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New Report Highlights Crops with High Pesticide Residues and Benefits of Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, March 20, 2015) A new pesticide residue report just out requires context for those wishing to use their purchasing power to protect health, the environment, and those who grow and harvest our food. For consumers who care about the environment, farmworkers, and want to reduce pesticides in their diet, organic agriculture continues to be the best choice because purchasing can support a whole system of agriculture that is more protective of workers, the environment and biodiversity, and consumers of food. Because of this, Beyond Pesticides supports highlighting consumer exposure to pesticide residues in food, but not to exclusion of toxic pesticide use patterns that result in worker exposure and environmental contamination associated with chemical-intensive agriculture. Some crops have highly toxic inputs in agricultural production, but low residues on the finished food commodity. To help explain the urgent need for a major shift to organic food consumption, Beyond Pesticides’ database Eating with a Conscience evaluates the impacts on the environment and farmworkers of the toxic chemicals allowed for use on major food crops, grown domestically and internationally. The new report released today by the nonprofit organization Consumer Reports identifies a list of fruits and vegetables that exposes consumers to the highest hazardous pesticide residues. So, when a new residue report like this comes out, we urge a critical analysis of its findings.

downloadThe new residue report, entitled  “From Crop to Table,” analyzes pesticide residue data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and toxicity data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report places fruits and vegetables into five risks categories, from very low to very high. Some crops, such as grapes and pears, have improved over the years, moving from the high-risk or very high-risk category to the low-risk category. Other crops, such as green beans, have been in the higher-risk category for the past 20 years. Consumer Reports also draws attention to the lack of monitoring of widespread herbicides like glyphosate.

There is more to consider than just the amount of pesticides in your food. “Tolerance levels are calculated for individual pesticides, but finding more than one type on fruits and vegetables is the rule—not the exception,” says Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., a toxicologist and executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center. Almost a third of the USDA-tested produce had two or more pesticides. “The effects of these mixtures is untested and unknown,” Dr. Rangan says.

“We’re exposed to a cocktail of chemicals from our food on a daily basis,” says Michael Crupain, M.D., M.P.H., director of Consumer Reports’ Food Safety and Sustainability Center. “It’s not realistic to expect we wouldn’t have any pesticides in our bodies in this day and age, but that would be the ideal,” says Dr. Crupain. “We just don’t know enough about the health effects.”

Chemical mixtures are not the only concern. EPA’s flawed risk assessment process also fails to look at synergistic effects, certain health endpoints (such as endocrine disruption), disproportionate effects to vulnerable population groups, and regular noncompliance with product label directions. These deficiencies contribute to its severe limitations in defining real world poisoning, as captured by epidemiologic studies in Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

The report recommends that consumers buy the organic versions of certain fruits and vegetables in place of their conventional counterparts that got placed in the high- or very high-risk categories. These include peaches, tangerines, nectarines, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, and more.

The report also compares various environmental sustainability labels, such as USDA Organic, Rainforest Alliance, and the Whole Foods Responsibly Grown. Once again, USDA Organic comes out on top when it comes to prohibiting toxic pesticides.

Our food choices have a direct effect on the health of our environment and those who grow and harvest what we eat.  That’s why food labeled organic is the right choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, protection of farmworkers and farm families, and stewardship of the earth. While lists put out by Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15/Dirty Dozen are helpful in alerting consumers to hazardous residues on food, food residues are only part of the story. It turns out that those very same “clean” food commodities may be grown with hazardous pesticides that get into waterways and groundwater, contaminate nearby communities, poison farmworkers, and kill wildlife, while not all showing up at detectable levels on our food.

Action Alert! Help protect the integrity of organic and defend human health and the environment in the process. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is seeking YOUR input to determine what should be allowed on organic food. It’s up to you to maintain the integrity of the organic food label. Stay tuned for our draft comments over the next few weeks. In the meantime, check out Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong page to learn more about the issues. We ask that you submit comments on as many issues and materials as you can by the April 7, 2015 deadline. For help crafting your comments, view Beyond Pesticides’ commenting guide.

Source: Consumer Reports, ABC Action News

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



Final Suit Routing Genetically Engineered Crops and Related Practices from Refuges

(Beyond Pesticides, March 19, 2015) A federal court ruled Monday against the use of neonicotinoid insecticides linked with destruction of bee colonies and other beneficial insects in national wildlife refuges in the Midwest region. The ruling caps a legal campaign to end the planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops and other industrial agricultural practices on national wildlife refuges across the country.

images (1)The federal lawsuit was filed by Center for Food Safety (CFS), Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Sierra Club, and Beyond Pesticides. The suit focused on farming contracts for five refuges in four Midwestern states (IL, IA, MN and MO) and sought to force the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), which operates refuges, to stop these practices until it completes rigorous analyses of their environmental impacts. Beset by this litigation, this past July FWS decided that it will phase out the use of GE crops to feed wildlife and ban neonicotinoid insecticides from all wildlife refuges nationwide by January 2016. This new policy still allows for case-by-case exceptions.

In the March 16, 2015 ruling, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered:

“By no later than APRIL 15, 2015, Defendants shall file a Notice indicating the extent to which neonicotinoid pesticides are currently used on the five challenged refuges and where those pesticides are used. Assuming that these pesticides are currently used—or Defendants plan for them to be used—this claim is remanded to the agency to devise a plan to phase out their use as soon as practicable, but no later than January 1, 2016.” [Emphasis in original]

“The court found that neonicotinoid pesticides so upset the natural balance a refuge is supposed to safeguard that a thorough site-specific environmental assessment is required before these potent agents can be used,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, noting that neonics are now widely used in U.S. agriculture and even in backyard gardens. “While we did not win on all counts, the court found that the Service’s mismanagement of refuges did not always sink to the level of illegality – a very low bar indeed.”

“The decision makes clear that FWS must analyze the specific impacts genetically engineered crops will have on each unique refuge environment before approving them,” said Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety. “FWS can no longer get away with after-the-fact environmental risk analysis on our fragile wildlife refuges.”

This was the fifth lawsuit filed by CFS and PEER challenging GE crops on wildlife refuges. For nearly 10 years, Beyond Pesticides has joined the two groups to campaign against GE crops and pesticide use on refuges. In March 2009, CFS and PEER won a lawsuit, filed in 2006, halting GE plantings on Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. In 2011, the groups forced a legal settlement ending GE planting on refuges throughout the 12-state Northeast Region. In 2012, a federal court formally halted the planting of GE crops on all National Wildlife Refuges in the Southeastern U.S. as well as ordered steps to mitigate environmental damage from their previous illegal cultivation. The groups have also petitioned FWS to prohibit GE Crops nationally twice and to prohibit neonicotinoid pesticides on refuges once. The Center for Biological Diversity and Beyond Pesticides co-signed the second legal petition, filed in February last year.

Given the recent FWS no-GE/no-neonics policy, the groups do not anticipate the need for further litigation on these subjects. However, they are closely monitoring the ban to ensure it is not honeycombed with exceptions.

For information on what you can do to protect bees and other pollinators, see Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign information.

Source: Press Release

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




Members of Congress Call for Listing Monarch Butterfly as Threatened

(Beyond Pesticides March 18, 2015) Fifty-two members of Congress penned a letter to the White House, calling for the protection of the Monarch butterfly, which has declined by 90 percent in the last 20 years, and for listing as a ‘threatened’ species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This comes on the heels of a formal notice of intent to sue submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to protect threatened and endangered species, including butterflies, amphibians and birds, from flupyradifurone, a newly approved systemic insecticide.

Diane St John Durham CT We planted a lot of Zinnia seeds and look who came over!The letter sent to President Obama on Tuesday was spearheaded by Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), a long-time advocate for protecting monarch butterflies. In her press release, Rep. Pingree notes that the annual migration of monarchs from North America to Mexico has plummeted because of the use of herbicides on genetically engineered (GE) crops in the U.S.  The herbicides have wiped out milkweed, the main food for monarchs.  According to the letter, efforts by farmers, local, state and federal agencies to boost habitat are laudable, but without changes in how the federal government addresses the use of herbicides, especially as applied to herbicide-resistant crops, vital monarch habitats will simply continue to disappear. “We believe that the Endangered Species Act represents the last best chance to save this amazing species and its incredible migration,” the letter notes.

