Action of the week is intended to provide you, our supporters and network, with one concrete action that you can take each week to have your voice heard on governmental actions that are harmful to the environment and public and worker health, increase overall pesticide use, or undermine the advancement of organic, sustainable, and regenerative practices and policies. As an example, topics may include toxic chemical use, pollinator protection, organic agriculture and land use, global climate change, and regulatory or enforcement violations.
Tell Oregon Department of Agriculture to Ban This Tree-Killing Pesticide
Aminocyclopyrachlor (ACP) is a tree-killing pesticide masquerading as a broadleaf herbicide. The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) has the opportunity to lead the country in banning this inherently dangerous chemical. According to ODA, nearly 1,500 dead or dying trees have been reported along Oregon's iconic US Highway 20, home to old growth ponderosa pines. Many of these 150- to 300-year old trees are now dead from ACP exposure. ODA indicated that “because [ACP] is a relatively new herbicide it is unknown how many trees stressed from past applications of [ACP] will die in the future.”
In 2014, DuPont chemical company settled a nearly $2 million lawsuit with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after the herbicide (under the brand name Imprelis®) was found to kill trees at golf courses, homeowners associations, businesses, and private residences. Despite this history, regulators left ACP on the market. Its use was banned on lawns and turfgrass, but allowed for roadside rights-of-way. A couple years ago, Bayer purchased the rights to ACP from DuPont and continues to market and sell the chemical under the brand names Perspective®, Streamline®, and Viewpoint®. It should be no surprise to officials that this tree-killing herbicide is killing trees, but we must now deal with their errors of judgment.
ODA announced late last year that it was temporarily banning the use of ACP on roadsides while it put together a new rule. That rule is now available for public comment, and while it would make this temporary ban on roadside uses permanent, Oregon officials stopped short of a complete ban, allowing a limited one-time per year exemption from the ban when spraying an invasive weed in a limited area. While this is an important step, it is clear that there is enough evidence to completely ban the use of this chemical in Oregon.
Although ODA's new rule prohibits roadside right-of way spraying, it does not ban all uses of the chemical. In effect, this is simply setting the stage for the next round of news stories picturing ACP-poisoned trees.
Real action against tree-killing ACP is needed now. ODA will accept public comments from any U.S. resident, so regardless of where you are in the country, send the letter below to ODA today! Deadline for comments is 2/26/2019.
At the federal level, Beyond Pesticides joined with our partners at the Center for Biological Diversity and Beyond Toxics to file a Freedom of Information Act request in order to get more information about this tree-killing pesticide. We'll keep fighting EPA's approval of this herbicide, but please help encourage the state of Oregon to step up and lead the way!
Although the rusty patched bumblebee was placed on the endangered species list in 2017, the Trump Administration has failed to put in place legally required safeguards for the species. The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) must designate locations where additional protections could help restore the endangered bumblebee's population.
DOI's failure to comply with requirements under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is consistent with the Trump Administration's continued disregard for ongoing pollinator declines and environmental protections in general. Under ESA, DOI is required to determine “critical habitat” that contains physical and biological requirements a listed species needs in order to recover. That area must be designated within one year of placing a species on the endangered list, using best available scientific data. The Trump Administration's DOI has failed to do so under either former Director Ryan Zinke or Acting Director David Bernhardt. Without determining critical habitat, the administration is in violation of the ESA, and the survival of a critical endangered species is threatened.
The rusty patched bumblebee has a historical range that included habitat throughout the Northeast and Midwest United States. The Washington Post notes that, “The rusty patched bumblebee was so prevalent 20 years ago that pedestrians in Midwestern cities had to shoo them away.” However, pesticide use, climate change, disease, and habitat loss led to significant declines over the last several decades. Since then, their populations have dwindled and their overall decline is estimated at 91 percent.
