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Study Finds that Regenerative Agriculture Is Undermined by Toxic Pesticide Use

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, September 18, 2019) A new report published by Friends of the Earth (FOE), “Pesticides and Soil Health” highlights healthy soil as a key pillar of regenerative, organic agriculture. There are numerous methods that regenerative agriculture utilizes to maximize soil health such as cover cropping, crop rotation, and compost applications. FOE focuses in on an often-overlooked aspect to soil health, “that eliminating or greatly reducing toxic pesticides is key to building healthy soils and ecosystems for a healthy planet.” Beyond Pesticides has long believed that toxic pesticide use has no place in organic and regenerative land management practices and that they can and should be eliminated. According to Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides and former member of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) said, “Pesticide reduction strategies that allow continued use of toxic substances undermine the soil biology and biodiversity that is critical to healthy plants and  unnecessary to achieving pest management goals.” “It’s past time to talk elimination of toxic pesticides and nothing short of that.” Toxic pesticides have a diverse range of unintended impacts, including  cancer and other diseases to those exposed via usage or drift, and crop loss. Lesser known is the impact that pesticides […]

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Herbicide Drift from Agricultural Use Found to Harm Bird Habitat

Friday, September 13th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, September 13, 2019) A study on the use of the herbicide dicamba’s off-target effects finds broad impacts, in both geographic spread and the variety of affected species, with use of the weed killer on Arkansas cropland putting birds at risk in agricultural landscapes. Audubon of Arkansas is reporting results of its community science dicamba monitoring project, conducted under the direction of Bird Conservation Director Dan Scheiman, PhD, and launched in late spring 2019. The project monitored dicamba symptomology in species on municipal, state, and federal lands, where dicamba was not applied, but where its impacts were nonetheless detected. Arkansas Audubon “predicts that in a landscape full of GMO crops [genetically modified organisms] (on which dicamba is typically used), the atmospheric loading of volatile dicamba could be enough to cause landscape scale damage to our state natural areas, wildlife management areas, national wildlife refuges, family farms, and the wildlife they harbor.” Dicamba herbicides are volatile compounds used to control broadleaf weeds — especially on fields of GMO soybean and cotton crops that have been genetically engineered for resistance to dicamba. These herbicides damage non-GMO crops and native plants well beyond intended application areas. (In 2017, more than 3 million acres of […]

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Germany Moves to Phase-Out Glyphosate/Roundup; EPA Unmoved

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, September 11, 2019) Germany is the latest entity to take action on getting glyphosate-based pesticides out of the marketplace. Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that, beginning in 2020, the country will phase out herbicides that contain glyphosate by the end of 2023. The phase-out will occur through a series of scheduled reductions in amounts allowed for use, with a goal of a 75% reduction over the next four years. The announcement comes after “nation-wide protests and demands from [Merkel’s] junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats, for more decisive action on environmental issues.” This action stands in telling contrast to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) repeated failures to protect people, ecosystems, and our food supply, from this toxic compound. The German government also plans to oppose any European Union (EU) request for renewal of licensing of these herbicides, according to the environment ministry. Bayer AG, maker of glyphosate-based herbicides and owner of original manufacturer Monsanto, has pushed back, saying that the government is “getting ahead of itself” by banning glyphosate-based herbicides prior to any decision by the relevant EU authority, and that EU laws disallow unilateral decisions by member states. (Pesticide licensing decisions lie with EU governance in Brussels, […]

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Health and Environmental Groups Call on EPA to Revoke Glyphosate’s Registration

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, September 4, 2019) Sixteen organizations representing health, environmental, farmer, and farmworker communities joined together yesterday to call on EPA to remove glyphosate from the marketplace. The groups cite a combination of high-profile lawsuits, environmental impacts, increasing reports of weed resistance, and growing public concern over the health effects of glyphosate in their comments on EPA’s interim reregistration review decision for the chemical. The comments warn that EPA is at risk of damaging the public’s trust in the agency’s review process for toxic pesticides. “EPA’s myopic review and response to the dangers posed by glyphosate does a disservice to American farmers, farmworkers, and commercial landscapers wishing to use least-toxic products that do not put them at risk of health impacts, and consumers aiming to make the safest choice in regards to what to feed their family and how to manage their yards,” the comments read. The document likewise replies to EPA’s attacks against the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which determined glyphosate to be a probable carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental organisms. EPA has indicated that its process for evaluating glyphosate, “…is more transparent than IARC’s process” and that IARC’s […]