“When the monarchs got to Mexico they used to cover 50 square miles.  By 2013 they covered an area about the size of a football field,” Rep. Pingree said.  “The loss of habitat and devastation of the monarch population should be a wakeup call.  If we keep applying ever increasing amounts of chemicals to farmlands, it’s going to have an impact on the environment.”

One day earlier, conservation and food-safety groups submitted a formal notice of intent to sue EPA for failing to protect threatened and endangered species, including butterflies, amphibians and birds, from flupyradifurone, a newly approved systemic insecticide. In registration documents, EPA acknowledges that flupyradifurone could harm wildlife protected under the Endangered Species Act but failed to consult with expert wildlife agencies as required by the ESA before issuing registration approval earlier this year. According to the groups, the new insecticide would be especially harmful to imperiled, solitary bees like the blue orchard bee. These bees are prolific pollinators, important for pollinating agricultural crops, and already suffering from the effects of other systemic insecticides.

When EPA announced it completed the registration of this new insecticide in January 2015, the agency noted that the chemical would be marketed as an alternative to neonicotinoid pesticides, and “safer for bees.” But a closer look at this chemical revealed 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. Flupyradifurone (“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. 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 how it 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. EPA’s registration document states, “While the acute oral toxicity study indicates that flupyradifurone is highly toxic to individual adult honey bees…”  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. EPA notes that the field studies reveal high mortality in adult bees within 24 hours of treatment

EPA failed to consider the highly toxic impacts of this new systemic insecticide on native pollinators such as bees- especially solitary bees, butterflies, and on a range of birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and aquatic invertebrates. According to the groups that submitted the notice of intent to sue, there are 4,000 species of solitary bees living in the U.S. whose wellbeing EPA effectively ignores. In fact, EPA’s own risk assessment recognizes that this pesticide is both persistent and mobile, meaning it will reach aquatic environments and put additional species at risk.

For decades the EPA has approved hundreds of pesticides that can harm endangered wildlife without consulting expert wildlife agencies as required by the Endangered Species Act. In 2013 the National Academy of Sciences issued a report identifying problems and suggested solutions to correct the agency’s flawed approach for reviewing the impacts of pesticides on endangered wildlife. Accordingly, in approving flupyradifurone, the EPA failed to remedy the problems identified by that report and did not complete the required ESA consultation.

It was about 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. Soon thereafter EPA registered another highly toxic bee pesticide, cyantraniliprole. A notice of intent to sue was also submitted to EPA regarding cyantraniliprole for failure to consult under the ESA. Given the global phenomenon of pollinator decline and the precautions taken by European nations to protect bees and other pollinators, advocates are calling it irresponsible for EPA to allow into the environment more chemicals wit high hazard potential for bee health, before a full analysis on their impacts to all threatened and endangered species. To many, EPA’s decisions on the approval on these latest pesticides appears counter to current agency and inter-agency work to protect pollinators.

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

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

Source: The Center for Food Safety Press Release 

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





Study Shows the Benefits of Pesticide-free Pollinator Habitat

(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2015) Foraging bumblebees would prefer to dodge traffic rather than pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, according to the results of a new study published in the Journal of Insect Conservation. Researchers from Plymouth University in England discovered that the number of bumblebees observed foraging plants along roadsides was over twice the number located in adjacent patches facing agricultural crops. As both native and managed bees continue to decline throughout the globe, this research strengthens calls from farming and environmental groups to improve agricultural practices through increased on-farm diversity, and sharp reductions in the use of pesticides, particularly systemic chemicals such as neonicotinoids.

Susan Jergans Elkhorn WI These were taken from our garden3Mick Hanley, Ph.D., lead author of the study, explains, “There have been hedgerows and field boundaries in these locations for centuries, and even if you go back 50 or 60 years, you would not have seen this phenomenon. Both sides of hedgerows would have been flourishing, and bees and other insects would have been numerous on both sides, but that was before an increase in the use of fertilizers.”

However, it is likely the use of agrichemicals that has caused such a stark discrepancy between roadside and farm-side habitats. “Now what you see is the chemicals having impacted one side, with the hedgerows in effect acting as a filter to protect the road-facing edge. It decreases the bees’ sources of food and, therefore, has the potential to impact on their numbers,” Dr. Hanley explains.

Researchers reach the conclusion in the study that organic farming is likely to offer distinct advantages for pollinator conservation efforts. As a result of reduced chemical use, organic farms are likely to provide pollinators with a greater diversity of flowers, and thus increase food availability. “The pesticides and fertilisers in use today tend to mean plants such as nettles flourish, whereas honeysuckle and other bee-friendly species do not,” said Dr. Hanley. “But we would argue that if farmers were a bit more sympathetic, any work they do to encourage bees and other insects could have reciprocal benefits for them and their crops.”

In the United States, efforts to increase pesticide-free pollinator habitat are under attack by industry. Last week trade groups AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists rejected an important, positive component of President Obama’s White House Pollinator Task Force recommendations. The groups called guidelines from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to increase neonicotinoid-free pollinator friendly habitat at federal facilities “largely unachievable,” despite widespread demand for an urgent need to transition away from bee-toxic pesticides.

Although announced without mention of pesticides, the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicated it would provide $4 million in technical and financial assistance to U.S. farmers and ranchers in the Midwest to improve honey bee health. The new research suggests that, in addition to habitat, regulators efforts are needed to reduce the on-farm use of pesticides.

Beyond Pesticides maintains that pesticide-free hedgerows are a critical part of the solution to global pollinator declines. By taking advantage of the “edge effect,” an area where two environments/ecosystems meet, hedgerows can provide high levels of biodiversity. However, as this study shows, farmers and land managers must take pesticides out of the equation in order to realize the full benefits that hedgerows can provide.

For more information on the benefits of hedgerows, and guidelines to get your started, read Beyond Pesticides recent article by Terry Shistar, Ph.D., “Hedgerows for Biodiversity,” You can also work on creating your own pesticide-free pollinator habitat by visiting the BEE Protective webpage, “Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind.” The BEE Protective Habitat Guide will help you decide which plants work for your region and the type of pollinators you want to attract. Join us in continuing to put pressure on the White House to take swift action to reverse bee declines by signing the petition to President Obama at save-bees.org.

And join us in person to help us continue the fight to protect pollinators! This spring is Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Register today!

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

Source: Plymouth Herald, Journal of Insectology



Bayer Attempt to Silence Critics of Its Bee-Poisonous Pesticides Rejected by Judge

(Beyond Pesticides, March 16, 2015) Last week, a judge in Duesseldorf Regional Court ruled that the German branch of Friends of the Earth (BUND) has a right to speak out against chemical company giant Bayer CropScience’s neonicotinoid pesticide, thiacloprid, regarding its potential danger to bees. The court considered the allegations put forth by BUND to be a form of free speech, a protected right.

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

Thiacloprid is one of the seven most commonly used neonicotinoids. It is used to control sucking and biting insects in cotton, rice, vegetables, pome fruit, sugar beet, potatoes and ornamentals. Low doses of neonicotinoids are considered highly toxic to honeybees and these types of pesticides can leach into groundwater and cause harm to humans as well; they can cause kidney and liver damage and are linked to birth defects. In 2003, EPA classified thiacloprid as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” based on thyroid tumors and uterine tumors in rats and ovary tumors in mice.

As Friends of the Earth declared, this ruling is a huge victory for freedom of speech and for the thousands of people across Europe (and beyond) who have dedicated themselves to protecting bees. Advocates hope this win will be a stepping stone towards action from the European Commission. Thiacloprid is not currently subject to the EU suspension on three neonicotinoid products, but Friends of the Earth and other groups are increasing pressure on the the European Commission to take a precautionary approach and suspend the use of thiacloprid products while reviewing its safety.

This ruling also stands out as one of the few cases where corporate bullying has failed to prevail. Unbeknownst to most, the corporate, agricultural and chemical giants exist in a world where pressure can be applied in order to get a preferred outcome, not only on environmental groups but also on scientists who study these topics and even organizations that work to protect honeybees. Some real world examples of this involve scientists such as Arpad Pusztai,PhD, previously the principal scientific officer of the Rowett Institute in Scotland, whose home was burglarized and his research stolen after he reported his findings on immunological damage found in rats that were fed genetically modified potatoes. Another scientist, Ignacio Chapela, PhD, was denied tenure at UC Berkeley and was the subject of a vicious PR attack mounted by Monsanto after he suggested that pollen from genetically modified corn may have drifted into the last reserves of biodiverse maize in the world, which could potentially eliminate maize biodiversity permanently.

