, environmentalists, retailers, certifiers and food producers who advise the Secretary of Agriculture and the National Organic Program on all matters related to organic food and agriculture policy.

See the joint statement here.

Source: Press Release



USDA Under Fire for Rules Permitting Agribusiness Interests like Monsanto to Intimidate Scientists

(Beyond Pesticides, April 7, 2015) Scientists working with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) don’t have adequate protections from pressure and retaliation when researching issues that threaten the interests of powerful agrichemical corporations like Monsanto, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which filed a petition for rule-making with the agency last month. PEER’s petition seeks to strengthen USDA’s Scientific Integrity Policy, and urges the agency to adopt best practices used in other federal agencies in order to prevent political suppression or alteration of studies.

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

The petition reports that “agribusiness interests, such as those of Monsanto Corporation, have access to top agency managers” and are “invited to lodge complaints and concerns about the published work of agency scientists.” Scientists and researchers have been pressured to water down studies, remove their name from authorship, endure indefinite delays in approving controversial papers, or even fully retract studies. PEER reports that scientists targeted by industry are subject to demotions, threats to damage careers, disruptive investigations, disapproval of formerly routine requests, suspensions without pay or disciplinary actions over small matters, and intimidation from supervisors intent on pleasing “stakeholders.”

“A largely invisible and toothless Scientific Integrity Policy enables corporate influence over critical USDA scientific research decisions,” stated PEER Executive Jeff Ruch, noting the USDA policy promises a website to display case-specific and other information but no such site exists. “USDA’s scientific integrity program is like a black hole, allowing no information to escape and no light to penetrate.”

PEER details one case, which occurred “in recent months,” where USDA scientists received a “summons to meet with Secretary Vilsack in an effort to induce retraction of a paper that drew the ire of industry representatives.”

At least 10 scientists have been investigated or faced other consequences as a result of research calling into question the safety of certain pesticides, said Mr. Ruch to Reuters. “Your words are changed, your papers are censored or edited or you are not allowed to submit them at all,” said a decidedly anonymous scientist who experienced such intimidation to Reuters.

PEER’s petition recommends USDA adopt model provisions which already exist in other agencies’ integrity policies. The organization has put together a report card reviewing the Scientific Integrity Policy of each agency. Agencies are scored for scientific misconduct, public communications of science, and transparency of policy decision-making. USDA scored 33 out of 100 possible points on the organization’s rubric. The petition recommends USDA update its policies regarding the ability of scientists to publish and discuss research, contest decisions to block release of data, file and pursue complaints of political manipulation of studies, and enjoy protection from reprisal for filing a complaint or engaging in research with potential political implications.

“There is no reason why USDA scientists should labor under safeguards far inferior to those extended to their colleagues working inside other agencies,” Ruch added. “To earn public credibility for its scientific work, USDA needs to spell out procedures by which political influences can be policed and scientists protected while allowing outside review of its handling of allegations and disagreements.”

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

In anticipation of the stranglehold industry currently displays over USDA, the Organic Foods Production Act created an independent advisory board, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), from a wide range of organic stakeholder groups to provide recommendations to the National Organic Program and USDA on products and processes allowed in certified organic products. It is critical that consumers make their voice heard over that of industry, and protect organic from being overtaken by the same agribusiness interests that dominate conventional agriculture at USDA. Comments to the NOSB are due by midnight tonight. Please go to Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong page, and provide a unique public comment to the board.

Source: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Reuters




Portland, OR to Protect Pollinators, Bans Use of Bee-Toxic Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, April 6, 2015) Last week, the city council of Portland, Oregon voted unanimously to ban the use of neonicotinoid insecticides on city-owned property because these pesticides are persistent in the environment, harmful to pollinators, and have been involved in acute bee kills in other areas of the state.

PPP_CampaignGraphic_BTversion_600px-300x180Neonicotinoids affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and eventual death. These pesticides have consistently been implicated as a key issue in pollinator declines, not only through immediate bee deaths, but also through sublethal exposure that causes changes in bee reproduction, navigation, and foraging. The science has become increasingly clear that pesticides, either working individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of honey bees.  Pesticide exposure can impair both detoxification mechanisms and immune responses, rendering bees more susceptible to viruses, parasites, and other diseases, and leading to devastating bee losses.

Portland’s ordinance was spurred in part by the 2013 deaths of tens of thousands of bees as a result of the improper use of the neonicotinoids. Last month state officials banned  four  of the bee-killing insecticides, including  imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam and dinotefuran from use on  Linden  trees. In addition to banning the use of neonicotinoids on city property, the ordinance urges private retailers to label any product that may contain these toxic chemicals.  “We’re doing another good thing for the people of Portland, Oregon, the United States, maybe the entire world,” Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who introduced the policy,said to The Oregonian. However, the ordinance does not immediately apply to two rose gardens in the city. A “pilot program” will be run to find alternatives to using neonicotinoids to kill rose midges, a difficult pest to manage. The city has until December 2017 to come up with a sufficient alternative.

