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Daily News Blog

02
Dec

Arkansas Plant Board Advances Measures to Restrict Herbicide Dicamba, Linked to Crop Damage

(Beyond Pesticides, December 2, 2016) Last week, the Arkansas Plant Board voted 12-0 to push measures that would ban or limit the use of certain forms of the toxic herbicide dicamba in the state. The hearing was called to address proposals that the board released for public comment on September 30, such as banning certain formulations of dicamba outright, creating restrictions on the time of year that other formulations of the herbicide can be used, and creating buffer zones in certain situations. This decision comes on the heels of a newly registered formulation of dicamba by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and widespread reports of crop damage across the Midwest and Southeast due to the illegal use of dicamba before it was registered.

According to DTN Progressive Farmer, the three-hour public meeting was packed with almost 200 people, and approximately 20 of those testified. The testimonies highlighted the disputes and tensions that have arisen over the use of dicamba, as many remembered and spoke about Mike Wallace, a farmer who was tragically murdered on October 27 during an argument with a fellow farmer in Missouri over the illegal use of the chemical and subsequent crop damage. “We’ve seen exactly what the old formulations are capable of, and there’s not enough research to prove the new formulations will not sprayoutdoorsdo the same,” stated Bradley Wallace, son of the late Mike Wallace. Another Arkansas farmer testified that he could visually identify 600 acres of soybeans that had been damaged by dicamba drift, estimating a $70,000 loss of income. Others testified that farmers were beginning to plant Xtend soybeans, which are genetically engineered (GE) to withstand dicamba applications, as a defensive move, as they were worried drift from neighboring farmers would hurt their crops and income. The Plant Board received 245 written comments during the public comment period, with 192 writers expressing support for the restrictions proposed, and 33 requesting a ban of all dicamba products. Only five comments expressed opposition to the proposed restrictions. During the hearing, there was also widespread support to increase the fine associated with illegal spraying, but that would require additional legislation.

In October, EPA launched a criminal investigation at several locations in Missouri into the illegal spraying allegations, based on complaints about damage across Missouri and several nearby states. The complaints allege damage to more than 41,000 acres of soybeans, and other crops including peaches, tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupe, rice, purple-hull peas, peanuts, cotton and alfalfa, as well as to residential gardens, trees and shrubs.

Pesticide drift is an inevitable problem of pesticide application, and dicamba drift and subsequent crop injury to broadleaf crops has been a frequent problem. Abnormal leaf growth, floral development, reduced yield, and reduced quality have all been observed from dicamba drift.  A study published by Pennsylvania State scientists in late 2015 found dicamba drift was “frequently responsible for sublethal, off-target damage” to plants and insects. Researchers find that even very low rates of dicamba herbicide exposure negatively affected plant flowering, and thus insect pollination. Dicamba has also been linked to damage of the kidney and liver, neurotoxicity, and developmental impacts. Historically, to mitigate against potential risks from pesticide drift, EPA has required buffer zones and application restrictions. However, these have not been sufficient to alleviate off-site crop damage and environmental contamination. Additionally, as demonstrated with these incidents, there are challenges with pesticide product label compliance.

The use of other highly volatile herbicides like 2,4-D on GE crops also presents growing pesticide drift concerns in light of  2,4-D tolerant GE varieties. Formulations of 2,4-D have been marketed as a “solution” for the control of glyphosate-resistant weeds brought on by the widespread use of the chemical on glyphosate-tolerant (Roundup Ready) crops over the last decade. These super weeds now infest tens of millions of acres of U.S. farmland. 2,4-D is linked to non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL), and is also neurotoxic, genotoxic, and an endocrine disruptor. Both of these herbicides, when associated with GE crops, are formulated with glyphosate, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has identified as probably carcinogenic to humans based upon laboratory animal studies.

While the Arkansas Plant Board’s decision is a step in the right direction, there is still more work to be done. The proposals now go to the Arkansas governor for considerations, and will eventually be brought before a legislative committee for a final decision, said Terry Walker, director of the Arkansas State Plant Board, in a statement to DTN Progressive Farmer. Ultimately, this problem will need to be addressed on a structural scale, as chemical-intensive farmers will need to diversify the crops they plant and implement other cultural practices to deter weeds, such as cover crops, crop rotation, and intercropping. Food distribution systems will also need to shift to accommodate greater diversity in farmer fields. Organic agriculture represents a time-tested approach to managing weeds and avoiding resistance problems that plague GE cropping systems. With organic, the use of toxic synthetic herbicides and GE seeds is prohibited, and farmers must craft an organic system plan aimed at improving soil health and managing pests and weeds should they arise.

Source: DTN Progressive Farmer

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

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01
Dec

European Court Decision Rules in Favor of Increased Pesticide Transparency

(Beyond Pesticides, December 1, 2016) A groundbreaking decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last Wednesday ruled in favor of the environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN Europe) and Greenpeace Nederland, which had been denied access to industry studies and other information submitted by chemical companies to European regulators on the controversial weedkiller glyphosate and the bee-toxic insecticide imidacloprid. In the two judgments regarding public access to underlying environmental effects information on chemicals, ECJ clarified the meaning of “emissions into the environment” and “information on [or which relates to] emissions into the environment” within the EU regulation.

The Court found that “emissions into the environment” includes releases from pesticide products or active ingredients contained in these products, as long as the release is possible under realistic conditions of use of this product. It interpreted the “information on emissions into the environment” to cover information relating to the nature, composition, and quantity of those emissions, but also “information enabling the public to check whether the assessment [is correct], as well as the data relating to the medium or long-term effects of those emissions.” This decision will allow for any interested party to obtain industry studies and underlying data that were submitted to European regulatory agencies for pesticide review and approval.kauaicornfields

This ruling resulted from two similar cases, one in the European Commission and the other a court in the Netherlands, that refused to give environmental NGOs access to industry studies and other documents. According to Politico, one case dealt with access to a documents request from PAN Europe and Greenpeace for “internal studies linked to the safety of the controversial weedkiller glyphosate.” Glyphosate, produced by Monsanto, is one of the most popular weedkillers in the U.S., and the active ingredient in Roundup. Glyphosate is often promoted by industry as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals, yet has been shown to have detrimental impacts on humans and the environment. Given its widespread use on residential and agricultural sites, its toxicity is of increasing concern.

The other case was a request by the Dutch bee organization, Stichting de Bijenstichting, for information on the authorization process of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid. The use of imidacloprid has gained popularity in agricultural and residential settings, but its human and environmental effects still have not been fully evaluated, despite its registration over 20 years ago. While many in the industry consider imidacloprid to be a pesticide of relatively low toxicity, it has been found to be extremely toxic to non-target insects like bees, and has led to resistance in the Colorado potato beetle. Advocates are urging U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to complete its full assessment of imidacloprid and follow Canada’s lead in eliminating this toxic chemical.

There are some concerns regarding the specific types of documents ECJ deemed suitable for release to the public, since the court stated that “the concept of information on emissions into the environment does not include information relating to purely hypothetical emissions.” This may ultimately mean that authorities can still deny access to certain documents that do not specifically include data on exposure to humans.

This is a huge win for environmental organizations that have long been critical of the lack of transparency in the government review process of pesticides. And while it does not apply to regulatory decisions in the U.S., it sets a legal precedent going forward. The pesticide industry is concerned about this ruling and claim that reduced confidentiality may affect investment in the market. According to the European Chemical Industry Council, the rulings “set a potentially dangerous precedent for the protection of confidential business information submitted by companies for EU substance and product registrations and approvals.”

At the domestic level, Beyond Pesticides fights for the future of the planet, by supporting and advocating for organic land management, holding federal agencies accountable to their statutory responsibility, and engaging with local communities to pass progressive pesticide initiatives that are protective of environmental and public health. For more information on what you can do, visit our Action Alerts sign-up page, read about Tools for Change to use in your local community, and consider becoming a member today.

Sources: Politico, Energydesk

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

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30
Nov

Industry Challenges Local Maryland Restrictions of Lawn Pesticides as Preempted by State

(Beyond Pesticides, November 30, 2016) A landmark Montgomery County, Maryland ordinance, which protects children, pets, wildlife, and the wider environment from the hazards of unnecessary lawn and landscape pesticide use, is facing a legal challenge filed last week by the industry group Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE). The plaintiffs, which include local chemical lawn care companies and a few individuals, allege that the local ordinance is preempted by state law, despite the fact that Maryland is one of seven states that has not explicitly taken away (or preempted) local authority to restrict pesticides more stringently than the state. This challenge comes on the heels of a recent decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down local laws in Hawaii aimed at protecting the environment from toxic pesticide use. An industry victory in Maryland state court would significantly impact the ability of local communities in Maryland to exercise their democratic right to adopt local public health and environmental protections that go above and beyond state and federal regulations that are deemed inadequate.hg_home

The bill at issue, 52-14, which bans the cosmetic lawn care use of toxic pesticides on public and private land, protects over one million people, the largest number to be covered by any local jurisdiction to date. Passing the Montgomery County Council by a vote of 6-3, the bill allows time for transition, training, and a public education program over several years. In limiting the pesticides allowed to be used for turf management, the law define acceptable materials to those permitted for use in organic production, or identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “minimum risk pesticides” under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Section 25(b). These restrictions effectively eliminate public exposure to hazardous pesticides on lawns and playing fields and in parks in the county, while still making available for use a wide range of pest-control products, creating a historic public health measure that serves as an example to localities across the country. The efforts of Montgomery County have been mirrored in several subsequent communities, including South Portland, ME.

The historic measure is being challenged by industry operatives who want to perpetuate the use of toxic pesticides within Montgomery County. The opponents argue that the ordinance is prohibited (preempted) under state law, even though preemption is not explicit. Legal history provides context on this issue, however, and it is clear that presiding law in the state of Maryland likely does not preempt local jurisdictions from passing laws stricter than those implemented by the state. The prevailing federal precedent was decided in 1991 when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, ruled that federal pesticide law (FIFRA) does not preempt local jurisdictions from restricting the use of pesticides more stringently than the federal government. According to Mortier, however states do retain authority to take away local control. In response to the Supreme Court decision, the pesticide lobby immediately formed a coalition, called the Coalition for Sensible Pesticide Policy, and developed boilerplate legislative language that restricts local municipalities from passing ordinances on the use of pesticides on private property. The Coalition’s lobbyists descended on states across the country, seeking and passing, in most cases, preemption legislation that was often identical to the Coalition’s wording.

Although attempts at this form of “explicit” preemption were introduced in Maryland in the mid-1990s, industry was unsuccessful in gaining enough support, and the state legislature never passed legislation expressly preempting local pesticide legislation. Because of this, RISE and its affiliates argue that there is “implied” preemption on the part of the state that would prohibit a local jurisdiction like Montgomery County from taking action to protect its citizens. Their claim hinges on proving that Maryland law establishes a “comprehensive program of state level regulation and licensing of pesticide products and applicators” that implies that state meant to occupy the entire space of pesticide regulation, and left no door open for local jurisdictions to regulate above and beyond state statutes. The lawsuit focuses on Bill 52-14’s prohibition of pesticide use on private property, and does not challenged the ordinance provisions that apply to county-owned land.

During the original debate on the bill, Montgomery County City Council legislative attorney Josh Hamlin wrote a memo on the issue of preemption. In it he asserts that while a court could conclude that Montgomery County is preempted, that conclusion is far from certain, and that both Maryland case law and legislative history make a strong argument against implied preemption. He points out, “Indeed, given the existing Maryland case law, as well as the legislative history of the State pesticide law, staff believes that a very strong argument against implied preemption can be made.” The memo continues, “In Maryland, pesticides are regulated by the Maryland Department of Agriculture. . .Maryland law and regulations generally create a pesticide registration and labeling regime at the state level, and a licensing program for applicators of certain pesticides. Title 5 [of the Agriculture Article of the Maryland Code] does not include any express preemption language, nor does it expressly authorize the use of any particular pesticides. In 2011, the Office of the County Attorney opined that, as a general matter, the County may regulate a pesticide in a manner at least as restrictive as, and consistent with, federal and State law. Specifically, the opinion expressed the view that the County could enact a local ban on the use of the pesticide methyl bromide.” The issue of local authority regarding pesticide use is not a new issue for Montgomery County. The memo points out, “The County currently imposes certain notice, storage, handling, and consumer information requirements in Chapter 33B of the County Code, and Bill 52-14 would add certain additional notice requirements, and would prohibit the use of certain pesticides on County property and certain private property.”