One of the most exhaustive attacks in recent memory was led by Syngenta, a manufacturer of atrazine, a triazine class herbicide that is banned in the EU based on groundwater contamination. Syngenta has worked aggressively to scuttle research that links the chemical to adverse health outcomes. This article reviews an investigative report that unearthed that Syngenta routinely paid off third parties to speak in favor of atrazine. When one of their own scientists, Tyrone Hayes, PhD, discovered that atrazine was harming amphibians and decided to speak out, they launched a massive campaign to discredit him. Beyond Pesticides stands behind Dr. Hayes through The Fund for Independent Science, launched to help ensure the continuation of his critical research. He has been a speaker for past National Pesticide Forums,where he discussed the disappearance of frogs and human health effects linked to pesticide use. On April 17-18, Dr. Hayes will again be a speaker at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum, which focuses on protecting health, biodiversity and ecosystems.

The tactics that these companies use to get their way are far reaching and can be seemingly innocuous at times. For example, Bayer recently donated $100,000 to Project Apis m., a non-profit organization that dedicates itself to enhancing the health of honey bees. Although the donation is directed towards providing additional forage to bees, it is evident that this action is another way for the company to spin the bee crisis. As a Friends of the Earth U.S. report Follow the Honey explains, “leading pesticide corporations –Bayer, Syngenta, and Monsanto– are engaged in a massive public relations disinformation campaign to distract the public and policymakers from thinking that pesticides might have something to do with bee death and destruction.”

Take action.
Beyond Pesticides, along with many other environmental organizations, rallied in front of the White House to deliver more than 4 million petition signatures calling on the Obama administration to put forth stronger protections for honeybees and other pollinators. You too can make a difference! If you are interested in giving your support to saving the honey bees, go to save-bees.org and sign the petition. You also can work to get bee-toxic neonicotinoids like thiacloprid out of your community. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but it can be done with some perseverance. It’s important to find support –friends, neighbors, and other people who share your concerns about environmental health. It’s also essential to reach out to your local politicians and government .Beyond Pesticides has resources and fact sheets available to help you organize in your community. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email ([email protected]) for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to have an impact.

Source: The Ecologist



Exposure to Hormone Disrupting Chemicals Costs Billions in Lost Brain Power

(Beyond Pesticides, March 13, 2015) Exposure to endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals (EDC) results in approximately € 150 billion ($162 billion) in health care costs in the European Union each year, according to panels of scientists tasked by the EU Commission to study their impact. “The shocking thing is that the major component of that cost is related to the loss of brain function in the next generation,” Philippe Grandjean, M.D. of Harvard University, one of the report’s authors, told the Guardian.

P_endocrine-systemEDCs, contained in common household products such as detergents, disinfectants, furniture, plastics, and pesticides, interfere with the body’s hormone system either by mimicking naturally produced hormones, blocking hormone receptors in cells, or effecting the transport, synthesis, metabolism or excretion of hormones. These impacts can result in devastating effects on one’s health, including behavioral and learning disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), birth defects, obesity, early puberty, infertility, cardiovascular disease, and childhood and adult cancers. Nearly 100 percent of people have detectable amounts of EDCs in their bodies, according to the introductory guide to EDCs published by the Endocrine Society and IPEN.

“Our brains need particular hormones to develop normally –the thyroid hormone and sex hormones like testosterone and oestrogen. They’re very important in pregnancy and a child can very well be mentally retarded because of a lack of iodine and the thyroid hormone caused by chemical exposure,” Dr. Grandjean explained to the Guardian.

Scientists analyzed the economic impact of a number of EDCs, including phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, perfluoroalkyl compounds, as well as DDE and organophosphate and organochlorine pesticides. The work, Estimating Burden and Disease Costs of Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in the European Union, was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

In the analysis, the economic burden of EDCs was calculated based on a 1981 Institute of Medicine approach to assessing the contribution of environment factors in causing illness. Uncertainty in the analysis was addressed by using a weight-of-evidence characterization for probability of causation developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and an epidemiology model used by the World Health Organization.

In addressing whether complete certainty of causation is a necessary basis for analysis, the study makes note of a quote from Sir Austin Bradford Hill, a 20th century epidemiologist renowned for his work demonstrating the connection between lung cancer and cigarette smoking as well as developing criteria for determining causal associations. The author’s write, “In his widely cited work about the criteria for causation, Sir Austin Bradford Hill acknowledged the reality that ‘all scientific work is incomplete —were it be observational or experimental,’ noting that uncertainty ‘does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or to post-pone the action that it appears to demand at a given time.’”

EDC_Graphic_US_Final_Page_1Results of the study are glaring, and present a grim portrait of the future. The expert panel of scientists agreed on findings of probable causation for EDCs and a number of human diseases, including IQ loss, autism, ADHD, childhood obesity, adult obesity, adult diabetes, cryptorchidism (undescended testes), male infertility, and mortality associated with reduced testosterone. In particular, the analysis found with 70-100% probability that each year in Europe 13 million IQ points are lost due to prenatal organophosphate exposure (pesticides such as chlorpyrifos and malathion), and 59,300 additional cases of intellectual disability are caused. Pesticides were found to be the most costly of the EDCs analyzed, accounting for € 120 billion ($130 billion) of the estimated € 157 billion ($162 billion) in healthcare expenditures each year. As the author’s indicate, this total is approximately 1.23% of the EU’s GDP.

Although such a comprehensive study has not been undertaken in the United States, with similar or higher amounts of pesticide use than the EU, the impact is likely just as great. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required by law to evaluate chemicals for their endocrine disrupting potential, the agency is still in the process of finalizing a screening protocol (work the EU has already developed), nearly two decades after the agency was statutorily required to do so. According to the agency, it will be another decade before its protocol is up and ready.

Leonardo Transande, M.D., professor at New York University School of Medicine and lead author of the study told TIME magazine, “Except for the Food Quality Protection Act, the regulatory model in the United States assumes innocent until proven guilty, resulting in broad and widespread experimentation on humans with exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.” Dr. Transande continued, “We’re just trying to put information into the hands of decision makers, so that we can consciously and openly decide whether it’s appropriate to allow for a 50% probability that the use of a chemical may contribute to a condition and lead to billions of dollars of costs.” As regulators drag their feet and Congress remains stymied, the risks these chemicals pose to human intelligence and well-being persist.

“I would recommend that pregnant women and children eat organic fruits and vegetables and avoid using plastic containers and canned food, especially in the microwave, because containers are usually treated on the inside with substances and compounds that can leak into the tomato soup and may act as endocrine disruptors,” Dr. Granjean said to the Guardian.

Beyond Pesticides supports strong protections from pesticides and endocrine disruptors by pushing for regulatory action and the support of alternative products and practices that do not require these chemicals. Through the Eating with a Conscience tool, those concerned about pesticides on their produce and can find out the chemicals that are allowed in their production. The ManageSafe database helps homeowners and renters control household pests without toxic pesticides. And Beyond Peticides’ Lawn and Landscapes webpage helps property owners manage lawns without the use of pesticides linked to endocrine disruption and other ill health effects. Ultimately by supporting organic agriculture, with disallows the use of harmful synthetic pesticides, the health burden EDCs and other pesticides put on our economy and individual health can be drastically reduced.

Source: Endocrine Society (link to full study here) , The Guardian, TIME,
Photo Source: Endocrine Society

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



As States Legalize Marijuana, Study Finds Uneven Pesticide Use Restrictions on Growing Practices

(Beyond Pesticides, March 12, 2015) Marijuana may be legal in your state for medicinal and recreational use, but are toxic pesticides used in its production? A study released today of the 23 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized marijuana finds a patchwork of state laws and evolving policy that define allowed pesticide use and management practices in cannabis production. This variety of state law is occurring in the absence of federal registration of pesticide use for cannabis production because of its classification as a narcotic under federal law. The investigation, Pesticide Use in Marijuana Production: Safety Issues and Sustainable Options, evaluates the state laws governing pesticide use in cannabis production where it is legalized.

The use of pesticides in the cultivation of cannabis has health implications for those growing the crop, and for users who are exposed to toxic residues through inhalation, ingestion, and absorption through the skin,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “The good news is that five states and DC have adopted rules that require marijuana to be grown with practices that prevent the use of pesticides. State officials have an opportunity to restrict all pesticide use at the front end of a growing market, require the adoption of an organic system plan, and set a course to protect health and the environment,” Mr. Feldman continued. The USDA certified organic seal will not be found on marijuana products because of their federal status.

