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Daily News Blog

05
Feb

Monsanto’s Glyphosate (RoundUp) Reported Most Used Herbicide Globally

(Beyond Pesticides, February 5, 2016) According to a report published earlier this week, Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and Globally, glyphosate, manufactured by Monsanto and known by its product name Roundup, is the most widely and heavily applied weed-killer in the history of chemical-intensive agriculture both in the U.S. and globally. Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., author of the study, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, reports that to date 18.9 billion pounds (8.6 billion kilograms) of glyphosate have been used globally, with an estimated 19% of the use coming from the U.S. The report also points out that glyphosate use has risen almost 15-fold since “Roundup Ready” genetically engineered crops (GE) were introduced in 1996.
spraydriftDr. Benbrook’s research concludes that, “Genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops now account for about 56 % of global glyphosate use. In the U.S., no pesticide has come remotely close to such intensive and widespread use.”

According to the report, two-thirds of the total volume of glyphosate applied in the U.S. from 1974 to 2014 has been sprayed in just the last 10 years. And, in 2014, enough glyphosate was sprayed to leave more than three-quarters of a pound of the active ingredient on every harvested acre of cropland in the U.S., and remarkably, almost a half pound per acre on all cropland worldwide (0.53 kilogram/hectare).

Glyphosate has long been touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and industry. However, the recent classification by International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the GE crop herbicide glyphosate as a human carcinogen, based on laboratory animal studies, has brought serious human health issues to light.

Since IARC’s classification last year, Monsanto has been named in numerous lawsuits accusing the company of knowing of the dangers of glyphosate for decades. The Organic Consumers Association (OCA), joined by dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups, announced last month that they will put the U.S.-based transnational corporation on trial next year on World Food Day, October 16, 2016, for crimes against nature, humanity, and ecocide in The Hague, Netherlands, home to the United Nation’s International Court of Justice. Monsanto is also facing numerous personal injury lawsuits over the link between glyphosate exposure and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). Personal injury law firms around the U.S. have found a multitude of plaintiffs and are preparing for what could be a “mass tort” action against Monsanto for knowingly misinforming the public and farmworkers about the dangers of the chemical.

Yet, Monsanto continues to deny glyphosate’s hazards. After the state of California proposed to list glyphosate as a known human carcinogen under its Proposition 65 law, Monsanto subsequently filed a lawsuit against the state of seeking to prevent the listing .

As Dr. Benbrook’s paper notes, other recent studies have found connections between glyphosate exposure and a number of other serious health effects, including liver and kidney damage and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, among others.

“My hope is that this paper will stimulate more research on glyphosate use and human and environmental exposure patterns to increase the chance that scientists will quickly detect any problems that might be triggered, or made worse, by glyphosate exposure,” Benbrook added.

Dr. Benbrook previously published the first peer-reviewed study looking at the impacts of GE herbicide-tolerant crops on pesticide use. His 2012 study, Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. —the first sixteen years, found that contrary to often-repeated claims that today’s genetically-engineered crops have and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in GE weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied. Meanwhile, empirical evidence has emerged that documents reduced efficacy of glyphosate as weed resistance to the herbicide escalates. The occurrence of super weeds coincides strongly with the use of toxic herbicides on genetically engineered (GE) crops. For example, because of widespread pigweed resistance to glyphosate, the Texas Department of Agriculture, in June, 2014, requested an exemption to permit growers to spray three million acres of cotton fields with a pesticide not registered for this use. The pesticide, propazine, in the same family as the endocrine disruptor atrazine,could not be permitted by EPA because, as the agency said, “Currently, registered uses already show unacceptable risk levels. . .”

Last summer, Dr. Benbrook and pediatrician Philip J. Landrigan, M.D released a prospective article on the effects of glyphosate and GE crops, highlighting the flaws of past glyphosate studies. They found that previous research has only considered pure glyphosate formulations, “despite studies showing that formulated glyphosate that contains surfactants and adjuvants is more toxic than the pure compound.” This is important given that other research focusing on glyphosate-based herbicides (GHBs), rather than pure glyphosate  links long-term, ultra-low dose exposure to glyphosate in drinking water to adverse impacts on the health of liver and kidneys.

“The dramatic and rapid growth in overall use of glyphosate will likely contribute to a host of adverse environmental and public health consequences,” Dr. Benbrook wrote.

As evidence of the hazardous effects of and the prolific use of glyphosate continue to mount, environmental groups like Beyond Pesticides are urging localities to ban or restrict the use of the chemical, and to support organic agriculture. By utilizing ecological pest management strategies, organic practices, and solutions that are not chemical-intensive are the most appropriate and long-term solution to managing unwanted plants, or weeds. Additionally, organic agriculture is an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, mechanical production practices, and natural inputs. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, organic farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most genetically engineered organisms have been falsely-marketed as solving. To learn more about organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Program Page.

Source: Environmental Sciences Europe, EWG Press Release

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

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04
Feb

Study Finds Bed Bugs Highly Resistant to Neonic Insecticides

(Beyond Pesticides, February 4, 2016) According to a study published in Oxford University Press, entitled High Levels of Resistance in the Common Bed Bug, bed bugs have developed resistance to neonicotinoids (neonics). Neonics have become one of the most widely used active ingredients to control bed bugs since the insects’ have exhibited resistance to other chemicals, including synthetic pyrethroids. Troy Anderson, Ph.D., entomologist at Virginia Tech and Alvaro Romero, Ph.D., entomologist at New Mexico State, studies found higher neonic efficacy for neonics used on lab bed bugs as compared with bed bugs found in domestic settings. With the resurgence of bed bugs across the U.S., exterminators have relied heavily on insecticides to manage the pesky pests, despite questions about efficacy due to resistance, and viability of alternative, non-toxic solutions.

Bed BugimageTo test the tolerance and ineffectiveness of pesticides used on bed bugs, Drs. Anderson and Romero used four popular neonics (imidacloprid, acetamiprid, dinotefuran,
thiamethoxam) to compare their effectiveness in wild and isolated bed bug populations. Bed bugs isolated in a lab died quickly from a small amount of neonics, however, those same chemical treatments used on bed bugs found in Cincinnati and Michigan were ineffective. The isolated group of bed bugs had never been previously exposed to neonics. They also compared New Jersey laboratory bed bugs without previous exposure to neonics to those from Cincinnati and Michigan and found that it required more of the insecticide to kill.

According to the study, “It only took 0.3 nanograms of a substance called acetamiprid to kill 50 percent of the nonresistant bedbugs from [the isolated] lab — but it took more than 10,000 nanograms to kill 50 percent of the Michigan and Cincinnati bedbugs. . .Just 2.3 nanograms of another substance called imidacloprid was enough to kill 50 percent of [the isolated] bedbugs, but it took 1,064 nanograms to kill the Michigan bedbugs and 365 nanograms to kill the Cincinnati bedbugs.”

Neonics have become a popular chemical bed bug tool as many other pesticides have become resistant to bed bugs. In 2013, a study found that pyrethroid pesticides were ineffective on bed bugs due to resistance-associated genes on the outer layer of their shell. These pesticides are still on the market despite known risks, such as respiratory and reproductive problems. Due to the lack of government oversight and the regulation of these harmful chemicals, the public is being exposed to unnecessary hazards. The bed bug insecticide propoxur, was cancelled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after decades of proven toxic hazard studies and reviews. The carbamate insecticide was implicated as a known carcinogen and found to cause kidney and liver damage and neurotoxic effects.

The cause of the resistance is hard to pinpoint, according to the report. “Variation in resistance among populations could be due to the background of detoxifying enzymes induced by previously used insecticides, different metabolic pathways that each neonicotinoid is subjected to, the type of resistance mechanisms involved in each strain, and intensive selection with neonicotinoids.”

“While we all want a powerful tool to fight bed bug infestations, what we are using as a chemical intervention is not working as effectively it was designed and, in turn, people are spending a lot of money on products that aren’t working,” said Dr. Anderson.

With resistance constantly building, the pesticide treadmill continues as consumers turn to even more toxic chemicals to treat these difficult pests. Fortunately, the chemical treatments that are more harmful to humans than bed bugs are also not actually necessary and the clear solution is to switch to natural alternatives that are non-toxic and safe to use around children, pets, and waterways. For bedbugs, a least-toxic approach, which includes methods such as vacuuming, steaming, and exposing the bugs to high heat, can help to manage an infestation without the dangerous side effects. This approach, as well as taking steps such as sealing cracks and crevices, reducing clutter and encasing mattresses, can also help to prevent an infestation in the first place.

For more information on treating bedbugs, read our factsheet, “Got Bed Bugs? Don’t Panic” on our ManageSafe Bed Bug Page.

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

Source: Oxford University Press

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03
Feb

With Zika Virus, Widespread Pesticide Spraying Not the Long-Term Solution, says Entomologist

(Beyond Pesticides, February 3, 2016) Speaking to The Guardian, a leading Kenyan entomologist warns that spraying pesticides will fail to deal with the Zika virus. Just recently the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a public health emergency over growing concerns that the virus is linked with microcephaly. Aerial and ground applications of pesticides have long been used for mosquito control, but many believe that these methods fail to sufficiently control mosquito populations, promote resistance and kill other species that would have acted as a natural predator to mosquitoes.

Aedes_aegypti_feedingDino Martins, PhD, a Kenyan entomologist in an interview with The Guardian said that while pesticides can reduce the population of flying adult mosquitoes that transmit the virus, they will fail to deal with the epidemic that threatens to become a global pandemic, and warns that spraying landscapes is extremely dangerous.  “It is a quick fix but you pay for it. You kill other species that would have predated on the mosquitoes. You also create a mosaic of sprayed and unsprayed low densities of chemicals that fosters the rapid evolution of resistance.”

Mosquitoes have very short life cycle (a week or less), increasing the probability that each succeeding generation is an opportunity for random mutations to occur that predispose a group of mosquitoes to be immune to pesticides. “[W]hen you use chemicals, you are actually applying a selection pressure on mosquito populations that will drive them to become resistant,” says Dr. Martins. Already there is emerging resistance to insecticides among Anopheles mosquitoes. Additionally it is impossible to fumigate every corner of habitat where mosquitoes might breed.

Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito and has been linked to cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with underdeveloped brains. The virus has been detected in several Latin American countries, including Brazil where the outbreak was first observed and linked to increased cases of microcephaly. According to Dr. Martins, the explosion of mosquitoes in urban areas, which is driving the Zika crisis, is caused by a lack of natural diversity that would otherwise keep mosquito populations under control, and the proliferation of waste and lack of disposal in some areas which provide artificial habitat for breeding mosquitoes.

Dr. Martins, who runs the Mpala Research Centre, a field station affiliated with Princeton, Smithsonian Institution, Kenya Wildlife Service and National Museums of Kenya, says, “We are basically fighting an arms race with mosquitoes rather than cleverly understanding its life cycle and solving the problem there. Resistance can never evolve to getting rid of the breeding sites. But resistance will always evolve to the use of pesticides.”

Dr. Martins believes that attention must be paid to eradicating mosquitoes at the larval stage of their life cycle. “It might seem easier to just to spray but pesticides will not work long term,” he says. “We need to ask – what is the weakest point in the life cycle of this vector? For me, it is the larvae because they are fixed and findable. You can destroy them right there. Once the mosquitoes fly, it is far harder … We need more investment in mosquito control at early rather than late stages.”

Whether its Zika, Chikungunya, or West Nile virus, combating mosquito-borne infections should include good surveillance and scientific understanding for controlling mosquito populations. A large part of this, as Dr. Martins noted, has to do with understanding the life cycle of mosquitoes and their biology. Another large part of this has to do with the inability, especially in an urban environment, to hit target insects with typical ground spraying from trucks or by aerial application. The efficacy of adulticidal pesticide applications (aerial or ground spraying) has been called into question over the years. Usually, this is the least efficient mosquito control technique that only targets adult mosquitoes. Further, the drifting spray impacts other non-target organisms like pollinators, birds, fish and amphibians. Commonly used mosquito pesticides like permethrin, resmethrin, naled and malation are all associated with some measure of human and ecological health risks, especially among people with compromised immune systems, chemically sensitized people, pregnant women, and children with respiratory problems, such as asthma.