According to the memo, case law in Maryland has long recognized a “concurrent powers theory, which allows local legislation in certain fields where the State legislature has acted as long as the local jurisdiction is otherwise empowered to legislate on the subject.” Under this rule, there have only been six distinct instances since 1969 where the Maryland court has found implied preemption and invalided a local law, none of which dealt with issues of pesticide regulation. While plaintiffs may look to other states, specifically the recent decision regarding local pesticide restrictions in Hawaii, to strengthen their argument in favor of implied preemption, those cases must be viewed in the context of the specific state legislation, legislative history, and case law. For more information on preemption, see Beyond Pesticides article, State Preemption Law: The Battle for Local Control of Democracy.

While the outcome of this lawsuit is currently uncertain, the challenge by industry groups highlights the importance of local action when it comes to tightening controls on cosmetic pesticide use. There is movement across the country right now to adopt ordinances that stop pesticide use on public property and, where allowed, private property, as people recognize more and more the dangers associated with toxic pesticide use on their homes and lawns. When used, pesticides move off the target site through drift and runoff, exposing non-target plants, wildlife, and people. Local control of pesticide regulations is crucial to the movement of pesticide reform, something Beyond Pesticides consistently supports through its work in local communities. Contact Beyond Pesticides to help support Montgomery County and similar communities across the country who are fighting to eliminate toxic pesticide use once and for all. For more information on organic lawn care, see Beyond Pesticides lawns and landscape program page.

More details about Bill 52-14 and related amendments are available to read here.

Source: Complete Lawn Care, Inc. v. Montgomery County

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

 

 

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29
Nov

Health Canada Proposes to Ban Most Uses of the Toxic Insecticide Imidacloprid

(Beyond Pesticides, November 29, 2016) Last week, Health Canada announced its intent to cancel nearly all uses of the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid after determining that the chemical poses unacceptable risks to the environment. Although imidacloprid and other pesticides in the neonicotinoid chemical class are notorious for their harmful impact to pollinators, Health Canada’s decision to eliminate most uses of the chemical is based primarily on the danger it poses to aquatic insects. Environmental groups throughout the world are praising the proposal, but cautioning against the long, three to five year phase out period proposed by the agency. There is concern that the phase out will permit continued environmental damage, and provide time for other toxic insecticides with similar systemic properties to replace imidacloprid. Advocates are urging U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to complete its full assessment of imidacloprid and follow Canada’s lead in eliminating this toxic chemical.

Imidacloprid breaks down slowly in the environment and has a strong propensity to move through soil and into ground and surface water. Health Canada indicates that water quality monitoring data frequently detects the chemical in waterbumble-beeways at levels that poses unacceptable risks to aquatic insects. The agency was unable to attribute the source of imidacloprid in aquatic environments to a specific agricultural use site, indicating that, despite current label mitigation measures, elevated levels are likely to be found in many agricultural areas where imidacloprid is often used. Health Canada further indicated that its monitoring data are likely underestimating actual exposure. Based on this information, the agency concluded “that the continued use of imidacloprid in agricultural areas is not sustainable.” No mitigation measures the agency could enact would be suitable to reduce risk, resulting in Health Canada’s proposal to phase out use of the chemical.

Health Canada is proposing to eliminate the following uses of imidacloprid:

  • trees (except when applied as a tree trunk injection)
  • greenhouse uses
  • outdoor agricultural uses (including ornamentals)
  • commercial seed treatment uses
  • turf (such as lawns, golf courses, and sod farms)
  • residential lawns

However, the agency is leaving in place certain uses for the chemical, including applications in and around homes and buildings, use as a tree trunk injection, and flea, tick, and lice collars for cats and dogs. It is also important to note that this current proposal is only specific to imidacloprid, and does not address the use of other neonicotinoids or systemic chemicals, notably the other two most widely used of the class, clothianidin and thiomethoxam. Health Canada is addressing those chemicals in separate “special reviews.”

Health Canada’s review also does not incorporate the impact imidacloprid poses to honey bees. Although EPA has yet to release as broad a health and environmental review as Health Canada, it did release an assessment of imidacloprid’s risk to honey bees earlier this year. The agency’s work confirms that the chemical is highly toxic to honey bees, and that bees can be exposed to harmful residues of the chemical in crops where pollinators forage, including citrus, cotton, and other crops.

“This timeline is unnecessarily long,” said the organization Environmental Defense in a statement. “The federal government must accelerate the phase-out to prevent further harm to aquatic wildlife and pollinators.”

Health Canada’s action follow local and provincial moves to restrict toxic neonicotinoid use. The cities of Montreal and Vancouver have banned their application, and the provinces of Quebec and Ontario have instituted restrictions on their use in agriculture. In the U.S., although there has been significant local action, honey bees are still in dire straits, with elevated losses still continuing over a decade into this crisis. This past year (2015-2016), beekeepers lost 28.1% of their colonies over the winter, and a total of 44% of their colonies throughout the year. While EPA indicates that its broader review of imidacloprid and other neonicotinoids will be completed soon, it could take until 2018 to finalize any action.

For more on what you can do to help pollinators, visit our Bee Protective program page. Beyond Pesticides encourages concerned individuals to become active in pesticide reform efforts in their community, in order to help build pressure to restrict these chemicals at the federal level. If you’re interested in passing common-sense laws to protect pollinators, contact Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450 or at [email protected].

Source: Health Canada

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

 

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28
Nov

Court Fails to Provide Redress for Beekeeper Damages Caused by Regulatory Gaps

(Beyond Pesticides, November 28, 2016) Last week, a  federal judge effectively rubber stamped U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policies that allow seeds to be coated with bee-toxic pesticides known as neonicotinoids. These pesticides, persistent in water and soil, are associated with acute bee kills, widespread pollinator declines and environmental damage. The Judge’s Order was issued on Nov. 21 in the case of Anderson et al. v. McCarthy, No. 3:16-cv-00068-WHA (N.D. Cal.).

“It is astounding that a judge, EPA or anyone with any common sense would not regulate this type of toxic pesticide use, especially when the seed-coatings are so broadly applied and there is so much at risk. Study after study has shown that seeds coated 15-250x250with these chemicals are a major culprit in catastrophic bee-kills. Now more than ever our country’s beekeepers, environment and food system deserve protection from agrichemical interests, and it is EPA’s job to deliver it,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Director of Center for Food Safety.

The neonicotinoids share a common mode of action that affects the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. They include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. Neonicotinoid pesticides have consistently been implicated as a key contributor in pollinator declines, not only through immediate bee deaths, but also through sublethal exposure that causes changes in bee reproduction, navigation, and foraging. In addition to toxicity to bees, neonicotinoids have been shown to also adversely affect birds, aquatic organisms and contaminate soil and waterways, and overall biodiversity. EPA has identified uncertainties about this class of chemicals since their initial registration. However, it has continued to allow their use, despite incomplete information and a large body of independent scientific studies linking the chemicals to adverse environmental effect. With the court decision, it is likely that current policies will remain in effect.

The judge based his dismissed on administrative procedure, not on the fundamental question of whether the allowed seeds are harming honey bees. In fact, the judge stated in his conclusion, “The Court is most sympathetic to the plight of our bee population and beekeepers. Perhaps the EPA should have done more to protect them, but such policy decisions are for the agency to make.”

“The broader implications of this decision drive the nails in the bee industry’s coffin. Of course as a beekeeper I am concerned about my livelihood, but the public at large should also be alarmed. More than one-third of the average person’s diet is generated by pollinators that I help manage,” said Jeff Anderson, a California and Minnesota-based commercial beekeeper and honey producer, who was the lead plaintiff in the case.

Filed in response to the well documented impact the exemption for coated seeds and the dust they create has on the nation’s beekeepers, the suit’s aim was to address the lack of recourse beekeeper have when their hives are harmed. For example, one plaintiff in the case, Bret Adee, co-owner of the nation’s largest commercial beekeeping operation, suffered approximately $800,000 in damages in just one bee-kill incident caused by toxic neonicotinoid-laced dust during the planting of corn fields near his hives. Because of EPA’s regulation exemption, Mr. Adee was unable to obtain an enforcement action to protect his bees, effectively leaving him to fend for himself when it came to protecting his livelihood.

The plaintiffs in the case were beekeepers Jeff Anderson, Bret Adee, and David Hackenberg; farmers Lucas Criswell and Gail Fuller; and the Pollinator Stewardship Council, American Bird Conservancy, Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA), and the Center for Food Safety.

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

Source: Center for Food Safety Press Release

 

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23
Nov

Choose Organic this Thanksgiving!

(Beyond Pesticides, November 23, 2016) With Thanksgiving just a day away, there is no better time to think about how we can more effectively join together as families and communities across divisions and different points of view to find a common purpose in protecting human health and the environment. Thanksgiving meals are commonly made with conventional agricultural products, which include a plethora of pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) ingredients that can affect the health of consumers and agricultural workers alike. Read below to find out how you can combat the shortcomings of conventional agriculture with an organic Thanksgiving Day feast.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to support organic and continue to demand agricultural practices that are protective of human and environmental health.ThanksgivingHome

According to GMO Inside, some common foods with GE ingredients purchased during Thanksgiving include: Campbell’s Tomato Soup, Wesson Canola Oil, Bruce’s Canned Yams, Hershey Milk Chocolate, Pepperidge Farm Crackers, Kraft Classic Ranch Dressing, Rice-a-Roni chicken flavored rice, Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce, and Kraft’s Stove Top Stuffing.

Glyphosate, produced and sold as Roundup by Monsanto, is the most commonly used chemical in the U.S., primarily as a weedkiller in chemical-intensive agriculture. Glyphosate has been found to cause changes to DNA functioning, resulting in chronic disease, and has been classified as a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Following the suspension of residue testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a report was released by Food Democracy Now! and the Detox Project, titled Glyphosate: Unsafe on Any Plate, which found high levels of glyphosate contamination in popular food brands, such as Cheerios, Oreos, Goldfish and Ritz Crackers, and Stacy’s Pita Chips.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to allow widespread use of GE crops that are dependent on toxic chemicals. This approval process has placed us on a pesticide treadmill, with recent decisions to reapprove and expand the use of the toxic herbicide mixture, Enlist Duo, and register a new formulation of dicamba to control weeds in GE cotton and soybean crops. Enlist Duo is an herbicide that incorporates a mix of glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D, intended for use on GE Enlist-Duo-tolerant corn and soybean crops. In addition to environmental damage, these chemicals have been linked to a myriad of human health problems. 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. Dicamba has been linked to damage of the kidney and liver, neurotoxicity, and developmental impacts. This chemical has a strong propensity to volatilize small particles of the herbicide into the air and drift far off-site.

How can you combat the shortcomings of conventional agriculture? Choose organic.

Our food choices have a direct effect on the health of our environment and those who grow and harvest what we eat. That’s why certified organic food is the right choice. USDA organic certification is the only system of food labeling that is subject to independent public review and oversight, ensuring that the toxic, synthetic pesticides used in chemical-intensive agriculture are replaced by management practices focused on soil biology, biodiversity, and plant health. This eliminates commonly used toxic chemicals in the production and processing of food that is not labeled organic–pesticides that contaminate our water and air, hurt biodiversity, harm farmworkers, and kill bees, birds, fish and other wildlife.

To help better explain the urgent need for a major shift to organic food consumption, Beyond Pesticides developed its Eating with a Conscience database, which evaluates the impacts on the environment and farmworkers of the toxic chemicals allowed for use on major food crops. For example, while sweet potatoes grown with toxic chemicals show low pesticide residues on the finished commodity, there are 48 pesticides with established tolerance for sweet potatoes, 22 are acutely toxic creating a hazardous environment for farmworkers, 44 are linked to chronic health problems, 13 contaminate streams or groundwater, and 46 are poisonous to wildlife.

Fortunately, the majority of common Thanksgiving products can easily be substituted with organic counterparts. The common centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal, turkey, is typically raised in conventional factory farmed conditions that rely upon synthetic inputs and are fed grains treated with pesticides, medicated with antibiotics, and plumped up with steroids and hormones. Additionally, turkeys are often fed an inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, which is used to promote growth and to add pigmentation. In order to avoid these toxic inputs and factory-farm practices, your best bet is to invest in an organic free-range turkey.