Typically, when a pesticide is used in crop production, it is evaluated for the specific use site and assessed for its potential adverse impact on health and the environment. The federal government in the case of cannabis cannot conduct its normal registration review for this use, given the crop’s illegal federal status. Many have incorrectly assumed that, since there are no federal pesticide registrations for marijuana production, all pesticide use is illegal, except those materials that are exempt from federal registration. States are required under federal law to only permit pesticides registered or exempt by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The study raises safety concerns due to loopholes in federal law. For example, recently EPA told the states that while marijuana does not fit into any general group, such as an herb, spice, or vegetable, “[I]t may be legally used on marijuana under certain general types of crops/sites when there is an exemption from tolerance” (allowable pesticide residues in food set by EPA). The agency has said that broad spectrum herbicide and fumigant use outdoors is allowed under certain circumstances. This use pattern, according to the study, raises issues of pesticide uptake into crop and environmental impacts.

The report identifies six states that have legalized marijuana but are silent on pesticide use in its production and raises questions of compliance. It recommends in those states with legalization the adoption of laws governing cannabis production that prohibit federally registered pesticides and require the adoption of organic practices that only allow products exempt from registration based on the full range of possible exposure patterns.

The study contains a state-by-state analysis that evaluates pesticide restrictions, pesticide/contaminant testing, pesticide labeling, and organic production requirements.

The study can be found here.

See this chart for a comprehensive overview of state pesticide regulations to date.


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




Chemical Landscape and Nursery Industry Says Bee Friendly Habitat “Not Viable”

(Beyond Pesticides, March 11, 2015)  The White House’s recommendations for pollinator-friendly landscaping at federal facilities are “largely unachievable,” according to trade groups AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists. The groups believe that growing plants that attract and feed honey bees, wild bees, butterflies and other pollinators without a reliance on persistent, systemic and toxic pesticides that can harm them is “not a viable recommendation.” This comes in spite of several initiatives already taken by nurseries across the country to limit or restrict the use of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides on nursery and ornamental plant production.

Ed Szymanski Franklin MA Honey bee on Turkish Rocket, my front yardLast fall, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced new guidelines for federal agencies to incorporate pollinator friendly practices at federal facilities and on federal lands.

Critical to pollinator health within these guidelines is a requirement that agencies should “[a]cquire seeds and plants from nurseries that do not treat their plants with systemic insecticides.” Further, the document states that, “Chemical controls that can adversely affect pollinator populations should not be applied in pollinator habitats. This includes herbicides, broad spectrum contact and systemic insecticides, and some fungicides.” Concurrent with CEQ’s announcement, the General Services Administration (GSA) also stated it is in the process of internally reviewing pollinator friendly guidelines for facility standards at “all new project starts.” Systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids have been linked to bee decline, and are noted for their contamination of pollen and nectar, as well as their persistence in soil and water. Visit What the Science Shows.

But in a letter submitted last month to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which is spearheading the White House’s directive to establish a federal Pollinator Health Task Force to respond to declining pollinator populations, AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists took issue with CEQ’s suggestion that agencies avoid plants treated with systemic insecticides.

According to the groups, the recommendation in CEQ’s guidelines for pesticide restriction would impede the use of neonicotinoids, and would clash with state and federal requirements to treat for invasive pests. “We are concerned that some of the guidance recommendations provided in the ‘pollinator’ addendum are largely unachievable by industry, as they are not reflective of federal and state regulatory requirements and do not account for the significant pest challe nges that our segment of agriculture faces,” the letter states.

The groups believe that foregoing neonicotinoids could violate legal requirements to keep nurseries free of “all injurious insects,” including the emerald ash borer, the Asian longhorned beetle and other pests. Recommending that plant material be sourced only from suppliers that can “verify no insecticide treatments” is not a viable recommendation and could influence some growers to take greater risk and potentially spread problematic and invasive pests and disease on federal properties,” they wrote.

The letter also questions the guidance’s definition of integrated pest management (IPM), especially methods that promote use of biological controls, like predatory insects, to protect plants. CEQ in its guidance notes that IPM, “places an emphasis on the reduction of pesticide use and the implementation of preventative and alternative control measures.” However, the groups believe that CEQ’s IPM recommendations alter and expand the legislative definition of IPM by highlighting one perspective of IPM above other considerations. The letter states this “is not appropriate and is not reflective of the intent of IPM. Risks and benefits must be taken into consideration when making these decisions and the CEQ language suggests otherwise.” The letter requests edits to the definition of IPM in CEQ’s guidance document and also a removal of statements regarding sourcing plant material from growers that have not used insecticides or systemic insecticides and replace with statements for sourcing of plant material from growers who have adopted an IPM program in their plant production practices.

Plants can be grown without neonicotinoids and other systemic pesticides       

It is a common myth perpetuated by the pesticide, agricultural, and horticultural industry that growing plants without pesticides cannot be done. But while these two national industry groups charge that creating pollinator habitat without toxic inputs cannot be done to protect pollinators, several smaller nurseries and retail outlets have already pledged to not use systemic neonicotinoids to grow their plants and protect pollinators. Focused on their owe operations, Behnke Nurseries Co. in Maryland has issued a policy statement to their stores that prohibits the application of neonicotinoids to its plants and recommends using least-toxic alternatives. Bachman’s 21 locations in Minnesota are eliminating neonicotinoids on their nursery stock and outdoor plants. Taking it to the next level, Bachman’s is also working with suppliers to discontinue the use of neonicotinoids. Cavano’s Perennials, MD, Blooming Nursery, OR, North Creek Nurseries, PA, Suncrest Nurseries Inc, CA, Desert Canyon Farm, CO, and others have either discontinued or never used neonicotinoid pesticides in their nursery operations. Additionally, BJ’s Wholesale Club (over 200+ locations) is asking its vendors to discontinue neonicotinoid use. Home Depot also has plans to work with its suppliers to transition from neonicotinoid reliance.

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

Mounting scientific evidence points to the role of pesticides in bee declines across the globe, especially to neonicotinoids (eg imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam) which, even at low levels, have been shown to impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to the point of making them susceptible to pathogens and parasites. Last week, beekeepers, farmers, businesses and environmental advocates rallied in front of the White House to deliver over 4 million petition signatures that call on the Obama administration to protect pollinators, and over 125 groups sent a letter to the White House.

While industry deflection tactics are working to shift focus away from their pesticide products, local efforts provide a promising opportunity for communities across the United States to stand up for pollinators. Eugene (Oregon), Skagway (Alaska), Ontario (Canada), and the European Union have all instituted either permanent or temporary bans on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. 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 human-made causes demands immediate action. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage to learn more about the issue and what can be done to protect pollinators.

Join us in person to help us continue the fight to protect butterflies and other pollinators from neonicotinoids. 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!
 All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
Source: E&E News



U.S. Senator Calls for Suspension of Pentachlorophenol, Used to Treat Utility Poles

(Beyond Pesticides, March 10, 2015) U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) yesterday called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday to immediately investigate the specific use of pentachlorophenol (penta or PCP), a toxic wood preservative, to treat utility poles throughout Long Island and urged Public Service Electric and Gas (PSEG) Long Island to immediately suspend further use of this chemical until a federal review is complete. PSEG has been installing new, chemically-treated utility poles throughout the Towns of North Hempstead and East Hampton. In his press release, Senator Schumer expresses serious concern about penta’s health risks to utility workers, adults and children and its ability to move into water over the long-term as the chemical leaches from the poles. The Senator also notes that a private firm has conducted a study based on a very limited sample size that does not consider long-term risks as the pole decomposes and further leaches toward groundwater. EPA, which is responsible for evaluating penta’s health and environmental risk, has noted public health concerns related to the chemical when ingested or inhaled, including neurological, respiratory, kidney and immune system effects.