The Trump Administration has dragged its feet on protecting the rusty patched bumblebee since the beginning of its term. The species was proposed for ESA listing under the Obama Administration in 2016, and finalized in 2017 only a week before the new Administration took office. However, on his first day in office, President Trump directed federal agencies to postpone the effective date of any regulations that had been published to the federal register but not yet put into effect. This move effectively reversed the ESA listing of the rusty patched bumblebee. In March 2017, the species was finally placed onto the endangered list.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration's actions in this case are more of the norm rather than the exception. In August of last year, DOI reversed a long-standing policy that prohibited the use of systemic, bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides on National Wildlife Refuges. The Administration has also worked on the pesticide industry's behalf to slow down the implementation of farmworker protections and continue the allowance of another highly toxic insecticide chlorpyrifos.
A September 2018 report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified issues important to protecting health and the environment. The EPA's response to the report left many of these problems unresolved.
Measures and Management Controls Needed to Improve EPA's Pesticide Emergency Exemption Process (Report No. 18-P-0281, September 25, 2018), finds that the agency's practice of routinely granting “emergency” approval for pesticides through its Section 18 program does not effectively measure risks to human health or the environment.
Under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), EPA has the authority to approve the temporary emergency use of unapproved pesticides if the agency determines the pesticide is needed to prevent the spread of an unexpected outbreak of crop-damaging insects, for example. But this provision has been widely abused.
The inspector general recommends EPA “develop and implement applicable outcome-based performance measures to demonstrate the human health and environmental effects of the EPA's emergency exemption decisions.”
EPA disagreed and said, [T]he development of an outcome-based performance measure for the Section 18 emergency exemption process was neither appropriate nor feasible.” EPA's response demonstrates that the current Section 18 program, which allows chronic overuse of emergency exemptions, is neither appropriate nor adequately protective of public health.
OIG's report finds “significant deficiencies in the OPP's [Office of Pesticide Programs] online database management, in its draft Section 18 emergency exemption standard operating procedure and application checklist, and in its reports to Congress and the Office of Management and Budget.” Specifically, the report notes EPA “does not have outcome measures in place to determine how well the emergency exemption process maintains human health and environmental safeguards. The program office also does not have comprehensive internal controls to manage the emergency exemption data it collects,” and “OPP does not consistently communicate emergency exemption information with its stakeholders.”
Beyond Pesticides has firmly opposed the current use of Section 18. Through the Section 18, or emergency exemption program, EPA allows the use of pesticides that are not registered for a particular crop, or in some cases not registered for use at all, but making progress toward registration. EPA can set tolerances for affected crops that are time-limited, usually for the season in which they are allowed or sometimes longer. For example, in March 2017 EPA announced it is allowing residues of antibiotics in Florida orange juice, after approving an emergency exemption for the antibiotics streptomycinand oxytetracycline –allowing their use for a bacterial disease, citrus greening (Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) bacterium that causes Huanglongbing), in Florida citrus crops through December of 2019, and further exacerbating bacterial resistance. Organic citrus growers use cultural practices, soil fertility focused on soil biology, and biological controls to manage the disease.
Beyond Pesticides has found a growing number of requests for Section 18 emergency exemptions from states over the last ten years for the use of pesticides to control various resistant weed and insect pests that do not meet the criteria for “non-routine” or “emergency” conditions set forth in FIFRA, and/or whose pesticide use would pose elevated risks to the environment. Additionally, a number of requests and subsequent, almost annual, issuance of Section 18 exemptions essentially replace one Section 18 exemption with another. Continuous exemptions for the same or similar pest problem over a number of years indicates that the case is not “non-routine” and undermines the intent of the program, which is to provide temporary relief from unforeseen problems.
A Center for Biological Diversity report finds as of 2017, EPA had granted 78 “emergency” exemptions for sulfoxaflor, a pesticide that the EPA itself concluded is highly toxic to bees. EPA has approved emergency exemptions to allow sulfoxaflor use on more than 17.5 million acres of U.S. cotton and sorghum farms – use sites where the pesticide is not currently registered. Other exemptions are given to states to combat herbicide-resistant weeds, which have proliferated across the U.S. over the last decade and should not be considered an “emergency” situation; resistance is a predictable consequence of pesticide use.