Canned yams often contain GE ingredients and are dependent upon chemical-intensive growing practices, but can be replaced by fresh organic yams. Another staple, like Pepperidge Farm Crackers, can be substituted with organic crackers like Mary’s Gone Crackers or Nature’s Pathway Crackers. Consider substituting traditional canned cranberry sauce with home-made jellies made with organic cranberries and fair trade sugar. Organic jellied cranberries, such as Tree of Life or Grown Right, are fast alternatives. And finally, pre-made stuffing, like Kraft’s Stove Top stuffing, can be replaced with homemade stuffing or organic stuffing mix from Arrowhead. Simply Organic has many organic recipes posted to its website if you need more ideas.

While the organic label dramatically increases protection for consumers and agricultural workers from exposure to toxic pesticides, it also creates important benefits for environmental restoration. Research from the Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial¼ (FST) has revealed that organic, regenerative agriculture actually has the potential to lessen the impacts of climate change. This occurs through the drastic reduction in fossil fuel usage to produce the crops and the significant increase in carbon sequestration in the soil through improved soil fertility, cover cropping, and reduced tillage.

We must continue to protect the integrity and principals of the organic label.

It is important every day of the year to look to organic to keep your family and friends safe from toxic chemicals. You can continue to fight for the well-being of organic year-round by helping to defend organic standards against USDA changes that will weaken public trust in the organic food label. Organic practices follow strict standards that do not compromise the health of people and the planet. Let’s grow the organic food label as a symbol that honors this tradition. To learn more, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organic webpage.

Best wishes for a healthy and happy Thanksgiving!

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

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22
Nov

Court Knocks Down Local Pesticide Restrictions on Private Property in Hawaii, Upholds Restrictions on GE Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, November 22, 2016) Last week the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down local county laws aimed at protecting residents’ health and the environment in Hawaii. The ruling, handed down by federal Circuit Judge Consuelo M. Callahan, finds that Hawaii state law is comprehensive in regulating pesticides, and “impliedly preempts” local jurisdictions from passing laws with stricter standards than the state’s. The decision represents a victory for Monsanto, Syngenta, and the agrichemical industry, and a blow to the efforts of grassroots activists that say Hawaii is “ground zero” for toxic and experimental pesticide and genetically engineered (GE) crop use.

Jhawaiiudge Callahan’s ruling overturns a number of laws passed over the last several years on different Hawaiian Islands that all aim to protect residents, the environment, and organic farms from the toxic effects of pesticide use and drift from GE cropland. This includes Bill 2491, a measure in Kauai County that imposed common-sense buffer zones for pesticide use within 500 feet of schools and medical facilities, and within 100 feet of any park, public roadway, or shoreline that flows into the ocean. The bill withstood heavy industry lobbying, passed by a vote of 6-1 after a 19-hour council session, was vetoed by the Mayor, and overridden by the County Council. Also invalidated was Hawaii County’s Bill 113, which banned the production of GE crops in open-air conditions, carving out exceptions for crops that were already growing on the island. And, stopped in its tracks in Maui County, is a citizen initiative and lawsuit that defended a successful ballot initiative, which created buffer zones and temporarily banned GE crops from being planted on the island.

At issue in these cases is whether local jurisdictions within the state are prohibited (preempted) from enacting laws regulating pesticides and GE crops that are stricter than state law. The legal history provide context on this issue. In 1991, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, ruled that federal pesticide law (FIFRA) does not preempt local jurisdictions from restricting the use of pesticides more stringently than the federal government. States retain authority to take away local authority, however. In response to the Supreme Court decision, the pesticide lobby immediately formed a coalition, called the Coalition for Sensible Pesticide Policy, and developed boilerplate legislative language that restricts local municipalities from passing ordinances on the use of pesticides on private property. The Coalition’s lobbyists descended on states across the country, seeking and passing, in most cases, preemption legislation that was often identical to the Coalition’s wording. Although attempts at this form of “explicit” preemption were tried in Hawaii, industry was unsuccessful there, as well as in six other states. However, under the legal theory of “implied” preemption, the chemical industry was able to successfully convince the court that, because Hawaii’s state pesticide law was “comprehensive,” it filled the role of pesticide regulation in the state and state law did not intend to allow localities the ability to further regulate pesticide use. For more information on preemption, see Beyond Pesticides article, State Preemption Law: The Battle for Local Control of Democracy.

In a singular bright spot, Judge Callahan, whose federal orders apply to nine states on the West Coast, ruled that states and localities may place additional regulations on GE crops after federal deregulation, as they are not preempted by governing law, the Plant Protection Act. This decision leaves in place bans on GE crop production that have passed at the county level in Oregon, California, and Washington. “It’s an important victory protecting and furthering the ability to create GE free zones,” said George Kimbrell, J.D, attorney for the Center for Food Safety to Civil Beat, which intervened to defend Hawaii localities. Despite this victory, the Judge did rule that federal law preempts states and localities from regulating field trials of experimental GE crops.

Advocates vow to continue their efforts to protect their local environment from toxic pesticide use. And legal experts are still considering their options for recourse. “The most important thing is we’re going to continue to stand and fight with the people of Hawaii against these chemical companies and push for better regulation of pesticides and of genetically engineered crops at every level,” Mr. Kimbrell said.

The fact is that localities across the country are pushing forward with pesticide reform because of mounting evidence that federal and state authorities are not doing enough to protect them. Not only are state and federal leaders failing to enact new laws and regulations that respond to the latest science, but they are neglecting to enforce weak laws already on the books. Earlier this year, EarthJustice requested that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notify the Hawaii Department of Agriculture of its chronic failure to meet statutory duties for regulation and enforcement of FIFRA. While these issues remain unfixed, jeopardizing human health and the environment, this ruling denies Hawaiian communities effective measures to remedy inaction.

Local advocates hope that this ruling will increase pressure on the state to roll back preemption, or, at the least, take substantive action to protect the environment from hazardous farming practices. Signs are that some state legislators are listening. “What the decision makes clear is that it is the state’s responsibility to meaningfully protect against undue harm from pesticides, whether it’s to workers on a field or to kids in schools nearby, and we have an obligation to make sure that safety is paramount,” said Rep. Chris Lee, chairman of the Hawaii House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection to AgWeb.

Beyond Pesticides encourages individuals to become familiar with whether you have preemption in your state, and if you do, join with us to eliminate these regressive laws. Under a new administration over the coming years, it will become more and more important to engage at the local and state level to protect health and the environment. Make sure you’ve signed up for Beyond Pesticides’ action alerts. If you’re ready to get active to fight for pesticide reform and roll back preemption in your community, contact Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450 or at [email protected] to get the resources you need to start your campaign.

Source: AgWeb, Civil Beat

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

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21
Nov

Holistic Weed Management Benefits Farmers and the Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, November 21, 2016) The potential benefits of “weeds” have long been ignored, but a new study attempts to quantify the benefits of all species within an agricultural system, including the undesirable ones. The study, Integrating Insect, Resistance, and Floral Resource Management in Weed Control Decision-Making, by Cornell University scientists, assesses and updates holistic integrated pest management practices. In a discussion with the Cornell Chronicle, lead author of the study, Antonio DiTommaso, Ph.D., states, “Managing crop pests without fully understanding the impacts of tactics –related to resistance and nontarget plants or insects– costs producers money.” The authors introduced a weed management decision framework that accounts for weed benefits and illustrates that by allowing low levels of weeds in a cropping system, a farmer can increase crop yields and provide numerous ecosystem services.

farmer worker protectionIn a case study of an herbicide-tolerant corn cropping system, which had been controlled primarily with glyphosate, the authors demonstrated that the European corn borer (ECB) could be reduced through holistic management decision making. The data suggest that, “Milkweed plants harboring aphids provide a food source (honeydew) for parasitoid wasps, which attack ECB eggs.” By maintaining low densities of milkweed in the corn field, farmers allow beneficial pest populations to flourish, thereby improving the likelihood of controlling the non-beneficial pests. They found that having low milkweed densities in the field was especially effective at reducing yield losses when there were high pest densities of the ECB. In addition to these benefits, milkweed, a plant species that has been disappearing from the landscape due to chemical-intensive, mono-cropped agriculture, is a much-needed plant host for the monarch butterfly. This pollinator species has been declining in numbers over the past few decades due to the loss of milkweed, destruction of habitat, and sublethal effects from pesticides.

Researchers have found that a failure to consider the full costs and benefits of weed management leads to long-term negative externalities, such as wide-scale pesticide resistance and declining non-target organisms that offer ecosystem services. According to the authors, it is vital to fully integrate all of the costs and benefits of weed management to sustain profitability, while minimizing harmful environmental impacts.

This holistic weed management system described in the Cornell study builds upon the foundation of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). While not adopting the systems approach utilized in certified organic production, well-defined IPM is a program based on prevention, monitoring, and control which offers the opportunity to eliminate or drastically reduce the use of pesticides, and to minimize the toxicity of and exposure to any products which are used. IPM does this by utilizing a variety of methods and techniques, including cultural, biological and structural strategies to control a multitude of pest problems. Those who argue that IPM requires the ability to spray any pesticides, or “judicious use of pesticides,” after identifying a pest problem are not embracing an organic systems approach to soil fertility management that nurtures biological life in the soil and only compatible inputs (substances) that do not harm the ecosystem. Chemical-intensive pest control tends to ignore the causes of pest infestations and instead rely on routine, scheduled pesticide applications, which creates a pesticide treadmill with increasing dependency and insect and weed resistance over time. Pesticides are temporary fixes and are ineffective over the long-term.

A large shift in agricultural practices is necessary to ensure protection of human health and the environment over the long-term, according to a wide-ranging report authored by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES) earlier this year. According to the report, diversified agroecology focuses on maintaining multiple sources of food production, and farming by applying ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of food systems. Industrial agriculture, on the other hand, requires highly-specialized production of a single food crop, and, through scale and task separation, focuses on increasing productivity through intensification. Despite the call for a shift to agroecological farming systems, Beyond Pesticides points out that there is neither a legal nor standardized definition of agroecology or sustainable agriculture. Certified organic systems are accountable to a public rulemaking process and defined by law, the Organic Foods Production Act, which requires an “organic systems plan” that incorporates many of the prongs of agroecology, with efforts underway to add a social justice component.

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 and insects. Beyond Pesticides is working to strengthen organic farming systems by encouraging biodiversity and holistic management practices, and upholding the spirit and values on which the organic law was founded. Underpinning the success of organic in the U.S. are small-scale producers who focus on fostering biodiversity, limiting external inputs, improving soil health, sequestering carbon, and using integrated holistic approaches to managing pests, weeds, and disease. As a 2014 University of California Berkeley study determined that diversified organic agriculture can and must be the approach used to feed the world into the future. An October report in The New York Times shows that genetically engineered crops failed to increase yields or reduce pesticide use.

Take action to end the pesticide treadmill by commenting on EPA’s proposal to expand the registration of the toxic pesticide, Enlist Duo. EPA is proposing that its registration to amended to include use on GE cotton and in 19 additional states. Write a comment to EPA telling them that you do not support this expansion for Enlist Duo, as it is not consistent with a transition to organic and holistic management systems. Public comments must be submitted by December 1, 2016 to EPA docket #EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0594.

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

Source: Cornell Chronicle

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18
Nov

FDA Stops Testing for Glyphosate as New Report Finds High Levels Are Found in Food

(Beyond Pesticides, November 18, 2016) The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has suspended testing for glyphosate residues in food, according to a statement made to the Huffington Post. The suspension was announced as a new report was released from Food Democracy Now! and the Detox Project, which has exposed dangerous levels of glyphosate contamination in popular U.S. foods. Glyphosate has been found to cause changes to DNA functioning, resulting in chronic disease, and has been classified as a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

glyphosate-roundupIn February 2016, FDA announced that it would start testing for glyphosate in food, following sharp criticism from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) for not using statistically valid methods consistent with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards to collect information on the incidence and level of pesticide residues. Now, the agency has suspended testing amid difficulties establishing a standard methodology to use across the agency’s multiple U.S. laboratories, according to Huffington Post. It was also reported that there have been problems with the equipment, with some labs needing more sensitive instruments.  FDA spokeswoman Megan McSeveney confirmed the testing suspension to the Huffington Post, and said the agency is not sure when it will resume. Ms. McSeveney stated that they had only been testing for glyphosate residues on certain foods, such as soy, corn, milk, eggs, and popcorn.