Portland’s ordinance to ban neonicotinoids on city-owned property follows numerous other communities that have taken steps toward creating a safer habitat for pollinators and a healthier environment. In 2014, Eugene, Oregon became the first community in the nation to specifically ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides from city property. Eugene had previously set up a pesticide-free parks program and required all departments to adopt integrated pest management (IPM) standards. Other communities passed similar bans, such as Skagway (Alaska), Shorewood, Minnesota and, in Washington State, Thurston CountySeattle, and Spokane. Even school campuses have joined in, with the University of Vermont Law School becoming the first BEE Protective campus after announcing that it was going neonicotinoid pesticide-free. At Emory University, the Office of Sustainability Initiatives not only banned neonicotinoids on campus, but also went a step further by planting pollinator habitats and conducting campus outreach and education on the importance of pollinators. These restrictions on neonicotinoids are especially important because they build pressure at the federal level, and demonstrate to other communities and cities across the country that there are ways to create positive environmental change with their own local actions.

In 2014, President Barack Obama signed a Memorandum that recognizes the severe losses occurring in the nation’s pollinator populations, including honey bees, wild bees, monarch butterflies, and others. In accordance with these losses and acknowledging the importance of pollinators to the agricultural economy, the memorandum directs federal agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and develop a pollinator health strategy within 180 days that supports and creates pollinator habitat, and works to reverse these unsustainable pollinator declines. In 2015, Beyond Pesticides, along with many other environmental organizations, rallied in front of the White House to deliver more than 4 million petition signatures calling on the Obama administration to put forth stronger protections for honeybees and other pollinators.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a moratorium on any new neonicotinoids, which pose a threat to bees or birds. Although the decision was welcome news, demonstrating that EPA is acknowledging the impact that neonicotinoids have on our pollinators, it was a tempered victory for environmental advocates. This announcement does nothing to address the toxic neonicotinoids that are already on the market, nor other bee-toxic systemics that have recently been registered by the agency. Farmers, beekeepers, and environmental groups have urged EPA to consider suspending these dangerous products that have already been approved for use. Groups expect EPA’s announcement to foreshadow broader recommendations from the White House Pollinator Health Task Force, which is why they say it is so important to urge the Obama administration to develop a strong plan for combating the dangers that neonicotinoids pose to our pollinators, the food supply and world.

Take action.
You too can make a difference! If you are interested in supporting efforts to save honey bees, go to save-bees.org and sign the petition. You also can work to get bee-toxic neonicotinoids out of your community. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but it can be done with some perseverance. It’s important to find support –friends, neighbors, and other people who share your concerns about environmental health. It’s also essential to reach out to your local politicians and government .Beyond Pesticides has resources and factsheets available to help you organize in your community. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email ([email protected]) for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to have an impact.

Source: The Oregonian, Beyond Toxics

Image Source: Beyond Toxics



EPA Announces Moratorium on New Uses of Bee-Killing Pesticides, Coalition Urges Broader Suspension

(Beyond Pesticides, April 3, 2015) Earlier today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a moratorium on new bee- and bird- harming neonicotinoid pesticide products and uses. While supportive of the partial halt on new registrations, farm, beekeeper and environmental groups were have urged EPA to suspend the huge numbers of other bee-harming pesticides already on the market. EPA’s announcement may foreshadow broader recommendations from the White House Pollinator Health Task Force, according to the alliance.

“We need EPA to protect bees and other pollinators from the neonicotinoids and other bee-harming insecticides that are already covering the corn and soybean acres in our area, not just keep new products off the market,” said Joanna Voigt, program and communications coordinator at Kansas Rural Center. “Here at the Kansas Rural Center we work with farmers who rely on pollinators to cultivate crops like squash, blueberries, apples, cucumbers, peppers, sunflowers and more. These farmers deserve more from EPA.”

Over 125 farmeBEEkindObamar, food safety, beekeeper, faith and environmental groups sent a letter to the president last month urging a moratorium on all neonicotinoids and their chemical cousins, other systemic pesticides. Additionally, more than four million Americans signed petitions urging the Obama administration to take immediate action on bee-toxic pesticides.

“EPA’s announcement is disingenuous,” said Jeff Anderson, a beekeeper and owner of California Minnesota Honey Farms. “In the last year, EPA has approved registration for two new neonics, and expanded uses of these pesticides to additional blooming crops — also increasing residue tolerances to accommodate these new uses. Allowing increased toxic exposure to my bees and then announcing a moratorium? Very disingenuous.”

Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticides known to have both acute and chronic effects on honey bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinator species, and are considered a major factor in overall pollinator declines. A growing body of independent science links neonics to bee declines, both alone and in combination with other factors like disease and malnutrition. Twenty-nine independent scientists conducted a global review of over a thousand independent studies, and found overwhelming evidence linking neonicotinoid pesticides to declines of bees, birds, earthworms, butterflies and other wildlife.