Pole_RouteOn Long Island, 95,000 of PSEG’s 324,000 utility poles have been treated with penta. Across the country, penta is used on approximately 55 percent of 166 million wooden utility poles. Localities throughout Long Island have voiced concern about the use of this chemical and the potential for it to leach into the ground water. In September, the Town of North Hempstead passed a law requiring warning labels on utility poles treated with PCP. The mandated labeling states, “This pole contains a hazardous chemical. Avoid prolonged direct contact with this pole. Wash hands or other exposed areas thoroughly if contact is made.” In January, PSEG filed suit in the U.S. District Court against the Town of North Hempstead to stop the signage, asserting that the law violates the utility companies’ right to free-speech by forcing them to post warning signs containing “disputed phrases and accompanying text urging the public to take action.”  Shortly after North Hempstead’s action, New York State Senator John LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele announced companion legislation to prohibit the future use of utility poles treated with penta, and call for the posting of warnings to inform people about the dangers of contact with penta on existing poles. In the international arena, the technical scientific committee to the Stockholm Convention, which calls for the worldwide elimination of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), has advised the nation signatories to the treaty to add penta to the list of POPs. It will make the decision in May. Meanwhile, the U.S., which never ratified the treaty, has sent EPA officials to the proceedings of the Convention to try to block the listing of penta as a persistent organic pollutant.

As debate rages and communities attempt to protect themselves in the absence of adequate EPA action, there are alternatives to chemically treated poles. Alternatives range from poles constructed of cement, fiberglass, or recycled metals, as well as laying utility lines underground. Currently, the long-term costs of purchasing, installing and maintaining fiberglass and concrete poles makes them competitive to treated wood utility poles.

Despite inadequate regulatory action, EPA has recognized that the short-term ingestion and inhalation of penta is extremely toxic to humans and is a “probable” human carcinogen. Short-term inhalation of penta can result in issues with the respiratory tract, blood, kidney, liver, immune system, eyes, nose, skin as well as neurological issues. PCP is highly toxic and has been listed as a possible carcinogen by national and international agencies. Concerns have been raised throughout the years over EPA’s continued registration of PCP in the U.S. despite having been banned in all European Union member states, China, India, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Russia. According to Beyond Pesticides’ Pole Pollution, EPA has calculated that children face a 220 times increase in the risk of cancer from exposure to soil contaminated with PCP leaching out of the utility poles. These utility poles are ubiquitous across our country.

Sen. Schumer is joined by town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, other Long Island residents. The Senator said that because the penta treated telephone and electrical poles can be found in populated areas like yards, parks, outside schools and around local businesses, it is critical that EPA quickly conduct a safety review of penta related to human health risks and risks to soil and groundwater, and urged that PSEG suspend the use of this chemical in utility poles until the EPA investigation proves this chemical appropriate for use in these poles.quick

“There’s no debate that ‘penta’ is a highly toxic chemical that should be nowhere near playgrounds or our drinking water, and I am petitioning the federal EPA to step in and investigate the long-term impact of using this toxic chemical specifically on utility poles in Long Island neighborhoods and parks. The EPA is the golden standard when it comes to assessing health and environmental risk of such chemicals, and has yet to review penta, and I am urging them to end the debate regarding the use of this chemical by PSEG. Many of these wooden utility poles are standing nearby schools, parks, businesses and homes, and so, we must ensure that residents and children are not being exposed to the highly toxic chemical if it leaches into the ground water. In the meantime, PSEG should stop installing these utility poles until the long-term federal investigation is completed,” said Senator Schumer.

“I am extremely pleased to be standing with Senator Schumer as we speak out about the harmful effects of penta to our residents and our environment. I and many of the Town’s residents are extremely concerned about the continued use of penta as a pesticide for utility poles. Penta is a probable carcinogen and has long been recognized as a public health threat. It’s time for the EPA to investigate this toxic carcinogen,” said Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth.

“I join Senator Schumer and Supervisor Bosworth in raising serious health concerns over pentachlorophenol contamination. Recent soil and groundwater tests adjacent to newly installed utility poles in East Hampton found penta in the soil at extremely high levels—at amounts far exceeding New York State Department of Environmental Conservation standards—and chemical components associated with penta in the groundwater,” said Town of East Hampton Supervisor Larry Cantwell.

Twenty six countries, including Canada, currently ban penta completely. In December, the preservative was found in soil surrounding the utility poles in East Hampton. Senator Schumer said that a recent study conducted by a private firm is totally insufficient in terms of ensuring that these penta-treated poles do not pose a threat to the long-term health of local residents: the study was based on a very limited sample size and studied poles that were recently placed in the ground. Senator Schumer said that the federal government should be involved, and urged the EPA to conduct a federal study on penta’s long-term impact on communities with these utility poles, particularly related to the long-term degradation of these poles and subsequent leaching into the soil and ground water. EPA recently announced that it plans to reassess the safety of penta, however the agency has yet to release its final work plan to evaluate health and environmental risks, and Senator Schumer is urging the agency to focus on the specific threat that utility poles treated with this substance may pose to communities across Long Island.

Beyond Pesticides has been sounding the alarm on toxic wood preservatives for decades, and has done extensive work to address the risks of exposure to penta and the other two heavy-duty wood preservatives, inorganic arsenicals (such as chromated copper arsenate, or CCA) and creosote. In addition to Pole Pollution, Beyond Pesticides also published Poison Poles, which examines the toxic trail left by the manufacture, use, storage and disposal of the heavy-duty wood preservatives from cradle to grave. On December 10, 2002, a lawsuit led by Beyond Pesticides was filed in federal court by a national labor union, environmental groups and a victim family to stop the use of arsenic and dioxin-laden wood preservatives, which are used to treat lumber, utility poles and railroad ties. The litigation argued that the chemicals, known carcinogenic agents, hurt utility workers exposed to treated poles, children playing near treated structures, and the environment, and cites the availability of alternatives.

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

Take Action:
Join Beyond Pesticides’ Poison Pole Campaign. Take a photo of the ugly pole in your neighborhood, on your street, at a bus stop, in a park, or even at your local playground. If people walk, live or play near the pole, show that in the photo, if possible. Include your name and the location of the photo and send it to [email protected] by April 30, 2015.

Source: Press Release

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



Town Wins Award for First Community-wide Pesticide-Free Policy in Maine, Organic Land Care Training on Sat. March 14

(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2015) The quaint and charming town of Ogunquit, Maine has proudly accepted the 16th Down East Environmental Award, presented by Down East magazine, for passing a ballot initiative last November that prohibits the use of toxic lawn pesticides on all public and private land within the town –only the second community in the United States to do so, following Takoma Park in Maryland. To help the community implement the new law and provide hands-on technical information to people in town and the region, the local hardware store, Eldredge Lumber and Hardware, is sponsoring a training open to the public, landscapers, and officials on Saturday, March 14.

In 1979, Down East magazine introduced the prestigious Down East Environmental Award in order to encourage the conservation of Maine’s natural resources and to honor citizens and groups who are at the forefront of creating positive environmental change, or have helped to secure conservation efforts in the past. Previous recipients of this award include Governor Percival Baxter, who in 2004 was recognized for his deep dedication to conserving the wilds in the state of Maine, specifically around Mt. Kadahdin, and Governor John E. Baldacci, who in 2009 was presented with the award for his work on the Sears Island Planning Initiative.

Environmental-Award-DownEastSimilarly to Governors Baxter and Baldacci, the community members of Ogunquit demonstrated their dedication to conserving Maine’s natural resources by banning all insect killers, weed killers and fertilizers last November. Before the ban was passed, the Ogunquit Conservation Commission launched a three-year education and awareness campaign to further their goal to “protect and maintain Ogunquit’s natural resources, to conserve natural habitat, to procure and develop open spaces, parks and trails, to establish public access conservation easements through land trusts or town owned properties.” This campaign helped to grow overwhelming support for the ordinance and it re-passed on November 4, 2014 with a vote of 444 to 297 in favor of the ban. Ogunquit has since become a leader within Maine and the wider United States, demonstrating to others how to best protect public health and create a sustainable environment within a community.

The presentation of this award to Ogunquit is especially important because it demonstrates to citizens that there are ways to create positive environmental change with their own actions, such as doing something as simple as discontinuing the use of pesticides on their own property. Halting the use of pesticides on private property is as important as a ban on public lands – private residential usage leads to pollution of local waterways and dangerously impacts public health too. Of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides, 17 are possible and/or known carcinogens,  18 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system, 19 are linked to reproductive effects and sexual dysfunction, 11 have been linked to birth defects, 14 are neurotoxic, 24 can cause kidney or liver damage, and 25 are sensitizers and/or irritants. Children are especially sensitive to pesticide exposure as they take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals. Getting rid of pesticide use on your lawn may seem daunting, but there are many alternatives for safer lawn care. Pest and weed pressure can be reduced and ultimately eliminated through a “feel the soil” approach that centers on natural, organic fertilization, and proper cultural practices such as correct mowing height, aeration, and overseeding. Creating a toxic-free lawn is possible when you understand why weeds occur in the first place, and take steps to eliminate conditions that allow their growth.