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USDA “People’s Garden” Turned Over to Agrichemical Corporations to Promote Pesticides and GE Crops

Thursday, August 29th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, August 29, 2019) The Peoples Garden, located on the grounds on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the national mall, has been renamed and remodeled to highlight genetically engineered (GE) crops and farming techniques that directly counter the organic movement. The new exhibit, entitled “Voice of the Farmer,” is part of the “Trust in Food” initiative of Farm Journal magazine. This marks a continuation of trends in the Trump administration: pushing for GE/GMOs and pesticides. Since 2009, the USDA Peoples Garden has highlighted organic agriculture. It was originally envisioned by the Obama administration as a place where visitors could learn about what differentiates organic from conventional chemical-intensive food production, and the practices used in organic land management. The garden had several different exhibits: the Three Sisters Garden, the People’s Garden Apiary, three green roofs, a certified organic vegetable garden, a tool shed with a rain barrel and green roof, wildlife and pollinator friendly landscaping, and a bat house. With an emphasis on sustainable gardening practices such as cover cropping, storm water collection, and composting, the garden served as a headquarters for numerous Peoples Gardens founded between 2009 and 2016. The People’s Garden and other projects of the […]

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Internal Monsanto Documents Reveal the Company’s Deceptive Disinformation Campaign against Critics

Friday, August 16th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, August 16, 2019) Chemical industry giant Monsanto used military-style surveillance and response tactics to target critics, newly released documents reveal. Disclosed as a result of ongoing court battles regarding the health impacts of the weed killer Roundup, internal communications from 2014-2017 highlight Monsanto’s “intelligence fusion center” that monitored potential threats to the industry and spread retaliatory responses through third-party sources. As reported by The Guardian, there were numerous, alarming findings in the documents released via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). For instance, a spreadsheet titled, “Project Spruce: Carey Gillam Book” detailed a range of strategic responses in the lead-up to the release of Carey Gillam’s Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science. This included paying Google to promote an existing blog post when users searched, “Monsanto Glyphosate Carey Gillam.” Additionally, the group wrote up “talking points” for third parties to critique the book and post negative reviews. Ms. Gillam noted in an op-ed, “Shortly after the book’s publication, dozens of “reviewers” suddenly posted one-star reviews sharing suspiciously similar themes and language. The efforts were not very successful as Amazon removed many reviews it deemed fake or improper.” Internal emails exposed that […]

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Chemical-Intensive Agriculture Is Increasingly Toxic to Insects

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, August 15, 2019) An article in the journal Plos One, “An assessment of acute insecticide toxicity loading (AITL) of chemical pesticides used on agricultural land in the United States,” shows that recent shifts in insecticide use—from organophosphates and carbamates to synthetic pyrethroids and neonicotinoids—have made a large contribution to the ongoing insect apocalypse. This shift to insecticides that target insects based on both selective toxicity and delivery method occurs within a context of shrinking habitat and biodiversity. The study, by Michael DiBartolomeis, PhD, Susan Kegley, PhD, Pierre Mineau, PhD, Rosemarie Radford, and Kendra Klein, PhD, presents a measure of acute insecticide toxicity loading that incorporates acute toxicity, quantity used, and the rate at which the insecticide degrades. Goulson et al. applied a similar measure in Great Britain that did not incorporate the rate of degradation. Both studies use the median lethal dose (LD50) to honey bees as a measure of acute toxicity and calculate the potential number of bee deaths based on the number of lethal doses of various insecticides applied in the field. In both cases, researchers used toxicity estimates for honey bees because they are widely available. Other insects may be more or less sensitive. The […]

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EPA Refuses to Approve Labeling that Discloses Roundup (Glyphosate) as a Carcinogen

Monday, August 12th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, August 13, 2019) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is refusing to approve product labels that disclose that the herbicide glyphosate may cause cancer, according to a press release published last week. The move comes after the state of California listed glyphosate on its Prop 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. Health advocates are condemning the decision as the latest in a long string of EPA actions aimed at benefiting industry at the expense of consumer and public health. Many are concerned that the incessant stream of industry-friendly decisions is eroding public trust in the agency and its ability to act as an independent regulator. While a state judge gave the Prop 65 warning labels the go-ahead, a prior ruling from U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb in Sacramento placed a preliminary injunction on the California requirement that remains in place today. The state added glyphosate to its Prop 65 list after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) designated the chemical as a group 2A carcinogen.  Under Prop 65, California regulators are required to provide “clear and reasonable” warning labels when any one of four requirements in the […]