Most experts agree that an efficient mosquito management strategy emphasizes public awareness, prevention, and monitoring methods. However, if these methods are not used properly, in time, or are ineffective, communities must decide whether or not to use pesticides. They must determine if they should risk exposing vulnerable populations to potentially harmful diseases caused by mosquitoes or to chronic or deadly illnesses caused by pesticides.

What you can do?

Beyond Pesticides says the ideal mosquito management strategy comes from an integrated approach that emphasizes education, aggressive removal of standing water sources, larval control, monitoring, and surveillance for both mosquito-borne illness and pesticide-related illness. Control of disease-carrying mosquitoes can be successful when emphasis is placed on public education and preventive strategies.

Individuals can take action by eliminating standing water, introducing mosquito-eating fish, encouraging predators, such as bats, birds, dragonflies and frogs, and using least-toxic larvacides like bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). Community based programs should encourage residents to employ these effective techniques, focus on eliminating breeding sites on public lands, and promote monitoring and action levels in order to determine what, where, and when control measures might be needed. Through education of proper cultural controls, and least-toxic and cost effective biological alternatives, the use of hazardous control methods, such as toxic pesticides, can be eliminated.

  • Clean up– Cut back any overgrown vegetation – mosquitoes use these areas to hide. Ensure waterways are clear of debris; eliminate pooled or stagnant waters from debris, containers, drains, and anywhere that pools water. Watch out for leaky faucets. Mosquitoes can breed in puddles the size of dimes, so keep a keen eye out for stagnant water!
  • Natural Predators– Use indigenous fish populations, like bluegills or minnows, to eat mosquito larvae in shallow waters and ornamental pools. Copepod crustaceans can also be used to eat mosquito larvae in ditches, pools and other areas of stagnant water. Don’t forget about bats either! One bat can consume 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour, and many bats are in trouble from a disease wiping out their population. Help conserve these important mammals while keeping the mosquito population down by installing a bat house!
  • Behavior Modification–As indicated above, wear long sleeves and long pants/skirts, and use least-toxic mosquito repellent when outdoors. Try to avoid being outside at dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Attentive Monitoring– Check sources of water for signs of mosquito larvae often.
  • Least-toxic Pesticide Options– Use Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bt), a biological larvicide (“mosquito dunk”) that prevents mosquitoes from developing into breeding, biting adults in standing waters that cannot be drained.
  • Take Action– Let your local council members, mayor, or state delegates know that safer, more sustainable options exist. Download our sample letter to send to public health officials in your area.

Beyond Pesticides’ Mosquito Management program page has a list of resources that can help you and your community safely manage mosquitoes, including least-toxic mosquito repellents, bed nets, and proper clothing that can be used to keep mosquitoes safely at bay.

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

Source: The Guardian

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02
Feb

Local Hardware Store Acts to Protect Bees, Promote Natural Alternatives

(Beyond Pesticides, February 2, 2016) Boulder, Colorado’s McGuckin Hardware is setting an example for hardware stores across the country by removing bee-toxic neonicotinoids from its store shelves, and working to reorient its customers toward natural, holistic practices. McGuckin’s change is the latest in a movement among local hardware businesses to take a stand against toxic pesticides that are harmful to pollinators and unnecessary to control problem pests. “We wanted to be one of the first to get rid of them,” said Steve Wilke, McGuckins marketing communications specialist in a piece published in Hardware Retailing, a newsletter run by the North American Retail Hardware Association.

Local and national advocates are praising McGuckin’s shift away from products that harm pollinators. “People are very excited about the dramatic steps McGuckin’s has taken to get neonics out of our environment,” said David mcguckinWheeler of the local pollinator-advocacy organization Bee Safe Boulder. Bee Safe Boulder is a coalition of concerned Boulder residents that successfully fought for the passage of a pollinator resolution in the City of Boulder, Layfayette, and Boulder County, Colorado. The organization also has a project aimed at encouraging local retailers to stop selling plants coated in neonicotinoids; 18 retailers in the area, including McGuckin Hardware, have signed the group’s pledge.

Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides, or whole plant poisons, taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed in the pollen, nectar, and dew drops it emits. They are also highly persistent, with research showing the potential for certain chemicals in the class, such as clothianidin, to have a half-life of up to 15 years. Study after study has showed significant cause for concern when it comes to pollinators and exposure to these pesticides. Although little substantive action on these chemicals has been taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency recently agreed that the pesticides do harm bees, though only in the limited situations and constrained scenarios that were actually investigated by EPA.

In 2014, Friends of the Earth, Beyond Pesticides and other allies released a report that found over half of garden plant samples purchased at major retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot contained neonicotinoid pesticides. In response, concerned residents donned bee outfits and took to the streets to encourage national retailers – Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ace, and TrueValue, to remove toxic neonicotinoids and plants coated with the chemical from store shelves.

While national retailers have been responsive (Lowe’s and Home Depot have committed to phasing out neonicotinoids, and Ace has provided some indication it will move in that direction), local retailers such as McGuckin Hardware and Eldredge Lumber and Hardware in York, ME, have outpaced these chains. These stores are now working on educating customers on a systems approach to pest management, rather than one centered on toxic pesticides, or even least-toxic replacement pesticides. “It’s our hope that people will stop looking for that silver bullet approach,” said Steve Wilke of McGuckin. “We’re kind of treading carefully moving forward to prevent another (neonicotinoid) situation.”

Eliminating the sale of harmful pesticides doesn’t mean that retailers will have nothing left to sell their customers. Last year Beyond Pesticides released The Well Stocked Hardware store, an on-line toolkit with example products to help hardware stores replace their stock of toxic pesticides with products that support a systems approach. Beyond Pesticides also highlighted the actions of Eldredge Lumber through the video Making the Switch. You’re protecting your environment, you’re protecting your family, your children and grandchildren, and your neighbors. Nobody wants to have pesticides drifting into their front or year yard, and people are just loving it, they’re feeding into it. I couldn’t be happier,” says owner Scott Eldredge in the video.

Beyond Pesticides encourages concerned residents to share these materials and encourage your own local hardware store to follow suit. If they already are, let us know by sending an email to [email protected] For folks not near a forward-thinking hardware business, see the 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.

Source: Hardware Retailing

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

 

 

 

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01
Feb

City of St. Paul, MN Acts to Protect Pollinators

(Beyond Pesticides, February 1, 2016) Last Wednesday, the city council of St. Paul, MN adopted a resolution to make the city more pollinator friendly by banning bee-toxic neonicotinoids and other pesticides “proven to be harmful to pollinators” and require an updating of its Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, prioritizing non-chemical methods. The resolution recognizes that its authority to restrict pesticide use on private land has been preempted by the State of Minnesota and then directs the city to encourage property owners within its jurisdiction to practice pollinator stewardship.

StPaul_LogoUnder the new resolution, St. Paul has committed to:

  • Develop or update an IPM program that requires site inspections, monitoring and prevention strategies, an evaluation on the need for pest control, and when pest control is warranted the use of structural, mechanical, biological, organic, and other nonchemical methods will be utilized first.
  • Eliminate the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, and other pesticides proven to be harmful to pollinators, on city grounds, with specific exceptions for golf course areas and certain athletic fields.
  • Require all city departments with any inventory of materials containing neonicotinoids, and other pesticides proven to be harmful to pollinators, to discontinue their use and properly dispose of them unless a justifiable need has been identified by another department.
  • To the best of its ability, the city will source plant material and trees from nurseries that do not use neonicotinoids, or other pesticides proven to be harmful to pollinators.
  • Explore piloting an alternative pest management system on a portion of a golf course tee, green or fairway, and on a premier athletic field in 2016.
  • Reduce the use of all pesticides and systemic insecticides wherever possible and phase out entirely as safer and reasonable alternatives become available.
  • Provide education to city employees that promotes and assists in protecting pollinators and provides ideas in creating favorable pollinator habitat; communicate to the public, through City websites, signage and other means, efforts to protect pollinators including the delineation of parks and public spaces that are pesticide free zones.
  • Continue to advocate at the State and Federal level for increased authority to address the nonagricultural use of pesticides and for other pollinator friendly policies.

The resolution commitments focus heavily on neonicotinoids, which affect the central nervous system of insects and have consistently been implicated as a key factor in pollinator declines, not only linked to acute exposure and immediate bee deaths, but also sub-lethal exposure that adversely affects bee reproduction, navigation, and foraging. The science has become increasingly clear that pesticides, either working individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of honey bees. Pesticide exposure can impair both detoxification mechanisms and immune responses, rendering bees more susceptible to viruses, parasites, and other diseases, and leading to devastating bee losses. By encouraging citizens and department heads to refrain from using neonicotinoids, the city of St. Paul is taking a commendable step to help protect these vulnerable pollinator populations.

St. Paul’s resolution highlights the powerful change residents can make when they become engaged with their local elected officials. Large and small, communities throughout the country are determining that the risks associated with pesticide use are simply not worth their health, the health of pollinators, or the wider environment. In August 2015, the City of Minneapolis, MN passed an organic, pollinator friendly resolution, committing the City to adopt clear guidelines against the use of synthetic pesticides. Communities in Colorado, including Lafayette, Boulder County, and the City of Boulder have restricted the use of bee-toxic pesticides on public spaces. In a watershed moment for the movement against toxic pesticide use, Montgomery County, Maryland successfully passed the strongest restrictions on public and private cosmetic pesticide use in the United States, expanding upon the trail blazed by Takoma Park, MD in 2013, and Ogunquit, ME in 2014. The absence of regressive state-level preemption laws enabled these communities to extend their policies to restrict toxic pesticide use on private property.

Local Ordinances Under Attack
Since the passage of local ordinances in Maine and Maryland, some legislators in those states have or are planning to introduce legislation to take away local authority and reverse the local action and/or prevent other jurisdictions from acting. The Beyond Pesticides report on state preemption law and its importance in the local democratic process illustrates the benefits of permitting local governments to make decisions that respond to the concerns of their residents, as well as the negative ramifications of state preemption laws. The absence of preemption laws in the seven states that have preserved local authority to restrict pesticides more stringently than the state has been a commanding factor in several pesticide ban victories. If you would like to see a similar ordinance passed in your area, click here to let Beyond Pesticides know!

Starting your own local movement takes a lot of work and commitment, but can be done with perseverance. It’s important to find support –friends, neighbors, and other people who share your concerns about environmental health. It’s also essential to connect with local politicians and government officials. For help getting your movement off the ground, contact Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450 or [email protected].

Source: Twin Cities Pioneer Press

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

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29
Jan

Court Rejects EPA’s Bid to Revoke Use of Dow’s 2,4-D/Glyphosate (Enlist Duo) Pesticide in GE Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, January 29, 2016) This week, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed a victory to Dow Chemical Company and its efforts to keep the toxic pesticide Enlist Duo on the market, despite new safety concerns identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Enlist Duo has been marketed as a “solution” for the control of glyphosate-resistant weeds in genetically engineered (GE) crops, brought on by the widespread use of Monsanto’s Roundup on glyphosate-tolerant (Roundup Ready) crops over the last decade. EPA asked the court at the end of November, 2015 to vacate its 2014 approval of Enlist Duo based on new information on the toxic effects associated with the synergistic interactions of the chemical cocktail of 2,4-D, glyphosate, and other undisclosed ingredients in the product to plants outside the treated area, including endangered plants. The three-sentence order, which does not include the judge’s reasoning, denied EPA’s request.

threeenlistsystemcomponentsEnlistDuoherbicideEnlisttraitsEnlistAheadWhile considering other legal options, EPA can choose to exercise it administrative powers by canceling specific uses or the entire registration of Enlist Duo under its pesticide cancellation process, and within that process could choose to identify an imminent hazard and remove the pesticide from the market immediately, while it faces additional challenges from Dow. Otherwise, the normal cancellation process could take years before the matter is resolved. Additionally, to protect farmers and dealers, EPA could issue a product notice immediately, identifying new issues and findings that were not available at the time of registration. EPA, according to the Chicago Tribune, criticized Dow for failing to disclose information from a patent filing which states that the glyphosate and 2,4-D in Enlist Duo are more effective at killing weeds in combination than individually. Did Dow withhold from the EPA registration process product safety information it was or should have been aware of at the time it submitted, and until it completed, its registration application? This question raises issues of fraud or noncompliance.