Along with human health risks, pesticides can and do negatively impact animal habitats and the environment. Aquatic animals are extremely sensitive to pesticide runoff. Increased levels of lawn care pesticides in stream systems have been found to decimate populations of some aquatic crustaceans, while causing others to mutate and become resistant to the pesticides. Ogunquit’s decision to ban pesticides not only led to greater protection of its residents, but also to the unique ecosystem surrounding it, including precious salt marshes and beaches where migratory birds, fish and mammals make their home.

Pro-pesticide lobbyists have a history of undermining these types of decisions, pushing against localities’ right to enact legislation that would protect community health and the environment. Specifically in Ogunquit, a pro-pesticide group called RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) passed out flyers to Ogunquit resident’s homes in order to spread false information and cast doubt over the impending decision. In the 1990’s, groups like RISE worked feverishly to enact regressive state pesticide preemption laws that prevent localities from enacting any ordinance that regulates pesticides more strictly than state law. Maine is one of seven states that does not preempt local authorities’ ability to restrict the use of pesticides on all land within their jurisdiction.

Take action. Whether your state has preemption or not, you can still work to get toxics out of your community. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but it can be done with some perseverance. It’s important to find support –friends, neighbors, and other people who share your concerns about environmental health. It’s also essential to reach out to your local politicians and government. Beyond Pesticides has resources and factsheets available to help you organize in your community. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email ([email protected]) for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to have an impact.

Attend a workshop with Chip Osborne and Jay Feldman on transitioning to organic land management. On Saturday, March 14, Chip Osborne of Osborne Organics and Jay Feldman of Beyond Pesticides are conducting two workshops on implementing the new Ogunquit law, focusing on organic turf management practices that can effectively replace chemical-intensive methods with better results at a competitive cost. The training sessions are being hosted by Eldredge Lumber and Hardware in York, Maine. For more information on the training programs, location, and to register, please contact Eldredge Hardware.

Source: Seacoastonline

Photo Credit: Downeast Lakes Land Trust

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



Oregon Bans Four Bee-Killing Insecticides on Linden Trees

(Beyond Pesticides, March 6, 2015) Last Friday, Oregon enacted a new rule which bans the use of four types of bee-killing insecticides, including  imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam and dinotefuran, regardless of application method on linden trees and other Tilia species. The four insecticides that are now illegal to spray on Tilia trees are all in the neonicotinoid chemical class which are implicated in pollinator decline, and represents a step forward in protecting bees. However, Tilia trees are not the only route of exposure that bees and other pollinators have to neonics, which are currently applied to fields across the U.S. as seed treatment.Photo by Motoya Nakamura/The Oregonian

The rule comes at the request of the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) following several bee-kill incidents in Oregon since June 2013, when more than 50,000 bumblebees were killed after dinotefuran was sprayed on trees in a shopping mall parking lot in Wilsonville, Oregon. After the incident in Wilsonville, ODA initially placed restrictions on two of the chemicals, dinotefuran and imidacloprid on Tilia trees, and the state launched a task force to look at protections for pollinators. The group came out with a range of recommendations including increased outreach and education about bees and support for bee habitat research, but stopped short of prioritizing state restrictions on neonicotinoid use.

Mounting scientific evidence points to the role of pesticides in bee declines across the globe, especially to neonics, which, even at low levels, have been shown to 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.

Earlier this week, beekeepers, farmers, businesses and environmental advocates rallied in front of the White House to deliver over 4 million petition signatures calling on the Obama administration to protect pollinators, and over 125 groups sent a letter to the White House. Some promising steps have been taken, such as the ban of neonics on National Wildlife Refuges, and the issuance of a Presidential Memorandum which established a corresponding White House Task Force. However, federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) remain hesitant to take meaningful action.

Meanwhile, local efforts provide a promising opportunity for communities across the United States to stand up for pollinators. Eugene (Oregon), Skagway (Alaska), Ontario (Canada), and the European Union have all instituted either permanent or temporary bans on the use of neonics.

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. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage to learn more about the issue and what can be done to protect pollinators.

Source: The Oregonian

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



North Dakota Oversight and Enforcement of Pesticide Law Found Deficient by Inspector General

(Beyond Pesticides, March 05, 2015) A federal audit has concluded that acceptable federal inspections at pesticide-producing establishments have not been conducted in North Dakota, possibly endangering the public and the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) independent Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report last week that finds the state lacks a state inspector with qualifications equivalent to a federal inspector who can conduct inspections on EPA’s behalf. As a result, North Dakota facilities that produce or handle pesticides have not been federally inspected for 14 years, and that about 1,300 pesticide imports that have come through the state since 2011 have not undergone federal inspections.

north dakota dept of agriculture“Without such inspections, residents in other states and locations in the United States, in addition to North Dakota, could be at risk,” according to the report signed by EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr.

Staff at EPA Region 8 stated that inspections authorized under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) have not been conducted because North Dakota officials do not want federal inspections in their state. FIFRA (Section 7) gives EPA inspection authority and enables the agency to take enforcement actions against facilities that are not in compliance with the Act. Failure to conduct inspections increases the risk of pesticides not being in compliance with federal law, which could result in potential risks from toxics being undetected and adverse human health and environmental impacts occurring.

In a statement issued in response to the OIG report, EPA Region 8 said that it will make sure that some state inspectors are federally certified, but that the report from OIG “does not present an accurate or complete picture of the intensity of pesticides oversight and inspection activity conducted in the state.”

The OIG report has angered North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, who says the state is being treated unfairly by the federal agency.

“They don’t seem to understand or realize how you need to operate in the real world,” he said.

North Dakota’s Agriculture Department handles inspections of pesticide handlers in partnership with EPA, and receives funding from the federal agency for that work. However, the OIG report concluded that the agency should not accept “the state’s preference that federal inspections not be carried out in North Dakota.” The report adds that 14 years have passed since acceptable inspections of pesticide facilities in North Dakota have occurred. Mr. Goehring, on the other hand, asserts that about 680 proper inspections have been conducted in that time.

OIG recommends that the regional EPA office immediately begin handling inspections of pesticide handlers and imports in the state, or have them done by North Dakota inspectors with federal credentials. The state has not had a federally credentialed inspector since the last one retired two years ago.

The report “notes a specific concern with having inspectors operating in the state that are federally certified, and this is a concern that EPA Region 8 has committed to remedy as we move forward,” the regional office said in its statement. “It is worth noting that the state had a federally certified inspector on staff until their retirement in 2013 and is in the process of obtaining federal credentials for two state inspectors.”

Mr. Goehring said inspections of pesticide facilities handled by his office meet or exceed federal standards, and import inspections at the U.S.-Canada border have always been a federal responsibility, though the state has assisted when asked.

The regional EPA office said the OIG report “presents an incomplete picture of EPA activity” when it comes to import inspections. Mr. Goehring plans to consult with the regional EPA office and get federal credentials for at least one state inspector.

You can learn how to reduce your own pesticide footprint by checking out Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience website and choosing organic, which provides 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 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: The Fresno Bee

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



Appeals Court to Hear Case on EPA’s Registration of Bee-Toxic Chemical

(Beyond Pesticides, March 4, 2015) The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear the case brought by beekeepers challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval of a toxic pesticide known to be toxic to bees. In 2013, the beekeepers filed suit against the agency, citing that the new chemical, sulfoxaflor, as further endangering bees and beekeeping and noting that their concerns were not properly addressed by EPA before registration was granted. Sulfoxaflor is a sub-class of the neonicotinoid pesticides that have been linked to global bee declines.Ed Szymanski Franklin MA Honey bee on Turkish Rocket, my front yard

The Court has agreed to hear the case on April 14, 2015. The case, Pollinator Stewardship Council v. EPA, which requests changes to EPA’s product label for sulfoxaflor, was first filed July 2013. The petitioners include the Pollinator Stewardship Council, the American Honey Producers Association, the National Honey Bee Advisory Board, the American Beekeeping Federation, and beekeepers Bret Adee, Jeff Anderson and Thomas Smith. The beekeeper groups are represented by Earthjustice.