Neonics are also slow to break down, causing them to build up in the environment and endanger a whole range of beneficial species that inhabit these ecosystems.

After neonics came under scrutiny, other long-lived, highly-toxic “systemic”insecticides came on the market. Systemic or “whole plant” insecticides are drawn up into plants from the root, and can infuse both pollen and fruit. These new chemicals, including sulfoxaflor and flupyradifurone, are very closely related to neonicotinoids, and arguably could be included in the neonicotinoid grouping. Yet they were placed in a separate subgroup from neonicotinoids by CropLife’s Insecticide Resistance Action Committee, a categorization that will allow EPA to continue registering new uses of systemic insecticides, even after today’s announcement.

Numerous food safety and environmental groups are urging EPA to expand the moratorium to include products already on the market.

“It’s welcome news that EPA is finally beginning to address the threat that neonics pose to the nation’s bees and other pollinators, but given the threats to the nation’s food and farming system, more is needed,” said Kristin Schafer, policy director at Pesticide Action Network North America. “Numerous bee-harming neonics and their cousin products are already on the market, and seed coatings in particular have led to a dramatic surge in use over the last few years. EPA should go further to place a moratorium on existing products.”

“EPA has finally admitted it lacks the basic data needed to determine whether bees, other pollinators, or the environment will be adversely affected by neonicotinoids,” said Peter T. Jenkins, attorney for the Center for Food Safety. “If EPA is unable to assess the safety of new uses, the agency similarly is not able to assess the safety of the close to 100 outdoor uses already approved. In view of its admissions, EPA has no option under FIFRA other than to suspend the existing uses, as well as follow through with its moratorium on the proposed new uses.”

“Although EPA acknowledges the harm neonicotinoids cause to pollinators, this action simply does not address the current neonicotinoid and other systemic insecticide products used in agriculture and by consumers that already pose unacceptable risks to pollinators,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “We urge the agency to suspend neonicotinoid products and take meaningful action on pollinator health.”

Today’s move comes on the heels of a new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology that highlights how use of pesticides that coat seeds, which EPA is not tracking, has sharply risen. According to the study, many farmers are prophylactically using these coatings as an insurance policy to protect crop yields, despite evidence of limited benefits.

According to an independent poll released last month, more than half of Americans consider the declining populations of honey bees and other pollinators to be a serious problem. And while today’s announcement indicates that EPA is slowly responding to Americans’ concerns, groups are concerned about the action’s limitations.

“Today’s action by EPA is an important step forward in protecting bees, butterflies, and the entire web of life,” said Lori Ann Burd, Environmental Health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There is no question that these toxic chemicals are killing our pollinators, and we commend EPA for recognizing these impacts and taking this action — but they need to go even further.”

Groups that expressed disappointment in today’s announcement and urged EPA to go further include American Bird Conservancy, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Kansas Rural Center, Pesticide Action Network and numerous beekeepers.

Jay Feldman, [email protected], 202-543-5450
Nichelle Harriott, [email protected], 202-543-5450
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network, [email protected], 916-216-1082
Tiffany Finck-Haynes, [email protected], 202-222-0715
Cynthia Palmer, American Bird Conservancy, [email protected], 202-888-7475
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety, [email protected], 202-547-9359
Lori Ann Burd, Center for Biological Diversity, 847-567-4052




Defend Organic by Providing a Public Comment to the NOSB

(Beyond Pesticides, April 2, 2015) Just one more week to make your voice heard! Help protect the integrity of organic and defend human health and the environment in the process. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is seeking YOUR input to determine what should be allowed on organic food. It’s up to you to maintain the integrity of the organic food label or let USDA and big food take it over.

Our draft comments and summaries are now posted so check out our website to learn more about the issues and our positions and to submit a comment by April 7, 2015.

Major issues before the spring 2015 NOSB include:

Synthetic methionine should be phased out of organic poultry feed as the NOSB originally decided. Methionine is an amino acid that acts as a growth promoter (comparable to the synthetic growth promoter rGBH used in dairy cows). The new proposal increases use instead of increasing space and outdoor access, and alternative feed sources –without any scientific support. Neither synthetic amino acids nor synthetic growth promoters are compatible with organic practices. The phase out requires an expiration date. Learn more here.

Nonorganic agricultural ingredients in organic products should be eliminated based on health and environmental impacts and the ability to produce them organically. Documentation for decisions has been lacking, including environmental and health impacts of pesticides used in their production. Organic agriculture can now supply most, if not all, of these materials. Learn more here.

“Inert” ingredients in pesticides used in organic production must be individually reviewed without further delay, according to processes recommended by the NOSB. So-called “inert” ingredients in pesticide products are neither chemically nor biologically inert, but designed to enhance the pesticidal activity of pesticide products and can have toxic properties that do not meet the standards of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). Learn more here.

