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26
Feb

Emergency Use of Bee-Killing Pesticide Approved for Florida Citrus

(Beyond Pesticides, February 26, 2015) Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted Florida citrus growers an emergency exemption to use the bee-killing pesticide clothianidin to control Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), a pest that causes “citrus greening,” a devastating citrus plant disease. Clothianidin, which is not currently registered for use on citrus, is part of a class of neurotoxic, systemic insecticides called neonicotinoids, which have been implicated in global honey bee declines and suspended in the European Union. “EPA needs to assist in stopping the deadly use of pesticides that harm bees, butterflies, and birds with sustainable practices, rather than imperil pollinators with its decisions,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, a health and environmental advocacy group. He continued, “We understand the immediate chemical needs of chemical-intensive agriculture for increasingly toxic and persistent chemicals, but urge EPA to help stop the treadmill, lest it allow irreversible harm to the environment, biodiversity, and human health.” Beyond Pesticides is urging EPA to require that growers adopt a management plan in order to apply clothianidin. “Ultimately, EPA should be requiring growers to adopt integrated organic systems to manage pests, as a part of an emergency permit,” said Mr. Feldman. Read Beyond Pesticides’ open letter response to EPA.

honey-bee-encircling-orange-blossom-wayne-nielsenHoney bees in Florida, researchers say, contribute to the productivity of several groups of citrus fruit, including many orange and grapefruit varieties. Through their pollination services and foraging in citrus fruit, bees and other pollinators will be exposed to the contaminated pollen and nectar in the trees’ flowers, as the systemic clothianidin translocates throughout the treated trees. Bees are exceedingly common in citrus groves, from which they produce a high quality honey crop. Citrus greening has caused significant difficultly between beekeepers and citrus farmers who are combating the spread of the psyllid with toxic chemicals. Back in 2013, one of Florida’s largest citrus growers, Ben Hill Griffin, Inc., was fined $1,500 after a state investigation found that the farm illegally sprayed pesticides, resulting in the death of millions of managed honey bees.

According to the University of Florida, there are approximately 6,000 acres of certified organic citrus in Florida that does not permit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, including clothianidin. Farm operations that are USDA certified organic avoid the use of toxic chemicals by implementing holistic management systems plans. Matt McLean of Uncle Matt’s Organic is one such grower, with over 1,000 acres of organic citrus, his family will be joining Beyond Pesticides’ at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando in April, to discuss benefits of growing organic, and efforts to combat citrus greening without toxic chemicals. Additionally, USDA announced last summer that it would broaden its use of tiny parasitic wasps, Tamarixia Radiata, to combat citrus greening disease.

Pollinators continue to face dire threats to their survival. Bees, butterflies, and others have seen drastic population declines over the last several years due to habitat loss and widespread pesticide use. Pesticides also pose a greater threat to ecosystems and biodiversity, according to a meta-analysis by a group of global, independent scientists. EPA, tasked with regulating pesticides and protecting the environment from harm, has thus far failed to sufficiently act to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. In fact, just last month EPA approved yet another bee-toxic pesticide, flupyradifurone, following other recent and questionable bee-toxic pesticide approvals like sulfoxaflor, which was approved for registration despite warnings from concerned groups and beekeepers.

EPA issued the 2½ year emergency permit to allow clothianidin without subjecting its decision to any public comment. Beyond Pesticides is party to a lawsuit challenging EPA’s failure to adequately review and restrict clothianidin.

Take Action:
Sign the Petition! Tell the President to #BeeKindObama. As honey bee declines continue and the crisis begins to impact consumer’s pocketbooks, it is imperative the President Obama and executive agencies take swift action to address this issue by suspending neonicotinoid pesticides.

State and local efforts are also critical in pressuring the White House to act. Concerned residents can get engaged by encouraging your community to be pollinator friendly and make changes that will protect your local pollinator population. For help with your campaign, visit the BEE Protective webpage, and contact Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450, or by email at [email protected]

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

Download a PDF version of the press release here.

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

Photo Source: Organic Beekeeper Blog

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25
Feb

Scientists Challenge Industry Consensus that GE Foods Are ‘Safe’

(Beyond Pesticides, February 25, 2015) The biotechnology industry behind genetically engineered (GE) foods have for years touted that their technology is safe, dismissing any attempts to challenge their science or regulate their material. However, 300 scientists, physicians and scholars assert there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GE foods and find that claims of safety are an “artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated” through various forums and media.

groceriesFoodSafetywebThe statement, published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe and entitled, “No scientific consensus on GMO safety,” cites a concerted effort by GE seed developers and some scientists, commentators and journalists to construct the claim that there is a “scientific consensus” on GE safety, and that debate on the topic is “over.” According to the 13-page statement, 300 independent scientists and researchers felt compelled to develop a document that offered a balanced account of the current state of dissent in this field, based on published evidence in the scientific literature, for both the interested public and the wider science community. They find that a claim of safety “…is misleading and misrepresents or outright ignores the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of scientific opinions among scientists on this issue.”

For years, the safety of GE food has been a hotly controversial topic that has been much debated around the world. According to the scientists, published results are contradictory, in part due to the range of different research methods employed, an inadequacy of available procedures, and differences in the analysis and interpretation of data. Further, rigorous assessment of GE safety has been hampered by the lack of funding independent of proprietary interests. Research for the public good has been further constrained by property rights issues, and by denial of access to research material for researchers unwilling to sign contractual agreements with industry, which confer unacceptable control over publication to the proprietary interests. In concluding, the scientists state that current scientific evidence “prevents conclusive claims of safety, or of lack of safety, of GE,” and that claims of consensus on the safety of GE “are not supported by an objective analysis of the scientific literature.”

Claims of Safety

In their review of the scientific literature the group finds that most studies concluding that GE foods are as safe and nutritious as non-GE foods were conducted by biotechnology companies or associates that are also responsible for commercializing GE crops. Additionally, no epidemiological studies in human populations have been carried out to establish whether there are any health effects associated with GE food consumption, and therefore claims that GE foods have been eaten for years in the US with no ill effects cannot be substantiated and have no scientific basis.

The paper also points out that while an EU research project has been cited internationally as providing evidence for GE crop and food safety, the report based on this project, ‘A Decade of EU-Funded GMO Research’, presents no data that could provide such evidence from long-term feeding studies in animals.

Similarly, another frequently cited claim that several hundred studies document the general safety and nutritional value of GE foods is also misleading. Examination of the studies listed reveals that many do not provide evidence of GE food safety and, in fact, some provide evidence of a lack of safety. Further, many of the studies were conducted over short periods compared with the animal’s total lifespan and thus, cannot detect long-term health effects.

Claims of Government and Scientific Organizational Endorsements

According to the authors, claims that there is a consensus among scientific and governmental bodies that GE foods are safe, or that they are no more risky than non-GE foods are false. Reports by the Royal Society of Canada and British Medical Association have noted that some GE foods could be of considerable harm. The positions of some prominent scientific organizations have been misrepresented or opposed by members, further highlighting the lack of consensus among scientists. The authors further note that even the positions taken by other organizations on the potential benefits of GE have frequently been highly qualified, acknowledging data gaps and potential risks of GE technology. For instance, a statement by the American Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health acknowledged “a small potential for adverse events … due mainly to horizontal gene transfer, allergenicity, and toxicity,” and recommended that voluntary notification (labeling) of GE crops be made mandatory.

Environmental Impact

There is no consensus on environmental impacts of GE foods, and many concerns have been raised about increased herbicide use, potential health impacts and the rapid spread of herbicide-resistant weeds. The statement concludes, “…the totality of scientific research outcomes in the field of GE crop safety is nuanced; complex; often contradictory or inconclusive; confounded by researchers’ choices, assumptions, and funding sources; and, in general, has raised more questions than it has currently answered.”

With the recent approval of the ArcticÂŽ apple – the first genetically engineered apple that does not brown after slicing or bruising, the expansion of GE crops without a full understanding of human and environmental health risks should provide pause for concern. Along with unknown long-term impact on public health, GE material introduced into the environment continues to threaten native pollinators and other beneficial organisms, propagate resistant weeds and insects, and contaminates non-GE and organic farms.

Currently in the U.S., GE foods are not required to be labeled and many consumers are unaware that the foods they are ingesting are GE material whose long-term health impacts are not fully understood. That is why it is important to eat organically and support organic agriculture. Not only does organic exclude GE material from production, but people who eat organically also have lower levels of pesticides in their bodies. For more information on the hazards associated with GE technology, visit the Genetic Engineering webpage; for more on the benefits of organic agriculture, see the Organic Food program page.

Continue the conversation on GE labeling by attending the 33rd National Pesticide Forum, taking place this year in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th, 2015.Chef Hari Pulapaka, PhD, signatory to the 700 chefs’ letter in support of GE labeling will present his take on the issue. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

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

Source: Center for Food Safety

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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24
Feb

Will White House Help Bees, as Declines Threaten to Sting Consumers’ Wallets, and States Respond?

(Beyond Pesticides, February 24, 2015) According to recent reports from local California news outlets, Honey Bees are in Short Supply In Central Valley, with the risk that consumers across the United States will be seeing higher prices on fruits, nuts, and vegetables this year as a consequence of declining honey bee populations. The ongoing pollinator crisis has resulted in greater than 30% of managed bee colonies dying off each winter since 2006, an unsustainable rate that will inevitably impact the pocketbooks of consumers in the U.#beeprotective fieldS. and may even ultimately result in global malnutrition.

But that doesn’t have to be the outcome. As Beyond Pesticides continues to remind concerned residents, although there are a number of hazards affecting honey bee populations, this crisis is No Longer a Big Mystery. The scientific evidence shows that a class of toxic, persistent, systemic chemicals called neonicotinoids present immense risks to honey bees and other pollinator species. Twenty-nine scientists spanning multiple disciplines analyzed over 800 peer-reviewed papers on the subject came to a similar conclusion. “The assessment found that both individuals and populations can be adversely affected by low or acute exposure making them highly vulnerable. Pollinators exposed to contaminated pollen, nectar and water are harmed at field realistic concentrations,” notes the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides.

At the close of National Pollinator Week 2014, President Obama issued a Memorandum mandating the creation of a federal strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators within 180 days. Last October the White House announced it would miss its self-assigned deadline, delaying the urgent action that is needed to address this crisis. As the European Union has already done, EPA must move swiftly to suspend the most harmful uses of neonicotinoids, and address the gaps that allowed these systemic insecticides on to market on a “conditional” basis, without a full review of pollinator impacts.

>>Join us in asking the President to #BeeKindObama and take swift action to protect pollinators.

Numerous other localities and organizations have taken action to protect honey bees from neonicotinoid pesticides. And a growing number of state legislatures are now debating whether to move forward on restrictions regarding these bee-toxic chemicals. In Maryland the Pollinator Protection Act of 2015 is coming up for a committee vote today. The legislation will require nurseries in the state to display a disclosure statement on plants and seeds that are treated with neonicotinoid insecticides and phase-out their over-the-counter sales to retail consumers. Since use of neonicotinoid pesticides is still lawful under the bill, the legislation will require those who use them to be certified applicators or farmers, thus attempting to ensure more control over their application. Marylanders can support this critical legislation by sending a letter to their State Senator through this page.