Super weeds, associated with crops that are genetically engineered for herbicide tolerance, now infest tens of millions of acres of U.S. farmland. Moreover, independent and USDA scientists predict that the Enlist Duo “crop system” will only foster resistance to 2,4-D in addition to glyphosate, thus continuing the GE crop pesticide treadmill and escalating the cycle of more toxic pesticides in the environment. Additionally, the health effects of both 2,4-D and glyphosate are well documented. 2,4-D has been linked to soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, and harm to the reproductive system. Glyphosate was classified as a human carcinogen based on laboratory studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March, 2015. Then, in June, 2015, 2,4-D was classified as a carcinogen by IARC.

The latest court action follows on the heels of a  year-long legal challenge filed by a coalition of conservation groups, including Beyond Pesticides, seeking to rescind the approval of the hazardous herbicide blend, and challenging EPA’s failure to consider the impacts of Enlist Duo on threatened and endangered plants and animals protected under the Endangered Species Act. In response to this legal challenge, as well as evidence that surfaced suggesting that EPA ignored evidence of kidney problems that Dow’s own researchers said were caused by 2, 4-D, EPA asked the court to revoke the registration of Enlist Duo while it reevaluated the synergistic effects of the chemicals in the product. The agency action to revoke the registration was challenged by Dow which, in the wake of this decision, will continue to be able to sell Enlist Duo in the interim time it will take EPA to make a full, secondary evaluation of the weedkiller, posing a continued threat to human health and public safety, and endangered plants.

EPA wants to figure out whether bigger no-spray zones are needed to protect endangered plants on the edges of farm fields. Environmental groups in this case have argued that EPA has never evaluated the effect that Enlist Duo would have on the declining monarch butterfly population or its effects on public health, both of which they feel should be evaluated in EPA’s current review. This case highlights the problems caused by EPA’s trend of approving pesticides without adequate review.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. Beyond Pesticides suggests an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations filled with uncertainty, and instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture, which prohibits the the vast majority of toxic chemicals.

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

Source: Chicago Tribune

 

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28
Jan

Oregon Proposes Legislation to Protect Farmers and Consumers from GE Contamination

(Beyond Pesticides, January 28, 2016) Last week, Oregon Representative Paul Holyey introduced legislation that would protect traditional crops against contamination from their genetically engineered counterparts. As it stands, local governments are preempted (disallowed) from taking actions that protect traditional farmers from contamination by genetically engineered (GE) crops. With the help of advocates representing family farms and food safety, The Transgenic Contamination Prevention Bill (HB 4122) will repeal sections of Senate-passed Bill 863, which preempts local governments, and restore the right of local jurisdictions to regulate the planting of GE seed. The law, Bill 863, dubbed Oregon’s Monsanto Protection Act by environmentalists, farmers and consumers, was passed in 2013 and signed into law by then-Governor John Kitzhaber. The new language in HB 4122 seeks to correct the chemical company-driven legislation of the former bill and restore protection for traditional and organic farmers.

sad-farmerIn May, 2014, the voters of Jackson and Josephine Counties, Oregon, passed a ballot initiative, Genetically Modified Organism Ban, Measure 15-119, which sparked the backlash in the state legislature. A federal court decision upheld the ballot initiatives, and the county laws were grandfathered in, or allowed to stay in effect.

Center for Food Safety’s attorney, George Kimbrell, expressed support in the organization’s press release, “Consumers want to be able to buy food that has not been genetically engineered, and part of that is making sure farmers can grow crops that are not contaminated by genetically engineered crops…Farmers deserve the right to grow crops and harvest seeds that have not been contaminated by genetically engineered crops and the state has no rational basis for prohibiting local governments from protecting farmers from GE crops.”

Supporters of the new bill, including Center for Food Safety, Friends of Family Farmers, and Our Family Farms Coalition, spoke last week about the accomplishment of getting the bill introduced, but know the fight is far from over. Once introduced, the bill had the difficult task of receiving a committee assignment. On Monday, Our Family Farms Coalition announced that HB 4122 had been assigned to the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Government Effectiveness, a committee they believe will give the bill a fair hearing. Advocacy groups representing farmers are asking locals to help keep the pressure on legislators to speak in support of HB 4122.

This legislation is one of many across the country seeking to create “GE-free” zones or GE labeling laws. Organic farming communities have had to contend with chemical company influence, preemption, and lengthy legal battles.

Traditional farmers in communities like Jackson County, Oregon have been fighting to keep their crops protected from GE contamination. In June 2015, a federal judge released a ruling rejecting a request by two alfalfa farms to overturn the ban on GE crops in Jackson County, Oregon. That ruling was challenged, and in December, a federal court finally approved the consent decree to protect the GE zone. Organic farming communities have had to contend with chemical company influence, preemption, and lengthy legal battles. Vermont became the first state to require mandatory GE labeling in 2014. Ballot initiatives in California, Washington State, Oregon, and Colorado were all rejected in close votes after chemical companies poured millions of dollars in TV ads to discredit the efforts. Maine and Connecticut also passed legislation in 2014 on GE labeling, however, these laws contain a “trigger clause” that delays implementation until similar legislation is passed in neighboring states, including one bordering state in the case of Connecticut.

Despite the perseverance of food safety and environmental groups, they still have many hurdles.

Still looming is the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act (DARK Act), officially known as the Safe and Accurate Labeling Act, which is up for a vote in Senate, the last stage before heading to the president’s desk. In July of last year, the House of Representatives passed the bill, HR 1599, which would preempt states from requiring GE labeling, and only allow voluntary labeling by food companies. This also means that the work done at the local level to protect farmers and consumers from GE contamination on crops and food could be halted.

Beyond Pesticides advocates in its organic food program and through its Eating with a Conscience (EWAC) website choosing organic because of the environmental and health benefits to consumers, workers, and rural families. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page.

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

Source: Center for Food Safety

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27
Jan

Clean Water Protections In Trouble Again In the Senate

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 2016) Last week the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee added an amendment to the Sportsman Act of 2015 that would remove important protections from pesticides sprayed into our nation’s waterways. After years of failed attempts to pass a version of the amendment as a stand-alone bill called the “Sensible Environmental Protection Act,” the latest attack against clean water was put forth by Senator Deb Fisher (R-NE), and passed by a committee vote of 12-8. It now moves to the Senate floor in a piece of bipartisan legislation.

Capitol-SenateThis amendment would reverse a 2009 federal court decision in National Cotton Council v. EPA that directed EPA to require permits from applicators who spray over “navigable waters,” as outlined in the Clean Water Act (CWA). The bill’s proponents claim that the need for water permits is duplicative, given that pesticide applicators also comply with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the law that requires applicators to follow instructions on pesticide labels.

However, the fact is that CWA permits let authorities know what is sprayed and when it is sprayed, so that the public may know what chemicals are used in their waterways and the potential dangers to sensitive aquatic ecosystems. Existing pesticide regulations under FIFRA do not achieve these protections and, contrary to the assertions made by supporters of the bill that it will harm farmers, most agricultural pesticide applications are exempt from CWA permit requirements.

Under this dangerous amendment to the Sportsman Act of 2015, pesticide applicators would be able to discharge pesticides into waterways with no EPA oversight under the standards of the CWA and the permitting process, which takes into account local conditions that are not addressed under FIFRA. Furthermore, permits do not prevent applicators from using pesticides, especially for public health emergencies. The permits do require basic protections for water quality and aquatic wildlife. Applicators must simply record their pesticide applications and monitor application sites for any adverse incidents, which must be reported. For many states, the cost of the permit is as low as $25. The myth that the CWA permits for pesticide discharges near waterways are overly expensive and burdensome for farmers has not been substantiated.

Already, nearly 2,000 waterways are impaired by pesticide contamination and many more have simply not been tested. The potentially high cost of public health problems, environmental clean-up efforts, and irreversible ecological damage that can result from unchecked, indiscriminate pollution of waterways is being ignored by opponents of CWA regulation.

Recent studies showing frequent discoveries of intersex fish in our nation’s rivers and streams as a result of the use of endocrine disrupting pesticides drives this point home. Hundreds of scientific articles have been published across the globe demonstrating how a broad selection of chemicals that disrupt the hormone system can interfere with normal development at even near-undetectable ranges of exposure. Scientists discovered effects for some widely used chemicals at concentrations thousands of times less than federal “safe” levels of exposure derived through traditional toxicological tests. Whatever the exposure level, neither fish nor human are protected from most endocrine-disrupting chemicals present in our waterways.

The reality is that including a CWA permitting process encourages pesticide users to seek alternative approaches to pest management if their current methods are going to contaminate nearby sources of water. Such a provision is not duplicative or burdensome, but simply an example of good governance.

Beyond Pesticides continues to fight to prevent water pollution and harmful agricultural practices. Visit our Threatened Waters page and learn how organic land management practices contribute to healthy waters in the article, “Organic Land Management and the Protection of Water Quality.”

Source: Feedstuffs

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

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25
Jan

Monsanto Sues to Keep Glyphosate off California List of Carcinogens

(Beyond Pesticides, January 25, 2016) Monsanto filed a lawsuit in California last week seeking to prevent glyphosate, the main ingredient in its Roundup herbicide, from being added to California’s list of known carcinogens under the state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65). Glyphosate is classified as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for the Research of Cancer (IARC) based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. This is the highest level carcinogen based on laboratory animal studies under IARC’s rating system.

roundupCalifornia law requires the state to keep a list of cancer-causing chemicals to inform residents of their risks. California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) said in September that it planned to add glyphosate to the list after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified it as a probable human carcinogen last March. Monsanto has disputed the assessment, citing decades of studies deeming glyphosate safe, including a 2007 study by OEHHA that concluded the chemical was unlikely to cause cancer.

The agrochemical company said it filed the suit against the state’s OEHHA, citing the agency’s acting director, Lauren Zeise, in California state court, according to the filing seen by Reuters. Monsanto’s lawsuit argues that listing glyphosate under Proposition 65 based on IARC’s classification cedes regulatory authority to an “unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable, and foreign body” that is not subject to oversight by any state or federal entity.

Monsanto argues that the lack of oversight violates the company’s right to procedural due process under California and U.S. law. A listing would also require Monsanto and others offering products containing glyphosate to provide a “clear and reasonable warning” to consumers that the chemical is known to cause cancer, damaging Monsanto’s reputation and violating its First Amendment rights, the company said.

Since IARC’s classification last year, Monsanto has been named in numerous lawsuits accusing the company of knowing of the dangers of glyphosate for decades. The Organic Consumers Association (OCA), joined by dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups, announced last month that they will put the U.S.-based transnational corporation on trial next year on World Food Day, October 16, 2016, for crimes against nature, humanity, and ecocide in The Hague, Netherlands, home to the United Nation’s International Court of Justice. Monsanto is also facing numerous personal injury lawsuits over the link between glyphosate exposure and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). Personal injury law firms around the U.S. have found a multitude of plaintiffs and are preparing for what could be a “mass tort” action against Monsanto for knowingly misinforming the public and farmworkers about the dangers of the chemical.