Reoccurring problems like weed resistance to herbicides should be a wake-up call for farmers and EPA to reevaluate and implement alternative biological and cultural management practices for the long-term prevention of diseases, ending the reliance on the “chemical fix” that will exacerbate the problem when pest resistance to the chemical inevitably occurs.
(Beyond Pesticides, January 22, 2019) Earlier this month, U.S. Representative Nydia Velásquez (D-NY) introduced The Ban Toxic Pesticides Act, H.R.230 which bans the insecticide chlorpyrifos from commerce.
Chlorpyrifos is a toxic chemical that has been linked to damaging and often irreversible health outcomes in workers, pregnant women, and children. As a result of a revised human health risk assessment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a regulation to ban chlorpyrifos in 2016. Under the Trump Administration, the EPA has taken steps to reverse the regulation.
“It’s unconscionable for EPA to turn a blind eye as children and workers are exposed to this poison,” Velázquez said. “If the EPA won’t do its job when it comes to chlorpyrifos, then Congress needs to act – and do so quickly.”
Chlorypyrifos is a widely used pesticide. Agriculture companies annually spray 6 million pounds of the substance on crops like citrus, apples, and cherries. In the same family as Sarin gas, the substance was initially developed prior to World War II as a chemical weapon. It can overstimulate the nervous system to cause nausea, dizziness, and confusion. With very high exposures (accidents or spills), it can cause respiratory paralysis and even death. When applying the chemical to fields, workers must wear protective garments such as respirators. Workers are then blocked from entering the fields from 24 hours up to 5 days after application due to the chemical exposure risk.
In August, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement its previous proposed ban of the chemical in the U.S. However, the Administration is appealing the ruling, seeking to prevent implementation of the Obama-era ban.
Rep. Valázaquez states, “As long as there are efforts underway in the courts or administratively to undo the ban on this toxic pesticide, I’ll be working to see chlorypyrifos removed from commerce through the legislative process.”
There is a strong recent history of action of introducing legislation to remove chlorpyrifos from use. The same legislation being proposed by Valazquez was introduced in the last Congress as H.R. 3380, Pesticide Protection Act (2017). In the closing days of the 115th Congress, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) introduced a bill to ban chlorpyrifos. The Prohibit Chlorpyrifos Poisoning Students Act (S. 3764) would elevate Hawai‘i’s state ban to the national level, banning the use of the chemical near (within 300 feet of) schools in 2019 and banning its sale and distribution altogether the following year. The legislation follows a 2017 bill introduced by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Protect Children, Farmers and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act, S. 1624, that deems any food with chlorpyrifos residues to be adulterated and therefore illegal.
EPA negotiated a cancellation of all residential uses (with the exception of golf courses and disease-carrying mosquitoes) in 2000 after finding significant neurotoxic effects on children. In June, 2018, Hawai‘i became the first state to ban chlorpyrifos, effective 2022.
Given the abundant research demonstrating deleterious effects of chlorpyrifos on human health –including a 2016 EPA human risk assessment that found the agency’s exposure threshold is exceeded for children, and citing concerns about chlorpyrifos levels in the air in schools, homes, and communities — it is critical to support a complete ban on the chemical.
H.R. 230 has 56 house representative co-sponsors. If your representative has already signed on, you will be prompted to send them a thank you note that encourages them to keep advocating for human and environmental health.
Letter to U.S. Representatives:
I am writing to request that you co-sponsor The Ban Toxic Pesticides Act, H.R.230. Introduced by Rep. Nydia Velásquez, the act bans the insecticide chlorpyrifos from commerce. Chlorpyrifos is a toxic chemical that has been linked to damaging and often irreversible health outcomes in workers, pregnant women, and children.