The new report, Glyphosate: Unsafe on Any Plate, found high levels of glyphosate contamination in popular American food brands, such as Cheerios, Doritos, Oreos, Goldfish and Ritz Crackers, and Stacy’s Pita Chips. According to the report, the levels that found in these products are above the levels associated with organ damage (above 0.1 parts per billion(ppb)). Among 29 different foods tested, the highest levels detected were found in General Mills’ Original Cheerios, at 1,125.3 ppb. Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips were the next highest, at 812.53 ppb. The testing and analysis was performed by Anresco Laboratories, which is an FDA registered laboratory. Glyphosate residues have been detected in a wide variety of foods and products. In March 2016, Moms Across America released a report on glyphosate residues in California wines and found that all of the ten wines tested positive for glyphosate. Other recent reports of the widespread presence of glyphosate residues find the chemical in breast milk, in German beers, feminine hygiene products, and bread, as well as in nearly 100% of Germans tested.

Glyphosate, created by Monsanto, is touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by industry. But glyphosate has been shown to have detrimental impacts on humans and the environment. Given its widespread use on residential and agricultural sites, its toxicity is of increasing concern. Roundup formulations can induce a dose-dependent formation of DNA adducts (altered forms of DNA linked to chemical exposure, playing a key role in chemical carcinogenesis) in the kidneys and liver of mice. Human cell endocrine disruption on the androgen receptor, inhibition of transcriptional activities on estrogen receptors on HepG2, DNA damage and cytotoxic effects occurring at concentrations well below “acceptable” residues have all been observed.

In June 2016, at a Congressional briefing sponsored by U.S Representative Ted Lieu, a delegation of independent scientists including this study’s authors, presented their findings, urging lawmakers to call on the EPA to ban RoundUp (glyphosate). Beyond Pesticides participated on the panel, providing testimony on the impact of glyphosate on soil systems, as well as the unreasonable risk it poses to humans, animals, and the environment. Following the congressional briefing, scientists spoke at a closed meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), explaining the biochemical and physiological reasons why exposure to glyphosate is linked to autism, Alzheimer’s, cancer, birth defects, obesity, and gluten intolerance, among other health issues. However, EPA indicated that much of the information provided may not impact their current risk assessment for glyphosate, which is expected sometime in 2017.

Then, in September 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs released its Glyphosate Issue Paper in which the agency is proposing to classify glyphosate as “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans at doses relevant for human health risk assessment.” The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) was scheduled to review EPA’s evaluation of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate on October 18-21, but it was postponed, due to “recent changes in the availability of experts for the peer review panel.”  However, as veteran journalist, formerly with Reuters, Carey Gillam reports in the Huffington Post, the move was likely the result of a letter industry front group CropLife America sent to EPA just days before the postponement, challenging the bias of certain experts on the panel. Croplife America is a national trade association that represents manufacturers, formulators, and distributors of pesticides, and has a vested interest in tamping down consumer concerns over glyphosate’s carcinogenicity. Currently, the FIFRA SAP meeting has been rescheduled for December 13-16, 2016.

In August, Beyond Pesticides, Organic Consumers Association, and Moms Across America filed a lawsuit against General Mills for misleading the public by labeling their Nature Valley brand granola bars “Made with 100% NATURAL whole grain OATS,” after it was discovered that the glyphosate, an ingredient in Roundup and hundreds of other glyphosate-based herbicides, is present in the Nature Valley granola bars.  In November, after Sue Bee honey products labeled “100% Pure” and “Natural” tested positive for glyphosate residue, Beyond Pesticides and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) filed a lawsuit yesterday Sioux Honey Association, for the deceptive and misleading labeling of its Sue Bee and Aunt Sue’s honey brands. Both lawsuits are intended to move consumer demand away from natural products, which are produced in chemical-intensive production systems that have adverse effects on health and the environment, and toward organic, which eliminates the use of toxic pesticides.

Given the mounting evidence of glyphosate’s hazards, environmental groups like Beyond Pesticides are urging localities to restrict or eliminate the use of the widely-used weedkiller, like Tracy Madlener, a mother of two, successfully did last year. Beyond Pesticides promotes these actions and many more through our Tools for Change page. This page is designed to help activists and other concerned citizens organize around a variety of pesticide issues on the local, state, and national level. Learn how to organize a campaign and talk to your neighbors about pesticides with our factsheets. See Beyond Pesticides’ article Glyphosate Causes Cancer for more information.

Source: Huffington Post, Food Democracy Now!

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

 

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17
Nov

NOSB Meets This Week, as Hydroponic Farmers Seek Formal Allowance to Use Organic Seal

(Beyond Pesticides, November 17, 2016) This week, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is meeting in St. Louis to hear public comments on organic agricultural issues that will ultimately influence standards and processes. One major issue before the board is a motion on whether hydroponic and aquaponics operations can be certified organic. Farmers that practice hydroponic growing techniques are hoping to get the attention of the NOSB as they make an argument for their place in the certified organic industry, while others will be there to reject these arguments and uphold organic as soil-based agriculture. Despite a 2010 recommendation from the NOSB to prohibit allowing hydroponic production to quality as organic, USDA’s National Organic Program allowed organic labeling of the sector, which has experienced rapid growth in recent years. Typically, consumers have no way of knowing that the organic labeled prodeucts they are buying were grown organically.

The NOSB is an advisory group, made up of 15 public experts, that makes direct recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Ahydroponicsgriculture on organic production, handling, and processing. In 2010, the NOSB recommended that farmers using hydroponic systems be ineligible for the organic certification. However, the National Organic Program (NOP) decided to ignore the board’s recommendations and allow hydroponic growers to achieve organic status, a move that neglects the spirit and intent of the Organic Foods Production Act.  Currently, there are 30 hydroponic, 22 aquaponic, and 69 container operations with organic seals issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Hydroponic farming is a method of growing plants without soil, typically in plastic containers or long PVC pipes. Nutrient-enriched water is then pumped through the containers in direct contact with the plants’ root systems. This process has long been embraced by conventional greenhouse producers for its simplicity, high yields, and lower costs.

Farmers that use hydroponic systems argue that their production methods are no different from their conventional counterparts who use soil as the growing medium. They also point out that they make organic farming more sustainable by reducing water and land use.

In an interview with the New York Times, Marianne Cufone, an aquaponics farmer and executive director of the Recirculating Farms Coalition, an aquaculture lobbying group, stated that “Soil to me as a farmer means a nutrient-rich medium that contains biological processes, and that doesn’t have to be dirt.”

San Diego farmer Colin Archipley of Archi’s Acres, grows kale, herbs and a variety of produce hydroponically in greenhouses. He is frustrated over this debate, whether or not his produce is organic or not. “The reason this has become such a big deal is that systems like ours are becoming more popular because they’re more efficient, which means farmers are more sustainable and profitable,” he said. “That’s put competition on farmers, specifically in Vermont, and so what this really is about is market protection.”

Soil-based organic farmers beg to differ.  These producers believe using soil as a growing medium is the basis of organic agriculture.  They believe organic farmers manage and improve the physical, chemical, and biological health of the soil, which can create environmental benefits that go beyond growing plants.

Steve Sprinkel, an organic farmer in Ojai, California points out that, “Soil has always been the basis of organic production.  The soil is alive and releasing micronutrients to plants that use their roots to scavenge and forage those things, and so taking care of the soil is the bedrock of organic farming.”

Beyond Pesticides supports the view that organic agriculture should be produced with soil-based farming techniques. Hydroponic growing systems use synthesized chemicals that are added to the irrigation water the plants are suspended in.  We believe in the natural process plants root systems undergo to extract nutrients from the soil.

The Organic Foods Protection Act states that: “An organic plan shall contain provisions designed to foster soil fertility, primarily through the management of the organic content of the soil through proper tillage, crop rotation and manuring.” Based on this language, it would be assumed that hydroponics would not have a place at the organic table. The chief executive of OneCert, an organic certification business in Nebraska, feels that it’s a no brainer. He says that, “There are things the law and regulations require you to do to the soil that you cannot do in a hydroponic system.”

The United States lags behind with agricultural policy and environmental protection. The European Union, England, Mexico, Canada and Japan all exclude hydroponically grown produce from their organic standards. Experts predict that the explosive growth in hydroponic imports may force some organic farmers out of business in as little as five years.

Beyond Pesticides takes the position that organic does not allow an agricultural system that feeds nutrients to plants without upholding principles that protect and advance biodiversity, as well as sequesters carbon. Beyond Pesticides concurs with a central principle adopted by the NOSB in 2001 and published in the board Policy and Procedures Manual under the section entitled National Organic Standards Board, Organic Production and Handling: “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. . .” For further information, see our article in the most recent edition of Pesticides and You, Farmers Rally to Stop USDA from Certifying Organic Hydroponics, which you can view here. To learn more about our efforts to protect organic integrity, visit our website here.

Source: NY Times

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16
Nov

EPA To Investigate Pesticide Misuse in Hawaii by Terminix and Monsanto

(Beyond Pesticides, November 16, 2016) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently began an investigation of the agrochemical company Monsanto and home pest control giant Terminix for pesticide law violations in Hawaii. Scott Enright, director of the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture (HDOA), said that cases are often referred to EPA when they involve federal jurisdiction, repeat violations, or serious allegations. According to him, the Terminix case was referred to EPA because the complaint included multiple allegations, but he refused to share information about the details of the Monsanto case, citing policies against commenting on ongoing investigations. A third case against Wonder Farm has also been referred to EPA, making for a total of five pesticide-related cases in Hawaii the federal agency has worked on this year.

The number of cases referred to EPA is not surprising, as Hawaii has long struggled to keep up with the demands of enforcing pesticide laws within the state. In the wake of these shortcomings, this past summer, Earthjustice sent a letter to EPA requesting that the agency notify the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture of its chronic failure to meet statutory duties for pesticides regulation and enforcement under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and, if timely corrections are not made, to rescind HDOA’s primary enforcement authority completely. The letter cited failures to enforce pesticide use violations and a large backlog of pesticide complaints and investigations dating back to 2008 as evidence that enforcement authority should be taken over by EPA, who would assume responsibility for pesticide use violations occurring within the state. EPA repeatedly warne2009-02-20_Terminix_truck_on_Geer_St_in_Durhamd HDOA since at least 2012 that HDOA has failed to adequately enforce pesticide laws and has allowed an unacceptable backlog of inspection files to grow. Instead of increasing its staff, HDOA’s enforcement staff has been steadily shrinking, and not surprisingly, the number of inspections and enforcement actions has been decreasing every year. The intervention by EPA in these three cases, five total for the year, may indicate an agency effort to actually address pesticide violations taking place within the state.

The Termainix investigation stems from an April 2016 employee complaint claiming that workers lacked the proper equipment for fumigations and that their self-contained breathing apparatuses were not filled with air. Employees also allegedly do not use scales to weigh fumigants and are not equipped with clearing devices, which determine whether buildings are safe to enter. A quarterly report from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture to EPA also outlines pesticide regulation violations by Terminix throughout its Kauai operations. According to the report, workers were told to “remove placards and secondary locks without using a clearing device before structures were reoccupied.”

This is not the first lawsuit Terminix has faced recently. This past summer they reached a tentative settlement agreement of $87 million with the Esmond family for the severe poisoning of the mother, father and two teenage children with the highly neurotoxic pesticide fumigant methyl bromide.  The family fell ill when the company treated a neighboring unit to their vacation residence at a condo resort complex in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the two sons remained in critical condition for several months before they began to recover. In addition to the settlement to the family, Terminix agreed to pay a $10 million criminal fine under a plea agreement after being charged by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and EPA in March 2016. “The facts in this case show the Terminix companies knowingly failed to properly manage their pest control operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, allowing pesticides containing methyl bromide to be applied illegally and exposing a family of four to profoundly debilitating injuries,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in a March 29 statement on the criminal plea agreement.

The company is also currently involved in another lawsuit, filed September 2015, pertaining to the poisoning of ten-year-old Peyton McCaughey of Palm City, Florida, who was hospitalized after his home was treated for termites with another toxic fumigant sulfuryl fluoride. Upon returning to their home hours after the Terminix subcontractor told them it was safe to enter, the whole family became very ill. While the parents and the 7-year-old daughter recovered, the young boy’s condition continued to worsen. According to news reports, the fumigation was performed by Sunland Pest Control, a subcontractor of Terminix.