Elsewhere, in Alaska, legislators introduced SB 20, which will restrict neonicotinoid applications only to greenhouses. In Minnesota, state legislators and officials are continuing efforts to protect bees through HF 411, legislation that creates criteria for a pollinator-friendly neighborhood program. Such criteria would be based in part on the percentage of properties within a neighborhood refraining from using pesticide products that harm pollinators. HF 411 is reminiscent of the hard work that the folks at Bee Safe Boulder continue to do on a voluntary basis to protect honey bees and other pollinators. Earlier this month, the group gave a presentation to the Boulder City Council, pushing for the city to become bee safe.

Sign the Petition! Tell the President to #BeeKindObama. As honey bee declines continue and the crisis begins to impact consumer’s pocketbooks, it is imperative the President Obama and executive agencies take swift action to address this issue by suspending neonicotinoid pesticides.

State and local efforts are also critical in pressuring the White House to act. Concerned residents can get engaged by encouraging your community to be pollinator friendly and make changes that will protect your local pollinator population. For help with your campaign, visit the BEE Protective webpage, and contact Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450, or by email at [email protected]

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

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23
Feb

House Panel Rejects Hawai’i Bill to Impose Pesticide Buffer Zones

(Beyond Pesticides, February 23, 2015) A Hawaii state House agriculture committee rejected a bill Thursday that sought to impose buffer zones for large agricultural companies that spray restricted-use pesticides near schools and other sensitive areas. The proposal, House Bill 1514, introduced by Rep. Chris Lea, stemmed from concerns about the impact of genetically-engineered (GE) farming and its inherent dependency on increasing pesticide use. The measure sought to require companies’ disclosure of the pesticides used and the volume of use.

Hawaii_State_LegislatureThe bill had strong support from the Hawaii chapter of the national nonprofit Center for Food Safety (CFS), as well as a strong backing from neighbor island residents. Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island have all passed laws recently to regulate the seed industry, but a federal district court judge has ruled that Hawaii counties do not have that power.

Industry has been especially effective in obstructing the bill. CFS’ Hawaii director, Ashley Lukens, said after Thursday’s hearing that she was frustrated by the limited amount of time advocates were given to testify. “It was clear from the very beginning that the hearing was intended to allow the industry to reiterate their talking points,” she said.

Not surprisingly, companies (like Monsanto) that compose Hawaii’s $243 million seed industry argued that the measure was misguided, and several farming organizations opposed it as well. “HB 1514 will take farmland out of production, increase costs, and make it even more difficult to farm in Hawaii,” the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation said in written testimony. The state Department of Agriculture was also critical of the bill and its focus on the seed industry.

While the idea of imposing buffer zones still has a chance in the Senate, it must get past a number of obstacles.

Additionally, three similar measures have passed the Senate committees on health and the environment but are waiting for additional hearings. Senate Bill 801, which pertains to providing notice for pesticide use, was recently re-referred to the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Jill Tokuda. Senate Bill 1037, which requires the health department to establish a mandatory disclosure program for pesticide use, is also waiting to be heard by Sen. Tokuda. Senate Bill 793, which establishes mandatory notice when pesticides are applied outdoors near sensitive areas, is awaiting a hearing from Sen. Tokuda and Consumer Protection Committee Chairwoman Rosalyn Baker from Maui.

Residents living on the Hawaiian Islands are subject to a particularly pronounced form of environmental assault, as the state’s premiere growing conditions have made it a prime target for agrichemical companies to test new, experimental forms of GE crops. Data released last year reveals that high levels of restricted use pesticides, in some cases almost double the pounds per acre average of other states, are being used in Kauai County. According to the Center for Food Safety, in 2014 alone, there were 1,381 field test sites in Hawaii, compared to only 178 sites in California- a large agricultural state. Most of these crops are engineered to resist herbicides and pesticides. Testing these crops means repeated spraying of dangerous chemicals near neighborhoods, schools, and waterways.  Residents of the Hawaiian Islands that live, work, or go to school near these fields are subject to incessant pesticide spraying, as the climate provides a year-round growing season for GE crops. A May 2014 report found 25 herbicides, 11 insecticides and 6 fungicides in Hawaii’s waterways, underscoring resident concerns for both the land and human health.

Beyond Pesticides continues to be an ardent supporter of commonsense protections from pesticides and their associated use on GE crops. Given the impending approval of GE crops designed to withstand applications of the highly toxic herbicide 2,4-D, these protections are more important than ever.

Join us in person to help us continue the fight against pesticide use. This spring is Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

Source: Civil Beat

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

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20
Feb

Changes to Canadian Aquaculture Rule Raises Pesticide Concerns

(Beyond Pesticides, February 20, 2015) A broad-based coalition is urging Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper to put a stop to proposed changes to federal aquaculture regulations, citing damage to the environment and existing businesses. The proposed amendments to the federal Fisheries Act would exempt the aquaculture industry from provisions that “prohibit the release of deleterious substances into water frequented by fish.”

bay of fundyCoalition members are worried that the changes will result in pesticides routinely being dumped into the Bay of Fundy, located between the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and remove Environment Canada’s role in aquaculture activities, said spokeswoman Maria Recchia, the executive director of the Fundy North Fishermen’s Association.

Aquaculture, which refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of aquatic organisms such as fish, shellfish, and plants, provides half of the world’s seafood. According to Food and Water Watch, offshore aquaculture follows an industrial agriculture model which grows thousands of animals in a confined environment. For fish, however, this confined space is in the ocean, meaning all of the waste products from the operation flow directly into the ocean. This includes excess feed and chemicals that are used, such as antibiotics and pesticides, to treat or prevent disease that occurs when fish are in confinement. Another major concern is the possibility of escaped farmed fish, which can compete with and interbreed with wild fish.

The coalition wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Harper on Tuesday, with 120 signatories, including business leaders, commercial and recreational fishing associations, scientists, lawyers, and environmentalists.”

“In essence, in the end, we are going end up with the aquaculture being essentially self-regulated and self-monitored,” said Recchia, who is based in southwestern New Brunswick.

“And I think we’re going to have a much worse style of management than we have now and it’s going to be a lot more problematic for the marine environment.”

Stewart Lamont, owner of Tangier Lobster in Nova Scotia, agrees. “The value of our industry is based on a pristine, non-polluted marine environment,” Lamont said in a statement.

“We have already dealt with the impacts of pesticides, and see federal fines levied on something that would now become legal. To have DFO authorize pollution from a coastal industry is simply baffling,” he said.

Salmosan, a pesticide formulation containing the active ingredient azamethiphos and currently approved for use in the Bay of Fundy, can be hazardous to lobsters and other species hundreds of meters from a farm. Another pesticide, Alphamax (active ingredient deltamethrin), which was temporarily used to combat a sea-lice infestation five years ago, could kill lobsters up to 10 kilometers, or nearly six miles, away.

The draft changes to the Fisheries Act have been in the works since 2011 and are close to being passed, said Recchia.

“These regulations will set back Canadian aquatic environmental protection measures several decades,” Bill Ernst, a retired Environment Canada toxicologist, said in a statement. “They will eliminate Environment Canada’s role in enforcing the law with respect to aquaculture and hand responsibility over to Health Canada, who do not have an undivided environmental protection mandate.”

Pesticide inputs in aquaculture have been shown to have devastating impacts on the surrounding environment. The deaths of hundreds of lobsters in the Bay of Fundy in 2010 due to cypermethrin exposure 2010 prompted an investigation into how the pesticide ended up in the region. While cypermethrin, a synthetic pyrethroid, is not approved for use in fish farming in Canada, it is used in the U.S. and in Maine to control sea lice outbreaks in salmon farms. Environment Canada’s enforcement division eventually indicted the multinational firm Cooke Aquaculture and three of its senior officials on eleven criminal charges stemming from the illegal pesticide application.

In the U.S., changes to rules on conventional aquaculture have raised concerns for the environment as well as organic standards.

While aquaculture has the potential to lessen pressure on severely stressed wild fish populations, poorly designed and managed systems repeat the mistakes commonly seen in industrial-style livestock production. Crowding an excessive number of fish into an unnatural habitat creates a breeding ground for pests and diseases which producers treat with prophylactic doses of medications, including antibiotics. Sea lice, for example, were known to afflict wild runs of Atlantic salmon, but did not become an economically significant pest until the introduction of large-scale net pen production systems. Routine treatment with pesticides such as cypermethrin and antibiotics to minimize the symptoms of an unhealthy environment results in accelerated pest resistance and prompts producers to employ increasingly toxic compounds.

Residues from these medications along with fish excrement and excess feed are released into open water with often severe environmental consequences, especially for benthic organisms, which live in, on, or near the bottom of aquatic environments, such as lobsters. Many commercial aquaculture operations, including salmon production systems, utilize large amounts of wild captured fish that are processed for use as feed. Numerous traditional cultures developed aquaculture systems utilizing natural inputs and ecological cycles to raise high quality food with minimal adverse environmental impact.

Join us in person to help us continue the fight against pesticide use. This spring is Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

Source: CBC News

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

 

 

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19
Feb

USDA Approves GE Apple that Won’t Brown

(Beyond Pesticides, February 19, 2015) Last week, regulators at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved a genetically engineered (GE) apple that does not brown after slicing or bruising. The “Arctic” apple, produced by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, is engineered using a novel technique called RNA interference (RNAi). In the case of this GE apple, RNAi technology has been used to silence the genes that produce polyphenol oxidase (PPO), the enzymes responsible for the browning that results after an apple has been bruised. Government approval of this method of genetic engineering is raises serious concerns because of considerable uncertainty regarding the unintended effects of this technology. These concerns are compounded by the agrochemical industry’s future interests in using RNAi technology to control crop pests.

appleSo far, USDA has approved commercial use of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious “Arctic” apples, and the company plans to produce Gala and Fuji cultivars in the future. Beyond the questionable utility of an apple that does not brown, are the health and economic risks associated with the apple’s commercial production and use. Some opposing the GE apple have dubbed it the “botox apple” as it can give apples the appearance of being fresh long after it is sliced when it is not; raising concerns about the development and spread of bacteria. There is also uncertainty whether turning off these genes may impact other genes or the rest of the apple tree, as compounds that produce PPO are present throughout the tree, not just in the fruit.

There is also the constant threat that GE crops pose to organic farmers. Organic and non-GE apple farmers that produce their crops near where the Arctic apple is being grown put their crops at risk of cross-contamination from pollen (likely through bee pollination). A 2014 study released by Food and Water Watch and the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship and Marketing (OFARM) found that one third of organic farmers have experienced GE contamination on their farm due to the nearby use of GE crops. The survey was conducted in response to USDA 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) report on “coexistence” between GE and non-GE farmers. The AC21 report was strongly criticized by the National Organic Coalition (NOC), of which Beyond Pesticides is a member, for recommending that organic and non-GE conventional farmers pay for crop insurance or self-insure themselves against unwanted GE contamination. Beyond Pesticides maintains that in approving this and other new GE crops, USDA should stipulate that organic and non-GE farmers are entitled to assurances against trespass from genetic drift and compensation from the polluters for any losses in the value of their crop.