EPA negotiated a cancellation of all residential (with the exception of golf courses and disease-carrying mosquitoes) uses in 2000, after determining that the neurotoxic effects to children exceeded reasonable levels. A 2016 revised EPA human health risk assessment of chlorpyrifos found that the agency’s exposure threshold is exceeded for children, citing concerns about levels in the air at schools, homes, and communities in agricultural areas. As a result, the EPA developed a regulation to ban chlorpyrifos. Under the Trump Administration, the EPA has taken steps to reverse the regulation despite clear human health hazards.
In June of 2018, Hawai‘i became the first state to ban chlorpyrifos (effective in 2022). The evidence of deleterious effects and momentum of policy change make it clear: there is an urgent need to extend protection from chlorpyrifos to children and others in all states.
Please confirm with me that you will co-sponsor H.R. 230, The Ban Toxic Pesticides Act.
Co-sponsors in the last (115th) Congress (56): Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva, Rep. David N. Cicilline, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rep. McNerney, Rep. Peter DeFazio, Rep. Blumenauer, Rep. Bonamici, Rep. Roybal-Allard, Rep. Quigley, Rep.
Lee, Rep. Chu, Rep. Eleanor H. Norton, Rep. Frederica S. Wilson, Rep. Gabbard, Rep. Jackson Lee, Rep. Peter Welch, Rep. Mark Pocan, Rep. Espaillat, Rep. Lipinski, Rep. Kathy Castor, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Rep. Steve Cohen, Rep. Ro Khanna, Rep. Tim Ryan, Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, Rep. Chris Smith, Rep. Pramilia Jayapal, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Rep. Gregory Meeks, Rep. Albio Sires, Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, Rep. Dwight Evans, Rep. Betty McCollum, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Rep. Jerry Nadler, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Raskin, Rep. McGovern, Rep. Ted W. Lieu, Rep. Bobby Rush, Rep. Pingree, Rep. Grace Meng, Rep. Adam Smith, Rep. Huffman, Rep. Fudge, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr, Rep. Tony Cárdenas, Rep. Matt Cartwright, Rep. Pete Visclosky, Rep. Jimmy Gomez, Rep. Jackie Speier, Rep. Grace Napolitano, Rep. Seth Moulton, Rep. Katherine Clark.
Tell Congress to stop the Trump administration from opening the floodgates to permit widespread use of antibiotics in citrus production (grapefruits, oranges and tangerines).
Despite the building national and international crisis of deadly bacterial resistance to antibiotics, this new allowance would expand on an emergency use decision the Environmental Protection Agency made in 2017. It permits up to 480,000 acres of citrus trees in Florida to be treated with more than 650,000 pounds of streptomycin per year; 23,000 citrus acres in California will likely be treated annually.
The World Health Organization has called bacterial resistance “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.”
The two approved antibacterial chemicals to be used as pesticides in citrus production are streptomycin and oxytetracycline. Their use was permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under an emergency exemption in May, 2017 for a citrus greening disease caused by the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) in Florida citrus crops through December of 2019.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced March 15, “EPA is issuing these tolerances without notice and opportunity for public comment as provided in FFDCA [Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act] section 408(l)(6).” EPA states, “[T]ime-limited tolerances are established for residues of streptomycin in or on fruit, citrus, group 10-10, at 2 ppm, and the dried pulp of these commodities at 6 ppm.” For oxytetracycline, EPA is allowing residues “in or on all commodities of fruit, citrus, group 10-10, at 0.4 ppm.” [See below; organic standards do not allow antibiotic use.] Now, EPA is moving forward with a permanent allowance of these chemicals.
In addition, both the active and inert ingredients in common herbicides advance antibiotic resistance. Learn more about the history of Resistance and Antibiotics by visiting Beyond Pesticides' Antimicrobials and Antibacterials program page. Pose the question to policy makers: Will we now see an “Antibiotics rebellion”?