Less is known about the Monsanto case referred by Hawaii to EPA, although Enright did mention that it was referred because it fell under federal jurisdiction. However, the use of agricultural pesticides, particularly by large seed companies, has been a contentious issue in Hawaii for many years. For example, Kauai, along with Maui and the Big Island, have clashed with agrichemical corporations after successfully passing modest reforms aimed at limiting their residents exposure to the pesticides sprayed on genetically engineered (GE) crops grown in the state. Though the reforms were eventually struck down in federal court when claims by the chemical companies that local governments are preempted from enacting pesticide legislation more restrictive than Hawaii state law were upheld, the lawsuits laid the groundwork for strong grassroots opposition to companies like Monsanto. In fact, local support for opposition was so strong that in 2015 Kauai County Councilmember Gary Hooser traveled all the way to agrichemical giant Syngenta’s shareholder meeting in Basel, Switzerland, where he addressed the company and its stakeholders on the corporation’s lawsuit against Kauai.

For more information about the fight to protect Hawaiian communities from an onslaught of pesticide spraying, see Beyond Pesticides previous Daily News coverage, or the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action webpage. Additional information about the hazards associated with pesticide use on GE crops is available on Beyond Pesticides’ program page. Beyond Pesticides continues to be an ardent supporter of common sense protections from pesticides and their associated use on GE crops. If you too support these issues, please visit our website to learn more about the issues and find ways to get involved in your local community.

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

Source: Honolulu Civil Beat

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15
Nov

EPA Revises Process, But Maintains Proposal to Stop Use of Neurotoxic Chlorpyrifos in Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, November 15, 2016) Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updated its assessment of the toxic organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos, keeping in place a decision made last year to revoke food residue tolerances and effectively eliminate its use in agriculture. The agency indicated the change was necessary after a Scientific Advisory Panel convened by the agency suggested additional data to support its decision. This change opens up a 60-day public comment period, but EPA has said that it will make a final decision no later than March 31, 2017.

“The revised analyses indicate that expected residues of chlorpyrifos on food crops exceed the safety standard under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA),” EPA noted in its announcement.  “In addition, the majority of estimated drinking water exposures from currently registered uses, including water exposures from non-food uses, continue to exceed safe levels even taking into acRye golfcount more refined drinking water exposures. “ To explain the decision to the public, EPA has put together a FAQ page on its website.

EPA’s proposal to revoke chlorpyrifos’ food tolerances stems from a petition and lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Pesticide Action Network North American nearly ten years ago. The lawsuit called on the agency to ban all uses of the insecticide in light of scientific evidence and public comments on its cumulative risk assessment for organophosphate insecticides.

Prior to the lawsuit, the agency had taken some actions to mitigate risks associated with the chemical, but these were widely seen as insufficient. In 2012, EPA imposed “no-spray” buffer zones around public spaces, including recreational areas, schools, and homes to reduce bystander exposure risks. Even if the agency removes this chemical from agriculture, it is critical for the public to know that there will still be allowed uses of this chemical, which public health and environmental advocates say need to be eliminated as well.

Chlorpyrifos will still be permitted to be used on golf courses, as a termiticide, and for public health mosquito control. Although EPA’s current reasoning for removing food tolerances is human health concerns, a recent review by EPA, mandated under a separate court order, finds risks to 97% of endangered species from the chemical’s use.

Chlorpyrifos is highly neurotoxic. It is a cholinesterase inhibitor, which means that it can bind irreversibly to acetylcholine esterase (AchE), an essential enzyme for normal nerve impulse transmission, inactivating the enzyme. Studies have documented that exposure to even low levels of organophosphates like chlorpyrifos during pregnancy can impair learning, and lead lower IQs in children. A 2015 study by New York University for the European Commission attributed exposure to organophosphate insecticides like chlorpyrifos for over 13 million lost IQ points each year in the EU, with 70-100% confidence in its analysis. It follows that dangers associated with chlorpyrifos exposure are extensive and consistent.

Despite shortcomings in the applicability of the action to other use areas for this toxic chemical, it is important that the public show support for the decision through public comment. Industry, including the chemical’s major manufacturer Dow Agrosciences, is hoping to continue to delay the agencies decision, and working to reverse EPA’s intent to revoke food tolerances. The public comment period for chlorpyrifos will open soon, and will be available by entering docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2015-0653 into the search bar at www.regulations.gov. We strongly encourage concerned consumers to provide a unique public comment expressing their support for the agency’s decision in light of the chemical’s dangers to human health.

In order to truly effect change, Beyond Pesticides has long sought a broad-scale marketplace transition that disallows the use of toxic synthetic pesticides by law and encourages a systems-based approach that is protective of health and the environment. That is why organic, with its requirement of a detailed organic system plan, and measures to foster and improve soil health represent the future of agricultural production in the U.S. and abroad.  Even at its worst, this approach never allows the use of highly toxic synthetic pesticides, let alone organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos, and advances a viable, scalable path forward for growing food. For more information about the effects of pesticide exposure on human health see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced-Disease Database (PIDD). And for information on why organic agriculture is the right alternative, see our Organic program webpage.

Source: EPA

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

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14
Nov

Organic Farmland Increases as Consumer Demand Skyrockets

(Beyond Pesticides, November 14, 2016) New research published by Meracris, a provider of market data and trading for organic, non-GMO (genetically  modified organisms or (GE) genetically engineered) and certified agricultural commodities, documents an 11 percent increase in organic farmland since 2014. The number of certified organic farms grew to almost 15,000, marking a 6.2 percent increase of organic farms between June 2016 and 2014. The top five states leading the transformation to organic fields are California, Montana, Wisconsin, New York and North Dakota. California heads the pack, claiming 688,000 acres dedicated to organic farming techniques. There are now 4.1 million acres of organic farmland in the United States, and that number is predicted to keep increasing as the demand for organic products continues to rise. A recent market analysis by the Organic Trade Association found that Americans have spent $43 billion on organic products in 2016 a $4.2 billion increase from 2015.

“The organic industry is growing and with lower commodity grain prices, and farmers are looking to add value and meet consumer demands,” says Scott Shander, and economist at Mercaris. Alex Heilman, a sales associate at Mercaris says that the number of organic acres will likely increase as larger companies like General Mills and Ardent Mills, the largest U.S. wheat miller, begin launching organic programs to meet consumer demands. Ardent Mills  has indicated it will double organic wheat planting by 2019. As more and more people become informed of the dangers that chemical-intensive and monocultural agriculture pose to biodiversity,saveorganic1-271x300 there is an increase in those looking for alternatives and producers are struggling to keep up.

The percentage of crops that are organically grown is still extremely small, with U.S. organic corn accounting for less than one percent of total corn yields. Because U.S. organic corn and soybean fields are not able to keep up with consumer demand, 25 percent of organic corn and 75 percent of organic soybeans are imported into the U.S., according to the report.

According to a report by Bloomberg, organic corn and soybean sales have doubled since last year, and countries like Romania and India are exporting their organic goods to the U.S. to fill the gap U.S. farmers cannot meet. Bloomberg points out that organic milk sales have tripled since 2007, now accounting for 5 percent of the U.S. milk market. This uptick in sales has caused a shortage of organic feed grains, which is forcing farmers to import.

With such a high demand for organic goods, government agencies are working to increase U.S. supply. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has expanded its crop insurance options for farmers transitioning to organic. “In the past, there has been trouble getting feed and having a consistent, affordable supply,” said Miranda Leis, feed-program operations manager for Organic Valley, a Wisconsin-based cooperative whose members include about 1,800 dairy, egg, produce and grain farms. “Now there’s considerably more availability. Prices have come down, which is beneficial for the livestock members purchasing the feed, but it’s harder for the grain farmers who are trying to make a living selling that. It’s a pretty typical dynamic and it’s a tough one.” Says George Kalogridis, the program coordinator at Clarkson Grain Company. Clarkson Grain is working on a certification program that pays farmers a premium for crops grown after one year using organic methods. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) requires a three-year transition to organic production practices before the USDA certified organic label can be used in the marketplace.

Markets are now beginning to respond to consumer demand –notably the demand for responsible food production that organic production and processing provide. Organic food contributes to better health through reduced pesticide exposure for all and increased nutritional quality. Understanding the importance of eating organic food requires an assessment of the benefits of pesticide elimination throughout the production system and the resulting protection of farmworkers, air, water, land, and biodiversity, in addition to food safety. (See Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience database, which captures the holistic benefits of organic food production.) This boom in organic sales and land use signals a wave of change overtaking the agricultural and food production sector, as people become more and more educated to the negative effects that agribusiness has on surrounding ecosystems and human health.

If you would like to know more about organic agriculture and its history, there is plenty of information on Beyond Pesticides’ website. For information on the health benefits organic agriculture has to offer, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture webpage. With an informed public, we can continue to make responsible consumer decisions to allow market forces to phase out harmful chemical-intensive farming practices. As the Rodale Institute says, “Organic farming is not simply the substitution of approved input materials. It is the replacement of a treatment approach with a process approach to create a balanced system of plant and animal interactions.”

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

Sources: Civil Eats, Take Part.

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11
Nov

EPA Registers Dicamba for GE Crops, Adding to Growing Herbicide Resistance Issue

(Beyond Pesticides, November 11, 2016) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has registered a new formulation of dicamba to control weeds in cotton and soybean crops that have been genetically engineered (GE) to tolerate the chemical. The new formulation is called Xtendimaxℱ with Vapor Gripℱ Technology, which is claimed to be specifically designed to have lower volatility. The registration, which is time-limited, will automatically expire after two years. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, EPA ignored the legal requirement to explore threats to endangered species, approving this new formulation without considering impacts to species protected under the Endangered Species Act. This decision comes directly after EPA announced that it is reapproving the toxic herbicide mixture Enlist Duo, and proposed to expand the number of crops and states in which it can be used.

Dicamba has been linked to damage of the kidney and liver, neurotoxicity, and developmental impacts. The chemical has a strong propensity to volatilize small particles of the herbicide into the air and drift far off-site. Sensitive crop species can be damaged by dicamba at levels in the parts per million.  A study published by Pennsylvania State scientists in late 2015 found dicamba drift was “frequently responsible for sublethal, off-target damage” to plants and insects. Researchers found that even very lowdrift rates of dicamba herbicide exposure negatively impacted plant flowering, and thus insect pollination.

Dicamba has caused a lot of controversy in the past. In August, farmers in Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee confronted widespread crop damage and braced for lower yields as a result of agrichemical giant Monsanto’s botched roll-out of GE soybean and cotton crops. The company, whose current line of glyphosate-tolerant crops are failing to control weeds throughout the U.S. and across the globe, developed a new line of soybean and cotton with traits that make it tolerate applications of dicamba. In October, EPA launched a criminal investigation at several locations in Missouri into the illegal spraying of dicamba. Many suspect that farmers who planted the new dicamba-tolerant genetically engineered (GE) seeds in the region, when faced with a proliferation of pigweed, illegally sprayed dicamba across their fields, leading to drift and off-site crop damage to other farmers.

An important point of dicamba’s registration is that EPA has specified that the registration is time-limited and will expire after two years. This is a novel regulatory approach for the agency, and for all intents and purposes, appears like a conditional registration but is not. According to EPA, “Although we find that herbicide resistance is adequately addressed by the required herbicide resistance plan and do not expect off-site incidents to occur due to this registration, we are placing time limits on the registration to allow the agency to make appropriate regulatory changes or to allow the registration to expire if there are problems with off-site incidents or development of weed resistance.” This is not a viable alternative to conditional registration. That being said, it is good that the agency is recognizing problems with resistance, but critical to take the next step –to encourage alternatives instead of allowing resistance to occur in the first place.

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.” Meanwhile, the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency finalized its decision to discontinue granting new conditional registrations. Conditional registrations have backfired for EPA in the past, leading to grueling legal processes between the agency and chemical manufacturers. Rather than provide avenues for chemical companies to game the system and poison the environment, advocates argue that EPA strongly encourage pest prevention and readily available alternatives to toxic pesticides.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits hazardous chemical use and requires alternative assessments to identify less toxic practices and products under the unreasonable adverse effects clause of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). 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. 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.