Organic should be chlorine-free, to the extent possible. Chlorine is hazardous in its production, transportation, storage, use, and disposal. EPA’s Design for the Environment has identified safer viable alternatives for some or all uses, including other materials on the National List. It is time for the NOSB to update its thinking and approach to cleaners and disinfectants. Learn more here.

We ask that you submit comments on as many issues and materials as you can by the April 7, 2015 deadline. For help crafting your comments, view Beyond Pesticides’ commenting guide.

Please go to Beyond Pesticides Keeping Organic Strong webpage to learn more about these and other substantive issues and provide a unique public comment. Thank you for continuing to work with Beyond Pesticides each NOSB meeting to uphold the public’s voice in organic issues and the integrity of the organic label.  Organic is only as strong as our voice. Our future is only as healthy as organic.

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



Pesticide Residues on Foods Shown to Affect Sperm Quality

(Beyond Pesticides, April 1, 2015) According to a new study from Harvard University researchers, eating fruit and vegetables containing pesticide residues adversely affect men’s fertility, leading to fewer and poorer quality sperm. The study, published online in the journal, Human Reproduction, adds to a growing body of research that finds pesticide exposures give rise to impaired reproductive function, including reduced sperm counts, sperm quality and reduced fertility in exposed men. The results of this study also underscore the importance of an organic diet in reducing pesticide exposures.

EWACThe study, “Fruit and vegetable intake and their pesticide residues in relation to semen quality among men from a fertility clinic,” believed to be the first to look into the consumption of fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residue in relation to semen quality, and conducted by researchers at Harvard University’s TH Chan School of Public Health, found that men who ate the greatest amount of fruit and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residue had a 49% lower sperm count and a 32% fewer normally formed sperm than those who consumed the least.

Jorge Chavarro, MD, assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology and co-author of the study, said, “We found that total intake of fruit and vegetables were completely unrelated to semen quality. This suggests that implementing strategies specifically targeted at avoiding pesticide residues, such as consuming organically grown produce or avoiding produce known to have large amounts of residues, may be the way to go.”

The researchers analyzed 338 semen samples from 155 men aged between 18 and 55 attending a fertility center between 2007 and 2012, asking them about their consumption of fruit and vegetables. The fruits and vegetables consumed were then categorized as containing high or low-to-moderate pesticide residues based on data from the annual U. S. Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program. Overall, the results find that intake of high pesticide residue fruits and vegetables is associated with lower total sperm count, ejaculate volume and percentage of morphologically normal sperm.

While there are some limitations to the study, including the fact that men presenting to fertility clinics tend to have semen quality problems, making it difficult to know whether the results would be similar in the general population, and that the researchers did not have information on whether food consumed was actually conventionally or organically grown, it is safe to say that switching to an organic diet not only reduces pesticide residues consumed in food, but would also reduce the risk of developing impaired sperm quality.

Organic foods have been shown to reduce dietary pesticide exposure. One study published earlier this year finds that people who eat an organic diet have lower levels of pesticides in their bodies than those who eat conventional fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides. In this study, people who reported eating organic fruits and vegetables had significantly lower organophosphate residue levels in their urine when compared to people who almost always ate conventionally grown produce. Children who eat a conventional diet of food produced with chemical-intensive practices carry residues of organophosphate pesticides that are reduced or eliminated when they switch to an organic diet. An American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) report also recognizes that lower pesticide residues in organic foods may be significant for children.

A literature review in 2013 found semen quality is affected by pesticide exposure. The researchers counted semen quality according to concentration of sperm over an area, their motility and ability to move, as well as their shapes. Researchers targeted studies on DDT, HCH, and abamectin, grouping pyrethroids and organophosphates by class. What they found was striking: almost all the studies reported a decrease in sperm concentration; decreased motility was also reported though less frequently; while morphological changes were not strongly associated in studies—only two indicated any changes to sperm shape. These findings build on a growing body of evidence that pesticide exposure at environmental or occupational levels diminished sperm health.

Pesticides are associated with a host of chronic human reproductive health problems. Sperm counts have been reported to be in decline across the globe, with scientists naming pesticides as a possible factor. One French study documenting an alarming 30 percent decrease in sperm counts across France between 1989 and 2005, found the strongest decreases and lowest sperm values are consistently observed in densely populated and highly agricultural regions, where pesticides are used. Spanish researchers also found that exposure to organochlorine pesticides significantly alters semen quality in young men from southeast Spain. Others studies have linked pesticide exposure to reduced reproductive function in males. One 2011 study linked pesticides to abnormal genitals in baby boys, such as cryptorchidism and hypospadias, and decreased sperm counts in men. Pesticides like 2,4-D, glyphosate, pyrethroids like cypermethrin, and abamectin have been linked to reduced sperm and other male reproductive parameters.

Studies documenting the impact of pesticides on human sexual and reproductive functions can be found in the Pesticide-Induced Disease Database, which along the Eating With A Conscience –a database that 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, underscore the importance of organic and the need to transition from an agricultural system dependent on toxic inputs. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page.