As many consumers are now aware, GE foods are not required to be labeled in the U.S. Without this statement, Arctic apples have the potential to make their way into you or your child’s lunch without any indication. A number of states, including Washington, Oregon, California, and Colorado, have come close to requiring labels for GE products at the state level through razor-thin public ballots, but to date only Vermont has mandated these simple statements informing consumers. At the federal level, efforts to codify voluntary GE labels through the appropriately coined DARK Act have not moved forward. However, last week the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act was reintroduced in the House and Senate, with major support from over 700 American chefs, including Top Chef star Tom Colicchio, and33rd National Pesticide Forum speaker Hari Pulapaka, PhD (register now!).

By silencing the genes within an apple, RNAi technology presents risks that have not been fully evaluated by regulators. Without addressing these issues, agrochemical companies have begun development of RNAi GE crops that, rather than target a gene within the plant, produces RNA that acts as a pesticide able to silence the gene in a target pest, such as the western corn rootworm, which is rapidly developing resistance to current GE techniques that incorporate bacillus thuringiensis toxins. A 2013 study from USDA researchers identified risks to RNAi insecticides that include potential for off-target gene silencing, silencing of the target gene in unintended organisms, and immune stimulation.

It is critical that concerned citizens contact their state and federal elected representatives and urge them to support efforts to label genetically engineered crops. In the absence of mandatory labeling, residents can purchase certified organic foods, which prohibit the use of any GE ingredients. For more information on the hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage.

Continue the conversation on GE labeling by attending the 33rd National Pesticide Forum, taking place this year in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th, 2015.Chef Hari Pulapaka, PhD, signatory to the 700 chefs’ letter in support of GE labeling will present his take on the issue. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

Source: Center for Food Safety, USDA

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

 

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18
Feb

Register Today for Early Bird Rate: 33rd National Pesticide Forum, Orlando, FL

(Beyond Pesticides, February 18, 2015) Several new speakers, including cutting edge researchers bridging science and policy, have been added to the lineup of speakers at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, Florida April 17-18, Agricultural Justice, Age of Organics, and Alligators. And, right now we are running an early bird discount rate of $5 off the normal price through March 15. Register today! 

The Forum, which will be held at Florida A&M University College of Law, is convened by Beyond Pesticides in collaboration with the Farmworker Association of Florida, FAMU Law School, Florida Organic Growers and Consumers, as well as local environmental and public health advocacy organizations. The Forum provides an opportunity to share the current science and policy information and discuss local, state, and national issues, and will focus on agricultural justice, particularly as it relates to farmworker protections and organic agriculture. Biodiversity, pollinator protection, and other relevant issues for central Florida, including mosquito management and genetic engineering will also be covered.

Early Bird Registration Details: 
We have a special early bird registration rate, which is $5 off the normal price until March 15. After that date, general admission will be $45, and $25 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! Registration includes organic food and drink!! All entry levels include access to all sessions, workshops, plus Friday afternoon Lake Apopka toxic tour (RSVP required), and printed materials. Additionally, we will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner on Saturday, along with receptions both nights with organic beer and wine. Click here to register now, or go to: http://Reg33NPF.

New Speaker Highlights:
Tyrone Hayes, PhD is a 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, and is one of the leading scientists critical of the pesticide industry and regulatory process. Dr. Hayes has published more than 40 papers, over 150 abstracts and has given more than 300 talks on the growth and development in amphibians. Dr. Hayes’ work has shown that current regulatory reviews allow widespread use of pesticides that cause serious adverse effects well below legal standards.  Through his research, he states, “I have come to realize that the most important environmental factors affecting amphibian development are synthetic chemicals (such as pesticides) that interact with hormones in a variety of ways to alter developmental responses.”

Geoffrey Calvert, MD is Team Leader at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Calvert is author of numerous studies and reports, including the recent CDC report, Worker Illness Related to Newly Marketed Pesticides, which evaluates a farmworker poisoning incident in Washington State and identifies deficiencies in farmworker protection from pesticides.

Philip K. Stoddard, PhD is Mayor of the City of South Miami, as well as a professor of biology at the Florida International University. He was elected Mayor in 2010, and re-elected in 2012 and 2014, and is a strong proponent of community, livable cities, quiet neighborhoods, responsive government, and environmental protection, leading efforts to protect beneficial species. As mayor, he spearheaded an initiative to address mosquito-borne diseases while limiting environmental damage from over-application of broad-spectrum insecticides, designating the city of South Miami as a wildlife sanctuary in order to prevent mosquito spray by the county.

See previously highlighted speakers here, or see the full lineup of speakers here.

The conference, including a tour in the Apopka area, runs from the afternoon of April 17 through the evening of April 18, and brings together scientists, policy makers, and public health and environmental advocates to interact and strategize on solutions that are protective of health and the environment. See the tentative schedule here. 

Other Details:

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

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

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17
Feb

2,4-D and Atrazine Effects on Endangered Species Focus of Another Lawsuit

(Beyond Pesticides, February 17, 2015) The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in federal court in California February 12 against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for failing to ensure that three widely used pesticides —atrazine, 2,4-D and alachlor— do not jeopardize the survival of two Bay Area endangered species, the delta smelt and Alameda whipsnake. FWS has yet to act on a request from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine whether measures are needed to protect the delta smelt and Alameda whipsnake from exposure to these pesticides.

fishandwildlifeservice-logo“These pesticides are known to harm wildlife even in miniscule amounts, so it’s long past time that we start taking commonsense steps to protect endangered species, our water and ourselves,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center. “Putting off any analysis of the harms caused by pesticides for six years is simply unacceptable, and has set back the recovery of these two species substantially.”

Scientific research has shown that atrazine can harm the development of amphibians at exposures of just a few parts per billion, is toxic to fish, reptiles, mammals and birds, and may elevate risks of birth defects in people. Up to 80 million pounds of atrazine are used in the U.S. each year. An EPA risk assessment for 2,4-D concluded that the pesticide poses acute risks to freshwater fish and invertebrates and causes chronic impacts in other wildlife. Alachlor is now a restricted-use pesticide, having been classified by the EPA as a “likely” human carcinogen. Approximately four million pounds are used in the country each day. All three pesticides have been routinely found in surface and groundwater tested by the U.S. Geological Survey.

“Despite pesticides saturating our lands and waters, the Fish and Wildlife Service has simply stuck its head in the sand for years and ignored the widespread harm to endangered species across the country,” said Mr. Hartl. “When a pesticide like atrazine has been shown to chemically castrate amphibians at concentrations of a few parts per billion, it’s unconscionable that the Service has simply done nothing.”

Center for Biological Diversity previously sued the EPA for failing to consult over the impacts of pesticides on endangered species in the Bay Delta. In 2006 the Center reached a settlement imposing restrictions on pesticide use until the consultation was completed. The EPA completed its portion of the settlement, requesting that FWS complete consultations. But those consultations have not been completed because the agency has not finished the process.

Numerous studies have linked pesticides with significant developmental, neurological, and reproductive damage to amphibians. Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D., of the University of California Berkeley, whose research reveals that even minute doses of atrazine can induce hermaphroditism in male frogs, in effect “chemically castrating” the population, will be joining our lineup of speakers at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum. We invite you to join researchers, authors, organic business leaders, elected officials, activists, and others to discuss the latest pesticide science, policy solutions, and grassroots action. For more information, and to register, click here.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

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

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13
Feb

EPA Sued for Violating Endangered Species Act with Allowance of New 2,4-D/Roundup Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, February 13, 2015) With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) nod to the pesticide industry on expanded uses of the herbicides 2,4-D and glyphosate, environmental groups are charging that the agency violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Repeating a pattern of putting the environment in harm’s way through violations of federal endangered species law, a lawsuit filed Friday documents  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 recent approval of Dow AgroSciences’ herbicide, Enlist Duo, for use on genetically engineered (GE) crops in six midwestern states.

Corn_Zea_mays_Plant_Row_2000pxEnlist Duo is an herbicide that incorporates a mix of glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D, intended for use on GE Enlist Duo-tolerant corn and soybean crops. Approved for use on GE corn and soybeans that are engineered to withstand repeated applications of the herbicide, the creation of 2,4-D-tolerant crops and EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo is the result of an overuse of glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The misuse resulted in an infestation of glyphosate-resistant super weeds which can now be legally combatted with the more potent 2,4-D. Dow Chemical has presented 2,4-D-tolerant crops as a quick fix to the problem, but independent scientists, as well as USDA analysis, predict that the Enlist crop system will only foster more weed resistance.

“EPA admits that its approval of a toxic pesticide cocktail including 2,4-D for widespread use may affect endangered species, including the whooping crane, one of the most endangered animals on Earth,” said Paul Achitoff, Earthjustice’s managing attorney. “We ask only that the court decide whether EPA has violated the law, as we believe it has before putting these imperiled birds at further risk.”

By EPA’s own admission, whooping cranes “will stop to eat and may consume arthropod prey” that may have been exposed to 2,4-D in fields sprayed with Enlist Duo, and that in sufficient amounts, this exposure can be toxic to the cranes. According to the motion, the “whooping crane is one of the most endangered animals on earth. It was pushed to the brink of extinction by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat to just sixteen wild and two captive whooping cranes by 1941. Conservation efforts over the past seventy years have led to only a limited recovery; as of 2006, there were only an estimated 338 whooping cranes in the wild.”

Similarly, EPA’s own analysis found that the Indiana bat would likely suffer from reproductive harm resulting from the consumption of 2,4-D-contaminated prey, as a direct result of EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo. In addition to habitat loss and cave disturbance, scientists have attributed pesticide contamination of the Indiana bats’ food supply as a reason for their continued decline.

EPA approved Dow’s Enlist Duo weed killer, which the Agriculture Department signed off on a month earlier, in October 2014.

The new seed and herbicide combination would harm more than just these two species. Critics maintain that Enlist Duo could result in other environmental and health problems. 2,4-D has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, developmental and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, and a whole host of additional health effects.

The motion filed by the farm and environmental groups Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice, National Farm Coalition, the Environmental Working Group, and others, with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, builds on a previous challenge of EPA’s approval of the new herbicide.

Join us in person to help us continue the fight against the dangerous wave of GE crops and chemicals. This spring is Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

Source: Des Moines Register, Earthjustice

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

 

 

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12
Feb

Bill Introduced to Protect Oregonians from Forestry Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, February 12, 2015) Oregon Senator Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) and Representative Ann Liniger (D-Lake Oswego) introduced a bill on Tuesday targeting the loosely regulated aerial pesticide spraying practices of the Oregon timber industry.

helicopter_sprayThe bill will establish residential, school, drinking water, and fish habitat buffers zones, require timely notification of spraying and controlled burns for nearby residents, increase record keeping requirements, establish protected areas where pesticide spraying is prohibited, and grant investigative and enforcement authority to the Oregon Health Authority in cases of human pesticide exposure.

Development of the bill grew out of a series of incidents across Oregon involving residential pesticide exposure and poisoning from aerial spraying of forest lands. The main incident, which spurred state-wide outrage and investigations into the pesticide regulation and enforcement practices of the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), involved Curry County residents who complained of pesticide exposure after witnessing aerial spraying near their homes.

After pressure from local residents, investigative reporters, and environmental groups, ODA was ordered to publicly disclose pesticide records. It was found that the pesticides being sprayed were 2,4-D and triclopyr —information that conflicted with previous statements and reports and adding to the trend of opaque and lackluster ODA enforcement efforts. Eventually, the pilot responsible for the incident had his license suspended for a year and was fined $10,000 and the company that employed the pilot was also fined $10,000 and had all its licenses revoked for a year for providing false information to the state.