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

Source: EPA, Center for Biological Diversity

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

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10
Nov

Election Results Highlight Critical Need for Environmental Resolve

(Beyond Pesticides, November 10, 2016) In the wake of the monumental decision to elect Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, Beyond Pesticides’ work to protect public health and the environment is more critical than ever. On Tuesday, November 8, 2016 saw Mr. Trump prevail in winning the presidency, and Republicans hold on to their majorities in both the U.S. House and the Senate. In the coming months, the President-elect will deliberate on cabinet appointments, which will impact pesticide and agriculture policy and the laws and regulations that have the capacity to protect citizens from the harmful effects of chemical intensive practices.

According to an article in Scientific American, Donald Trump may select Myron Ebell, “one of the best-known climate skeptics” and director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, to lead his U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team. This represents a blow to the environmental movement, which has been building momentum to fight global climate change, transition to organic agricultural systems, and protect the public from the threat of corporate mergers that threaten farmers, rural communities, and consumers. Despite having few details on environmental policy, it is trumpclear from Donald Trump’s campaign speeches and the information available on his website that protecting the environment and public health is not high on his list of priorities.

At an August 2016 event in Des Moines, Iowa, Mr. Trump stated that, “We are going to end the EPA intrusion into your family homes and into your family farms for no reason. We are going to get rid of a lot of those regulations that don’t mean anything except cost you a lot of money and a lot of time and, in many cases, you lose your farms over the regulations.”

Mr. Trump has also said that he will request a “top-down review” of the Endangered Species Act, as he believes it is “a tool to block economic development, deny property rights to American landowners, and enrich activist groups and lawyers.” The Endangered Species Act, which recently listed seven bee species, is a crucial law that conserves plants and animals and the habitats in which they are found, which are constantly under attack from chemical intensive agriculture.

In addition to the results of the Presidential and Congressional races, several states have voted to legalize marijuana in various capacities. Medical marijuana initiatives were approved in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota, and recreational marijuana initiatives were approved in Massachusetts, Nevada, and California. As states continue to legalize the production of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, regulations governing its cultivation may allow the application of pesticides untested for use in the plant’s production, raising safety issues for patients and consumers. In the absence of federal regulations governing pesticides in cannabis production, the use of pesticides not registered by EPA is understood to be illegal. Several states, including New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, have codified this understanding by adopting policies that prohibit all federally registered pesticides. Other states have taken the position that state policy is unnecessary, since EPA, due to cannabis’ narcotic status by the federal government, has not registered any pesticides for marijuana production and unregistered pesticide use is illegal. As more states legalize marijuana use, it is crucial that any new growing standards reflect a systems-based organic approach.

As Administrator of the EPA, Gina McGarthy, said during her presentation to Montgomery County, Maryland in April 2016, national change starts at the local level. There is movement across the country to adopt ordinances that stop pesticide use on public property and, where allowed, private property. The passage of the ordinance in South Portland to ban lawn pesticides is similar to those passed in the town of Ogunquit, ME, and  Takoma Park and  Montgomery County, MD. The legislatures of Connecticut and Maryland passed laws this year that restrict the retail sale of products containing neonicotinoid pesticides. And, the Governor of Minnesota recently issued an executive order restricting neonicotinoid use, while numerous municipalities across the country have taken similar step to stop use on their properties.

Our work is at the heart of an organic transformation that crosses issues of clean air and water, healthy food, and soil practices that build organic matter, sequesters carbon, and slows climate change. The adoption of organic methods, particularly no-till organic, is an opportunity for farming both to mitigate agriculture’s contributions to climate change and cope with the effects climate change has had and will have on agriculture. In 2014, Rodale Institute published a white paper that explains it is possible to sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions by switching to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices.

Beyond Pesticides will continue to fight for the future of the planet, by supporting and advocating for organic land management, holding federal agencies accountable to their defined duties, and engaging with local communities to pass progressive pesticide initiatives that are protective of environmental and public health. For more information on what you can do, visit our Action Alerts sign-up page, read about Tools for Change to use in your local community, and consider becoming a member today.

Source: Politico, Scientific American

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

 

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09
Nov

State Attorneys General Join Fight to Stop Agrochemical Industry Mergers

(Beyond Pesticides, November 9, 2016) Seven state attorneys general (AGs) have joined together to investigate federal antitrust concerns related to the merger of agrochemcial giants Dow Chemical and DuPont. A separate group of state AGs is expected to form to simultaneously probe a similar merger between Bayer and Monsanto. This involvement signals grave concern from states over the prospect of these large-scale mergers, which would concentrate control in fewer companies, thus giving monopoly status to a smaller number of chemical manufacturers in the agrochemical industry. Reuters reports that the involvement of the state AGs will increase scrutiny of these mega deals, as they were previously only being reviewed at the federal level by antitrust experts at the Department of Justice (DOJ). Since DOJ has yet to file a lawsuit opposing the mergers, groups and individuals who want to see the mergers blocked are thrilled to see the states get involved and urge DOJ to act.

The discussion on these mergers began back in December 2015 when chemical giants DuPont and Dow Chemical Companies announced that their boards of directors unanimously approved a merger of their companies through an all-stock deal, valuing the combined market capitalization at $130 dow-dupontbillion. Then, in May of 2016, Bayer AG made its first bid for Monsanto, worth $42 billion, in an attempt to swallow the global seed and chemical producer and become the world’s biggest farm chemical supplier. Though that initial bid was initially rejected, Bayer and Monsanto eventually reached an agreement in September 2016 to the tune of $66 billion. A third industry merger between China National Chemical Corp and Syngenta AG is also in the works, having received the go-ahead from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS). However, the ChemChina-Syngenta merger is unlikely to be investigated by state AGs, as it does not involve a U.S. company.

The consolidation of these large players in an already tightly controlled industry is concerning for dozens of reasons. Advocates say that not only do the proposed mergers likely violate U.S. antitrust law, they also pose significant potential threats to U.S. security interests, undermine food security in the United States and worldwide, disrupt trade flows, and accelerate the international consolidation of the food and agribusiness industries to the detriment of American farmers, rural communities, and consumers. If allowed to combine, Dow and DuPont will occupy 41 percent of the market for U.S. corn seeds and traits and 38 percent of the U.S. soybean seeds and traits market, according to a Morgan Stanley research report in February. It is also estimated that if all the deals were to close, the three resulting companies would control nearly 70 percent of the world’s pesticide market and 80 percent of the U.S. corn-seed market, a harrowing statistic for anyone concerned about the impact chemical-intensive agriculture has on soil quality and overall environmental health.

According to sources from some of the state AG offices joining the probe, who wish to remain unnamed, the states are concerned that the companies may raise pesticide and herbicide prices for farmers following a merger, and have less incentive to compete to introduce better and cheaper products. They also suggested that Bayer-Monsanto will likely focus on the companies’ overlap in cotton seed as well as trait licensing, since Bayer licenses genetic traits that make seeds resistant to Liberty, a popular herbicide, while Monsanto licenses traits that make seeds resistant to Roundup, another popular herbicide containing glyphosate. While it will ultimately be up to DOJ to decide whether to file a lawsuit against either of the mergers, the state AG offices will be crucial in providing information on how the mergers will affect their jurisdictions. This method of investigation has worked to stop mergers in the past when the DOJ, with help from the states, sued last July to stop two controversial health insurance provider deals in Aetna Inc’s plan to buy Humana Inc and Anthem Inc’s bid for Cigna Corp. In that case, 11 states and the District of Columbia joined the federal government in the Anthem lawsuit while eight states and Washington, DC, joined the Aetna lawsuit.

Wondering how to get involved in opposing the agrochemical industry mergers? Reaching out to your U.S. Senators and Representative to ask them to reject the approval of a merger that consolidate seed availability, and encourage them to instead focus on increasing the availability of organic seeds, which do not negatively impact soil, water or human health is a good way to start. Additionally, reaching out to your state AG office and encouraging them to join the merger investigations is another way to ensure the DOJ takes action to block the mergers. Finally, you can educate yourself on organic practices, which work to build the soil and maintain an ecological balance that makes chemical fertilizers and toxic synthetic pesticides obsolete.

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

Source: Reuters

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08
Nov

CDC Report Finds Occupational Pesticide Poisoning Widespread, with Farmworkers at Greatest Risk

(Beyond Pesticides, November 8, 2016) A report published last month from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that over 2,600 cases of acute pesticide poisoning occurred among workers in 12 states between 2007 and 2011. The report, published by CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), highlights the hazards conventional pesticides pose to both farm and non-farm workers who apply these inherently toxic chemicals. Results of this study underscore the importance of calls from public health and farmworker advocacy groups for improving the protection of workers who grow and harvest the food that makes its way to American’s dinner plates. The results also support a wholesale transition away from toxic chemicals in favor of organic and sustainable alternatives.

CDC’s report, collected from 12 farming states (including California, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington), focuses on acute pesticide poisonings. The data gathered comes from NIOSH’s Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risks (SENSOR) program, a project that has tracked pesticide-related illness in the U.S. since 1987.pesticidespray

The report finds that pesticide poisoning incidents among agricultural workers are 37 times those of nonagricultural workers. Proportionally, acute poisoning rates among nonagricultural pesticide applicators were 0.5/100,000, while rates for farmworkers were 18.6/100,000. Most poisonings result from exposure to insecticides or herbicides. Within insecticide exposures, synthetic pyrethroids account for the highest number of incidents, while with herbicides glyphosate account for most poisoning events.

CDC classifies incidents as either low, moderate, or high severity. Low severity incidents usually do not require treatments and individuals return to work within three days. Moderate severity incidents require treatment, but are usually not life-threatening, and individuals return to work within 5 days. High severity cases are life threatening, require hospitalization, often lose more than 5 days from work, and may result in permanent damage. The report found 80% of recorded cases were low severity, 18% moderate severity, and one percent high severity.

However, it is critical to understand that these numbers only tell part of the story. As the study notes, the 2,600 acute poisoning cases it was able to document are likely an underestimate. This is because many pesticide-related illnesses are not captured by regulators as they are never reported, or individuals do not seek medical care. There are additional issues with health care providers being able to diagnose pesticide poisonings. The report notes, “[B]ecause the signs and symptoms of acute pesticide-related illnesses are not pathognomonic, and because most health care professionals are not acquainted with the recognition and management of these illnesses, many persons who seek medical care might not receive an accurate diagnosis.” Even when there is an accurate diagnosis, the study explains that many cases are simply not reported, despite the fact that each participating state has a mandatory requirement to report pesticide-related illnesses.

Many farmworkers do not report their illnesses to their employers because of the risk that they will lose their job. Although CDC may classify an illness as “low severity,” the fact is that with many farmworkers any amount of time off work means they will be fired. After over 20 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently updated its Agricultural Worker Protection Standards, which make important progress in protection, but did lack some significant safety measures. Ultimately, the key to making changes in the lives of farmworkers and farmworker families will be adequate enforcement of new provisions, and a transition to safer practices.

Geoffrey Calvert, MD, lead author of the CDC report, has a long history of tracking pesticide poisoning’s and authoring analyses of incidents in peer-reviewed literature. In 2015, Dr. Calvert evaluated a farmworker poisoning incident in Washington State, where over 20 farmworkers were sickened, finding multiple shortfalls in terms of following and enforcing pesticide law. He spoke about the SENSOR program at Beyond Pesticides 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, Florida last year. Click here to watch his speech.

Our food choices have a direct effect on those who grow and harvest what we eat around the world. This is why food labeled organic is the right choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, and the protection of farmworkers and farm families. To learn about how buying organic food can help protect farmworkers, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience guide. And for more information on how you can get educated and active in protecting farmworkers and changing our agricultural system towards safer practices, see Beyond Pesticides new Agricultural Justice webpage.

Source: Occupational Health and Safety, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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07
Nov

In Letter to EPA on Atrazine Hazards, House Republicans Challenge Science, Call the Weedkiller Safe

(Beyond Pesticides, November 7, 2016) In a letter last week on the widely used weedkiller atrazine, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) and 105 of his colleagues told Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that, “It would be irresponsible to greatly restrict one of the safest and most trusted herbicides on the market.” The letter was triggered by EPA’s release in June of its draft Ecological Risk Assessment on atrazine, which found levels of concerns exceeded by as much as 200-fold for some organisms. Lawmakers indicated that the draft assessment in its present form, “Would have a significant impact on farmers and rural communities nationwide.” Despite a wealth of information to the contrary, they claim that restricting the use of atrazine would put an unnecessary financial burden on farmers.