Join Louis Guillette, Ph.D. and Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D. to discuss the influence of pesticides on reproductive health in both humans and wildlife at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, Florida April 17-18, Agricultural Justice, Age of Organics, and Alligators.
General admission is only $45, and $20 for students with current ID. We also have an upgraded rate of $75, which includes a 1-year membership to Beyond Pesticides and a free 100% organic tote bag, and an industry rate of $175. Register today!

Source: Guardian , Washington Post 



Study Data Analysis Used by UK to Oppose EU Moratorium on Neonics Challenged

(Beyond Pesticides, March 31, 2015) A world renowned entomologist, who reevaluated data from a controversial study on neonicotinoid insecticides, has concluded that UK government scientists misinterpreted the findings when they concluded that restrictive policy wasn’t necessary on the bee-killing pesticide. David Goulson, Ph.D., a bee researcher and professor at the University of Sussex in Falmer, said the UK was wrong in its position, based on the new analysis.

Bev Veals Kure Beach NC Beeliever Though they spray for mosquitoes bees find a way to visit.Neonicotinoids have been found by a growing body of scientific literature to be linked to honey bee and pollinator decline. The European Commission voted to suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in 2013 for two years. The ban came several months after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a report identifying “high acute risk” to honey bees from uses of certain neonicotinoid chemicals. However, this action was opposed by the UK government. Despite this opposition, Britain was required to comply with the ban under European Union (EU) rules.

One of the main pieces of evidence informing this opposition is a study published in 2013 by Britain’s Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), which found  “no clear consistent relationship” between exposure to neonicotinoids and the growth of bee colonies and the number of queens they produce. Dr. Goulson conducted a new analysis of the FERA data and concluded that they clearly show substantial negative effects of neonicotinoids on the performance of colonies.

“I would argue they didn’t correctly interpret their own results,” says Dr. Goulson, who supports the EU moratorium on neonicotinoid use.

In a statement, the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), which commissioned the FERA study, said that it was aware of the new analysis and recognized that pesticides are “one of the potential pressures” on bees. “We continue to work closely with the EU and our independent Advisory Committee on Pesticides to review any new research into the effects of neonicotinoids on bee populations, ensuring it is based on the best scientific evidence available,” said the statement.

In the U.S., the struggle to address the pollinator crisis continues to face obstacles, even in face of a growing number of Americans who believe bee declines are critical and linked to pesticide use.  Earlier this month, advocates delivered over four million signatures to the White House calling for decisive action on the rampant use of neonicotinoids and similar systemic insecticides, which scientists say are a driving factor in declining bee populations. Saving America’s Pollinators Act, reintroduced this month by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and John Conyers’s (D-MI), if passed, will suspend the use of four of the most toxic neonicotinoids until the EPA conducts a full review of their safety.

Learn more about pollinator issues and what you can do at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum, Agricultural Justice, Age of Organics, and Alligators, Protecting health, biodiversity, and ecosystems, in Orlando, Florida April 17-18, 2015Get more information and register today!

Source: Nature

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



Common Herbicides Linked to Antibiotic Resistance

(Beyond Pesticides, March 30, 2015) Last week, following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration that glyphosate is carcinogenic to humans based on animal studies, a new study was published in the American Society of Microbiology’s journal, mBio, linking glyphosate, 2,4-D and dicamba to antibiotic resistance after testing the sub-lethal effects of these pesticides in certain bacteria.

cc6b34ec-6974-430c-9c65-2b5a77d3246a-620x372The new mBio study finds that when bacteria, specifically Salmonella and E. coli, are exposed to the herbicides described above, they responded differently to the common antibiotics ampicillin,
ciprofloxacin, chloramphenicol, kanamycin, and tetracycline. Researchers replicated real-world scenarios by purchasing weed killers from a local store and using the exact levels that are specified on the product label. This provided researchers with the opportunity to observe how the bacteria reacted when exposed to the herbicides at sublethal levels; that is, those that did n0t kill them. When the bacteria are exposed to the herbicides and the antibiotics at the same time, the exposure to the herbicides trigger a defense mechanism that otherwise would not have been triggered solely by the antibiotics. This defense mechanism seeks to rid the bacteria of toxins and is non-specific, which means while it builds resistance to the toxic effects of the herbicides, it also builds resistance to the antibiotics, creating antibiotic-resistant strains that otherwise may not have occurred.

These results do have serious implications for public health, given the worldwide crisis of antibiotic resistance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named resistance to antibiotics one of the world’s most pressing public health problems of our time. Many bacterial infections are becoming resistant to most commonly prescribed antibiotics, resulting in longer-lasting infections, higher medical expenses, and the need for more expensive or hazardous medications. Although the levels at which the researchers saw effects are higher than the residues allowed on food, effects are seen at lower levels those often used in rural and agricultural settings. This means farmers, farmworkers, and individuals who live in agricultural communities where pesticides are sprayed near homes and schools are particularly at risk. Even homeowners who may assume they are out of range from agricultural areas using pesticides may experience pesticide drift, where pesticides can be transported over long distances through wind and rain, or as a result of volatilization, and cause adverse symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, respiratory problems, headaches, rashes, and mental disorientation. Children are even more susceptible and can suffer from elevated rates of leukemia and brain cancer.