In a similar case, the community of Triangle Lake experienced pesticide exposures from the aerial application of herbicides to timberland, and atrazine and 2,4-D were subsequently found in the urine of residents around Triangle Lake. After these incidents, state and federal agencies launched the Highway 36 Corridor Public Health Exposure Investigation. The investigation resulted in the Oregon State Forester requiring pesticide applicators to turn over three years of forestry pesticide spray records from private and state timber operations.

“We’ve heard widespread concern that Oregon isn’t doing enough to protect the health of rural citizens from aerial herbicide sprays,” Sen. Dembrow said in a statement. “It’s time to change these outdated policies.”

Timing is also ripe for improved environmental and wildlife protections, particularly with regard to salmon streams and drinking water. Within the Pacific Northwest, an area where the timber industry dominates, Oregon’s regulations are some of the least protective. And with recent legal victories, requiring EPA to restore no-spray buffer zones around waterways to protect imperiled salmon and steelhead from five toxic pesticides, the bill would move the state coordination with EPA standards. The bill could also improve Oregon’s chances of receiving approval from EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for its coastal nonpoint pollution control program.

Join Beyond Pesticides as we continue to learn about the dangers of pesticides and the actions we can take, like the Oregon bill, to establish better protections for people and the environment against pesticide use at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

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

Sources: Oregon Public Broadcasting; Beyond Toxics

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11
Feb

France Elevates Effort to Reduce Pesticide Use by 50%, but Delays Deadline

(Beyond Pesticides, February 11, 2015) In 2008, France announced it would voluntarily cut pesticide use by 50 percent by 2018, and emerged as the European leader in reducing pesticide dependency. With its plan faltering, the European Union’s (EU) biggest agricultural producer and pesticide user has announced the expansion of a network of pioneer farms experimenting with alternative techniques and mandated reductions in pesticide sales as it delays its target reduction until 2025.

logofrenchcultureThe French government has pushed back to 2025 the timeline for halving pesticide use and added an intermediate target of a 25 percent fall by 2020, Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said. The 2018 target was slated as voluntary, but pesticide use has actually increased, in part due to poor weather, according to French officials. As the EU’s top agricultural producer, France is trying to become less dependent on pesticides, which are known to pose various health and environmental risks.

The targets for pesticide reduction remain mostly non-binding on farmers, but Minister Le Foll said his revamped plan would encourage a change in practices by expanding their focus on alternative techniques. The minister notes that farmers need training in best practices to replace the massive use of pesticides with more targeted treatments and biological ways to control pests. In the new revamped plan, the government will also add a binding target on pesticide suppliers to reduce their volumes by 20 percent over five years, encouraging them to shift toward selling farmers services to reduce chemical use. Companies will face penalties if they fail to meet the target under a certificate scheme to be developed.

According to Minister Le Foll, 2,000 farms across France have already seen pesticide use fall 12 percent in 2013, even though a 9 percent rise in total use in France was seen that year. Pesticide usage can be cut both through technology that allows farmers to apply crop treatments more precisely, and through biological control that replaces chemicals with natural organisms. However, as expected, representatives of crop farmers argue that tightening restrictions on pesticide use have left them with few viable options for containing crop pests and diseases.

France, like the EU, has sought to become less dependent on pesticides. In 2013, the EU became the first region in the world to ban certain neonicotinoid pesticides that have been linked to global bee decline. France banned the use of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid on corn and sunflowers in 1999, and rejected an application for clothianidin registration in 2008. Similarly, the EU enacted a measure to set limits for chemicals, including pesticides and heavy metals, in lakes, rivers and coastal waters that may endanger the survival of ecosystems and, via the food chain, human health. According to the measure, EU member states will have until 2018 to meet these water standards. States will have to reduce pollution from “priority substances,” cease or phase out emissions, discharges and losses of “priority hazardous substances” in order to achieve good surface water chemical status and to be in compliance with the objectives set by the water quality standards. Previous steps have been taken by the EU to reduce pesticide pollution that include limitations on aerial spraying, the use of buffer zones around agricultural lands and restrictions on the use of pesticides of high concern. More recently, France has been at the forefront of efforts to restrict the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops.

Pesticides are linked to a growing number of human health diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, various types of cancer, and learning and behavioral impairments, such as ADHD and even autism. In one 2012 study, pesticides were found to be linked to a 30 percent decline in sperm counts of French men over the last two decades. Pesticides also contaminate waterways, impact non-target and beneficial organisms, and persist in the environment for years. These chemicals have also been shown to reduce ecosystem biodiversity. A report by Pierre Mineau, PhD. finds that the major contributor to the decline in farmland and grassland birds is pesticide use. This report finds that the best predictor of bird declines is the lethal risk from insecticide use modeled from pesticide impact studies. In 2012, one study reported that widely used herbicides adversely impact non-target invertebrate organisms including endangered species

Along with human and environmental impacts, the French have other pesticide-related concerns. An examination of 300 French wines found that 90 per cent contained traces of the chemicals most commonly used to treat vines. Thirty-three chemicals found in fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides showed up in wines, and every wine showed some detectable trace of chemicals. (The study can be found here in French.) The French wine industry’s notorious use of high levels of pesticides, including fungicides, continues to put workers and the environment at risk.

For more information on the hazards of pesticides and human health, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database. These hazards associated are unnecessary, and therefore unacceptable, given the viability of organic agricultural practices that are integral to a growing $35 billion market. See the organic program page. Beyond Pesticides has many resources, including the ManageSafe database to help avoid and manage unwanted insects without the use of synthetic chemicals. These techniques include exclusion, sanitation and maintenance practices, as well as mechanical and least-toxic controls.

Source: Reuters

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

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10
Feb

Neonics Harm Bees’ Brain Cells, According to Researchers

(Beyond Pesticides, February 10, 2015) Scientists at the Universities of Dundee and St. Andrews in Scotland have found evidence confirming that the levels of neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides bees are likely to encounter in the wild impair the pollinator’s brain cells, resulting in colony declines. Bees and other wild pollinators provide services of over $125 billion globally, but are experiencing widespread and consistent losses that have the potential to increase global malnutrition and disease if not properly addressed. Although countries and regions across the globe have taken action to suspend or restrict the use of neonic pesticides in light of their threat to bees, policymakers in the U.S. continue to delay, impose inadequate changes, or even introduce new bee-toxic chemicals.

#beeprotective fieldThe recent study, Chronic exposure to neonicotinoids increases neuronal vulnerability to mitochondrial dysfunction in the bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, finds a mechanistic explanation for previous findings that observed poor navigation and foraging in colonies of bumblebees exposed to neonicotinoids. To do this, researchers exposed bumblebees to doses of the neonics imidacloprid and clothanidin generally expected to be seen in the field (10 nanomoles[nM]/2.1ppb), and measured the amount that accumulated in the insect’s brain. They observed the bees accumulate between 4 and 10 nM of the chemicals within three days. Clothianidin exhibited an acute effect on the bumblebee’s brain, breaking down the mitochondria in its brain cells. Although imidacloprid did not exhibit this acute effect, after only two days of chronic exposure to an infinitesimal 1 nM amount of the chemical, the bumblebees’ brain cells became susceptible to mitochondrial damage by normal levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter.

“Our research demonstrates beyond doubt that the level of neonicotinoids generally accepted as the average level present in the wild causes brain dysfunction and colonies to perform poorly when consumed by bumblebees,” he said. “In fact, our research showed that the ability to perturb brain cells can be found at 1/5 to 1/10 of the levels that people think are present in the wild,” said Chris Connolly, Ph.D, coauthor of the study.

With this impact, although bumblebees are unlikely to die, they are likely to encounter difficulty in learning and memory. Exposed bees will have greater difficulty, for instance, in recognizing the smell of a flower, or how to find their way back to their colony.

Researchers made certain to investigate how low levels of neonicotinoids effected bumblebee colonies on the whole. When exposing the bees to 1nM of imidacloprid in sugar water, scientists found adverse effects on colony growth and the condition of the nests compared to untreated colonies. Treated colonies exhibited a 55% reduction in live bee numbers, 71% reduction in healthy brood cells, and a 57% reduction in the total bee mass of the nest.

“This is not surprising as pesticides are designed to affect brains of insects so it is doing what it is supposed to do but on a bumblebee as well as the pest species. The bumblebees don’t die due to exposure to neonicotinoids but their brains cells don’t perform well as a result and this causes adverse outcomes for individual bees and colonies,” Dr. Connoly noted.

This study is the latest in a string of research that shows significant reason for policymakers to suspend the use of these toxic chemicals to alleviate the stress on global pollinator populations. In 2014, research published by Dave Goulson, PhD, in Ecotoxicology found “near-infinitestimal” exposure to neonicotinoids reduced bumblebees pollen foraging efficiency. This study built on previous studies that showed reduced colony growth and queen production, but added another piece to the puzzle by outfitting bees with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips, allowing researchers to see how bees became worse and worse at collecting pollen and nectar. Now, with this new study, researchers have shown what is actually occurring within the bee’s brains to cause them to act this way in the field.

“This is not proof that neonicotinoids are solely responsible for the decline in insect pollinators, but a clear linear relationship is now established. We can now be confident that at these levels, neonicotinoids disrupt brain function, bee learning and the ability to forage for food and so limit colony growth,” said Dr. Connoly.

Although it is known that there are a number of stressors acting on pollinators, including viruses, pathogens, other pesticides, reduced foraging, and many others, policymakers can make an enormous difference in the health of these beneficial species by suspending the use of neonic pesticides. As Beyond Pesticides continues to assert, the global decline of insect pollinators No Longer a Big Mystery.

“It may be possible to help bees if more food (bee-friendly plants) were available to bees in the countryside and in our gardens,” said Dr. Connoly. “We suggest that the neonicotinoids are no longer used on any bee-friendly garden plants, or on land that is, or will be, used by crops visited by bees or other insect pollinators.”

While President Obama and the White House Pollinator Task Force consider their recommendations to address the pollinator crisis in the United States, concerned residents must make their voice heard. Sign the petition urging the President to enact meaningful protections for bees here. Become active in your community or campus and use the BEE Protective campaign’s resources to advocate for changes at the local level; organizations both large and small have already enacted meaningful changes.

Source: The FASEB Journal, Phys.org

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

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09
Feb

Monsanto’s Roundup Eradicates Milkweed, Major Food Source for Monarch Butterflies

(February 9, 2015, Beyond Pesticides) A report, Monarchs in Peril: Herbicide-Resistant Crops and the Decline of Monarch Butterflies in North America, released by Center for Food Safety (CFS) last week, reveals the devastating impact of Monsanto’s and the nation’s biggest selling herbicide, Roundup (glyphosate), on the survival of monarch butterflies. The herbicide is used to treat millions of acres of herbicide-tolerant genetically engineered (GE) crops, eliminating the monarchs’ sole source  of food, milkweed, and approaching a collapse of their population, which has plummeted over the past 20 years. The report cites findings that glyphosate use on Roundup Ready (glyphosate-tolerant) crops has nearly eradicated milkweed around farmland in the monarchs’ vital midwest breeding ground. At the urging of scientists and public interest groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is currently considering listing the monarch as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

monarch adn milkweed“This report is a wake-up call. This iconic species is on the verge of extinction because of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crop system,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety. “To let the monarch butterfly die out in order to allow Monsanto to sell its signature herbicide for a few more years is simply shameful.”