Glyphosate, touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and industry, is widely used in food production, especially with herbicide-tolerant genetically engineered (GE) crops, and on lawns, gardens, parks, and children’s playing fields.

Following the carcinogenic classification by the IARC, a research study published in the journal Environmental Health links long-term, ultra-low dose exposure to glyphosate in drinking water to adverse impacts on the health of liver and kidneys. The study focuses on glyphosate-based herbicides (GHBs), rather than pure glyphosate, unlike many of the studies that preceded it. Pediatrician Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., and researcher Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., recently released a prospective article on the effects of glyphosate and GE crops. In this article, they highlight the flaws of past glyphosate studies and conclude that they only considered pure glyphosate “despite studies showing that formulated glyphosate that contains surfactants and adjuvants is more toxic than the pure compound.” Their article also pointed to the ecological impacts of widespread glyphosate use, like the damage it has had on the monarch butterfly and other pollinators. Last year, the Center for Biological Study and Center for Food Safety filed a legal petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the monarch butterfly. All of these findings support the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) efforts to list glyphosate as a cancer-causing chemical under Proposition 65.

As evidence of the hazardous effects of glyphosate continue to mount, environmental groups like Beyond Pesticides are urging localities to ban or restrict the use of the chemical. These groups maintain that California’s glyphosate listing is certainly a step in the right direction; however, further steps toward a restriction or ban will be needed to protect the public’s health. Being the number one agricultural producing state, California’s action may help to move glyphosate off the market, which would serve as a victory for the low-income communities in the southern part of the Central Valley that are exposed to glyphosate at higher levels than the general population.

For those who would be unaffected by California’s listing, the best way to avoid glyphosate and other harmful pesticides is to support organic agriculture and eat organic food. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for organic management practices as a means to foster biodiversity, and research shows that organic farmers do a better job of protecting biodiversity than their chemically-intensive counterparts. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and biotechnology, responsible organic farms focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and other beneficial insects, and only resort to judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective.

Sources: Reuters

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

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22
Jan

Oregon, Colorado Move Forward in Regulating Pesticides on Marijuana

(Beyond Pesticides January 22, 2016) Last week, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) released a list of pesticide products available for use on marijuana cultivated within the state. The list, which contains 257 pesticide products, aligns with similar product lists published by Washington State and Colorado, and raises the same concerns over the allowance of products that violate the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and have not been subject to health evaluations of public exposure to the pesticides used. Those concerns were on full display last week in Colorado, when the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) held a public meeting to discuss amendments to its Pesticide Applicators’ Act that would allow growers to use pesticides that violate FIFRA. Additionally, in an attempt to address consumers’ concerns over the issue of unregulated pesticides in marijuana, two lawmakers in Colorado introduced a bill that would establish a program for certifying marijuana as “pesticide free” within the state.

Oregon Releases List of Approved Pesticides for Cannabis Growers

Oregon_s-Bipolar-Cannabis-LegalizationLike Colorado and Washington, the Oregon list construes broad label language to allow the use of pesticide products that have not been specifically tested for use on marijuana, despite the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not registered or reviewed any pesticide product for use on cannabis. According to ODA’s press release, “use of a pesticide on cannabis is allowed if it is intended for unspecified food products, is exempt from a tolerance, and is considered low risk.” These criteria are problematic, as they allow the use of pesticides that are not exempt from regulation under FIFRA’s 25(b) list, but have also not gone through the proper regulatory channels required by federal law. For example, one active ingredient approved through these standards that raises a red flag when it comes to human health and safety is Piperonyl Butoxide (PBO).  PBO is a highly toxic substance that causes a range of short- and long-term effects, including cancer and adverse impacts on liver function and the nervous system. It is commonly used as a synergist in pyrethrin-based pesticide products, many of which can be found on ODA’s allowed pesticide list.

The inclusion of an active ingredient like PBO highlights the data gaps that arise when pesticides are approved using broad and/or unspecific label language as opposed to undergoing full review by EPA.  According to CFR §180.1001(b)(4), while PBO is currently exempt from a tolerance requirement “when applied to growing crops in accordance with good agricultural practices,” EPA, based on the results of limited field trials, has recommended the revocation of this tolerance exemption, an action it still plans to take after the assessment of additional residue data. This means that ODA has approved the use of a pesticide that EPA views as problematic, and plans to revoke the tolerance exemption for in the near future. This is just one example of how relying on federal guidance and data, most of which is often incomplete, poses a threat to human health and safety by allowing the use of pesticide products that have not undergone a full evaluation for their use on food crops, let alone the unique routes of exposure cannabis presents.

This latest action follows closely on the heels of several other attempts by Oregon to address the use of illegal pesticides on marijuana by growers throughout the state. In November, Oregon updated its rules governing pesticide use to require the mandatory testing of nearly 60 pesticide compounds that are particularly concerning. When the new rules go into effect in June 2016, growers will be required to undergo testing for all 60 compounds, and failure to comply will result in the untested batch being destroyed. This is a change from prior rules that allowed laboratories to determine on their own which pesticides to include in a screening. The updated regulations were an attempt to standardize testing throughout the state after The Oregonian reports that some labs had stopped testing for a common pesticide that is included in the new rules because failed samples hurt its business. In the time between now and June, Oregon has also considered the passage of a stopgap measure to test for 12 of the most commonly used pesticides as a way to increase consumer safety until the new regulations go into effect.

Comments Submitted to Colorado

Similar concerns over the use of broad label language to approve the use of unregistered pesticides for use on marijuana in Colorado were addressed last week as well when Beyond Pesticides submitted public comments to CDA in opposition to proposed amendments to the state’s Pesticide Applicators’ Act. These amendments would allow the use of pesticides outside FIFRA’s 25(b) list as long as:

  1. The active ingredients are tolerance exempt
  2. The product label allows the use on the intended site of application
  3. The label allows use on crops or plants intended for human consumption; and
  4. The active ingredients are allowed for use on tobacco

The comments call for a revision of these proposed rules, as they would allow the use of registered pesticides that have not been tested for use on cannabis.

Pesticide-Free Marijuana Labeling Program Introduced in Colorado

In light of growing safety concerns over the use of illegal pesticides in marijuana, as well as consumer confusion over which products are actually safe for use, two Colorado law makers have introduced a bill, HB16-1079, that would require CDA to devise a program in which independent companies would certify which cannabis is pesticide free. Companies who meet these standards would then be able to use special labeling to alert consumers that their products are entirely pesticide-free. This program would also attempt to address concerns over the use of the word “organic” in marijuana production, a practice that has been investigated by the Colorado Attorney General in the absence of federal regulation.

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

Sources: ODA Press Release, Denver Post

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21
Jan

Canada Discontinues Conditional Registrations For New Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 21, 2016) The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada announced Tuesday that it intends to discontinue the granting of new conditional registrations under the Pest Control Products Act. In the U.S., conditional registrations have been controversial because they allow pesticide use without complete data, as was the case with the neonicotinoid insecticide chlothianidin, linked to the decline in bee health. A startling number of pesticides, nearly 65% of the more than 16,000 pesticides now on the market, were first approved by the process of “conditional registration,” a loophole in which EPA allows new pesticides on the market without the full range of legally mandated toxicity tests. 

healthcanadaCurrently, the Pest Control Products Regulations grants conditional registration for pesticides only when “the review of the scientific data and information is sufficient to determine that the risks of a pesticide are acceptable, but PMRA requires additional information, such as monitoring data after a product registration, to confirm the results of models used in the risk assessment.”

Because this change will only affect new registration applications and less than one percent of all existing pesticide registrations in Canada are conditional, this action is unlikely to have a large impact. The discontinuation is set to take effect on June 1, 2016.

Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, said Tuesday, “The Government of Canada is committed to making regulatory decisions that are open and transparent, which is why we have decided to discontinue the use of conditional registrations.”

Last year, a House of Commons committee reviewed the Pest Control Products Act and recommended in a report that PMRA review the “openness and transparency of its processes to register pesticides with a view to ensuring that Canadians are able to provide meaningful and informed input into the decision-making process and clearly understand decisions once they are made.” Health Canada points to that report as a guidance for the new regulation. THe press relsease states, “This new approach will improve the openness and transparency of the pesticide regulatory system, and will clarify that all pesticide registration decisions are made with the same high level of scientific scrutiny.”

Even though the discontinuation of conditional regulation won’t make a large impact in the Canada’s current registration process, it does shed a light on the United States’ lack of recognition for similar processes. Regulatory agencies like Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the United States have continuously approved materials proven to be toxic to human health or the environment.

In August of last year, EPA granted broad approval for use of benzovindiflupyr, despite its poisonous effects on fish and aquatic invertebrates. None of the approved products containing this fungicide had undergone proper consultation for their impacts on certain wildlife species. As a result, the Center for Biological Diversity has sued EPA. The lack of oversight by U.S. agencies was further exemplified a month later when a coalition public health, conservation, and food safety groups had to file a suit challenging EPA’s approval of the herbicide Enlist Duo for use on genetically engineered (GE) crops. According to the group’s attorney, George Kimbrell, the approval “violated the laws protecting our communities, land, and farms.” The coalition argued that EPA disregarded negative impacts on sensitive species, including nearly two hundred species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In response to public pressure and the lawsuit, EPA revoked the dangerous herbicide cocktail.

Where government oversight has been absent, the U.S. judicial branch has had to step in. In September 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected EPA’s unconditional registration of the neonicotinoid insecticide sulfoxaflor. The Court concluded that EPA violated federal law and its own regulations when it approved sulfoxaflor without reliable studies regarding the impact that the insecticide would have on honey bee colonies.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. Farm, beekeeper, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have urged EPA to follow in the steps of countries like Canada and the European Union by following the precautionary principle, which generally approves products after they have been assessed for harm, not before. Beyond Pesticides suggests an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, and instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of toxic chemicals.

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

Source: Health Canada

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20
Jan

Major Supermarket Bans Bee-Toxic Pesticides in Produce Production

 (Beyond Pesticides, January 20, 2016) Aldi Sßd, the German supermarket chain with stores in the U.S., has become the first major European retailer to ban pesticides toxic to bees, including the neonicotinoids imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, from fruits and vegetables produced for their stores. Aldi has requested suppliers comply at the earliest possible time. In light of the growing pollinator crisis and due to public pressure, retailers in Europe and the U.S. are slowly beginning to make the switch away from bee-toxic pesticides.

Aldi_Zurmaiener_StraßeBeginning January 1, suppliers of fruits and vegetables to Aldi suppliers will have to ensure that their cultivation practices do not include the following eight pesticides identified as toxic to bees (thiamethoxam, chlorpyrifos, clothianidin, cypermethrin, deltamethrin, fipronil, imidacloprid and sulfoxaflor) to meet the new requirement. According to a press release from Greenpeace, the chemicals are used on various commodities in Europe —thiamethoxam (used in lettuce and endive), chlorpyrifos, clothianidin (used in kohlrabi, herbs, Brussels sprouts, head cabbage, cauliflower and kale), cypermethrin (leek, head cabbage and leguminous vegetables), deltamethrin (cauliflower, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, pea, head cabbage, tomato and lettuce), imidacloprid (applied to apples, peaches, apricots and lettuce). Sulfoxaflor was recently granted regulatory approval in Europe, despite calls and legal action to prohibit its registration. Aldi joins other European retailers to take a stand against bee-toxic pesticides. The UK’s largest garden retailers, including Homebase, B&Q and Wickes, have already voluntarily stopped selling neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides highly toxic to bees.