Beyond Pesticides, with other organizations, led a successful effort to remove antibiotics from organic apple and pear production because of their contribution to antibiotic resistance and the availability of alternative practices and inputs.
As bacteria become resistant to the most commonly prescribed antibiotics, the results are longer-lasting infections, higher medical expenses, the need for more costly or hazardous medications, and the inability to treat life-threatening infections. The development and spread of antibiotic resistance is the inevitable effect of antibiotic use. Bacteria evolve quickly, and antibiotics provide strong selection pressure for those strains with genes for resistance. Both antibiotics proposed for expanded use are important for fighting human disease. Tetracycline is used for many common infections of the respiratory tract, sinuses, middle ear, and urinary tract, as well as for anthrax, plague, cholera, and Legionnaire's disease, though it is used less frequently because of resistance. Streptomycin is used for tuberculosis, tularemia, plague, bacterial endocarditis, brucellosis, and other diseases, but its usefulness is limited by widespread resistance (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2006).
Exposure to antibiotics can disturb the microbiota in the gut. In addition to interfering with digestion, a disrupted gut microbiome can contribute to a whole host of “21st century diseases,” including diabetes, obesity, food allergies, heart disease, antibiotic-resistant infections, cancer, asthma, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and more. Furthermore, the human immune system is largely composed of microbiota.
As the dust settles on the final Farm Bill, which passed the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives last month, it is clear that neither the substance nor the process on a range of issues meet the urgent need to address key sustainability issues that put the future in peril.
We must not allow this Farm Bill to be the final word on a number of critical environmental issues facing the nation and world. That is why it is absolutely critical that we get to work immediately, with the new Congress, to set a new course that transforms the institutions of government that are holding back the urgently needed transition to a green economy.
On the Farm Bill, our victories were mostly measured in terms of what we were able to remove from the Farm Bill—not the standard of achievement that we need to face critical environmental threats.
The good. Our major victory in the Farm Bill does not move us forward, but simply protects the status quo of our democracy—protecting the power of states and local government to adopt pesticide restrictions that are more stringent than the federal government. With your help and the help of a broad network of local officials nationwide, we were able to stop a preemption provision from being inserted in the federal pesticide law. Although the victory was in defeating this provision, the chemical industry has awakened a new front in the pesticide reform movement. As a result of this provision, there is new momentum to reassert the rights of local governments and repeal state-level preemption of municipalities. Other environmental setbacks to the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and farmworker protection were taken out of the final bill. So, thank you to all who participated in this important process.
The bad. We were unable to remove an amendment to organic law that introduces confusion on the mandate to sunset all synthetics used in organic agricultural production and processing, forcing the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and USDA to reassess the science and necessity of these inputs with the most rigorous scrutiny by requiring a super-majority vote of the board every five years to allow continued use of these synthetics—the same standard used when synthetics are initially petitioned. The growth of organic is essential to solving our key environmental challenges, from the dramatic decline in biodiversity to global climate change. Nothing should be done to undercut the integrity of the organic standard setting process. Additionally, new language in the organic law allows farmer, handler, and retailer positions on the NOSB to be filled by employees of farmers, handlers, and retailers, making the decision making process less robust.
The ugly. The Farm Bill sets policy on food and farm issues for the next five years and should not be the result of backroom negotiations in Congress, as it was this round. Important and controversial issues deserve public hearings in which all members of Congress and the public can participate, and all perspectives can be heard.
More on organic. There were some “wins” for organic in continued funding for programs important to organic production and research, and necessary improvements to oversight and enforcement of organic imports.
New leadership. Increasing support is being shown for a proposal by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to form a House Select Committee for a Green New Deal that addresses economic and environmental reforms while ensuring a functioning democracy. A Green New Deal provides a framework for supporting agriculture that helps farmers, consumers, and the environment by advancing organic agriculture. In the words of commentator and former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, “Everybody does better when everybody does better.” We need new food and farm policy that benefits all farmers and consumers.