Monarch population numbers have fallen by 90% in less than 20 years. This year’s population was the second lowest since careful surveys began two decades ago. The critical driver of monarch decline is the loss of larval host plants in their main breeding habitat, the Midwestern Corn Belt. Monarchs lay eggs exclusively on plants in the milkweed family, the only food their larvae will eat.

Monarch butterflies have long coexisted with agriculture, but the proliferation of herbicide-tolerant GE crops is threatening that balance. Monsanto’s glyphosate-tolerant Roundup Ready corn and soybeans have radically altered farming practices, sharply increasing the extent, frequency and intensity of glyphosate use on farm land. Glyphosate –one of the very few herbicides that kills common milkweed– was little used two decades ago, but has become by far the most heavily used herbicide in America thanks to GE Roundup Ready crops. As a result, corn and soybean fields in the Corn Belt have lost 99% of their milkweed since just 1999.

“The alarming decline of monarchs is driven in large part by the massive spraying of glyphosate herbicide on genetically engineered crops, which has virtually eliminated monarch habitat in the corn and soybean fields that dominates the Midwest landscape,” said Bill Freese, Center for Food Safety science policy analyst and co-author of the report. “Glyphosate is the monarch’s enemy number one. To save this remarkable species, we must quickly boost milkweed populations and curtail the use of herbicide-resistant crop systems.”

Milkweed does grow outside of cropland, but there is too little habitat to support a viable monarch population. First, corn and soybeans dominate the Midwest landscape, leaving little area in roadsides, pastures, and other land where milkweed grows. Second, monarchs produce almost four times more eggs per plant on milkweed within agricultural fields than on milkweed growing elsewhere.

“Milkweed growing in Midwest cropland is essential to the monarch’s continued survival. Without milkweed, we’ll have no monarchs,” said . Martha Crouch, Ph.D., biologist with Center for Food Safety and co-author of the report. “Very few of us fully understand the ecological impacts of our food system, but we need to pay attention. The decline of the monarch is a stark reminder that the way we farm matters.”

As the monarch population declines other threats have greater impacts, and the butterflies are less likely to bounce back from adversity. For example, a winter storm in 2002 killed an estimated 468-500 million monarchs. A similar storm today could completely eliminate today’s much reduced monarch population.

Environmental groups, led by Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity, filed a legal petition with FWS to protect monarchs as threatened under ESA in August. In November, 40 leading scientists and over 200 environmental groups and businesses sent a letter to FWS in support of the petition. In December 2014, the Service responded to this petition request and announced that ESA listing may be warranted, an important first step towards securing stronger protections for monarch butterflies. While obtaining ESA listing is paramount, numerous interim and additional policy recommendations are listed at the end of Center for Food Safety’s report.

The decline of monarch habitats is not the only environmental effect linked to the pervasive use of highly toxic herbicides and insecticides. For example, the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant “super weeds” is strongly correlated with the upward trajectory of herbicide use, according to a study conducted by Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup formulation, is one of the most widely used conventional pesticide active ingredients in the U.S. And, similar to monarch butterflies, honey bees and other wild bees have also been experiencing a drastic decline in numbers that has been linked to the prevalent use of neonicotinoids.

Critical to the survival of monarchs, other pollinators, and organisms essential to ecological balance is the large-scale adoption of organic farming practices. Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat. To attract beneficial insects like monarchs and protect their habitats in your own backyard, there are several steps you can take. Like any other living organisms, pollinators need food, water, and shelter in order to thrive. For more information, see Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind and Hedgerows for Biodiversity: Habitat is needed to protect pollinators, other beneficial organisms, and healthy ecosystems. You can also visit the BEE Protective Habitat Guide and Do-It-Yourself Biodiversity for more ways in which you can protect our pollinator friends.

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: Center for Food Safety

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

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06
Feb

People Who Eat Organic Have Lower Pesticide Levels in Their Bodies

(Beyond Pesticides, February 06, 2015) 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, according to a new study published yesterday. The study, “Estimating Pesticide Exposure from Dietary Intake and Organic Food Choices: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA),” published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, looks at adult exposure to organophosphate pesticides (OPs). Scientists studied nearly 4,500 people from six U.S. cities and examined long-term dietary exposure to 14 OPs. This study group was restricted to those who reported rarely or never eating organic food (“conventional consumers”). Scientists looked for signs of organophosphate exposure via urinary dialkylphosphate (DAP) levels and compared these levels to those who reported organic produce consumption habits.

Fruits and vegThe scientists found that people who reported eating organic fruits and veggies at least occasionally had significantly lower DAP, or organophosphate residue, levels in their urine when compared to people who almost always ate conventionally grown produce. OPs are the most commonly used insecticides on conventional fruits and veggies, thus making OP exposure extremely prevalent. In fact, metabolites of organophosphate metabolites have been found in the urine of over 75 percent of the U.S. population.

The new “research provides another piece of evidence that consumption of organic foods may reduce pesticide exposure,” said Jonathan Chevrier, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who was not involved with the study.

The effects of pesticide exposure have been well documented, particularly for vulnerable segments of the population like children and pregnant women. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) weighed in on the organic food debate recognizing that lower pesticide residues in organic foods may be significant for children. The Academy also noted that choosing organic is based on larger environmental issues, as well as human health impacts like pollution and global climate change, a standpoint that is supported by Beyond Pesticides. AAP subsequently released a landmark policy statement, Pesticide Exposure in Children, on the effects of pesticide exposure in children. AAP’s statement notes that, “Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity.” The report discusses how kids are exposed to pesticides every day in air, food, dust, and soil. Children also frequently come into contact with pesticide residue on pets and after lawn, garden, or household pesticide applications. The authors explain how diet is likely a major pathway for pesticide exposure in children, citing a 2006 intervention study, which found that switching children to an all-organic diet had an immediate and substantial decrease in the concentration of pesticides in their bodies.

Evidence points to the rapid growth and popularity of organic. Organic growers in the U.S. sold more than $3.5 billion organically grown agricultural commodities in 2011. Studies also find that consumers are exposed to elevated levels of pesticides from conventionally grown food. Organic foods have been shown to reduce dietary pesticide exposure and 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. Studies have found additional health benefits to eating organic. A ten-year University of California study, which compared organic tomatoes with chemically grown produce, found that they have almost double the quantity of disease-fighting antioxidants called flavonoids. A comprehensive review of 97 published studies comparing the nutritional quality of organic and conventional foods shows that organic plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains) contain higher levels of eight of 11 nutrients studied, including significantly greater concentrations of the health-promoting polyphenols and antioxidants. A study by Newcastle University, published in the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture, found that organic farmers who let their cows graze as nature intended are producing better quality milk.

Beyond Pesticides advocates in its program and through its Eating with a Conscience website choosing organic because of the environmental and health benefits to consumers, workers, and rural families. The Eating with a Conscience database, based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), describes a food production system that enables toxic pesticide use both domestically and internationally, and provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page.

Join us as we continue the conversation on the benefits of organic agriculture this spring at Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

Source: Live Science

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

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05
Feb

Investigation Finds Industry Efforts to Quash Science and EU Ban of Endocrine Disruptors

(Beyond Pesticides, February 5, 2015) A brewing battle in the European Union (EU) over removing from the market Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC)s has heated up. An investigative report in The Guardian  reveals that a European Union (EU) scientific paper, prepared to assist in the development of new mandatory EDC risk assessment standards, was never made public. According to the report, EU Commission sources say the release of the paper was quashed as a result of chemical industry pressure and political influence.

P_endocrine-systemAt the core of the debate lies two EU regulations, one concerning biocidal products (EU 528/2012) and the second on “plant pest protectants” (EU 1107/2009). Both of these regulations required the EU Commission to produce draft measures concerning specific scientific criteria for the determination of endocrine disrupting properties by December 14, 2013. Under the regulations, chemicals within the biocidal and plant pest protectant categories that are categorized as having endocrine disrupting properties that may cause adverse effects in humans would be prohibited from use in the market place.

As noted in the purpose and subject matter of the biocidal regulations, “The purpose of [the] Regulation is to improve the functioning of the internal market through the harmonization of the rules on the making available on the market and the use of biocidal products, whilst ensuring a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment. The provisions of this Regulation are underpinned by the precautionary principle, the aim of which is to safeguard the health of humans, the health of animals and the environment. Particular attention shall be paid to the protection of vulnerable groups.”

The reasons for the EU’s affirmative action to increase scrutiny of EDCs were strong, as increasing scientific research and studies continue to demonstrate the currently unmonitored risks of EDCs in everyday and chemical products in the EU and across the world. Common household products –detergents, disinfectants, plastics, and pesticides– contain chemical ingredients that enter the body, disrupt hormones, and cause adverse developmental, disease, and reproductive problems. These problems. known as endocrine disrupting effects, occur at levels far below current risk assessment safety standards under international and U.S. regulations.

After significant delays and despite the EU regulations’ clear edict to establish new, protective risk assessment criteria that must consider the full range of EDC adverse effects, in June of 2014 the EU Commission released a Roadmap recommending mostly ineffective EDC evaluation criteria. falling far short of what critics say is required by the EU regulations.

Environmental and health advocacy groups were quick to criticize the majority of options provided in the Roadmap and Commissioners made little secret of the fact that pressure from industry and international  harmonization efforts were to blame for the delays and watered-down criteria. Yet, the extent of industry pressure was not widely reported.

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

Angeliki Lyssimachou, an environmental toxicologist for Pesticides Action Network Europe (PAN), said: “If the draft ‘cut-off’ criteria proposed by the commission had been applied correctly, 31 pesticides would have been banned by now, fulfilling the mandate of the pesticide regulation to protect humans and the environment from low-level chronic endocrine disrupting pesticide exposure.”

Both in the EU and the U.S., chemical industry influence on valid public efforts to establish more precautionary and protective standards for hazardous chemicals like EDCs continues to threaten environmental health progress. Join Beyond Pesticides as we continue the conversation on pesticide impacts to communities and the environment and ways to overcome industry opposition to progress this spring at Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

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

Source: The Guardian; Pesticide Action Network Europe

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04
Feb

Maui Decision Not to Defend GE Moratorium Disappoints Activists

(Beyond Pesticides, February 4, 2015)  In the face of a challenge from the chemical industry, Hawaii’s Maui County will not defend a moratorium on genetically engineered (GE) farming that was passed by county voters last fall. Seeking to have the moratorium thrown out, industry giants Monsanto, Dow-owned Agrigenetics and others sued Maui days after the measure was passed.  It was expected that the county would defend the law in the courts, but to the disappointment of many, attorneys for Maui County filed a single sentence brief with the court, stating that it “is taking no position.”

Maui_Landsat_PhotoIn November 2014, Maui residents passed a ballot initiative prohibiting the growth, testing or cultivation of GE crops in Maui County until an environmental and public health study can show that the planting operations are safe for the community. Now residents and local groups supporting the new law are expressing outrage and disappointment over the decision by Maui County to disregard its duty to defend a law passed by its citizens, despite earlier assurances that county will implement the moratorium.