Atrazine, produced by Syngenta, is the second-most widely used pesticide in the U.S., with over 73 million pounds applied each year. While Rep. Buck claims that atrazine is a safe chemical, years of research shows that the chemical poses unacceptable riskCapitol-Senates to human health and the environment.  Once applied, the chemical often washes into surface water and leaches into groundwater. Water contamination issues spurred community water utilities across the U.S. to file a class-action lawsuit to remove the pesticide from drinking water supplies. In 2012, Syngenta agreed to a $105 million settlement, reimbursing 1,085 community water utilities for the cost they incurred cleaning up the toxic herbicide.

Under EPA drinking water standards that are deemed “safe,” atrazine has been linked to endocrine disrupting effects. In their letter, the GOP lawmakers state that the herbicide has been “one of the most thoroughly studied herbicides.” In fact, studies of atrazine have linked the pesticide to numerous adverse health effects, including childhood cancer, choanal atresia, and gastroschisis, a rare birth defect. A 2010 study led by Sarah Waller, PhD, of the University of Washington, Seattle, linked a 2- to 4-fold increase in gastroschisis (a birth defect of the abdominal wall that results in a baby’s intestines  moving outside the body) over the past three decade to atrazine use in agriculture. Dr. Waller’s group is not the first to report a link between gastroschisis-like birth defects and atrazine exposure. In 2007, Indiana researchers reported in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery that in their state, where rates of such birth defects are also very high, atrazine levels were significantly linked with the rate of gastroschisis and other defects. Later in 2009, another study published in Acta Paediatrica found similar results for the general rate of birth defects in the U.S. population. This research shows the increased risk of nine birth defects in babies born to mothers who conceived between April and July, when surface water levels of the pesticide are highest.

Atrazine is the most commonly detected pesticide in rivers, streams and wells in the United States. This is cause for concern especially in freshwater ecosystems that are susceptible to even the smallest amount of contaminants in their ecosystems. The study, Atrazine induces complete feminization and chemical castration in male African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis), led by Tyrone Hayes, PhD, at the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrates the reproductive consequences of atrazine exposure in adult amphibians. Dr. Hayes and other researchers examined a group of 40 African clawed frogs, all of which carried male chromosomes. In his study, tadpoles were subject to an atrazine concentration of 2.5 parts per billion, a concentration that is within federal drinking water standards. His results found that genetic male frogs exposed to atrazine concentrations in the environment developed into functioning female frogs.

“It’s a chemical . . . that causes hormone havoc,” Dr. Hayes commented. “You need to look at things that are affecting wildlife, and realize that, biologically, we’re not that different.” See Dr. Hayes talk, Learning from an Environmental Tragedy, at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum.

Rep. Buck’s letter also states, without citation, that the restriction of atrazine will cost farmers an additional $59 dollars per acre. However, an economic study published in 2014, Would banning atrazine benefit farmers?, finds that farmers will save money. The research, led by Frank Ackerman, PhD, professor at Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute, disputes the conclusions of a Syngenta study, which lawmakers are likely referencing in their letter. Dr. Ackerman and his colleagues critically reviewed five papers released by Syngenta’s Atrazine Benefits Team (ABT) in 2011.  Syngenta’s ABT found that the removal of atrazine would diminish corn yields by 4.4% and increasing prices by 8%. Using these assumptions, Dr. Ackerman and his team calculated that corn growers’ revenue would actually increase by 3.2%, providing a total of $1.7 billion to farmers and the U.S. economy, with minimal price changes for consumers.

The letter from Rep. Buck and his GOP colleagues criticizes EPA, stating that it is using science that the agency’s own Science Advisory Panel rejected in 2012. In fact, EPA cites recent studies in the independent peer reviewed literature in its analysis. New science has replicated the findings of earlier studies going back to 2012 and before. The congressional letter appears to be a clear denial of the science on par with climate change denial.

If you’re interested in taking action to help eliminate atrazine from use across the country, sign Beyond Pesticides’ petition to EPA calling for the cancellation of this chemical today. Although the public comment period on the agency’s draft ecological risk assessment for atrazine is closed, stay tuned for the latest opportunity to voice your opinion directly to the agency by signing up for Beyond Pesticides action alerts.

Source: Politico 

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

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04
Nov

EPA Proposes to Expand Pesticide Uses in Failed GE Crops, Public Comments Needed

(Beyond Pesticides, November 4, 2016) After withdrawing in January its registration approval for the toxic herbicide mixture Enlist Duo, for use in genetically engineered (GE) crops, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week that it is not only reapproving  the chemical combination, but it is proposing to expand the number of crops and states in which it can be used. The expanded registration will allow the use of Enlist Duo on GE cotton and extend use to GE corn, soybean, and cotton from 15 states to 34 states. This follows an EPA review triggered by manufacturer claims that Enlist Duo ingredients have synergistic effects, which EPA had not evaluated. According to EPA, its latest review of the data found no synergistic effects.

Ironically, this EPA-proposed expansion of pesticide use in GE crops across the U.S. comes on the heels of a front page Sunday New York Times exposé that concludes “genetically engineered crops fail to increase yields and reduce pesticide use,” despite continuing claims to the contrary.

Developed by Dow AgroSciences (Dow), Enlist Duo is an herbicide that incorporates a mix of glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D, intended for use on GE Enlist-Duo-tolerant corn and soybean crops. The herbicide has been marketed as a “solution” for the control of glyphosate-resistant weeds brought on by the widespread use of the chemical on glyphosate-tolerant (Roundup Ready) crops over the last decade. These super weeds now infest tens of millions of acres of U.S. farmland. Enlist Duo was officially registered in October 2014, just another demonstration of the failings of the U.S. pesticide and agricultural regulatory system to put people and the environment before economic incentives and industry bottom lines.

Shortly after it was registered, a lawsuit was filed by Beyond Pesticides and other environmental groups, challenging the approval under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The groups argued that in its approval of Enlist Duo EPA disregarded negative impacts on sensitive species, including nearly two hundred species protected under the Endangered Species Act, from the increased use of the toxic cocktail on crops genetically engineered to withstand its application. In addition to environmental damage, these chemicals have been linked to a myriad of human health problems. 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. Additionally, glyphosate has been classified as a human carcinogen based on laboratory studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2015.

In November 2015, EPA revoked the registration of Dow’s Enlist Duo based on new information on the toxic effects associated with the synergistic interactions of the chemical cocktail, including 2,4-D, glyphosate, and other undisclosed ingredients, to plants outside the treated area. In January 2016, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the revocation in a three-sentence order that gave no reasoning. EPA was facing pressure from environmental groups and Dow’s legal team, and environmentalists believed the agency would have to choose whether it would cancel the pesticides, acknowledging the imminent hazard and removing it from the market immediately, or undergo a lengthy cancellation process.

Instead, EPA has now reapproved Enlist Duo, reporting that it revoked the registration due to claims of product ingredient synergy by the herbicide’s registrant, Dow. EPA then requested and received additional synergy data from Dow, and have stated that after review of the additional data, it has found a lack of synergistic effects, despite Dow’s claims. According to EPA, “These data demonstrate that the combination of 2,4-D choline and glyphosate in Enlist Duo does not show any increased toxicity to plants and is therefore not of concern.” EPA seeks to amend the registration and add an additional 19 states where Enlist Duo can be used. While EPA has stated that there is no reason to be concerned, research points to the fact that synergy between chemicals can be a real and serious problem.

A 2002 study by Warren Porter, PhD., professor of zoology and environmental toxicology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, examined the effect of fetal exposures to a mixture of 2,4-D, mecoprop, and dicamba exposure —frequently used together in lawn products like Weed B Gone Max and Trillion— on the mother’s ability to successfully bring young to birth and weaning. Researchers looked at pesticide concentrations diluted to levels that are considered “safe” by EPA and found that it is capable of inducing abortions and resorptions of fetuses at very low parts per billion. The greatest effect was at the lowest dose. Beyond Pesticides has long been critical of EPA’s risk assessment process, which only evaluates the toxicity of an active pesticide ingredient alone, and does not consider the hazards of pesticide mixtures (or inert ingredients) in common pesticide products. For more information on pesticide synergy, see our 2004 article, Synergy: The Big Unknowns of Pesticide Exposure.

How to Make a Difference, NOW

EPA is seeking public comments on the proposed amendment to the registration to include GE cotton and to extend the use for GE corn, soybean and cotton to an additional 19 states. Public comments must be submitted by December 1, 2016 to EPA docket # EPA‑HQ‑OPP‑2016‑0594 at www.regulations.gov. Write a comment to EPA telling them that you do not support the expansion of Enlist Duo registration to include GE cotton, nor do you support the use of Enlist Duo in 19 new states.

As the crisis in weed resistance escalates, threatening crop productivity and profitability, advocates point to organic agriculture as a solution that protects public health, the environment, and farmers’ livelihood. The New York Times highlights this need to move towards organic, finding that the shift to GE crops in the United States and Canada over the past two decades has increased the use of pesticides in North America, and failed to produce any significant yield increases.

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: EPA, Center for Biological Diversity

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

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03
Nov

Lawsuit Challenges “Pure” and “Natural” Label on Honey Contaminated with Glyphosate

(Beyond Pesticides, November 3, 2016) Beyond Pesticides and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), represented by Richman Law Group, filed a lawsuit yesterday in Superior Court in the District of Columbia against Sioux Honey Association, for the deceptive and misleading labeling of its Sue Bee and Aunt Sue’s honey brands. The suit follows news that Sue Bee honey products labeled “100% Pure” and “Natural” tested positive for glyphosate residue. Glyphosate, a known endocrine disrupter and, according to the World Health Organization, a probable human carcinogen, is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup¼ herbicide.

“A consumer seeing the words ‘Pure,’ ‘100% Pure’ or ‘Natural’ on a honey product would reasonably expect that product to contain nothing other than honey,” said OCA International Director, Ronnie Cummins. “Regardless of how these products came to be contaminated, Sioux Honey has an obligation to either prevent the contamination, disclose the contaminatihoneyon, or at the very least, remove these deceptive labels.”

Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, said: “We join and support those beekeepers who are working to stop hazardous pesticides uses that cause widespread contamination of crops, including honey. Until U.S. regulatory agencies prohibit Monsanto and other manufacturers of glyphosate from selling pesticides that end up in the food supply, we need to protect consumers by demanding truth and transparency in labeling.”

The lawsuit specifically cites Sue Bee Clover Honey, labeled “Pure”; Aunt Sue’s Farmers Market Clover Honey, labeled “100% Pure”; and Aunt Sue’s Raw Honey, labeled “100% Pure” and “Natural. Plaintiffs cite testing, conducted by the FDA, of honey that found 41 ppb (parts per billion) of glyphosate.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not set a tolerance (or acceptable level) of glyphosate in honey, raising questions about the legality of any level. EPA was supposed to rule in 2015 on whether or not to re-register glyphosate, but has failed to complete the review process on schedule.

Beyond Pesticides submitted comments to EPA in 2009 during the glyphosate registration review period, asking them to cancel glyphosate’s registration due to the human and environmental risks, as well as the availability of alternatives. In July 2013, Beyond Pesticides, along with twenty-two other organizations, called on the EPA not to increase the allowable residue limits for glyphosate on certain food commodities, asserting that an increase in glyphosate tolerances and associated increases in glyphosate use puts the public at additional, unreasonable risk. In 2016 Beyond Pesticides once again sent a letter to and met with EPA officials requesting the routine testing of glyphosate.

Beyond Pesticides advocates for an approach that focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture. Thus, the best way to avoid glyphosate residues in a wide range of food and drinks is to buy and support organic agriculture and the USDA organic label over conventional agriculture. Beyond Pesticides’ database, Eating With a Conscience (EWAC), provides information on the pesticides that could be present in the food we eat, and why food labeled organic is the right choice. EWAC also includes information on the impacts chemical-intensive agriculture has on farm workers, water, and our threatened pollinators.

Read the formal complaint here: www.beyondpesticides.org//assets/media/documents/Sue Bee Complaint Stamped.pdf.

See a copy of our press release here.

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

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02
Nov

Study Reveals Extent of Pesticide Contamination in Medical Marijuana

(Beyond Pesticides, November 2, 2016) A California-based company, Steep Hill, revered as the global leader in cannabis testing and analytics, recently released a report on the prevalence
of pesticide contamination in the medical cannabis supply chain in California. The results reveal that 84% of samples tested positive for pesticide residues, a number significantly higher than experts had previously expected, causing great cause for concern for California medical cannabis consumers.