The science has become increasingly clear that pesticides, either working individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of honey bees and other pollinators. Bees in the U.S. and Europe have seen unprecedented losses over the last decade. Bee-toxic pesticides like neonicotinoids have consistently been implicated as a major contributing factor in pollinator declines. They can cause changes in bee reproduction, navigation, and foraging, and even the suppression of bee immune systems. Just this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its preliminary pollinator assessment for the neonic imidacloprid which finds various residues of the chemical in crops where the pollinators forage, and confirms bees’ widespread and sustained exposure to the highly toxic and persistent chemical through poisoned pollen and nectar. However, calls to suspend the use of these pesticides have been ignored.

Retailers Making the Shift

In light of regulatory shortcomings in the U.S., efforts are underway to shift the market away from bee-toxic pesticides like neonicotinoids. Late last year, hardware giant Home Depot announced that it will no longer use neonics in 80 percent of its flowering plants, and that it will complete its phase-out in plants by 2018. Similarly, Lowe’s announced  a phase out the sale of products containing neonicotinoid pesticides within 48 months. Home Depot previously decided to start requiring all nursery plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids to carry a label to inform customers, following a report written last year. The report, Gardeners Beware 2014, shows that 36 out of 71 (51 percent) of garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contain neonicotinoid pesticides. Some of the flowers contained neonic levels high enough to kill bees outright and concentrations in the flowers’ pollen and nectar were assumed to be comparable. Further, 40% of the positive samples contained two or more neonics.

Smaller retailers have also taken notice and are working on removing neonics and other toxic pesticides from their shelves. Eldredge Lumber and Hardware in York, Maine has transitioned its shelves from harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in favor of organic materials. Eldredge is encouraging consumers to employ alternatives by consciously stocking their shelves with organic compatible products. Efforts by local businesses to stock alternatives and educate consumers on their use is a wonderful example of creating change through grassroots efforts and a bottom-up approach.

See Beyond Pesticides’ video Making the Switch, which highlights Eldredge Lumber and Hardware’s efforts to orient its customers towards safer management practices.

Thus far, EPA has amended neonicotinoid product labels to make clearer the hazards posed to bees, placed a moratorium on new neonicotinoid products, and proposed to place a temporary prohibition on the foliar application of pesticides acutely toxic to bees. The plight of bees was recognized by the Obama Administration, which has since directed federal agencies to find solutions to reverse and restore healthy pollinator populations. The federal report, released May 2015, outlines several measures including public education and habitat creation, but inadequate attention to bee-toxic pesticides that pollute habitat and ecosystems. States are also encouraged to develop pollinator plans to help mitigate risks to bees, but many including beekeepers believe these do not go far enough.

For more on what you can do to help pollinators visit out Bee Protective program page. To assist local garden centers and hardware stores in transitioning their customers to organic practices, Beyond Pesticides has crafted the “Well-Stocked Hardware Store,” which provides the products and tools necessary to support a move to healthy, organic landscapes. This guide fits in with Beyond Pesticides’ Model Pesticide Policy and Implementation Plan for Communities, but can be used independently for hardware stores and garden supply centers looking to encourage the use of products and practices that protect the health of their customers, community, and the wider environment.

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

Source:  Greenpeace Press Release

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19
Jan

New Video Release: Cultivating Community and Environmental Health,The 34th National Pesticide Forum

(Beyond Pesticides, January 19, 2016) We hope you will join us at Cultivating Community and Environmental Health: Models for sustainable and organic strategies to protect ecosystems, pollinators, and waterways, the 34th National Pesticide Forum. The forum will be held April 15-16, 2016 (Friday afternoon and all day Saturday) at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, ME. This year’s conference focuses adoption of policies to protect human health and the environment, and organic land and building management strategies. Other topics include ensuring scientific integrity, water quality, protecting pollinators, pesticides in schools and hospitals, and genetic engineering.

The 2016 conference is convened by Beyond Pesticides, Toxics Action Center, and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). Co-sponsors include: Food and Water Watch Maine, Friends of Casco Bay, Organic Consumers Association, Portland Protectors, and Regeneration International, as well as other local environmental and human health advocacy organizations.

Register Today!
Reserve your spot at the 2016 Forum today and get the Early Bird Discount rate ($5 off until March 15). Registration starts at $45 and includes access to all sessions as well as organic food and beverages. In addition to access to amazing speakers and networking opportunities, we will serve light refreshments and all organic drinks Friday night, and organic breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks on Saturday. Scholarships are also available. For more details about registration click here.

Speaker Highlights:

Aaron Blair, Ph.D., National Cancer Institute researcher (retired), author of more than 450 publications on occupational and environmental causes of cancer, and the overall chair the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) evaluation panel that found glyphosate (Roundup) to be a carcinogen.

Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., top U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist who received a prestigious national award for civic courage (Entomologist in the Crosshairs of Science and Corporate Politics) for his work on neonicotinoids and pollinator decline in the face of agency attempts to suppress his work.

Jim Gerritsen, Maine organic farmer with decades-long experience as owner of Wood Prairie Farm, and president of Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA). Mr. Gerritsen led a coalition of farmers in 2011 that filed a lawsuit (OSGATA et al v. Monsanto) against Monsanto Corporation to prevent it from suing farmers who have been contaminated by their genetically modified seeds for patent infringement.

 …and more! Check back as we add information about speakers and sessions at the upcoming conference.

Videos from Last Year’s Conference
See Beyond Pesticides’ YouTube page for videos of all the speakers, panels, and workshop discussions from the 33rd National Pesticide Forum! Check out our past conferences here.

 If you would like more information about the conference, please see www.beyondpesticides.org/forum, email forum@beyondpesticides, or call 202-543-5450.

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15
Jan

Sales of Organic Pest Controls Growing

(Beyond Pesticides, January 15, 2016) A new analysis finds that sales of organic pest control products are now on par with their traditional chemical pest controls for U.S. garden retailers, with retailers reporting that the organic options have a higher increase in sales than their chemical counterpart each year. The report, by Greenhouse Grower, an industry publication for the commercial floriculture industry in the U.S., pulls data from several years of Greenhouse Grower’s retail State of the Industry Surveys. The research reflects growing consumer awareness about the hazards of pesticides and viability of organic options, amidst consumer actions encouraging big-box retailers, as well as local hardware stores and garden centers, to eliminate neonicotinoid pesticides (which have emerged as the leading cause of bee declines), and “Make the Switch” from conventional pest control products to organics.

EldredgeMaine-300x169According to Greenhouse Grower, the number of garden retailers responding each year ranges from 216 (in 2014) to 440 (in 2013). The national picture shows that a similar number of retailers are stocking both conventional chemical and organic pesticides, with 78.3% of retailers stocking chemical controls, which is only slightly higher than the 77.93% that carry organics. The report also points out that conventional chemical pest controls still contribute more to the bottom line for retailers, however it is only by a small amount.

In 2014, traditional chemical pest control sales made up 2.55% of total sales, which was up slightly compared to 2013, when retailers reported that these products made up 2.21% of sales. Compare that to organic controls where in 2014, sales made up 2.25% of total sales, which was up compared to 2013, when retailers reported the category made up 1.96% of sales. However, organic controls were much less likely to be reported as having a decrease in sale compared to their chemical counterparts. In contrast, the most common trend retailers reported for organic pest control sales was an increase in sales, while traditional pesticides were one of the highest categories for decreased sales.

Indeed, this news comes as no shock to environmental advocates who have been working to encourage businesses to consider the impact that the products they sell have on the environment, human health, and pollinators. In December, Home Depot, the world’s largest home-improvement chain, announced that it will no longer use neonicotinoid pesticides (linked to bee decline) in 80 percent of its flowering plants, and that it will complete its phase-out in plants by 2018. This follows the announcement made by Lowe’s in April of last year to phase out the sale of products containing neonicotinoid pesticides within 48 months.

Additionally, Beyond Pesticides has been working with forward looking businesses, including Eldredge Lumber and Hardware in York, Maine, which are part of this national trend of clearing their store shelves of harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in favor of organic materials. Eldredge is encouraging consumers to employ alternatives by consciously stocking their shelves with organic compatible products. Efforts by local businesses to stock alternatives and educate consumers on their use is a wonderful example of creating change through grassroots efforts and a bottom-up approach, and offers an alternative to big-box stores focused simply on replacing products. Beyond Pesticides has produced the video Making the Switch, which highlights Eldredge Lumber and Hardware’s efforts to orient its customers towards safer management practices.

“You’re protecting your environment, you’re protecting your family, your children and grandchildren, and your neighbors. Nobody wants to have pesticides drifting into their front or year yard, and people are just loving it, they’re feeding into it. I couldn’t be happier,” says owner Scott Eldredge.

To assist local garden centers and hardware stores in transitioning their customers to organic practices, Beyond Pesticides has crafted the “Well-Stocked Hardware Store,” which provides the products and tools necessary to support a move to healthy, organic landscapes. This guide fits in with Beyond Pesticides’ Model Pesticide Policy and Implementation Plan for Communities, but can be used independently for hardware stores and garden supply centers looking to encourage the use of products and practices that protect the health of their customers, community, and the wider environment.

Take Action: Sign on to our letter to ask True Value and Ace Hardware to join their competitors and eliminate bee-killing pesticides and switch to organic products. Reports of increasing sales of organic pest controls show that consumers care about the products that they use. There are no more excuses — we know it’s possible to get these pesticides off their shelves.

For more information on how hardware stores can go organic and protect pollinators, see Beyond Pesticides’ video, Making the Switch, and our report on A Well-Stocked Hardware Store!

Source: Greenhouse Grower

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

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14
Jan

Bayer Concurs with EPA Findings on Certain Neonicotinoid Hazards to Honey Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, January 14, 2016) Bayer CropScience, revising its stance, has decided to concur with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) preliminary risk assessment of neonicotinoids and acknowledge the finding of harm to honey bees in certain crops. A spokesman for Bayer CropScience said the neonic-selling giant has reviewed the assessment and found it to be “quite good and scientifically sound,” according to a news report. The Guardian is reporting that Bayer will be proposing new protections for pollinators, however the company has not yet announced what the new protections will be. This is a stark turnaround from Bayer’s statement last week, which said EPA’s assessment “appears to overestimate the potential for harmful exposures in certain crops, such as citrus and cotton, while ignoring the important benefits these products provide and management practices to protect bees.”

Last week, EPA released its preliminary honey bee risk assessment for one of the most widely used neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, which is linked to severely declining honey bee populations. The assessment found harmful residues of the insecticide in crops where the pollinators forage and confirmed bees’ widespread and sustained exposure to the highly toxic and persistent chemical through poisoned pollen and nectar. Imidacloprid, like the other chemicals in its class, is not only highly toxic to bees, but a growing number of studies find that even at low levels neonicotinoids impair foraging ability, navigation, learning behavior, and suppress the immune system, making bees more susceptible to pathogens and disease. Three other neonicotinoid risk assessments are expected this year, including clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran.

EPA’s assessment ignores certain risks posed to wild bees and other routes of widespread exposure, such as hedgerows, soil, and water. EPA found that in agriculture crop fields and adjacent fields where imidacloprid is sprayed pose a risk to both bumblebees and honey bees, especially on citrus and cotton. The report also identified a residue level of 25 parts per billion (ppb) for imidacloprid, “which sets a threshold above which effects on pollinator hives are likely to be seen, and at that level and below which effects are unlikely.” This threshold has been grossly overestimated according to numerous reports that point to much lower exposure rates. In 2014, a study published in Ecotoxicology found near-infinitesimal exposure to neonics reduces bees’ ability to gather food.

The risk assessment also fails to analyze neonic-treated seeds, which yield no greater efficiency or benefits to agriculture compared to untreated seeds. This is an area of neonic use that must be addressed given their presence in conventional agriculture. For instance, more than 90% of canola in North America is planted with neonic-treated seeds. Seed treatment raises concerns due to the systemic qualities of neonicotinoids and their persistence in the environment. This requires the analysis of soil, water, and other wildlife, such as birds and aquatic invertebrates, to truly assess the toxic effect of neonics on bees in their totality. In response to loose regulation, Center for Food Safety, representing several beekeepers, farmers and sustainable agriculture and conservation groups, filed a lawsuit in federal court last week charging EPA with a failure to adequately regulate neonicotinoid insecticide seed coatings used on dozens of crops throughout the U.S.