We also know that it is not just the residues of the chemicals, but also the residues of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to which people are exposed that affects the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria in the gut of people. Antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria can develop in agricultural fields and then travel freely through the environment, transferring from one bacterial species to another. This “horizontal gene transfer” means that a pool of resistant soil bacteria can then transfer the genetic material for resistance in human pathogens. A strain of antibiotic-resistant soil bacteria may seem innocuous to humans, but the documented fact that its resistance can be transferred into human bacterial strains reveals that the use of antibiotics in agriculture can have disastrous and deadly consequences.

Moreover, the generalized mode of action discovered in this study suggests an impact that might be produced by many different toxic chemicals, and therefore the possibility that spraying any pesticide could be increasing antibiotic resistance requires further be investigated.

Glyphosate, 2,4-D and dicamba have all previously been shown to have a wide range of detrimental impacts on the environment, wildlife, and even in humans. A 2012 study found that glyphosate induces morphological changes in amphibians. Another study published by the American Cancer Society found that humans exposed to glyphosate are 2.7 times more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified 2,4-D as a chronic risk to fish, an acute risk to plants, and a potential risk for endangered species. It has carcinogenic effects and is considered to be an endocrine disruptor. Dicamba is classified as only slightly toxic to aquatic wildlife, although acute toxicity varies wildly across species and can be increased by “inert” ingredients that are mixed with the herbicide. It has been found to cause neurotoxicity and has detrimental reproductive effects.

There are viable alternatives to using antibiotics and pesticides in food production. Chemical-intensive conventional farming methods do not provide consumers with the safest food possible. The agrichemical industry continues its attempts to inundate the media with statements that pesticides are safe and tested by EPA before registration, but the combined effects of pesticides and so-called inert ingredients (other non-disclosed and often toxic ingredients) are not documented, leaving consumers in the dark. These inert ingredients can comprise up to 99% of a pesticide formulation and may not be chemically or biologically benign. One Monsanto representative, Charla Lord, even agreed that there are unknowns, stating, “It is difficult to separate the effect of surfactants, which are known to have an impact on cultured microbes, from the active ingredients.” Rather than parse the potential dangers of various pesticide formulations, the only way to definitively know that the food is the safest possible is to commit to organic agricultural practices.

Organic food contributes to better health through reduced pesticide exposure for all and increased nutritional quality. It can feed us and keep us healthy without producing the toxic effects of chemical agriculture. Our food choices have a direct effect on the health of our environment and those who grow and harvest what we eat. It is important to eat with a conscience, choosing to eat food that has been nurtured in a system of food production, handling, and certification that rejects hazardous synthetic chemicals. Choosing organic is affordable! It is possible to eat organic food while on a budget. There is also the option of growing your own food, which can be a truly fun and fulfilling experience all while providing a safer food source. There are many ways to grow your own food, such as utilizing small backyard spaces to build raised beds or vertical pallet gardens, or even something as simple as planting your own herbs in a windowsill box. Starting today, you can make the change to a healthier and safer lifestyle for yourself and those around you. Contact Beyond Pesticides for more ideas.

To discuss these issues and strategize on solutions in your community, state, and the nation, treat yourself and attend the  33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, Florida April 17-18, Agricultural Justice, Age of Organics, and Alligators. You’ll meet incredible people, hear spectacular speakers, and come away better informed, inspired, and empowered to make your community protective of health and the environment. And, right now we are running an early bird discount rate of $5 off the normal price through March 15. Register today!

Source: The Guardian

Photo Source: The Guardian



Portland, Oregon to Vote on Neonic Ban on City Property

(Beyond Pesticides, March 27, 2015) Portland, Oregon is considering a ban on neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides linked to bee deaths, from use on city property. If the measure passes, Portland will join a long list of towns and communities, including Eugene (Oregon), Skagway (Alaska), and, in Washington State, Thurston CountySeattle, and Spokane.

Under the proposed ordinance, city officials would not be permitted to use or buy neonicotinoids or similar pesticides on city lands or in city buildings and would urge stores to label products, such as plants and seeds treated with neonicotinoids. The proposal also applies to city contractors.

Susan Jergans Elkhorn WI These were taken at a bank in Elkhorn1Additionally, the proposed ban on neonicotinoids and neonicotinoid-like insecticides would not apply immediately to two city rose gardens. Officials say the rose midge, a pest, is difficult to eradicate with the insecticide. Instead the city will look for an alternative method using a pilot project at Peninsula Park in North Portland to test alternative non-toxic insecticides. That proposal would be phased in with a deadline of December 2017 to eliminate all neonicotinoid-based products.