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Impossible Burger Causes Some Beef in the “Green” Market

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, August 8, 2019) The Food and Drug Association (FDA) recently approved the Impossible Burger, sparking a debate among environmentalists and lovers of plant-based meat products. The burger, manufactured by the Impossible Foods Group, is comprised of genetically engineered soy and heme (iron-containing molecule that is a component of hemoglobin and common to plants and animals). It contains over 11.3 times the amount of glyphosate residue as its counterpart, the non-GMO Beyond Burger. Spurring more controversy, the Impossible Foods Group recently attacked regenerative agricultural practices that advocates say are part of the solution to the current food system and climate crises. Impossible Foods Group uses genetically engineered soy that is resistant to herbicides such as glyphosate. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has recently taken the pesticide spotlight as over 18,000 plaintiffs are suing the agricultural giant Bayer over diagnoses of cancer and other diseases allegedly caused by use of their products. Ingestion or exposure to glyphosate can increase risk of cancer, disrupt estrogen, harm gut bacteria, and jeopardize overall health. Pesticide residues end up in food, and runoff or drift from agricultural fields contaminates soil, air, and water. The spraying of these chemicals can also endanger nearby operations […]

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Kids Carry Higher Levels of Glyphosate in Their Bodies than Adults, Study Finds

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, August 7, 2019) A study conducted by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) finds that children carry significantly higher levels of glyphosate in their bodies than their parents. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Bayer Monsanto’s Roundup, has been identified as probably carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.  In the context of recent data from the American Cancer Society (ACS) indicating that pediatric cancer in the U.S. surged by almost 50% from 1975 to 2015, many parents are worried, and looking for ways to reduce their children’s exposure to glyphosate and other toxic pesticides. The study conducted by CEH enrolled eleven families from all over the U.S., testing levels of glyphosate in children’s urine as compared to their parents. Results showed that over 90% of participants had been recently exposed to glyphosate. In most child/parent pairs, the child’s body had surprisingly higher concentrations of glyphosate (up to 4 times that of the parent), supporting research that glyphosate poses a greater threat to children. Children may be more susceptible to glyphosate for a variety of reasons. Children are growing, so they take in more of everything (from food, to water, to pesticides) per pound of body weight. […]

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Remind USDA that Genetic Engineering Is NOT Acceptable in Organic

Monday, August 5th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, August 5, 2019) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) appears to have forgotten the lesson learned 20 years ago when it was forced to ban genetic engineering (GE) in organic regulations. At a July 17 hearing called by the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research on “Assessing the Effectiveness of the National Organic Program,” Greg Ibach, the USDA’s Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, stated, “There is the opportunity to open the discussion to consider whether it is appropriate for some of these new technologies, including gene editing, to be eligible to be used to enhance organic production.” In 1997, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a draft rule that would have allowed GE, irradiation, and sewage sludge (the “Big Three”) in organic production, which was met by the second largest number of comments the agency had ever received—well before the days of internet advocacy—overwhelmingly opposing the inclusion of the “Big Three.”  The prohibition of gene editing falls under the “excluded methods” provision of the organic regulations. The law prohibits “a variety of methods used to genetically modify organisms or influence their growth and development by means that are not possible under natural conditions […]

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At Congressional Hearing, USDA Proposes Allowing Genetic Engineering (“Editing”) in Certified Organic Food

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, August 2, 2019) Advocates of organic agriculture, including Beyond Pesticides, are sounding a “yellow alert” on the heels of recent comments, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Greg Ibach, before the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research. In his remarks, Mr. Ibach opened the door to consideration of allowing new gene-editing technologies to be permitted under the federal National Organic Program (NOP) and its standards. He said, “As the National Organic Standards Board set the rules originally, GMOs are not eligible to be in the organic program. However, we’ve seen new technology, including gene-editing, that accomplishes things in shorter periods of time than a natural breeding process can. I think there is the opportunity to open the discussion to consider whether it is appropriate for some of these new technologies that include gene-editing to be eligible to be used to enhance organic production and to have drought and disease-resistant varieties, as well as higher-yield varieties available.” The National Organic Standards (NOS), promulgated in 2002 (on the basis of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990) by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) — on which Beyond Pesticides Executive […]