Bayer’s unnamed spokesperson also notes that EPA’s risk assessment “didn’t say [neonicotinoids] are a risk to honeybee colonies.” Not only is Bayer denouncing the possibility that Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is caused by neonics, but it also hints that any report making such claims would be unsound. This statement reflects not the strength of the science, but the weakness of EPA’s assessment, highlighting their reluctance to adequately study neonic effects at the colony level. According to EPA’s report, colony study “was not considered appropriate” even though it “represents a limitation in the risk assessment” claiming that “the uncertainty is not likely to substantially alter the risk conclusions…except when exposure via pollen is extraordinarily high due to nectar.” Considering that exposure levels acceptable to EPA are well above those supported by the scientific community, “extraordinarily high” levels, above 25 ppb, may be unrealistic.

Given the deficiencies in EPA’s report, Bayer’s recent change of heart appears weak. And history has shown their shaky commitment to pollinators. One year ago, EPA registered flupyradifurone, a new pesticide marketed by Bayer as an alternative to neonics that is “safer for bees.” Last year, Bayer 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, Bayer continues to fund much larger projects and lawsuits aimed at silencing scientific evidence that blames neonics for colony collapse.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. Farm, beekeeper, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have urged EPA to follow in the European Union’s footsteps and suspend the huge numbers of other bee-harming pesticides already on the market. We suggest an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, and instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of neonicotinoids. See how you can help through Bee Protective.

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

Source: The Guardian

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13
Jan

WA Oyster Growers Request Approval to Spray Neonicotinoid Pesticides in Bay, Despite Public Opposition

(Beyond Pesticides, January 13, 2016) Last Friday, the Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association (WGHOGA) in Washington State sent a 71-page request to the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) asking state regulators to approve a permit to spray neonicotinoid insecticides that are having devastating effects on the ecosystems worldwide. Yet, WGHOGA is pursuing a single-minded approach to chemically control the shrimp that are hurting their oyster crops, while using chemicals that the preponderance of science finds cause ecosystem imbalance.

IOyster_Farmingn April 2015, much to the dismay of activists and concerned local residents, Ecology approved a permit for the use of imidacloprid (a neonicotinoid) to combat a growing native population of burrowing shrimp that threatens valuable shellfish (oyster) beds in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. But, with a nationwide public outcry, the permit was withdrawn in May 2015.

Ecology sent KING 5, a local Washington news agency, the below statement last Friday:

“We received the permit application this morning from the Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association to use imidacloprid on shellfish beds. It will take some time for us to review the 71-page application. On May 3 (2015) the Oyster Growers Association asked Ecology to withdraw their permit. Since then, the state registration to use imidacloprid on shellfish beds has expired. The Washington State Department of Agriculture (DOA) would need to reissue a registration before a new permit from Ecology can be considered. Also since the withdrawal of the permit, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began a risk assessment of using imidacloprid in water, and we are tracking the outcome. We understand the public’s concerns about pesticide use on shellfish beds. Any permit review process will be transparent and open for public review and comment.”

The shellfish industry is important to the Pacific Northwest, injecting an estimated $270 million or more into the region’s economy, and providing jobs for many. Washington’s tidelands, especially those in Willapa Bay, have been particularly productive for more than 100 years. However, according to shellfish growers, the burrowing shrimp (ghost shrimp, Neotrypaea californiensis, and mud shrimp, Upogebia pugettensis) undermines the industry. The creatures burrow into shellfish beds, making the beds too soft for shellfish cultivation. Their burrowing churns the tidelands into a sticky muck, smothering the oysters. After several years of deliberations and studies, Ecology identified imidacloprid as its preferred choice for eradicating the shrimp. According to the agency, imidacloprid disrupts the burrowing shrimps’ ability to maintain their burrows. A 2013 risk assessment conducted by Ecology concluded that, “The proposed use of imidacloprid to treat burrowing shrimp in shellfish beds located in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor is expected to have little or no impact on the local estuarine and marine species….. , and will not significantly impact human health.”

However, in comments submitted by the Xerces Society, supported by Beyond Pesticides and others, Ecology failed to consider existing published research that demonstrates the potential for wide-range ecological damage from the use of the insecticide imidacloprid. The groups say that the risks, coupled with the lack of data on how imidacloprid will impact sensitive marine environments like Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, warrant greater caution. The comments urged the agency to review existing data that shows imidacloprid’s potential to damage the rich marine ecosystems of Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. Imidacloprid is water soluble and highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates. Its persistence and largely irreversible mode of action in invertebrates make it particularly dangerous in these ecosystems. Further, the comments note, imidacloprid’s impact on these key species can also cause a cascading trophic effect, harming the fish, birds, and other organisms that rely on them for sustenance.

The decision to withdraw the permit last May was reached in large part due to vocal public outrage over the plan, as consumers, environmental organizations, and prominent local chefs spoke out against the spraying. According to a news release published by the agency at the time, DOA Director Maia Bellon stated, “One of our agency’s goals is to reduce toxics in our environment. We’ve heard loud and clear from people across Washington that this permit didn’t meet their expectations, and we respect the growers’ response.”

In an article published in the Seattle Times, the largest shellfish producer in country, Taylor Shellfish, announced it would not treat its oyster beds with imidacloprid in response to numerous calls, emails, and social media comments made by its customers. “Our customers spoke loud and clear, and that speaks volumes to us,” said Bill Dewey, spokesman for Taylor Shellfish. Given Taylor Shellfish’s size, it is likely that WGHOGA did not have the resources to move forward with the pesticide application.

Retailers, consumers and environmental organizations were not the only ones to raise concern for the use of imidacloprid. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) voiced many concerns over the application of imidacloprid to the bays. Among them include concerns surrounding the large size of the area to be treated. NMFS believes that the proposed acreage should be reduced because of many unknowns regarding impact to other aquatic and terrestrial biota. Further, NMFS states that the burrowing shrimp are native to the region and play an important role in the natural ecosystem. The agency also voiced concern for the green sturgeon – a “species of concern” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the potential direct and indirect impacts to its food sources in the designated critical habitat. The agency believes that effects and damages will not be limited to the treatment sites. Similarly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) also expressed reservations over imidacloprid use. FWS wrote Ecology expressing its opposition to the imidacloprid permit, citing a lack of scientific information regarding fate and transport, efficacy, persistence, and effects to non-target organisms. It went on to dispute claims that shrimp control improves biodiversity, citing the possibility of significant alterations occurring to the bay’s ecosystem without burrowing shrimp control, disagreeing with Ecology’s conclusion that “no significant adverse impacts” would be expected.

For more information on the environmental impacts of neonicotinoids such as imidacloprid, visit our What the Science Shows page. To learn more about the use of chemicals in Willapa Bay and Greys Harbor, read our Pesticides and You article, Residents Say No To Pesticide-Poisoned Bays.

Source: KING 5, SeattlePi

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

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12
Jan

Campbell Soup Says GE Food Is Safe, Endorses Mandatory GE Labeling to Preempt States with Weak Language

(Beyond Pesticides, January 12, 2016) Late last week in a precedent-setting move, Campbell Soup Company announced its support for federal mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. If such labeling does not come soon, the company also indicated it is prepared to voluntarily label all products it produces that contain GE ingredients. Agri-Pulse reported, “Campbell made clear that it still supported the use of genetic engineering in agriculture but said that there is a need for national labeling standards that would preempt state standards.”

F160471_SpaghettiOs_New_Labels-0091Campbell’s President and CEO Denise Morrison, ““I want to stress that we’re in no way disputing the science behind GMOs or their safety. The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence indicates that GMOs are safe and that foods derived from crops using genetically modified seedsare not nutritionally different from other foods,” Morrison wrote.” Ms. Morrison said that the company is against a patchwork of regulation across the states. In its release Campbell issues a sample label, which states: “Partially produced with genetic engineering. For more information about GMO ingredients visit WhatsinMyFood.com.”

Prior to the announcement, Campbell Soup’s membership to the umbrella group the Grocery Manufacturers Association pitted it against consumer, health, and environmental organizations, and the over 90% of Americans that support mandatory GE labeling and want to know the ingredients in the food they eat. However, in a press release issued by Campbell’s, the company states, “As a result of its decision to support mandatory national GMO labeling, Campbell will withdraw from all efforts led by coalitions and groups opposing such measures.”

While the company continues to assert tired claims that GE crops are critical to “feeding the world,” the change marks the first breaking of ranks among the conventional food industry at a time when Congress is intensely debating the merits of a federal GE food labeling scheme. In July of last year, the House of Representatives passed a bill, HR 1599, aptly referred to as the Deny Americans the Right to Know, or DARK Act, which would preempt (disallow) states from requiring GE labeling, and only allow voluntary labeling by food companies. While the Senate held hearings on the issue in October, it was not included as a rider in an omnibus federal spending bill passed at the end of the year, despite intensive lobbying from the conventional food and chemical industry.

Things have heated up at the federal level after Vermont became the first state to require mandatory GE labeling in 2014. Ballot initiatives in California, Washington State, Oregon, and Colorado were all rejected in close votes after chemical companies poured millions of dollars in TV ads to discredit the efforts. Maine and Connecticut also passed legislation in 2014 on GE labeling, however, these laws contain a “trigger clause” that delays implementation until similar legislation is passed in neighboring states, including one bordering state in the case of Connecticut. Vermont’s policy had been the subject of a legal challenge from the GMA, Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and National Association of Manufacturers; the organizations claimed that current federal law preempted the state from enacting mandatory labeling requirements. However, after Vermont won the legal challenge, industry shifted its strategy to stop the implementation of the law by pushing for passage of the DARK Act.

Beyond Pesticides believes that consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and human health. GE agriculture is associated with the increased use of herbicides –particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup– that crops are developed to tolerate. In light of the recent findings by International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) that glyphosate is a human carcinogen based on laboratory animal test data, consumers have even more cause for concern about the health risks that these products pose.

As most GE crops are developed either for herbicide tolerance, or to produce their own insecticide through “plant incorporated protectants,” (PIPs), the problem of pest resistance is significant and growing. EPA’s Office of Pesticide Program indicated to a Senate panel that it registers “plant incorporated protectants,” (PIPs) in 86 GE crops and acknowledged pest resistance problems. Insects that are the target of the engineered plant develop resistance, putting farmers’ crops at risk because of their dependency on the technology. In 2012, Washington State University researcher Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. found that the use of herbicides in the production of three genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops (cotton, soybeans and corn) has increased, contrary to industry claims that biotechnology will reduce pesticide applications. According to a series of studies in the journal Weed Science, at least 21 different species of weeds Monsanto’s “Roundup-Ready” crops, which leads to an increase in pesticide use to try to combat resistance, increasing dependency on a failed system.

As GE technology advances, farmers are increasingly threatened with crop loss, as was the argument made by Texas cotton farmers in 2014 when 3 million acres of GE cotton was threatened by weed resistance to Monsanto’s herbicide-tolerant Roundup. The state of Texas, on behalf of the farmers, requested that EPA allow the use of a triazine herbicide not registered for use on cotton under an emergency exemption (Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act), but EPA denied the request because it said that exposure to triazines, linked to hermaphroditism in frogs, “already show[s] unacceptable risk levels.”

Campbell’s push for mandatory labeling may not explicitly recognize the aforementioned problems with GE crops, as the company reasons that it prefers one federal standard to a variety of state-level requirements, but it does reflect the fact that a growing number of consumers are aware of the unaccounted costs of GE agriculture. This is exemplified through the exponential rise the organic food market. Organic agriculture identifies genetic engineering as an “excluded method” and prohibits its use in certified organic production. In the absence of a mandatory label on GE foods, and for many other reasons, consumers can go organic to ensure their food dollars support a safe, ethical, and environmentally sound food and farming system.