Maui County spokesman Rod Antone said that the outrage from activists groups is misplaced. In December, the court allowed the local group, SHAKA Movement, to intervene to defend the moratorium. Mr. Antone expressed that SHAKA Movement indicated that they wanted to defend the law, and that allowing the SHAKA Movement to take the lead would save taxpayers money.  Mr. Antone also noted that despite its stance in court, the county is prepared to present a plan to the County Council on how to enforce the bill if the federal court rules that it is legal.

“The people of Maui passed this law through the proper ballot initiative power; the county attorneys, as public servants, have a duty to defend it,” said George Kimbrell, attorney with Center for Food Safety, in a press release. “This is highly unusual and reveals the power the pesticide industry has on the island.”

Industry’s challenge to the law came just nine days after it was passed. Industry groups filed a motion for summary judgment, which argues that the ballot initiative itself was unconstitutional because it preempted state and federal law and violated county and state law. However, several Maui County residents,  along with the SHAKA Movement, filed a preemptive lawsuit against the county, Monsanto and Dow just one day before industry’s suit. That lawsuit sought to assure transparency and influence over the implementation of the initiative, in light of the enormous amount of money that the companies have poured into the county in an attempt to beat the initiative.

Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, BASF Plant Science LP, and Dow AgroSciences also filed a lawsuit against the neighboring county of Kauai to prevent a similar measure, Ordinance 960, from being implemented. While Kauai’s law did not impose a full ban of GE farming, it did require mandatory notification concerning pesticide applications and buffer zones for crops and pesticide spraying in certain areas. Even with these more moderate restrictions, the Kauai law was stuck down by a federal court in August. While attorneys defending the law filed an appeal in the 9th Circuit in September, some Kauai County Councilmen have introduced a bill to repeal the challenged law, which would invalidate the appeal.

The initiative in Maui is part of a growing movement on the Islands that seeks to protect health and the environment while strengthening local food economies and resiliency. Recently, state legislators announced they will soon be introducing a proposal to establish pesticide-free zones around schools and hospitals throughout the state. Not yet filed or finalized, the proposed bill would create buffer zones around these sensitive areas, prohibiting farmers from using large amounts of pesticides within these specified areas. The proposed bill has garnered wide support across Hawaii, with many groups and individuals, including Kauai Council Member Gary Hooser, coming together during a rally to ask for passage of these much needed pesticide protections. “It’s not just the environmental fringe, it’s not just the activists, these are regular people on the street who are concerned about this issue and it’s the legislature’s responsibility to act on that,” Mr. Hooser told reporters at the rally.

Residents living on the Hawaiian Islands are subject to a particularly pronounced form of environmental assault, as the state’s premiere growing conditions have made it a prime target for agrichemical companies to test new, experimental forms of GE crops. Data released last year reveals that high levels of restricted use pesticides, in some cases almost double the pounds per acre average of other states, are being used in Kauai County. According to the Center for Food Safety, in 2014 alone there were 1,381 field test sites in Hawaii, compared to only 178 sites in California- a large agricultural state. Most of these crops are engineered to resist herbicides and pesticides. Testing these crops means repeated spraying of dangerous chemicals near neighborhoods, schools, and waterways.  Residents of the Hawaiian Islands that live, work, or go to school near these fields are subject to incessant pesticide spraying, as the climate provides a year-round growing season for GE crops. A May 2014 report found 25 herbicides, 11 insecticides and 6 fungicides in Hawaii’s waterways, underscoring resident concerns for both the land and human health.

Beyond Pesticides continues to be an ardent supporter of commonsense protections from pesticides and their associated use on GE crops. Given the impending approval of GE crops designed to withstand applications of the highly toxic herbicide 2,4-D, these protections are more important than ever.

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

Join us as we continue the conversation on pesticide impacts to farmworkers and farming communities this spring at Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

Source: Honolulu Civil Beat , Center for Food Safety Press Release

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03
Feb

Florida Officials, FDA, Consider Release of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes

(Beyond Pesticides, February 3, 2015) Officials in the Florida Keys are seeking approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to release a wave of mosquitoes that have been genetically engineered to produce offspring whose larvae are unable to survive. The plan to introduce these mosquitoes has been met with intense skepticism by local residents. A change.org petition against the release has garnered over 146,000 signatures to date.

Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) officials have been planning the release alongside British biotechnology company Oxitec, which has already conducted similar experiments with the genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes in Brazil and the Cayman Islands. Websites for Oxitec and the FKMCD assert that the GE aedes aegypti mosquitoes will significantly Aedes_aegypti_feedinglower the numbers of the disease spreading insects, and reduce the need to spray insecticides. Opponents counter that the introduction of the modified mosquitoes is unacceptably risky, as there has been little research on possible non-target effects of the novel insect, and current control methods and public education have been successful at controlling exotic diseases. Opportunity for public comment to FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is likely to occur in the near future.

Behind the Technology

Citing internal Oxitec company documents, British-based environmental organization Genewatch has raised alarms over the technology  used to create the GE insects. Experiments with the Oxitec’s GE mosquitoes call for large numbers of modified males to be released in the wild to mate with female mosquitoes and produce offspring that are unable to develop. To create these autocidal male mosquitoes, the company uses the antibiotic tetracycline to act as a chemical switch, allowing the GE larvae to develop and survive in the lab, rather than die immediately as planned in the wild. Larvae are supposed to die in the wild due to an absence of tetracycline.

However, Oxitec’s documents discuss an experiment where 15% of insects in the lab survived because mosquitoes were fed off of chicken-based cat food that contained low levels of tetracycline even after it was heat-treated in attempts to remove traces of the antibiotic. Tetracycline is used in a variety of different settings, from agriculture to the control of human diseases, and ultimately makes its way into the environment. Studies show that most wastewater treatment plants are unable to effectively remove tetracycline antibiotics, and the compound is frequently detected in surface water, ground water, drinking water, wastewater, soils and sediment. Thus low levels of tetracycline in the environment may result in only a temporary reduction in the numbers of disease carrying mosquitoes. And there are further questions regarding the impacts of how tetracycline-exposed survivor GE mosquitoes may impact human health or wildlife.

Helen Wallace, Ph.D., director of Genewatch, notes in an interview with The Financial Times, “Staff would be better employed using the well-established public health approach of removing mosquito breeding sites [water containers] rather than in placing GM mosquito larvae at intervals across a site. Plans to scale up releases of GM mosquitoes in dengue-endemic Brazil should be halted. Authorities in other places where releases are planned, such as Florida and Panama, should also stop and think again.” However, Professor Anthony James from UC Irvine compares the use of GE mosquitoes to the widespread use of pesticides, stating in a 2012 Los Angeles Times article, “Most of the concerns are about some unintended off-target effects [involving species beyond the Aedes], but we know exactly what the off-target effects of insecticide are.” Rather than posit mosquito control as a choice between spraying and genetic modification, localities throughout the country have revealed that proper management can be achieved so that there is rarely, if ever, a need to employ such tools.

Alternatives and Public Education

Control of disease-carrying mosquitoes can be successful when emphasis is placed on public education and preventative strategies. Individuals can take action by eliminating standing water, introducing mosquito-eating fish, encouraging predators such as bats, birds, dragonflies and frogs, and using least-toxic larvacides like bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). Community based programs should encourage residents to employ these effective techniques, focus on eliminating breeding sites on public lands, and promote monitoring and action levels in order to determine what, where, and when control measures might be needed. New Jersey’s Cape May County provides an excellent example of a low-risk alternative to employing insecticides or introducing GE species. Cape May has used mosquitoes’ natural predators, tiny copepods, to eat the larvae of the mosquito. Through education of proper cultural controls, and least-toxic and cost effective biological alternatives, the use of risky technologies such as toxic pesticides and GE mosquitoes can be avoided.

For additional information and resources on least-toxic mosquito control alternatives, see Beyond Pesticides’ Mosquito Management program page.

Localities in Florida, where the humid, subtropical environment provides year-round breeding conditions for mosquitoes, have a particularly tough time with mosquito control. Beyond Pesticides encourages residents of Florida and states across the country to attend the 33rd National Pesticide Forum, taking place this year in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th, 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

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

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

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02
Feb

Commonly Used Pyrethroid Pesticide Increases Risk of ADHD

(Beyond Pesticides, February 2, 2015) A study led by a Rutgers University research team finds that the commonly used pesticide deltamethrin increases the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, adding to a mounting body of scientific research linking pesticide exposure to the disorder. Rutgers scientists, along with colleagues from Emory University, the University of Rochester Medical Center, and Wake Forest University discovered that mice exposed to the pyrethroid insecticide deltamethrin in utero and through lactation exhibit several features of ADHD, including dysfunctional dopamine signaling in the brain, hyperactivity, working memory, attention deficits and impulsive-like behavior. The study, Developmental pesticide exposure reproduces features of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was published Wednesday in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

ADHD is estimated to affect 8–12% of school-age children worldwide. ADHD is a complex disorder, and though is strong scientific evidence that genetics play a role in susceptibility to the disorder, no specific gene has been found that causes ADHD and scientists believe that environmental factors, such as pesticide exposure, may contribute to the development of the behavioral condition.

“Although we can’t change genetic susceptibility to ADHD, there may be modifiable environmental factors, including exposures to pesticides that we should be examining in more detail,” says lead author Jason Richardson, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department and Environmental and Occupational Medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and a member of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI).

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the study analyzed health care questionnaires and urine samples of 2,123 children and adolescents. Researchers asked parents whether a physician had ever diagnosed their child with ADHD and cross-referenced each child’s prescription drug history to determine if any of the most common ADHD medications had been prescribed. Children with higher pyrethroid pesticide metabolite levels in their urine were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Deltamethrin is commonly used in the home, and on vegetable crops, gardens, lawns and golf courses. As part of the chemical class of synthetic pyrethroids, it is often touted as a safer alternative to other pesticides, or deemed “as safe as chrysanthemum flowers” by pest control companies. However, there are many recent studies that show significant concern with this class of chemicals. In addition to this new study, pyrethroids have previously been linked to learning problems, and adverse behavioral and emotional development in children.

The prolific use of these chemicals means that exposure to these chemicals is widespread. Recent research has found that residents of New York City are more highly exposed to organophosphates and pyrethroid pesticides than the average American, and another 2008 survey found pyrethroid contamination in 100 percent of urban streams sampled in California. Despite new data on concerning health affects to children, in 2012 EPA expanded the allowed uses of these pesticides and removed an additional protective safety factor for children.

ADHD most often affects children, with an estimated 11 percent of children between the ages of 4-17 –about 6.4 million, diagnosed as of 2011. Boys are three to four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. Notably, researchers in this study observed that male mice were affected more than the female mice. The ADHD-like behaviors persisted in the mice through adulthood, even when the pesticide was no longer detected in their system.

Young children and pregnant women may be more susceptible to pesticide exposure because their bodies do not metabolize the chemicals as quickly. According to Dr. Richardson, this is why human studies need to be conducted to determine how exposure affects the developing fetus and young children.