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EPA’s Office of Inspector General Must Investigate EPA’s Failure to Fully Assess Pesticide Hazards

Monday, July 29th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, July 29, 2019) A research study, published in March in Scientific Reports, uncovers a pesticide effect on a sugar-metabolizing enzyme common to all cells that has broad health ramifications ignored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) safety testing protocol. This finding raises a larger question regarding the need for EPA to test for the synergistic effects of pesticides, whereby pesticides and chemicals in combination have an even greater effect than they do by themselves. The research, by T. Tristan Brandhorst, PhD, Iain Kean, PhD, and others in the lab of Bruce Klein, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and UW School ofMedicine and Public Health, specifically sheds light on the mode of action of the fungicide fludioxonil. Fludioxonil, a phenylpyrrole fungicide, was developed to treat seeds during storage, and has come to be used commonly on grains, vegetables, fruits, and ornamental plants during cultivation, and produce after harvest to extend “shelf life.” As reported by the American Association for the Advancement of Science publication, EurekAlert, “The ability of [the fungicide] fludioxonil to act on a sugar-metabolizing enzyme common to all cells, and to produce the damaging compound methylglyoxal, may mean that the pesticide has more potential to harm non-fungal cells than previously […]

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Public Soybean Field Research Damaged by Pesticide Drift

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, July 25, 2019) Professors are experiencing damage to their soybean field research as a result of dicamba drift from neighboring agricultural fields. Experts worry that continued drift will make it impossible to carry out public research integral to non-genetically engineered soybean production. These reports, recent studies of dicamba drift potential, and numerous lawsuits counter Monsanto/Bayer’s claims that dicamba poses no drift threat when used properly. Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, manufactures both dicamba and genetically engineered, herbicide-tolerant crops. Dicamba mimics natural plant hormones, auxins, to cause uncontrolled and abnormal growth in non-tolerant plants; soybeans are especially vulnerable. Pengyn Chen, PhD, a professor of soybean breeding and genetics at the University of Missouri’s Fisher Delta Research Center, reports that his soybeans leaves curled up into cups and grew fragile unusual side branches due to dicamba drift. Dr. Chen has seen damage for the past three years as dicamba use has increased around his research station. The nature of Dr. Chen’s work bars him from switching to dicamba resistant crops, a switch many farmers make to avoid the impacts of drift. Dr. Chen studies many varieties of soybeans, including obscure types that private companies ignore. His research aims to find […]

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Hawai’i Agribusiness Development Corporation in Violation of Clean Water Act Due to Glyphosate Contamination

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, July 24, 2019) The U.S. District Court for the District of Hawai’i has found the state’s Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) guilty of violating the Clean Water Act. The case, brought by organizations including Surfrider Foundation, Pesticide Action Network North America, and others, represented by Earthjustice, accused ADC of dumping water contaminated with pesticides, including the cancer-causing herbicide glyphosate, into the Pacific Ocean off of West Kauai without a permit since 2015. Hawai’i bears the brunt of agribusiness wrongdoings, and Kauai in particular has faced past issues of pesticide injustice at the hands of the ADC. However, this new ruling marks a turn in past decisions that have favored agribusiness, as the judge found ADC violations. Advocates hope that this decision will highlight the need for government accountability, and increase transparency about what pesticides and chemicals are entering our oceans. The ADC system collects groundwater and storm water runoff through a series of canals, ditches, and pumps. The polluted water, full of toxic pesticides and chemicals, discharges into the Pacific Ocean along popular beaches that residents use for recreational activities, including surfing and fishing. The case brought against ADC accuses the department of dumping this water without a National […]

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Dicamba Herbicide Poses Greater Threat of Drift when Mixed with Glyphosate