The proposal cites seven separate bumble bee incidents in Oregon related to the application of neonicotinoids on trees since June 2013, documented by the state’s Department of Agriculture. Six of those incidents occurred in the greater Portland area. The proposal also mentions growing scientific evidence linking the pesticides to pollinator decline and damage to beneficial organisms, as well as the contamination of neonicotinoids in our nation’s waterways. The proposal specifically lists imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran, and other neonicotinoid or neonicotinoid-like, systemic, persistent pesticides.

“I think it’s appropriate for us to take this kind of action,” said Mayor Charlie Hales, referring to the city’s track record of green policy proposals.

Commissioner Steve Novick said the city doesn’t necessarily need a smoking gun linking the insecticides to bee die-offs. “The cautious thing to do is to get rid of them,” Mr. Novick said.

The City Council held a public hearing on Wednesday to discuss the proposal and a final vote is expected April 1.

Meanwhile, federal action to curb threats to pollinators posed by neonics remains sluggish. Some promising steps have been taken, such as the ban of neonics on National Wildlife Refuges and the issuance of a Presidential MemorandumCreating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, and establishment of a corresponding White House Task Force. However, federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency remain hesitant to take meaningful action.

As federal efforts languish, local efforts like the Thurston County bans provide a promising opportunity for communities across the United States to stand up for pollinators. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage to learn more about the issue and what can be done to protect pollinators.

Take Action! With your help, we can prompt Portland to join other cities that have shown they care about pollinators by banning the use of neonicotinoids. Comments need to be submitted by Tuesday March 31, as the Commissioners plan to vote on the ordinance the next day, April 1.

E-mails can be sent to Mayor Hales and Commissioners Fish, Fritz, Novick and Saltzman: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

Source: The Oregonian

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



EPA Agrees to Regulate Novel Nanotechnology Pesticides after Legal Challenge

(Beyond Pesticides, March 26, 2015) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to regulate novel nanomaterial pesticides as a result of a lawsuit filed by Center for Food Safety (CFS) and joined by Beyond Pesticides in December. In 2008, a coalition of more than 13 organizations filed a legal petition requesting, among other things, that EPA recognize the risks associated with a growing class of nano-silver consumer products and regulate them as new pesticides. After EPA had failed to respond to the petition for six years, in December 2014 some of the petitioner groups sued the agency to force it to respond. That lawsuit succeeded on Friday, with EPA issuing a 23-page response.

nanoscalefinal2We are gratified that EPA has now fundamentally acknowledged that, with regard to both the legal and scientific evidence, nano-silver antimicrobial products must be regulated as new pesticides,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety. “This is an important step in safeguarding the public.”

Nanotechnology is a platform technology for manipulating materials at the atomic and molecular level; manufactured nanomaterials are so small that they cannot be seen with an ordinary microscope. Yet, “nano” means more than just tiny; it means materials that have the capacity to act in fundamentally novel ways, ways that cannot be predicted from the same materials at larger scale. Their exponentially small size gives them extraordinary mobility for a manufactured material, as well as unique chemical and biological properties. Nanomaterials’ properties increase potential for biological interaction and increase potential for toxicity.

Nano-silver products are overwhelmingly the most common nanomaterial in consumer products, commonly used as a powerful antimicrobial agent. Because of nano-silver’s properties, it is considered a pesticide and active ingredient under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the primary federal law governing pesticide use in the U.S. Under FIFRA, any product containing an active ingredient that acts as a pesticide must be registered with EPA. However, in the 2008 petition, petitioners identified 260 nano-silver consumer products not registered under FIFRA. That number has increased to over 400 nano-silver products on the market today. Because there are no labeling requirements for nano-scale products, many more likely exist. These products carry with them significant risks to people and the environment, including DNA damage to plants, increasing bacterial resistance to antimicrobials, and toxic and potentially lethal impacts on fish.

The petition was granted in part and denied in part. EPA agreed that nano-silver products that are intended to kill microorganisms qualify as pesticides, and that they are in fact a new type of novel pesticide, the safety of which cannot be assumed from data pertaining to the macro-counterpart of a nanomaterial. The agency also agreed that developers of such products must seek EPA review and approval before the products are allowed in the marketplace. EPA also agreed with the petitioners’ request that the agency require nano-specific data.

EPA would not commit, however, to the petitioners’ demand that the agency undertake enforcement actions against all currently commercialized products that have not undergone the EPA registration process. Instead the agency has responded to the lawsuit by saying it will seek enforcement against current unregistered products at its discretion, and will be “strongly encouraging” all manufacturers to seek pesticide registration. The agency has previously taken enforcement actions against some non-compliant manufacturers already.

“We are disappointed that EPA has not agreed to investigate and take enforcement action against all current product manufacturers, despite agreeing with our basic legal and scientific arguments indicating such a need,” said Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the International Center for Technology Assessment. “We urge all nano-silver manufacturers to follow EPA’s instruction and seek registration, and will continue to push the agency to regulate them and any future products.”