While the issue of illegal pesticide use in states with legalized recreational marijuana markets, such as Colorado, Oregon and Washington State, has become an area of concern for consumers and public health groups in recent years, this data is significant in that it looks specifically at the medical marijuana market and the impact pesticide-contaminated marijuana may have on medical marijuana consumers, who are often individuals suffering from chronic disease or illness. A law intended to address this issue, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, was passed in 2015, but its oversight provisions, which include mandatory testing, will not go into effect until 2018, leaving California consumers to fend for themselves when it comes to determining if their cannabis has been contaminated by pesticides.Cannabis_sativa_eden

In its analysis, Steep Hill found residue of the chemical myclobutanil, a key ingredient in pesticide Eagle 20, in more than 65 percent of samples tested during a 30-day period. Eagle 20, a fungicide, has not been approved for use on marijuana, and its active ingredient myclobutanil is an endocrine (hormone) disruptor classified as “toxic” by Beyond Pesticides. Myclobutanil is also listed as a reproductive toxicant in the California Environmental Protection Agency Proposition 65: Chemicals Know to the State to Cause Cancer or Reproductive Toxicity. In Colorado, the presence of Eagle 20 in testing marijuana was enough to cause the Denver Department of Environmental Health (DDOH) to quarantine tens of thousands of marijuana plants, effectively keeping them off the market, an action to protect consumers that was eventually supported by a U.S. District Court judge. In 2015, two marijuana users in Colorado, one of whom suffers from a brain tumor and holds a medical card to use the product, sued a large marijuana company over illegal use of Eagle 20 in their medical marijuana, asking for damages.

When burned, myclobutanil turns into a poisonous hydrogen cyanide, a colorless and extremely poisonous compound that can be lethal in high doses. Hydrogen cyanide affects organs most sensitive to low oxygen levels, including the brain, cardiovascular system and lungs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hydrogen Cyanide is also a Schedule 3 substance under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

“Those in the cannabis community who feel that all cannabis is safe are not correct given this data. Smoking a joint of pesticide-contaminated cannabis could potentially expose the body to lethal chemicals,” says Jmichaele Keller, president and CEO of Steep Hill. He went on to point out the problems with pesticide regulation in marijuana, as seen in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, where officials are trying to navigate the issue of regulation in the recreational cannabis markets, as well as medical markets.

“As far as we’re concerned, medicine should always be clean, safe, and effective. Unfortunately, our recent study discovered that 83.2% of the samples assessed by our triple quadrupole mass spectrometer contained pesticides that would have failed under the Oregon regulations. As of today, this tainted product could be sold in most dispensaries throughout the State of California without any way of informing the patients about the risks of pesticide exposure,” said Keller.

In order to do this, Steep Hill believes that better tests, like the one it has developed, are necessary across the board to protect public health and safety from pesticide contaminated marijuana.  Steep Hill compared their results to those from SC Labs, another testing company, and found they detected pesticides in less than 3% of the samples tested over a 30-day period ending October 10, 2016. During the same period, Steep Hill tested and reported pesticides in over 84% of cannabis which would have failed under the State of Oregon’s pesticide regulations. The discrepancy in findings between labs demonstrates the need for the state to pass regulations that would ensure all marijuana undergo the same rigorous testing before products are made available for sale.

While moves by California and other states to curb illegal pesticide use in marijuana represent steps in the right direction, they also contain significant pitfalls and loopholes that allow contaminated cannabis to enter the market where it threatens public health. Beyond Pesticides continues to encourage states to take a stronger approach to regulating this budding industry, so that it blazes an agricultural path that protects its most sensitive at-risk users. Three elements must be passed and enforced in order to do so. They are:
1. A prohibition on the use of federally registered pesticides on cannabis;
2. Allowance of pesticides exempt from federal registration, but not those that are only exempt from tolerances and;
3. Requirements for an organic system plan that focuses on sustainable practices and only 25b products as a last resort.

Implementing these three requirements will ensure the sustainable growth of a new agricultural industry, and lead to the protection of public health. For more information and background this important issue, see Beyond Pesticides’ report Pesticide Use in Marijuana Production: Safety Issues and Sustainable Options.

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

Source: Steep Hill Press Release

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01
Nov

Genetically Engineered Crops Fail to Increase Yields and Reduce Pesticide Use, Exposé Reveals

(Beyond Pesticides, November 1, 2016) A report published this weekend in The New York Times finds that the shift to genetically engineered (GE) crops in the United States and Canada over the past two decades has increased the use of pesticides in North America, and failed to produce any significant yield increases. When the technology was first introduced, multinational agrichemical companies claimed just the opposite would occur- yields would spike and pesticide use would be minimized. As far back as 1998, Beyond Pesticides asked, “Is the failed pesticide paradigm being genetically engineered?” As the Times and numerous other publications before it have found, the answer was and still is yes.

Manual_sprayer_farmworkerThe far-ranging expose by the Times on the state of the GE industry used publicly available data from the United Nations to compare yields between that of Europe and North America. Their data show “no discernible advantage in yields – food per acre” for the United States and Canada over Western Europe during the time of GE crop adoption. A comparison between rapeseed yields in Canada and Western Europe shows increases in both regions, with Europe’s yields consistently higher, independent of the use of GE crops. For corn, gains in food per acre were found to be roughly equal between the U.S. and Western Europe, with both rising from roughly 50,000 hectograms per hectare (hph) in 1985 to 100,000 hph in 2014. Sugar beets, for which GE varieties have been increasingly planted in the U.S. over the last decade, tell a different story. While yields in Europe have risen over 100,000 hph without genetic modification, American beet field harvests have remained relatively flat.

Differences in yields tell an important story, but understanding increases in pesticide use helps underscore the ecological and public health dangers of GE crops. As crop yields in Europe increased, pesticide use (fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides) decreased dramatically. As yields in the U.S. remained flat, insecticide use has remained the same, while the spread of herbicide-tolerant weeds has caused use of these chemicals to skyrocket. Much of this can be attributed specifically to traits within GE crops that allow plants to tolerate repeated spraying of the herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. Again, as we wrote in 1998, “It is well documented that when a single herbicide is used repeatedly on a crop, the chances of herbicide resistance developing in weed populations greatly increases.”

Increased use of pesticides has important public health and environmental implications. Last year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that the herbicide glyphosate is human carcinogen based on laboratory animal studies. Other recent research finds the chemical interferes with proper DNA functioning, correlating with the onset of numerous common diseases.

In addition to impacts on human health, glyphosate has been linked to adverse effects on earthworms and other soil biota, as well as shape changes in amphibians. The widespread use of the chemical on glyphosate-tolerant GE crops has led it to be implicated in the decline of monarch butterflies, whose sole source to lay their eggs, milkweed plants, are being devastated as a result of incessant use of glyphosate.

Although insecticide incorporated GE crops, for which genes have been edited to incorporate the active delta toxin produced by the soil organism bacillus thuringiensis (Bt),  have not yet led to significant insecticide increases, there is some indication that current spates of resistance in target pests is now trending use upwards. In attempts to avoid or slow resistance, GE companies have begun to “stack” multiple strains of the Bt delta toxin. However, research is finding that once a pest is resistant to one strain of Bt, it is likely to be cross-resistant to other varieties.

In response to the Times’ report, industry appeared to flatly deny that GE crops do not confer benefits. “Biotech tools have clearly driven yield increases enormously,” Monsanto chief technology officer Robert Fraley, PhD, told The New York Times. Despite the professings of chemical company executives, the Times revealed the true benefit conferred by this technology: “The industry is winning on both ends — because the same companies make and sell both the genetically modified plants and the poisons. Driven by these sales, the combined market capitalizations of Monsanto, the largest seed company, and Syngenta, the Swiss pesticide giant, have grown more than sixfold in the last decade and a half.”

German chemical company Bayer, which is currently working on a deal to buy U.S-based Monsanto, has pledged not to push GE crops on Europe. While this is a smart move for their business in Europe, given the overwhelming data on the failure of GE technology, it would be prudent for the company to make the same pledge for the United States and Canada. Moving beyond GE agriculture and the failed pesticide paradigm will provide farmers across the continent with an opportunity to implement safer practices that are in line with natural systems.

Concerned consumers in the U.S. can help support a transition to safer, successful agricultural practices today by buying organic whenever possible. A study published earlier this year by researchers at Washington State University found that organic agriculture can help feed the world into the future, with yields on par with conventional systems. Organic is not only beneficial in the long run; it provides tangible benefits to farmers and farming communities. A White Paper published in June of this year found that U.S. counties with high levels of organic crop production boost average incomes by $2,000. By law, food certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is not allowed to be genetically engineered, and no toxic synthetic pesticides are permitted to be used on organic crops. Instead of gaming nature in a bid to sell more chemicals, organic crop production works with nature, producing healthier food with less risk to public health, wildlife, water quality and the wider environment.

For more information on why organic is the right choice, see Beyond Pesticides’ program page. And for more information about the failed promises of GE agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage.

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

Source: The New York Times

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31
Oct

Report Reveals Food Retailers Failing Pollinators

(Beyond Pesticides, October 31, 2016) Only three of the top 20 food retailers receive a passing grade when it comes to their pollinator protection policies, according to a report released by Friends of the Earth. Swarming the Aisles; Rating Top Retailers on Bee-Friendly and Organic Food takes a closer look at the policies and practices of food retailers across the country and creates an industry scorecard highlighting how each individual retailer fairs in categories like organics, pollinator protection, and pesticide reduction. While some individual chains performed well, overall the results indicate that food retailers have a long way to go to meet consumer demand when it comes to protecting pollinators and establishing organic policies.

Major retailers often lag behind public opinion when it comes to changing their official policies to promote practices that protect environmental interests. In 2foe_foodretailerreport_scorecard014, Friends of the Earth, Beyond Pesticides and allies released a report showing 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 (neonic) pesticides — a key contributor to recent bee declines, despite the fact more than half a million Americans had signed petitions demanding that Lowe’s and Home Depot stop selling neonics. While it took more than two years for Home Depot and Lowes to respond to consumer pressure, their eventual commitment to eliminate bee-toxic products was encouraging for consumers and environmental groups, who hope to see a similar shift in policy from grocery retailers.

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, an ACE hardware store, 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.

New data from a YouGov Poll released alongside the report from Friends of the Earth, in partnership with SumOfUs, found that 80 percent of Americans believe it is important to eliminate neonicotinoids from agriculture. Among Americans who grocery shop for their household, 65 percent claim they would be more likely to shop at a grocery store that has formally committed to eliminating neonicotinoids. The poll also revealed that 59 percent of American grocery shoppers believe it is important for grocery stores to sell organic food, and 43 percent would be more likely to shop at a grocery store that sells more organic food than their current grocery store. All of these findings point to the fact that consumers are looking for grocery stores that not only offer organic alternatives, but that use their power in the market to advance policies that protect pollinators and eliminate the use of toxic pesticides.

The report reveals that while consumer demand for organic and pesticide-free food continues to show double-digit growth, only four of the top food retailers, Albertsons, Costco, Target (TGT) and Whole Foods, have adopted a publicly available company commitment to increase offerings of certified organic food or to disclose data on the current percentage of organic offerings or organic sales. In addition to these retailers, Aldi, Food Lion, part of the Delhaize Group (DEG), and Kroger (KR) disclosed data on the current percentage of organic offerings or organic sales. Moreover, none of the retailers have made a publicly available commitment to source organic from American farmers.

The primary sources of information for this scorecard include publicly available information, including company websites, company annual reports, SEC filings, corporate social responsibility and sustainability reports, press coverage and industry analyses. Sixteen of the top 20 food retailers were predominately unresponsive to Friends of the Earth’s requests for information via surveys, calls and letters. The report was not the first action taken by environmental organizations to put pressure on retailers to adopt more environmentally friendly sourcing policies, as a coalition of environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, sent a letter earlier this fall urging the food retailers to eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides and increase USDA certified organic food and beverages to 15 percent of overall offerings by 2025, prioritizing domestic, regional and local producers.

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, and click here to watch Beyond Pesticides video Making the Switch. 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.

Source: Friends of the Earth Press Release, Report

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

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