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, July 18, 2019) Pesticide products containing the weed killer dicamba become more volatile and drift-prone in hot conditions and when tank-mixed with glyphosate, according to a recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Tennessee. The findings help explain rampant complaints from farmers in the South and Midwest experiencing crop loss and economic hardship as a result of drift from new dicamba products, which are formulated with glyphosate for use on genetically engineered (GE) cotton and soy. While states have taken the lead in regulating the use of GE dicamba products, top political officials within Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s EPA overruled the findings from agency scientists urging larger buffer zones to protect neighboring crops and farm fields. During a 60-hour window, scientists applied various GE dicamba products (Clarity and XtendiMax) over a range of temperatures and took air samples. As temperatures increased, so did the volatilization and drift of dicamba, even in formulations touted as “low volatility.” Adding glyphosate to the mixture produced stark results, increasing concentrations of dicamba in the air up to nine times compared to dicamba alone. Tom Mueller, PhD, a professor in the UT Department of Plant Sciences, stated in a press release that […]

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Pesticide-Intensive Agriculture Contributes to Severe Monarch Butterfly Decline through Milkweed Contamination

Monday, July 8th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, June 8, 2019) Scientists studying the precipitous decline in populations of monarch butterflies are searching for causes, and pesticide use is one of the factors under their (figurative) microscopes. Purdue University entomology professor Ian Kaplan, PhD and doctoral student Paola Olaya-Arenas recently turned their attention to a poorly studied potential factor — exposure during monarchs’ larval stage to non-target pesticides on their primary host plant and food source, common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). In Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, the researchers report finding evidence of 14 different agricultural pesticides on milkweed near Indiana farm fields, including neonicotinoids clothianidin and thiamethoxam, the pyrethroid deltamethrin, and imidacloprid in a few samples. The research team’s primary aim was to identify and measure the range of pesticides to which monarch caterpillars might be exposed, or which they might consume, on milkweed plants in agricultural landscapes. Secondarily, they hoped to learn how pesticide presence varies with distance between milkweed plants and nearby agricultural sites. In the subject Indiana environs, where corn and soybeans are dominant crops, the study found neonicotinoid residues on milkweed, particularly those of the active ingredients in clothianidin and thiamethoxam. They note, “Although seed treatment data are no longer reported for U.S. […]

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Swiss Government Challenged by United Nations for Human Rights Violations Associated with Pesticide Use and Actions of Pesticide Companies

Friday, June 28th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, June 28, 2019) As is the case in many countries, the conversation about the use of pesticides has been especially vigorous in the past few years. Switzerland is a case in point: it is undergoing deep scrutiny of pesticide use, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics, Baskut Tuncak, has now said publicly that pesticide companies’ behavior is “seriously deficient” regarding human rights (especially those of children), and that the Swiss government should act more aggressively to phase out use of these hazardous chemicals. Recently, the pesticide conversation has ratcheted up several notches, not only in the U.S., but also globally, due to greater public awareness of the health and environmental threats of pesticide use, more and more research underscoring those threats, and pointedly, the cascade of litigation against Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) for harm to individuals who have used its glyphosate-based products. Public awareness in Switzerland is also mounting in response to global developments, to recent discoveries that small streams in Swiss agricultural areas are heavily polluted with pesticides, and to broadening recognition that pesticides are linked to a plethora of harms to human health, pollinators, water, farmworkers, wildlife, ecosystems and biodiversity, and more. In 2017, a UN […]

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Customers Demand Kroger Stop Selling Food Grown with Bee-killing Pesticides

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, June 19, 2019) To mark National Pollinator Week (June 17-23), more than 10,000 people across the country are joining to demand that Kroger (NYSE: KR) help stop the extreme decline of pollinators. Customers are delivering letters to stores asking the nation’s largest conventional grocery store to eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides from its food supply chain and increase domestic organic food offerings to help stop the catastrophic decline of pollinators and other insects. Pollinators and other insects could go extinct within a century, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems,” the first comprehensive global meta-analysis of insect decline states. This is largely due to the widespread use of neonicotinoids and other toxic insecticides in industrial agriculture. “Systemic neonicotinoid insecticides and the broad range of pesticides that harm people and pollinators have no place in our food supply,” said Drew Toher, community resource and policy director at Beyond Pesticides. “Kroger customers are asking the company to be part of the solution to the pollinator crisis by eliminating hazardous pesticides and expanding organic options.” “To avoid the ‘bee apocalypse’ it is critical that Kroger immediately commit to stop selling food with pollinator-toxic pesticides,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, pesticides and pollinators program manager at […]

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85 Pesticides Banned Around the World Account for a Quarter of U.S. Use