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

Source: Campbell Soup Press Release, ABC News

 

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11
Jan

UK Researchers Find Bee-Killing Pesticide Cocktail in Hedgerows and Wildflowers

(Beyond Pesticides, January 11, 2016) Scientists at Sussex University in the United Kingdom (UK) have found that bumble bees and honey bees are exposed to a harmful chemical cocktail when collecting pollen from wildflowers and hedgerows that border neonicotinoid-treated crops in UK farmland. After testing oilseed rape croplands during blooming season, these chemical cocktails were found to be mixed with fungicides and insecticides, and at concentrations much higher than expected.  According to the Soil Association, which supported the study, “These chemical cocktails could make the impact of neonicotinoids up to 1,000 times more potent than previously realized.” With at least 121 different agrochemicals detected in hive wax and pollen samples in the Unites States, most of which include systemic pesticides, it is becoming increasingly more important to study the synergistic effects of pesticides in and outside of farm land.

hedgerowThe study focused on “determining which mixtures of commonly used fungicides occur alongside neonicotinoids” and found that all individual oilseed rape pollen samples
contained at least six neonicotinoid and fungicide residues. To compare, three neonicotinoid and six fungicides were detected in wildflower pollen samples. While the wildflower contamination was expectedly lower than crop contamination, the rate of bee contamination paints a clearer, albeit alarming picture. In pollen collected from wildflowers outside of the oilseed rape cropland, researchers found that “all pollen samples collected by honey bees were contaminated with a mixture of neonicotinoids and fungicides; a total of 14 compounds in pollen collected during oilseed rape blooming and 10 after the bloom period.” The study also acknowledges that their data “suggest that real-world exposure may often be much higher than this.”

The scientists concluded that the effects of these pesticide cocktails need to be examined, “Our study confirms that bees foraging in arable farmland are exposed to a complex cocktail of neonicotinoid insecticides and fungicides in the pollen they collect…A major challenge which has yet to be tackled is attempting to understand what effects simultaneous exposure to multiple pesticides has upon bees in the field.”

The sampling for this study was conducted in the spring and summer of 2013, before the moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds came into effect in the UK. The current state of wildflower pollen contamination is unknown. This study further supports the European Union’s decision to ban neonicotinoid-treated seeds and supports a continuation of that moratorium moving forward. While industry supporters, like Syngenta and Bayer CropSciences, insist that the ban has caused detrimental effects to farmers, an August 2015 study found that oilseed rape yields actually increased compared to the 5-year average. One month later, a Michigan State University study found that neonicotinoid-treated seeds do not reduce crop damage from pests.

In the U.S., no such moratorium exists, although the recently released imidacloprid preliminary risk assessment from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirms widespread exposure to the widely-used class of pesticides.

While neonicotinoid pesticides have continuously been linked to bee population decline, fungicides and the synergistic effects of fungicides and neonicotinoids are only recently coming to light. In June 2015, two studies linked declining bee health to fungicide use. Another June study found a relationship between timing of fungicide applications and wild bee populations. Fungicide applications prior to apple flower blooming resulted in the steepest decline in wild bee abundance and diversity.

While the European Commission and EPA have large decisions to make concerning pollinators, citizens like yourself can help fight against bee-killing pesticides from home. With home-improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s phasing out bee-toxic products, America’s pollinators need your help to encourage other corporate stores to do the same. True Value and ACE Hardware have pollinators on their radar, but need to feel the heat! Click here to tell their corporate headquarters to phase out neonicotinoids and protect pollinators today.

You can also pledge to promote a pollinator-friendly garden in your yard. Beyond Pesticides’ members across the country are spreading the word about pollinator health by proudly displaying Pesticide-Free Zone Signs in their gardens. Whether you use one of our honey bee or ladybug pesticide-free zone signs, or a homemade one, these signs are an effective way to spark a discussion on the hazards of toxic pesticides and bee decline. You can see some of the beautiful, pesticide-free gardens in our 2016 calendar. Click here to purchase a calendar for the New Year!

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

Source: Environmental International

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08
Jan

EPA Must Assess the Indiscriminate Pollinator Poisoning Caused by Neonicotinoids Imparted to Plants from Seeds, Lawsuit Charges

(Beyond Pesticides January 8, 2016) This week the Center for Food Safety, on behalf of several beekeepers, farmers and sustainable agriculture and conservation groups, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday charging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a failure to adequately regulate neonicotinoid insecticide seed coatings used on dozens of crops throughout the U.S. The suit alleges that EPA has illegally allowed millions of pounds of coated seeds to be planted annually on more than 150 million acres nationwide, constituting a direct violation of the registration requirements established by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Absent adequate assessment of the serious ongoing environmental harms associated with coated seed use, as well as failure to require the registration of coated seeds and enforceable labels on seeds bags, this lawsuit demands immediate action to protect beekeepers, farmers and consumers from the harms associated with neonicotinoid coated seeds.

Seed TechnologyNeonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affects the central nervous system of insects, resulting in disorientation, paralysis and death. Neonicotinoid pesticides are tied to recent pollinator declines by an ever-growing body of science. Just this week EPA released a preliminary honey bee risk assessment linking severely declining honeybee populations to the use of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, which, along with clothianidin and thiamethoxam, is commonly used to coat agricultural seeds. This raises huge concerns because neonicotinoids are persistent in the environment, and when used as seed treatments (as well as drench treatments), translocate throughout the plant (thus are systemic), ending up in pollen and nectar and exposing pollinators like bees, birds, and butterflies long after the planting season has ended.

Not only are neonicotinoid coated seeds harmful to pollinators, they also offer little economic value to farmers. In 2014, EPA released a memorandum concluding that soybean seeds treated with neonicotinoid insecticides provide little or no overall benefits in controlling insects or improving yield or quality in chemical-intensive soybean production. The memo states, “In studies that included a comparison to foliar insecticides, there were no instances where neonicotinoid seed treatments out-performed any foliar insecticide in yield protection from any pest.” A report by Center for Food Safety that same year assembled the scientific literature that refutes claims that neonicotinoids bring greater benefits than costs to farmers. In the report, researchers analyzed independent, peer-reviewed, scientific literature and found that the benefits of prophylactic neonicotinoid use via seed treatments are nearly non-existent, and that any minor benefits that did occur were negated due to honey bee colony impacts, reduced crop pollination by honey bees, reduced production of honey and other bee products, loss of ecosystem services, and market damage from contamination events. Furthermore, preliminary reports out of the UK find that the country is poised to harvest higher than expected yields of canola in its first neonicotinoid-free growing season since the European moratorium on neonicotinoids went into place in 2013.

The lawsuit seeks to challenge EPA’s reliance on FIFRA’s “treated article exemption,” which, to this point, has been used to allow the pesticide industry to circumvent proper registration and review of neonicotinoid coated seeds. The treated article exemption exempts from regulation “an article or substance treated with, or containing a pesticide to protect the article or substance itself, if the pesticide is registered for such use.” 40 CFR § 152.25. Plaintiffs argue that, due to the systemic nature of neonicotinoids, coated seeds are “pesticide” products under FIFRA and require review by EPA. The lawsuit claims that neonicotinoid coatings are not merely intended to protect the seed before germination, but instead designed to carry the active ingredients via the plants’ circulatory system into every living tissue of the plant, thereby imparting the pest injuring (or pesticide) capability to the plant. In doing so, the lawsuit states, the treated article exemption does not apply to the coated seeds. Plaintiffs allege that exempting coated seeds from FIFRA registration is an ultra vires (beyond legal authority) use of agency power, and that failure to regulate and enforce against this pesticide use under FIFRA is unlawful and a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

The plaintiffs in the case are beekeepers Jeff Anderson, Bret Adee, David Hackenberg, and Pollinator Stewardship Council, farmers Lucas Criswell and Gail Fuller, and public interest and conservation groups American Bird Conservancy, Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network of North America

Efforts to stop the harm that neonicotinoids are causing are ongoing on many fronts. Across the nation, jurisdictions, like Boulder and Lafayette, Colorado, have been banning or limiting neonicotinoids. Last year, Ontario, Canada proposed a plan to reduce the use of neonic-coated corn and soybean seeds by 80%. In 2013, the European Union issued a 2-year moratorium banning neonics. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a ban on neonicotinoid insecticides at all wildlife refuges nationwide by this January. For more information on pollinators and pesticides, see Beyond Pesticides’ BeeProtective page.

The Saving America’s Pollinator’s Act remains an avenue for Congress to address the pollinator crisis. Contact your U.S. Representative and ask them to support this important legislation today. You can also get active in your community to protect bees by advocating for policies that restrict their use. Montgomery County, Maryland recently restricted the use of a wide range of pesticides, including neonics, on public and private property. Sign here if you’d like to see your community do the same!

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

Source: CFS press release

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07
Jan

EPA Data Confirms Honey Bee Exposure to Hazardous Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 7, 2016) A long-awaited U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) preliminary honey bee risk assessment, released yesterday, for one of the most widely used pesticides linked to severely declining honey bee populations confirms harmful residues of the chemical in crops where the pollinators forage, including citrus and other crops. While EPA finds the insecticide imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid or neonic pesticide, at various levels in crops, the assessment confirms bees’ widespread and sustained exposure to the highly toxic and persistent chemical through poisoned pollen and nectar. EPA’s assessment failed to address risks posed to wild bees and widespread exposure through soil and water. [See docket with EPA documents, for which EPA has set a 60-public comment period.]

beehivecheck“We cannot incorporate highly toxic and persistent chemicals into virtually all agricultural crops and ornamental plants without detrimental impacts on large populations of bees, butterflies, and birds and other organisms important to a healthy ecosystem on which life depends,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, a science and advocacy group based in Washington, DC. “Even low level exposures to bees over vast acreage represent an unsustainable threat,” he continued.

Other toxic pesticides in the neonicotinoid class of insecticides have been linked to pollinator decline in over a hundred independent scientific studies. The class is known as systemic pesticides because they are taken up by the vascular system of the plant and then expressed through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets, killing target and non-target organisms indiscriminately. The neonicotinoids are still under EPA review, while the European Union, numerous retailers, and local cities and towns have adopted policies that stop their use. Beyond Pesticides points to a thriving organic industry as the alternative to the neonicotinoids.

The preliminary honey bee assessment confirms that imidacloprid is highly toxic to honey bees, with exposure resulting in reduced numbers of worker bees, less foraging, and delayed development. EPA finds that in agriculture, bees are at risk both in fields and adjacent to fields where imidacloprid is sprayed, especially on citrus and cotton. EPA’s review of available data finds that other bees, like bumble bees, are also at risk. Imidacloprid exposures impact reproduction and colony health.

Nichelle Harriott, Beyond Pesticides’ science and regulatory director, said: “Today’s imidacloprid honey bee assessment confirms much of the existing scientific evidence showing imidacloprid’s toxicity to bees. However, the agency still falls short in fully assessing broader risks to wild bees and other non-target organisms. Time is of the essence and bees and other pollinators cannot wait for EPA to slowly complete these reviews. The agency must take action and suspend imidacloprid and other neonicotinoids to protect pollinators.”

Imidacloprid, like the other chemicals in its class, is not only highly toxic to bees, but a growing number of studies find that even at low levels neonicotinoids impair foraging ability, navigation, learning behavior, and suppress the immune system, making bees more susceptible to pathogens and disease. Recent studies already find that imidacloprid reduces foraging behavior in bumble bees, reduces colony growth, and increases neuronal dysfunction. Long-term sublethal exposures are also linked to chronic behavioral impairment.