With the mounting evidence of the impacts of pesticides to human health, the success of management approaches that do not rely on hazardous pesticides, demonstrates that exposure to these pesticides are unnecessary. Beyond Pesticides has many resources, including the ManageSafe database to help avoid and manage unwanted insects without the use of synthetic chemicals. These techniques include exclusion, sanitation and maintenance practices, as well as mechanical and least-toxic controls (which include boric acid and diatomaceous earth).

For more information on the hazards of pesticides and human health, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, where we track the science on how pesticides are contributing to the rise of learning and developmental disorders in children, and see our factsheet, Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix.

Sources: Science Daily, The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal

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

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30
Jan

Persistent Organic Pollutants, Pesticides Linked to Early Menopause

(Beyond Pesticides, January 30, 2015) Extensive exposure to common chemicals may be linked to an earlier start of menopause, according to a new study out of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Researchers of the study found that women whose bodies have high levels of these chemicals, including three pesticides, experience menopause two to four years earlier than women with lower levels of the chemicals. The pesticides found to have a significant correlation with an early start in menopause were p,p’-DDE (a metabolite of DDT), β-hexachlorocyclohexane (a byproduct of the production of lindane), and mirex. All three pesticides are organochlorine insecticides or their breakdown products that have been banned for use in the U.S., but continue to persist in the environment and in the food chain.

WUSTL-sealThe study, Persistent Organic Pollutants and Early Menopause in U.S. Women, published this week in the journal PLoS ONE, investigates the link between levels in blood and urine of 111 endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), or chemicals that interfere with the body’s hormonal activity, and focused on known reproductive toxicants or persistent environmental contaminants. The findings suggest a significant association between 15 chemicals –nine polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, which are industrial products), three pesticides, two forms of phthalates (plastic chemicals), and furan (a toxic byproduct of incineration and certain industrial processes)– and an early start to menopause and potentially harmful effects on ovarian function.

While there have been several studies examining the link between EDCs and menopause, the new research is the first to explore this association on a large scale, using a nationally representative sample of patients across the U.S.

“Earlier menopause can alter the quality of a woman’s life and has profound implications for fertility, health and our society,” senior study author Amber Cooper, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in a university news release.

“Understanding how the environment affects health is complex,” she added. “This study doesn’t prove causation, but the associations raise a red flag and support the need for future research.”

Cooper said the study’s findings could have implications for women’s health.

“Chemicals linked to earlier menopause may lead to an early decline in ovarian function, and our results suggest we as a society should be concerned,” she said.

Two other experts say the findings of the new study reinforce what endocrinologists had long suspected. “This important study strengthens the thinking that endocrine-disrupting chemicals affect ovarian function,” said Spyros Mezitis, MD, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“Prior research has shown an association with metabolic defects and this research becomes an issue to discuss with patients requesting fertility treatment,” he said.

Jill Rabin, MD, co-chief of the division of ambulatory care in Women’s Health Programs at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, NY, called the study “important,” because “earlier menopause can impact on a woman’s quality of life (hot flashes, mood and memory changes) and quantity of life (osteoporosis, fractures, heart disease).”

Both experts called for further research to clarify just how and how much exposure to the chemicals listed in the study might impact people’s health.

The new study is just one of many that point to a link between pesticide exposure and health effects in both men and women. Other health effects include a decline in sperm count, increased risk of endometriosis, obesity and diabetes, and more.

While the endocrine-disrupting effects of many pesticides have been documented, U.S. regulators have been extremely slow to move forward with the statutorily-mandated review of pesticides for the previously unevaluated risk of potential endocrine disruption. Yet, findings like the current study and many others highlight the importance of generating strong pesticide regulations that take into consideration endocrine-disrupting effects when evaluating safety standards for worker protection and human health impact.

Beyond Pesticides urges supporting organic agriculture as method of avoiding exposure to these dangerous pesticides.

Source: HealthDay

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

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29
Jan

Hawaiian Legislators Proposing Bill to Establish School and Hospital Buffer Zones

(Beyond Pesticides, January 29, 2015) State legislators in Hawaii will soon be introducing a proposal to establish pesticide-free zones around schools and hospitals throughout the state. Not yet filed or finalized, the proposed bill would prohibit farmers from using large amounts of pesticides within a specified distance of schools and hospitals, known as buffer zones. While the exact distance of the buffer zones in Hawaii are yet be determined and will be open to discussion and input from experts and the public, lawmakers are focusing on a distance of 500 to 1,000 feet.

kauaicornfields“We want to provide meaningful protections that are going to keep pesticides from drifting into our schools and hospitals and affecting our kids,” said State Rep. Chris Lee, chair of the State House environmental protection committee and intended sponsor of the bill. “I think protecting our kids from chemicals is a common sense thing that everybody can get behind.”

Beyond this common sense reason and general concern for the health of children and those already facing compromised health, Hawaiians have also experienced numerous pesticide drift and exposure incidents at schools in the past years. These incidents spurred a similar bill to that proposed by Rep. Lee, which ultimately failed.

The proposed bill has garnered wide support across Hawaii, with many groups and individuals, including Kauai Council Member Gary Hooser, coming together during a rally last week to ask for passage of these much needed pesticide protections. “It’s not just the environmental fringe, it’s not just the activists, these are regular people on the street who are concerned about this issue and it’s the legislature’s responsibility to act on that,” Hooser told reporters at the rally.

Many of the supporters come from localities, such as Kauai and Maui, where local ordinances were passed in an attempt to establish similar pesticide-free buffer zones, as well as genetically-engineered (GE) crop cultivation restrictions. After legal challenges from the likes of Syngenta, BASF, and DuPont, however, many of these local efforts have been invalidated or remain in legal limbo.

Opponents of the measure argue that the proposed bill would harm small farmers and that measures are already in place that protect surrounding areas like schools. But supporters of the bill, including Rep. Lee, strongly disagree on both points.

Additional background on the fight for increased protections on the Hawaiian Islands, including testimony Beyond Pesticides provided in support of Kauai’s Bill 2491, can be found here. For more information on the hazards that continue to be associated with the pesticide drift and the role of organic agriculture as a solution, see Beyond Pesticides Getting the Drift on Chemical Trespass and Organic Food webpage.

Join us as we continue the conversation on pesticide impacts to farmworkers and farming communities this spring at Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

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

Source: Hawaii News Now

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28
Jan

Will Pollinator Declines Increase Global Malnutrition and Disease? Yes, Says New Study

(Beyond Pesticides, January 28, 2015) Global decline of pollinators and pollination services will have a devastating impact on the nutritional health of people in developing countries, especially women and children, if left unabated, according to a new study from scientists at the University of Vermont and Harvard University. This research is the first to examine how pollinators influence nutrient intake and the risk of nutrient deficiency. It also comes at a time when policy makers are slow to find long-term sustainable solutions to reversing pollinator declines, despite mounting scientific evidence urging immediate action.

Bev Veals Kure Beach NC Beeliever Though they spray for mosquitoes bees find a way to visit.Pollination services are valued at over $125 billion globally and pollinators are responsible for one in three bites of food we eat. However, pollinators like honey bees, wild bees, butterflies and others are in decline around the globe, with many beekeepers, scientists, and environmental activists singling out pesticides as a major contributing factor. But despite suggestions that pollinators are critical not only for global food supply, but specifically human nutritional health, there has not been any research to support this claim until now. The study, “Do Pollinators Contribute to Nutritional Health,” published in PLoS ONE, combined data on crop pollination requirements, food nutrient densities, and actual human diets to predict the effects of pollinator losses on the risk of nutrient deficiency.

The study focuses its analyses on children and women in developing countries (Zambia, Mozambique, Uganda and Bangladesh), where high rates of malnutrition and limited access to nutrient supplements may make individuals more susceptible to the effects of pollinator declines. Nutritional deficiencies in young children are most important in determining long-term health, cognitive abilities, and survival. The authors analyzed five of the most important nutrients to global nutrition: vitamin A, zinc, iron, folate, and calcium. They found that in some populations, like parts of Mozambique where many children and mothers are barely able to meet their needs for micronutrients, especially vitamin A, the disappearance of pollinators could push as many as 56 percent of people over the edge into malnutrition.

“This is the first study that quantifies the potential human health impacts of animal pollinator declines,” says Samuel Myers, MD, MPH, at the Harvard School of Public Health. Earlier studies have shown links between pollinators and crop yields —and between crop yields and the availability of food and nutrients. “But to evaluate whether pollinator declines will really affect human nutrition, you need to know what people are eating,” Dr. Myers explains.

According to the study, the role of pollinators in determining total nutrient intake varied widely among nutrients and countries. The researchers find that 69 percent or more of the vitamin A in children’s diets came from fruits and vegetables, many of which depend strongly on pollinators. Fruits and vegetables also contributed most of the folate to children’s diets, but these plants depended on pollinators to a much lesser degree. Further, the study estimates the potential effects of pollinator declines on risk of nutrient deficiency in the populations surveyed. It found that if pollinators are removed, 2 to 56%, 0 to 2%, 0 to 23%, 1 to 5%, and 0.1 to 3% of children in the populations surveyed become newly at risk of vitamin A, calcium, folate, iron, and zinc deficiencies, respectively. For vitamin A in Uganda and Mozambique, this increase was substantial (15% and 56%, respectively) and statistically significant. For folate in Mozambique, the change was also substantial (28%) and marginally significant. Folate is a critical nutrient for pre-natal nutrition and is therefore also a concern for pregnant women. However, the authors did not find significant differences in this group. The study finds that overall the risk of vitamin A deficiency is more sensitive to pollinator removal than that of other nutrients, and that over half of the populations in these vulnerable regions would become at risk of nutritional deficiency if pollinators and their services declined.

According to the authors, micronutrient deficiencies are estimated to affect more than 1 in 4 people around the globe. The “hidden hunger” associated with vitamin and mineral deficiencies affects individuals of every age and gender and can cause increased risk of maternal mortality, increased incidence of a variety of chronic and infectious diseases, reduced IQ, decreased work productivity, and increases in nutrient-specific diseases like goiter, night-blindness, and iron-deficiency anemia.

Emerging from this research is the importance of pollination services to the availability of vitamin A. The study notes that each year vitamin A deficiency causes an estimated 800,000 deaths in women and children, including 20–24% of child mortality from measles, diarrhea and malaria and 20% of all-cause maternal mortality. It is estimated to roughly double the risk of mortality from common conditions like measles, diarrhea, and malaria while increasing the risk of maternal mortality 4.5 times.

While there are several limitations and uncertainties to this study, the authors believe that it provides an important first step in understanding the importance of pollinators for nutritional health. “The take-home is: pollinator declines can really matter to human health, with quite scary numbers for vitamin A deficiencies, for example,” says  Taylor Ricketts, PhD, at the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics who co-led the study, “which can lead to blindness and increase death rates for some diseases, including malaria.” Further, “[E]cosystem damage can damage human health, so conservation can be thought of as an investment in public health.”

Pollinators continue to face dire threats to their survival. Bees, butterflies, and others have seen drastic population declines over the last several years due to habitat loss and widespread pesticide use. Pesticides also pose a greater threat to ecosystems and biodiversity, according to a meta-analysis by a group of global, independent scientists. One class of pesticides in particular, the neonicotinoids, has been identified as a major factor in bee losses across the U.S. Neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees and have been shown to, even at low levels, impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to point of making them susceptible to pathogens and parasites. Read: No Longer a Big Mystery. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), tasked with regulating pesticides and protecting the environment from harm, has thus far failed to sufficiently act to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. In fact, just last week EPA approved yet another bee-toxic pesticide, flupyradifurone, following other recent and questionable bee-toxic pesticide approvals like sulfoxaflor, which was approved for registration despite warnings from concerned groups and beekeepers.