The case is one of a number of pending legal cases on EPA’s pesticide decisions under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), including one submitted March 2013 by Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Food Safety, beekeepers, and other environmental and consumer groups challenging the agency’s failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. That lawsuit challenges EPA’s oversight of the neonicotinoid insecticides-clothianidin and thiamethoxam– which have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees, as well as the agency’s registration process, labeling deficiencies, and seeks suspension of the registrations.

In the case of sulfoxaflor, the beekeepers’ suit is requesting changes in the sulfoxaflor product label, the Biological Economic Assessment Division (BEAD) assessment of the value of pollinators and their established habits, and EPA’s risk assessment process. According to Greg Loarie, one of the Earthjustice attorneys arguing the case, “There’s very little case law in general challenging directly EPA’s decisions regarding pesticide labels.”

EPA states in court documents that the benefits of sulfoxaflor -like the potential to replace older and more toxic pesticides and a lower needed dose- outweigh the risk to pollinators. In registration documents, EPA also notes that none of the objections to sulfoxaflor registrations point to any data “to support the opinion that registration of sulfoxaflor will pose a grave risks to bees,” even though the agency itself acknowledges that sulfoxaflor is highly toxic to bees. The agency states that even though sulfoxaflor is highly toxic to bees it does not demonstrate “catastrophic effects” on bees from its use. While sulfoxaflor exhibits behavioral and navigational abnormalities in honey bees, EPA downplays these effects as “short-lived.” Dow Agrosciences, which developed and commercialized sulfoxaflor, has intervened on behalf of EPA in the suit.

Sulfoxaflor is a new active ingredient, registered in 2013, whose mode of action is similar to that of neonicotinoid pesticides –it acts on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) in insects. Even though it has not been classified as a neonicotinoid, it elicits similar neurological responses in honey bees, with many believing that sulfoxaflor is the new generation of neonicotinoid. Sulfoxaflor is registered for use on vegetables, fruits, barley, canola, ornamentals, soybeans, wheat and others. Several comments were submitted by concerned beekeepers and environmental advocacy groups, like Beyond Pesticides, that stated that approval of a pesticide highly toxic to bees would only exacerbate the problems faced by an already tenuous honey bee industry and further decimate bee populations. However, EPA dismissed these concerns and instead pointed to a need for sulfoxaflor by industry and agriculture groups to control insects no longer being controlled by increasingly ineffective pesticide technologies.

Despite the continued decline in bee and pollinator populations across the U.S., EPA has since registered two other chemicals, cyantraniliprole and flupyradifurone. Cyantraniliprole is noted by EPA as “highly toxic on acute and oral contact basis” to bees, while flupyradifurone, a new systemic, butenolide insecticide from Bayer CropScience approved just this year, is found to be “highly toxic to individual adult honey bees.” Adding these new bee toxic chemicals into the environment will mean that bees and other non-target organisms will be exposed to mixtures of chemicals that are not only highly toxic, but have yet to be evaluated for their combined or synergistic effects with other bee-toxic substances, and possibly compounding the already dire plight of 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. However, the agency seems to be putting corporate interests before pollinators health.

Join us in urging the White House to take meaningful action to protect pollinators. Visit save-bees.org and sign the petition to the White House.

Source: Greenwire



Over 4 Million People Press Obama to Protect Bees

Congress heeds call to action and introduces legislation as pressure mounts on White House Task Force to issue meaningful recommendations

March 4, 2015 (Washington, DC)—A coalition of beekeepers, farmers, business leaders, environmental and food safety advocates rallied in front of the White House and delivered more than 4 million petition signatures today calling on the Obama administration to put forth strong protections for bees and other pollinators. This action anticipates the Pollinator Health Task Force recommendations, expected later this month. The task force, announced by the White House this past June, is charged with improving pollinator health through new agency regulations and partnerships. The assembled groups demand that the recommendations include decisive action on rampant use of neonicotinoids, a class of systemic insecticides scientists say are a driving factor in bee declines.

The rally coincided with both a D.C. metro ad campaign and Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and John Conyers’s (D-MI) rsavebeesnoweintroduction of the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, which would suspend the use of four of the most toxic neonicotinoids until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducts a full review of their safety.

Representative Blumenauer, said, “Pollinators are not only vital to a sustainable environment, but key to a stable food supply. In fact, one out of every three bites of food we eat is from a crop pollinated by bees. It is imperative that we take a step back to make sure we understand all the factors involved in bee population decline and move swiftly to protect our pollinators.”

“The EPA plans to wait until 2018 before reviewing the registration of neonicotinoids.  But America’s bees cannot wait three more years.  Neither can the thousands of farmers that rely on pollinators,” said Representative Conyers. “Our honeybees are critical to ecological sustainability and to our economy.  I am urging all of my colleagues to please protect our pollinators and support the Saving America’s Pollinators Act.”

“America’s beekeepers cannot easily survive in the toxic environment the EPA has supported,” said Roger Williams, president of the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, and a speaker at today’s rally. “On top of many other stresses, bee-toxic pesticides, whether used to coat seeds or as sprays, are weakening and killing our bees and threatening the livelihood of the beekeepers who are so intimately tied to our nation’s food supply.”

In a letter on Monday, more than 125 conservation, beekeeping, food safety, religious, ethnic and farming advocacy groups urged President Obama and the EPA to take swift and meaningful action to address the impacts of toxic pesticides on pollinator species. The European Union passed a two-year moratorium on three of the most widely used neonicotinoids, yet the EPA has approached the issue with little urgency.

“Business leaders nationally recognize the importance of pollinators to the well-being of the economy, people, and ecosystems,” said Fran Teplitz, Co-Executive Director, Green Business Network and Bryan McGannon, Deputy Director, American Sustainable Business Council. “Businesses committed to sustainability support strong federal action to protect pollinators from pesticides linked to their decline; now is the time to act.”

While advocates remain hopeful, they also made it clear that voluntary, enforceable proposals from the task force are unacceptable. Federal agencies have hinted at continued efforts to promote more of the same — voluntary farming management practices, insignificant pesticide label changes, and weak state pollinator plans. And advocates contend that without new, meaningful protections, the Task Force may actually do more harm than good.

“Given the historic decline in the population of pollinators — bees, butterflies and birds — it is critical that the President and White House Task Force show forceful leadership in addressing all factors contributing to the crisis, with the suspension of neonicotinoid insecticides being a critically necessary action,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides and who spoke at today’s rally.

Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticides known to have acute and chronic effects on honey bees and other pollinator species and are considered a major factor in overall population declines. A growing body of independent science links a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids to bee declines, both alone and in combination with other factors like disease and malnutrition. Twenty-nine independent scientists conducted a global review of 1,121 independent studies and found overwhelming evidence of pesticides linked to bee declines. Neonicotinoids are also slow to break down, causing them to build up in the environment and endangering a whole range of beneficial species that inhabit these ecosystems.

The 4 million signatures were collected by Avaaz, Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, CREDO, Earthjustice, Environment America, Food and Water Watch, Food Democracy Now!, Friends of the Earth U.S., Green America, MoveOn, Organic Consumers Association, Pesticide Action Network, Save Our Environment, TakePart, and Toxic Free North Carolina.

Media Contacts:
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety, 202-547-9359, [email protected]
Kate Colwell, Friends of the Earth, 202-222-0744, [email protected]
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network, 916.588.3100, [email protected]

Expert Contacts:
Bryan McGannon, American Sustainable Business Council, 202-650-7678, [email protected],
Fran Teplitz, Green America, 202-872-5326, [email protected]
Roger Williams, Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, 802-355-9933, [email protected]
Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides, 202-543-5450, [email protected]



Over 125 Groups Urge President Obama to Protect Bees and Other Pollinators from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, March 3, 2015) Over 125 conservation, beekeeping, food safety, religious, ethnic and farming advocacy groups are urging President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take swift and meaningful action to protect honey bees and other pollinators from toxic pesticides. Groups, including Beyond Pesticides, raised their voice through a letter sent in advance of a pending report from the White House Pollinator Task Force, which was established last June by the President with the goal to “reverse pollinator losses and help respond populations to healthy levels.” Last October the White House announced it would miss its self-assigned deadline, delaying the urgent action that is needed to address this crisis.

savebeesnowThe letter urges President Obama and executive agencies to take action against a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, systemic poisons that are devastating bee populations. They are also threatening the nation’s food supply, since one-third of the food consumed in the United States is pollinated by bees.