“This important decision is part of the transformation our government agencies must continue to pursue in order to protect the public from potentially dangerous products containing nanoscale ingredients,” said Ian Illuminato, health and environment campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

“It is unfortunate that the EPA has chosen not to exercise its enforcement authority categorically by requiring withdrawal from the market of pesticide products incorporating nano-silver whose developers have chosen not to submit data and other information required for an EPA risk assessment,” said Steve Suppan of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “By deciding to use its enforcement authority only on a case by case basis, the EPA risks possible failure to execute its statutory obligations due to inadequate resources to pursue a case by case enforcement strategy. In this event, a prudent ‘no data, no market’ regulatory approach would be undermined by the EPA’s de facto allowance of commercialization for a product whose developers had failed to submit nano-specific data to the agency.”

The plaintiffs represented by CFS legal counsel in the lawsuit are CFS, its sister nonprofit, the International Center for Technology Assessment, as well as Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Environmental Health, Clean Production Action, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

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

Source: Center for Food Safety Press Release



New Poll Shows Americans Concerned About Bee Declines, Links to Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, March 25, 2015) Several environmental and food safety groups released new polling data which shows the public believes bee decline issues are critical and linked to pesticide use. This comes as concerned citizens flooded the White House this week with more than 3,500 phone calls demanding action against bee-harming chemicals, ramping up pressure on the Obama administration to protect America’s imperiled pollinators.

savebeesnowThe poll released yesterday was conducted by the firm FM3 and is being distributed in anticipation of recommendations from the White House Pollinator Health Task Force. Last year, the President charged this inter-agency task force —led jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)— with implementing a plan to improve the health of bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinating species.

According to the poll, an overwhelming majority (86%) say that honey bees and other pollinators are important to our nation’s food supply. More than half of the survey respondents (56%) consider the declining populations of honey bees and other pollinators to be a serious problem —following only concerns around health care costs (76%) and jobs and the economy (75%), and on par with the problem of gas prices (55%). Furthermore, when asked what is causing pollinator population declines, 70% of respondents felt it was primarily human behavior, including increased use of pesticides.

“The poll results show that Americans are very concerned with pollinator losses, as they should be. Every one in three bites of food we eat is dependent on pollination. The White House must show strong leadership on reversing these losses, and direct EPA and USDA to take quick, meaningful action to protect these creatures, starting with the suspension of neonicotinoid insecticides being a critically necessary action.”

The poll results are clear. “We conducted a rigorous national survey and our findings highlight that Americans are concerned about declining pollinator populations. Policymakers should take these findings seriously,” said Paul Maslin, principal investigator with FM3.

Earlier this month, advocates delivered over four million signatures to the White House calling for decisive action on the rampant use of neonicotinoids and similar systemic insecticides, which scientists say are a driving factor in declining bee populations.

Beekeepers have also voiced their concerns. Since 2006, they have been witnessing the devastating impact of these chemicals on their hives, and have been leading the call for federal action. “Beekeepers are on the front lines of the food system, witnessing dramatic bee declines. We’re heartened by the growing and diverse groundswell of support and understanding of the critical value of bees and beekeeping, said Jim Doan a New York beekeeper and owner of Doan Family Farms. “It’s time for federal officials to take a stand for comprehensive policies that protect bees, tackle pesticides, and ensure the future prosperity of the food system,”

In a letter sent to President Obama and the EPA earlier this month, more than 125 conservation, beekeeping, food safety, religious, ethnic and farming advocacy groups — many of whom were involved in today’s call-in action —pressed for bee-protective policies. The European Union passed a two-year moratorium on three of the most widely used neonicotinoids, yet federal regulators in the U.S. have failed to follow the science and take meaningful action. Citing public support and a clear body of science, this diverse alliance of groups has remained openly critical of regulatory efforts that fail to sufficiently address the threat pesticides pose to pollinator populations and supports a comprehensive plan to protect bees.

Scientists remain concerned that the White House and task force leaders at EPA and USDA are not heeding their concerns, including those expressed in the “Worldwide Integrated Assessment” — a review of over 800 studies by 29 independent scientists released last year that documents significant harms to bees and ecosystems from neonicotinoids.

“The President’s task force should listen to the body of science that links pesticides to bee harm and bee declines,” said Jim Frazier, PhD, an emeritus entomology professor at Pennsylvania State University and commercial beekeeper advisor who specializes in chemical ecology, in a statement. “These systemic pesticides are not only lethal to pollinators, but at low doses can disrupt critical brain functions and reduce their immunity — leaving them susceptible to common pathogens.”

Only days into spring, this week also marks the two-year anniversary of a lawsuit filed against EPA by beekeepers and environmental groups over the approval of two neonicotinoids. That case is ongoing and interested parties are still waiting for meaningful action from the agency. To date, the most promising federal action is the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, reintroduced this month by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and John Conyers’s (D-MI). The bill would suspend the use of four of the most toxic neonicotinoids until the EPA conducts a full review of their safety.

A summary of the poll results can be found here.

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