It is time to do our part to reverse pollinator decline and support policies and initiates that support sustainable methods of growing food and controlling pests. For more information on what you can do, visit our Bee Protective page.

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

Source: University of Vermont, PLoS One 

Photo Source: Bev V, North Carolina

 

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27
Jan

CDC Reports Deficiencies in Farmworker Protection from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 2015) In evaluating a farmworker poisoning incident in Washington State last year, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report identifies “at least three potential occupational hazards in agriculture: off-target pesticide drift, toxicity of some recently marketed pesticides, and a gap in worker notification requirements.” The report recounts the poisoning in April 2014 of 20 farmworkers at a Washington State cherry farm who were trellising cherry tree branches when a new pesticide mixture being applied to a neighboring pear orchard drifted on to their work site, causing acute illness within minutes. Sixteen farmworkers sought medical treatment for symptoms ranging from headache and eye irritation to gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory problems. Half of the affected workers had symptoms which persisted over two weeks. The workers were not notified of the planned pesticide application at the neighboring orchard.

cherryThe CDC report on the incident, authored by Geoffrey M. Calvert, MD (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), Luis Rodriguez, and Joanne Bonnar Prado, MPH (Washington State Department of Health), cites 31% of acute pesticide related illnesses for farmworkers between 2005 and 2012 occurring as a result of off-target drift from a neighboring farm. In the April incident, farmworkers were anywhere between 30 and over 350 feet away from the site of the pear orchard’s pesticide application. Wind speed, measured hours before the incident when the application first began at 7AM, was recorded as low at 0-4 mph. The incident occurred at 1:30 p.m., at which time the winds were blowing up to 18mph.

As the CDC report notes, although regulations prohibit applying pesticides in a manner that results in contact with workers or other persons, these regulations do not explicitly indicate that applications must stop when an applicator observes workers or bystanders in neighboring, non-target areas. Federal response to the problems associated with pesticide drift has been minimal, with a focus on voluntary programs. Beyond Pesticides provided comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year regarding draft guidance to better address pesticide drift in the risk assessment for pesticides. To properly assess harm from drift, peer-reviewed and scientifically sound human health and ecological toxicity data must be available and fully evaluated, including low-dose and sublethal toxicity. However, data gaps continue to plague the agency’s review process, resulting in underestimated risks and subsequent harms, as demonstrated by this incident. EPA must realize that these flaws in its risk assessment process habitually continue to allow products that pose unreasonable adverse effects on workers and the environment. (For additional information on pesticide drift see Beyond Pesticides article Getting the Drift on Chemical Trespass).

The pesticide mixture applied in the April incident, which included the chemicals pyridaben, novaluron, and triflumizole, had no previous reports of human illness associated with its application according to CDC. Pyridaben is an insecticide which has product warning labels that indicate it is fatal if inhaled, and also requires extensive personal protective equipment, which the applicators were wearing but affected farmworkers were not (the applicators did not suffer any noticeable ill effects from the spray). Novaluron is an insect growth regulator which the CDC report indicates can cause substantial but temporary eye injury. However, EPA’s fact sheet on the chemical claims it is not an eye or dermal irritant. In the case of triflumizole, an imidazole fungicide first registered in 2007, no peer-reviewed in-vivo studies on biological organisms are available.

The pesticide mixture that caused illness in Washington state farmworkers was not tested for its cumulative effect on human health or the environment, and EPA has no current plans to address this issue. Despite scientific evidence showing that pesticide mixtures may amplify or decrease the toxic effect of individual active ingredients when combined, only a very limited number of possible interactions are tested. As Beyond Pesticides wrote over 10 years ago in the article Synergy: The Big Unknowns of Pesticide Exposure, while testing all possible combinations of registered pesticides is unlikely, the agency should prioritize common chemical mixtures as well as those that are prone to off-site drift.

In addition to the problems concerning drift and pesticide mixtures in the CDC report, workers did not receive prior notification of a pesticide application at the neighboring pear orchard. Although there was evidence that managers at both farms had previously given each other notice when a spray event was planned, recent staff turnover apparently caused a breakdown in this communication. CDC references a previous report it produced in California, which found a number of acute farmworker illnesses related to a simple lack of prior notification of a pesticide application.

EPA proposed updated Farmworker Protection Standards (WPS) early last year after over two decades of delay. While EPA’s guidance adds a new provision stating that an applicator must “immediately cease or suspend application if any worker or other person, other than an appropriately trained and equipped handler, is in the treated or entry restricted area,” as the CDC report notes, this requirement would only apply to the “treated” or “entry restricted area,” not to off-site areas where bystanders or workers on other farms may be. No provisions in the agency’s new WPS guidelines would require prior notification between farms that could prevent this incident from occurring again (Read Beyond Pesticides’ full comments on Worker Protection Standards, and see Farmworker Justice’s report Exposed and Ignored for more information about how pesticide endanger the nation’s farmworkers).

The conventional approach to pest management makes pesticide drift an inherent risk to farmworkers and the wider environment. Supporting organic agriculture is one of the best ways you can eliminate hazardous pesticide drift and support the health of the workers that grow our food. Vote with your wallet, remembering that food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, protection of farmworkers and farm families. For more information on farmworker hazards associated with pesticides used in chemical-intensive, conventional agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience.

Join us as we continue the conversation on farmworker protection this spring at Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. “Agricultural Justice, Age of Organics, and Alligators” 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. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

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

Source: Centers for Disease Control, Oregonlive
Photo Source: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

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26
Jan

New Pesticide To Be Marketed Amid Misleading Claims That It Is ‘Safer for Bees’

(Beyond Pesticides, January 26, 2015) Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it completed the registration of a new pesticide, flupyradifurone, that would be marketed as an alternative to neonicotinoid pesticides, and “safer for bees.” A closer look at this chemical reveals that the agency is grossly misleading the public on the ecological safety of flupyradifurone since the chemical is systemic, persistent, and highly acutely toxic to adult honey bees. At a time when bees are declining, advocates say it is inappropriate for EPA to introduce yet another bee toxic chemical to the market.

Douglas Kirk1Flupyradifurone (“Sivanto”) is a new systemic, butenolide insecticide from Bayer CropScience that is to be used on crops such as citrus, cotton, potatoes and many others, and also as seed treatment. Note: EPA is still considering soybean seed treatment. The chemical is a neurotoxic insecticide that can inhibit nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) in the nervous system. Neonicotinoids, widely linked to devastating health impacts on bees, affect the nervous system in the same way. However, EPA states that flupyradifurone differs from neonicotinoids because of the way it binds to the receptors and is metabolized. However, most troubling is that, based on EPA’s registration documents, the chemical is highly toxic to adult bees for short-term oral exposures.

According to EPA, flupyradifurone went through a rigorous assessment review, given the elevated concerns surrounding bee decline and its link to pesticides. However, EPA’s review raises more questions than answers on why this latest chemical with potential risks to bees is being registered. EPA’s registration document states, “While the acute oral toxicity study indicates that flupyradifurone is highly toxic to individual adult honey bees, longer-term laboratory-based studies of both larval and adult bees show no adverse effects up to the highest dietary concentration tested.” For bees that come into surface contact with the chemical, EPA states in one document that the chemical is “practically nontoxic to adult bees on an acute contact exposure basis.” But in another document it reports, “In the acute contact toxicity test, some bees showed movement coordination problems or lethargy at the two highest concentrations…” after a few hours of exposure. Despite this, EPA concludes that its review of submitted field studies “did not result in any adverse effect on overall colony performance or overwintering capacity..” EPA documents can be found here.

As a systemic pesticide, it is expected that flupyradifurone will be taken up by the plant and persist in all plant tissues, including pollen and nectar. EPA finds that while residues in pollen were higher than those in nectar, “residues declined in pollen and nectar within a two-week window following treatment.” This means that bees can expect to endure at least two weeks of exposure to high levels of flupyradifurone residues on pollen and nectar. For adult bees that forage on this pollen and nectar, death is imminent as the agency has already found that flupyradifurone is highly acutely toxic from ingestion (oral exposures). To further compound this, EPA notes that the field studies reveal high mortality in adult bees within 24 hours of treatment. Note: It is also important to point out that EPA seemingly believes that it will be acceptable for bees to touch or tread on flupyradifurone residues, as long as they do not ingest it from pollen. This is certainly counterintuitive to natural bee behavior and anyone observing bees.

So why is EPA maintaining that this product is safer for bees?
EPA believes flupyradifurone is less toxic than current insecticides on the market, including neonicotinoids. In fact, comparing toxicity values of flupyradifurone and imidacloprid, flupyradifurone is less toxic by the oral route (LD50 3.4ug/bee) than imidacloprid (LD50 0.004ug/bee). While flupyradifurone is less toxic than imidacloprid and some other neonicotinoids, bees are still at risk from flupyradifurone. EPA believes that in spite of the acute oral toxicity, flupyradifurone has no measurable impact on bee colonies and that there is “compelling evidence that the compound is not having a pronounced effect on bees…” EPA states that in making its decision it considered 38 studies, all of which are most likely industry studies, to reach its conclusion. The agency also finds in its registration document that flupyradifurone is “less toxic” to mammals, birds and aquatic organisms (even though it is very toxic to freshwater invertebrates and crustaceans), compared with pyrethroids, neonicotinoids, chlorpyrifos and others. Flupyradifurone is very persistent with half-lives in soil ranging from 38-400 days.

Of concern is the agency’s failure to take into account the cumulative impact of flupyradifurone and neonicotinoids like imidacloprid and clothianidin on bees and other non-target insects in the environment. Neonicotinoids, as well as a host of other insecticides are currently used as seed treatment and in other areas of agriculture and home and garden sites. Adding flupyradifurone to the chemical mix found in the environment will mean that bees and other non-target organisms will be exposed to mixtures of chemicals that have yet to be evaluated for their combined or synergistic effects, and possibly compounding the already dire plight of pollinators.

It was less than one year ago that EPA introduced to the market sulfoxaflor, another bee-toxic insecticide registered by EPA despite warnings from concerned groups and beekeepers. Beekeepers have since sued EPA over the registration of sulfoxaflor. Given the global phenomenon of bee decline and the precautions taken in the European Union regarding bee health with its two-year suspension of neonicotinoid pesticides, advocates are calling it irresponsible for EPA to allow into the environment yet another chemical with a high hazard potential for bee health. To many, EPA’s decision appears counter to current agency and interagency work to protect pollinators.

A recent government sponsored national survey indicates that U.S. beekeepers experienced a 45.2% annual mortality rate with their hives between April 2012 and March 2013. During the winter of 2013/14, two-thirds of beekeepers experienced loss rates greater than the established acceptable winter mortality rate. EPA, which is part of the White House Task Force on Pollinator Health, tasked with stemming the tide on bee declines, has a responsibility to bees, the environment and beekeepers in protecting bees and other pollinators from dangerous pesticides.

Source: EPA News Release

 

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