“Through bold and decisive action from the White House and EPA, we can begin to reverse bee declines and protect pollinator populations for future generations,” said Nichelle Harriott, Science and Regulatory Director at Beyond Pesticides.

Among other steps the letter calls for:

  • expedited review of the registration process for neonicotinoids;
  • strengthening of risk-assessment requirements;
  • closure of loopholes that allow dangerous pesticides to be approved with inadequate review;
  • improvements in the oversight of neonicotinoid use in seed coating;
  • upgrades to EPA’s bee- and bird-killing incident reporting system; and
  • EPA to comply with the Endangered Species Act by ensuring that these toxic pesticides are not killing our nation’s most imperiled species.

Neonicotinoids are widely used in U.S. agriculture and are particularly harmful because they are systemic — they poison entire plants, including the nectar and pollen — and persistent, lasting months or even years in the plant, soil and waterways.

“Bee populations across the country are declining at an alarming rate,” said Mark Emrich, beekeeper and president of the Washington State Beekeepers Association, a signatory to the letter. “Bees and beekeepers can’t be held responsible for the problems with pesticides. We need protections that ensure the continued health of our food system and agricultural economy; it’s time for the president and his task force to step up.”

“Given the historic decline in the population of pollinators —bees, butterflies and birds, it is critical that the President and White House Task Force show forceful leadership in addressing all factors contributing to the crisis, with the suspension of neonicotinoid insecticides being a critically necessary action,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “The indiscriminate poisoning of pollinators by persistent, neurotoxic neonicotinoids that translocate through plants and contaminate pollen and nectar must stop, and it will take bold action and direction from the highest level of government to ensure a timely and adequate response,” said Mr. Feldman.

Acute exposure to neonicotinoids can cause massive bee die-offs, such as the incident in which 50,000 bumblebees died in an Oregon parking lot in 2013. Even at low exposures, neonicotinoids impair bee health by affecting cognitive functions that make it possible for bees to forage, communicate and find their way back to their hives.

Join the action later this week!

Beyond Pesticides and other groups will continue to fight for the suspension of bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides. Individuals can support these needed changes by going to save-bees.org and signing the petition to the White House. Later this week, groups will deliver petition signatures to President Obama in front of the White House and call on the President to #BeeKindObama by taking bold and decisive action to protect pollinators. We want you there! Send an email to [email protected] to RSVP for the rally, and stay tuned for future ways you can get involved!

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



Partial Victory as Hershey’s Announces Move Away from GMO Ingredients

(Beyond Pesticides, March 2, 2015) Amid growing consumer backlash, Hershey’s has announced first steps toward moving to non-genetically engineered (GE) ingredients in its chocolate. The news comes in response to tens of thousands of Facebook posts, emails, and telephone calls from consumers who took part in a campaign calling on Hershey’s to move to non-GE ingredients led by GMO Inside. In a statement released February 18, Hershey’s said that it will “transition some of its most popular chocolate brands, including Hershey’s Kisses Milk Chocolates and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars to simpler ingredients.” Last week, Hershey’s confirmed with GMO Inside that as part of its commitment to simpler ingredients, its two iconic products will be non-GE by the end of the year, however the company did not respond to the request to source its sugar organically.

“We congratulate Hershey’s on this important move and great first step. As one of the leading chocolate companies in the U.S., this commitment will help move the rest of the companies in this sector,”hersheykiss
said Nicole McCann, Green America Food Campaigns Director, “Hershey’s joins General Mills, Unilever, Post Foods, and other leading companies in responding to consumer demand to make at least some of its products non-GMO.”

Because the main ingredient in the two Hershey’s chocolate products is sugar, and most conventional sugar in the U.S. is sourced from GE sugar beets, this action could have a potentially huge impact on the market. This is unlike a similar effort to appeal to consumers, when General Mills announced last year that it would remove all GE ingredients from Cheerios. However, the main ingredient in Cheerios is oats, and oats are not currently genetically engineered, so many in the environmental community ascertained that it was simply a ploy by the company to revive its image after spending millions of dollars to defeat state-level GE labeling initiatives. Furthermore, General Mills rejected a companywide ban of GE ingredients last fall.

“Hershey’s needs to take the next step and go non-GMO with all of its chocolates, and get third-party verification for non-GMO ingredients. This includes sourcing milk from cows not fed GMOs and agreeing to prohibit any synthetic biology ingredients, starting with vanilla,” stated John Roulac, co-chair of GMO Inside. “Consumers are increasingly looking for non-GMO products and verification, and Hershey’s and its competitors would be wise to offer third-party verified non-GMO products to consumers.”

Though this is certainly a step in the right direction, Beyond Pesticides wants Hershey’s to take it a step further and source organic ingredients. The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the USDA certified organic seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited, and have third-party verification. However, because of USDA policies that allow the proliferation of GE crops, organic agriculture is under threat and subject to genetic drift contamination.

Additionally, GE agriculture is associated with the increased use of herbicides that GE crops are developed to tolerate. Repeated spraying of these herbicides, particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, destroys refuge areas for beneficial insects such as the monarch butterfly and leads to resistance in the very weed species that GE technology is intended to control. Despite rampant glyphosate resistance, questions about the health and safety of GE foods, and the presence of organic management practices that are more protective of human health and the environment, the agrichemical industry continues to resort to increasingly toxic combinations of chemicals. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has registered Enlist Duo®, officially approving the sale and use of a new wave of genetically-engineered (GE) 2,4-D tolerant crops and their accompanying herbicide formulations.

For more information on GE foods, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website. If you’d like more information on choosing foods without pesticides and GE ingredients, visit our guide to Eating With a Conscience.

Source: GMO Inside

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



New Research Links Bee-Killing Insecticide to Monarch Butterfly Deaths

(Beyond Pesticides, February 27, 2015) New research from the University of Minnesota presents some of the first evidence linking the bee-killing insecticides known as neonicotinoids to monarch butterfly deaths. The study finds that milkweed plants, which monarch butterflies need to survive, may also retain neonicotinoids from nearby plants, making milkweed toxic to monarchs.

Diane St John Durham CT We planted a lot of Zinnia seeds and look who came over!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.

University of Minnesota entomologist Vera Krischik, Ph.D. fed butterflies milkweed plants treated with the neonicotinoid insecticide known as imidacloprid in amounts that might typically be found on backyard plants. While adult monarchs and painted lady butterflies were not affected, which, according to Dr. Krischik, indicates the ability of the adults to detoxify, the larvae of both species of butterflies died.

During the course of the study, larvae fed on the treated plants for seven days.

“For the monarch, nobody was left that were feeding on the treated plants,” said Dr. Krischik, whose research has been accepted for publication by a scientific journal.” For the painted lady (butterflies), there were a few scattered larvae that made it to the end of their feeding period.”

Dr. Krischik says her research shows a potential risk to monarchs when neonicotinoids are used in backyard plants near milkweed plants. She did not look at the impact of much lower insecticide rates used in farm fields.

“I would say if you’re using it in your backyard and you’re applying this to a rosebush right next to the milkweed, the risk is high,” she said.

Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced plans to conduct a year-long status review of the monarch butterfly to determine whether the species is eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). FWS is taking this action as result of an August 2014 legal petition filed by health and environmental groups that presented substantial information indicating that listing under the ESA may be warranted. In November 2014, Beyond Pesticides joined over 200 environmental groups and businesses in a letter asking for federal protection for monarch butterflies in the wake of shocking declines. FWS has also pledged $3.2 million as part of a new campaign to save the imperiled species.

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.

Take Action:
1. Tell USDA that habitat is critical to protecting against species decline. Agriculture can protect bees, pollinators, and the delicate balance of ecosystems. But, only if we send a comment to the National Organic Program (NOP) to make sure that happens. See Sample Comments Here. >>Send your comment today! The deadline is TODAY, February 27, at midnight.

2. Let President Obama know you want action. Let’s make sure @BarakObama and the @WhiteHouse #BeeKindObama, and take action to #SaveOurBees. Sign the petition HERE.

3. Join us in person to help us continue the fight to protect butterflies and other pollinators from neonicotinoids. 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: MPR News

Photo Source: Diane St. J, CT

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



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



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 Arctic® 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










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.



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.



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.





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.