According to government statistics, 42 percent of managed honey bees across the country were lost over 2014/2015, representing the second highest loss to date. There have been a number of EPA actions attempting to reduce honey bee exposure to bee-toxic pesticides, including a moratorium on new neonicotinoid uses and products, as well as a proposal to temporarily prohibit foliar applications of pesticides acutely toxic to honey bees during bloom. Due to the systemic nature of many of these pesticides, scientists find that these measures fall short of providing long-term, comprehensive protections for pollinators.

Imidacloprid is one of the oldest neonicotinoids in use and is used in a variety of settings, including agriculture, numerous home and garden products, as well as pet products. The agency notes that the registration review of other neonicotinoids, like clothianidin and thiamethoxam, should be available sometime in December 2016.

See more information on the serious decline of honey and other pollinators at www.beeprotective.org.

Download the press release here.

###

Contact:
Nichelle Harriott,
202-543-5450
[email protected]
Jay Feldman, 202-255-4296
[email protected]
www.beyondpesticides.org

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06
Jan

EPA Rule Clarifies Disclosure Requirement of All Ingredients in Exempt Minimum Risk Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 6, 2016) Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its final rule to clarify the substances on the minimum risk pesticide ingredient list, also known as the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 25(b) List, and revise the way these ingredients are identified on product labels. The new rule require manufacturers to more clearly disclose to state agencies, companies, and the general public the chemical ingredients contained in the 25(b) products. EPA hopes that this will ultimately improve compliance and enforcement.

epa_seal_profilesMinimum risk pesticides, or 25(b) pesticides, are a special class of pesticides that are not required to be registered with EPA because their ingredients, both active and inert, are considered nonhazardous to human health or the environment. They include commonly known botanicals and plants compounds such as cedarwood oil, citronella, corn meal gluten, peppermint oil, sodium chloride and white pepper that can be used for their pesticidal properties. Manufactures of these products are required to fully disclose their ingredient list on product labels, which Beyond Pesticides has long championed for all pesticide products. Currently, so-called inert ingredients, which EPA considers proprietary information and make up the majority of product ingredients in many pesticides, are not disclosed on pesticide product labels. However, there has been a lack of clarity on minimum risk pesticide product labels in the past that has made it difficult for enforcement officials to ensure compliance with the 25(b) criteria, given that the manufacturer uses its own judgment on whether the product meets the exemption requirements.

The revisions to the minimum risk pesticide list, announced on December 28, 2015, do not alter the substance of the minimum risk pesticide ingredient lists, according to EPA, but more accurately describe which chemical substances can be used in pesticide products that are exempt from federal pesticide registration requirements. The rule reorganizes the ingredient list (40 CFR 125.25) and adds specific chemical identifiers (CAS numbers) to make clearer the specific ingredients that are permitted in minimum risk pesticide products. This will assist in improving compliance and enforcement oversight of these pesticide products and harmonize labels across manufacturers. EPA is also requiring producer contact information and the use of specific common chemical names in lists of ingredients on minimum risk pesticide product labels.

Further, there have been many producers claiming the 25(b) exemption and market their products as minimum risk while having “inert” ingredients that are not permitted under the exemption criteria. EPA is therefore also codifying the list of “inert” ingredients allowed to be used in these products. The list can be found here. These “inert” ingredients were historically categorized as List 4A under 40 CFR 180.950. However, the list is no longer updated by EPA, but maintained as a resource to partially define the substances that are acceptable under organic standards. EPA does not allow in minimum risk 25(b) pesticides inerts previously listed as 4B, which are more toxic materials and currently allowed in organic production. [Note that the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommended to USDA in 2010 and 2012 that it review all the inerts currently allowed in organic over a five-year period, but has not undertaken a thorough review as the NOSB had intended, so 4B inerts are currently allowed in organic. Beyond Pesticides is working to hold USDA accountable to this NOSB recommendation. See comments. EPA believes that having an inert ingredient list directly in the regulations offers much needed clarity to what is allowed, and will improve the efficiency of inspections because inspectors will not have to look through multiple sources to find the necessary ingredient list. Codifying this inert ingredient list will also make it easier for producers, whether chemical or organic, that use 25(b) products to identify all ingredients, including inert.

Consumers are becoming increasingly wary of products with toxic ingredients, driving a huge shift towards ‘greener’ technologies. Many credit the minimum risk exemption to be a major driver of ‘greener,’ least-toxic product alternatives for pest management, with sales increasing annually. Growing brands such as EcoSmart and CedarCide have created least-toxic pesticide products that are enjoying great commercial success, with many of their products under section 25(b) status. This, coupled with a growing organic market, offers opportunities and challenges for formulators to develop and market least-toxic products with minimum risk pesticides that may be compatible with low hazard standards, such as organic, and consumer expectations.

For more on minimum risks pesticides http://www.epa.gov/minimum-risk-pesticides

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

Source: EPA

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05
Jan

Federal Judge Permits USDA Whistleblower Case to Proceed

(Beyond Pesticides, January 5, 2016) An administrative court judge has agreed to hear a case filed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pollinator researcher who says his firing by the agency was retaliation for his cutting edge research linking neonicotinoid insecticides to declinining monarch butterfly populations, which has drawn national attention and international recognition. Late last year, Judge Patricia M. Miller of the Merit Systems Protection Board denied USDA’s request to dismiss a claim filed by Johnathan Lundgren, PhD, a USDA employee for eleven years with high accolades.

jonathan lungdrenIn April of last year, Dr. Lundgren published a study in The Science of Nature (pdf) that shows that clothianidin, a neonicotinoid insecticide often used to coat seeds, kills monarch butterfly larvae in the laboratory. On August 3, 2015, USDA imposed a 14-day suspension against Dr. Lundgren for submitting the study and for a paperwork error in his travel authorization for his invited presentation about his research to a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as to a USDA stakeholder group, the Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance. The suspension was cut to 14 days from 30 after Dr. Lundgren filed an appeal.

In October 2015, Dr. Lundgren, respresented by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), filed a whistleblower complaint against USDA, claiming it “gave no substantive reason” for denying Dr. Lundgren’s travel request and made “repeated attempts…to impede or deter his research and resultant publications.” Dr. Lundgren’s research on the harm neonicotinoids pose to monarch butterflies reflects a growing scientific consensus that these chemicals present significant risks to declining pollinator populations. However, as stated in the complaint, despite receiving approval for the paper through proper protocols, higher-ups at USDA deemed the research “sensitive,” and claimed that Dr. Lundgren had not received approval to publish the study.

Judge Miller’s ruling is a strong rebuke to an agency that asserted Dr. Lundgren’s complaint was “frivolous” and based on information that was “speculative and unsupported.” USDA and Dr. Lundgren were ordered by the court to convene a status conference on January 6, 2016, to discuss a potential settlement, according to the Washington Post. “We were very pleased to receive Judge Miller’s ruling,” said Laura Dumais, the PEER attorney representing Lundgren to the Washington Post, “as we feel Dr. Jonathan Lundgren has a very strong case.”

In April 2015, PEER filed a petition for rulemaking with USDA, urging the agency to strengthen its Scientific Integrity Policy and adopt best practices used in other federal agencies in order to prevent politicized suppression or alteration of studies. The group claims that at least 10 USDA scientists have been investigated or have faced other consequences as a result of research questioning the safety of certain pesticides. The current policy disallows scientists from “making statements that could be construed as being judgments of or recommendations on USDA or any other federal policy, either intentionally or inadvertently.”

“The job of a government scientist is to conduct research to help guide policy,” said PEER attorney Laura Dumais to the Washington Post, “so prohibiting them from saying anything that could even be ‘construed’ as commenting on policy essentially gives supervisors the right to punish anyone they want, for giving any interview at all. Dr. Jonathan Lundgren’s case is a textbook example of that.”

With science both in and outside of the U.S. pointing to a growing list of impacts from pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) crops, ranging from the decline of bees to the carcinogenicity of the widely used herbicide glyphosate, it is critical that federal scientific agency staff tasked with protecting human and environmental health are able to inform the public without repercussions.

Help us defend independent science by signing this petition to USDA today!

Dr. Lundgren will join Beyond Pesticides for a presentation at the 34th National Pesticide Forum in Portland, ME on April 15-16, 2016. The conference brings together top scientists, policy makers, and public health and environmental advocates to interact, engage in dialogue, and strategize on solutions that are protective of health and the environment. Aaron Blair, PhD, chair at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, another target of chemical industry pressure after a finding that glyphosate is carcinogenic based on laboratory animal studies, will also speak at the Forum.

Reserve your spot today to receive the Early Bird Discount rate ($5 off)! For more information and to purchase tickets, see this webpage.

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

Source: Washington Post

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04
Jan

Study Adds to Evidence of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Intersex Fish

(Beyond Pesticides, January 4, 2016) A study published by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) found large-scale evidence of intersex in smallmouth and largemouth bass in the Northeast United States, an indicator of endocrine disruption. The study, published in the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, looks at 19 U.S. National Wildlife Refuges and is the first reconnaissance survey of this scope. The study found that the prevalence of testicular oocytes across all samples was 85% and 27% for male small- and largemouth bass, respectively.

smallmouthbassIntersex occurs when one sex develops characteristics of the opposite sex. In the case of this study, researchers found testicular oocytes —female eggs found inside male testicles—in male smallmouth and largemouth bass. The
study explains, “The presence of oocytes in the testes of male gonochoristic fish has been used as an indicator of estrogenic exposure.” The source of the estrogen is hard to pinpoint, but pesticides are often cited as a cause given that they widely pollute waterways that fish populate. Those chemicals have properties that disrupt the endocrine system and affect the reproductive system, causing development issues such as testicular oocytes. According to USGS, “Intersex is a global issue, as wild-caught fish affected by endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been found in locations across the world.”

According to the USGS press release for the study, “Estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemicals are derived from a variety of sources, from natural estrogens to synthetic pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals that enter the waterways. Examples include some types of birth control pills, natural sex hormones in livestock manures, herbicides and pesticides.”

While the study did not look for the sources of endocrine disruption, it did paint a picture of how widespread this abnormality really is, encouraging management actions to combat runoff. “It is not clear what the specific cause of intersex is in these fish,” said Luke Iwanowicz, a USGS research biologist and lead author of the paper, in their press release. “This study was designed to identify locations that may warrant further investigation.  Chemical analyses of fish or water samples at collection sites were not conducted, so we cannot attribute the observation of intersex to specific, known estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemicals.”

Last summer, research by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) showed a strong correlation between the occurrence of intersex characteristics on fish, which have been found in the Chesapeake Bay region, and areas of high agricultural use in Pennsylvania.  In addition, a recent report by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) found rare malignant tumors on smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River, a river that flows through the northeast from upstate New York to the Chesapeake Bay. The Susquehanna River is a major source of agricultural runoff containing phosphorous, nitrogen, and sediment pollutants, as well as natural animal hormones in manure. Pennsylvania DEP officials are looking to in-depth studies to identify the sources of the endocrine-disrupting compounds and herbicides likely contributing to the tumors.

This is a step that USGS would like to see taken as well. The study states, “A comprehensive re-evaluation that includes chemical analysis and seasonal snapshots of both sites is necessary to identify the likely cause(s) of elevated plasma vitellogenin in these male smallmouth bass.”

In addition to the Pennsylvania DEP study, other scientists are examining fish as a means of gauging water quality and chemical exposure. In 2008, USGS identified ten contaminants, including atrazine, chlorpyrifos, and endosulfan, responsible for intersex fish in the Potomac River. Atrazine, one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world, has been shown to affect reproduction of fish at concentrations below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) water-quality guidelines. A November study found that commonly-used pesticides can persist in and impact the species of a waterway long after the chemicals are detectable or monitored by regulators.

Beyond Pesticides continues to fight to prevent water pollution and harmful agricultural practices. Visit our Threatened Waters page and learn how organic land management practices contribute to healthy waters in the article, “Organic Land Management and the Protection of Water Quality.”

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

Source:  U.S. Geological Survey

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