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, June 13, 2019) The U.S. allows the use of 85 pesticides that have been banned or are being phased out in the European Union, China or Brazil, according to a peer-reviewed study published last week by the academic journal Environmental Health. In 2016, the U.S. used 322 million pounds of pesticides that are banned in the E.U., accounting for more than one-quarter of all agricultural pesticide use in this country, according to the study. U.S. applicators also used 40 million pounds of pesticides that are banned or being phased out in China and 26 million pounds of pesticides that are banned or being phased out in Brazil. “It’s appalling the U.S. lags so far behind these major agricultural powers in banning harmful pesticides,” said Nathan Donley, PhD, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity and author of the study. “The fact that we’re still using hundreds of millions of pounds of poisons other nations have wisely rejected as too risky spotlights our dangerously lax approach to phasing out hazardous pesticides.” The study compared the approval status of more than 500 pesticides used in outdoor applications in the world’s four largest agricultural economies: the United States, European Union, China and Brazil. Report […]

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Responding to Pressure from Advocates, USDA’s National Organic Program Announces Stricter Enforcement for Organic Container Systems

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, June 5, 2019) Earlier this week, the National Organic Program (NOP) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a memo that will put a stop to the practice of allowing organic certification for container systems produced on land managed with substances, such as the herbicide glyphosate, which are not permitted in organic production. The decision comes after broad opposition to this NOP allowance was vociferously expressed by a cross section of commenters at the April meeting of the National Organic Standards Board. The head of NOP, Jenny Tucker, in response to questions, attempted to clarify her previous comment to farmers indicating that the practice met organic standards, but instead incited outrage at the NOSB meeting by refusing to reject the use glyphosate in container growing operations. The NOP decision is not retroactive for operations earlier allowed to use the chemicals. The NOP memo clarifies and establishes stricter adherence to a pre-existing rule written into the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990. While this clarification represents a victory for those fighting to keep organic strong, the certification of hydroponic and other container systems as organic continues to present a major challenge for the integrity of a system whose […]

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Citizen Scientist Farmers Use Worms to Analyze Soil Health

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, May 29, 2019) A soil health monitoring study in England finds that an alarming 42% of surveyed fields are deficient in a wriggly measurement—earthworm populations. Over half the farmers recruited in this citizen science evaluation said they planned to change their soil management practices as a result of the earthworm monitoring results. The #60minworms method, named for the time it takes to conduct, is to dig a soil pit and place the soil onto a mat, then sort out the earthworms into a bucket. After sorting, the total number of earthworms is counted, and juveniles are returned to the soil. Adults are sorted and recorded by type using a simple key (surface worms: epigeic—small and red, anecic—pale or green; deep-burrowing worms: endogeic—heavily pigmented and large). This is repeated ten times using a W-style sampling pattern across a field. Jacqueline Stroud, PhD, the study author and soil scientist, developed survey booklets to distribute to volunteer farmers. Recruitment methods included events, workshops, and Twitter. Farmers conducted tests on their own private land during a 6-week window in 2018. They recorded their results in the given booklets and sent the information for analysis. A total of 126 fields were surveyed. Worm data […]

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University of California Suspends Use of Weed Killer, Glyphosate, as Bans Mount Across the U.S.

Friday, May 24th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, May 24, 2019) University of California (UC) President Janet Napolitano announced, on May 15, a temporary ban on the use of glyphosate on all of UC’s 10 campuses. Set to begin on June 1, the ban will affect the more than 200,000 students in the UC system, and countless other staff, faculty, and visitors to the campuses. In announcing the ban, the university cited “concerns about possible human health and ecological hazards, as well potential legal and reputational risks associated with this category of herbicides.” (There are exceptions to the temporary suspension, such as uses for “agricultural operations, fuel-loaded management programs to reduce wildfire risk, native habitat preservation or restoration activities and research that requires glyphosate-based herbicides.”) The UC ban is the latest in a snowball-turning-avalanche of actions and decisions on glyphosate — the active ingredient in the Monsanto (now owned by Bayer AG) products Roundup and Ranger, and in many other herbicides. The suspension of glyphosate use at UC comes in large part as a result of the campaign, Herbicide-Free UC — which began as Herbicide-Free Cal, founded by student-athletes Mackenzie Feldman and Bridget Gustafson. The students became active on pesticides issues when they discovered that herbicides were […]

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