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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Alternatives/Organics' Category


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. 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 […]

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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. Judge 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 […]

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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. In 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 […]

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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 Agriculture 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 […]

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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 […]

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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. The report finds that pesticide poisoning incidents among agricultural workers are 37 times those of nonagricultural workers. Proportionally, acute poisoning […]

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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 2014, 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 […]

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26
Oct

Report Says Farmers Illegally Use Herbicide Dicamba on Glyphosate/Roundup-Resistant Weeds in Genetically Engineered Crop

(Beyond Pesticides, October 26, 2016) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched a criminal investigation at several locations in Missouri into the illegal spraying this summer of the herbicide dicamba. EPA’s investigation is ongoing and stems from widespread complaints of damage to various crops across Missouri and several other states in the Midwest and Southeast. Dicamba, a widely used herbicide, has had frequent problems with drift and subsequent crop injury. Many suspect that  farmers who planted the new dicamba-tolerant genetically engineered (GE) seeds in the region, when faced with a proliferation of pigweed this year, illegally sprayed dicamba across their fields, leading to drift and off-site crop damage to other farmers. While USDA has deregulated (approved) dicamba-tolerant crops, EPA is expected to but has not yet registered a formulations of dicamba for use on GE crops. Dicamba is highly volatile and prone to drift. In a statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, EPA’s Region 7 office said the Missouri Department of Agriculture received more than 100 complaints since June 22, 2016. 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 […]

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25
Oct

Endocrine Disruptors Cost U.S. Billions in Health Care Costs and Lost Wages

(Beyond Pesticides, October 25, 2016) Last week, a study,  Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the USA: a population-based disease burden and cost analysis,  published in The Lancet  journal, concludes  that exposure to pesticides and other chemicals found in common household items, such as toys, makeup and detergent, costs the U.S. more than $340 billion annually in  health care costs and lost wages. The chemicals in question, endocrine disruptors (EDCs), interfere with the body’s hormone system, which can lead to a variety of health problems. According to Environmental Health News, the researchers estimate the costs by looking at exposure data and then projecting 15 medical conditions that are linked to endocrine disruptors and their associated health costs and lost wages. The findings came from calculations made by the Endocrine Society, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations Environment Program. A group of flame retardant chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were the worst offenders in the U.S., accounting for nearly two-thirds of estimated health problems. These chemicals were estimated to annually cause about 11 million lost IQ points and 43,000 additional cases of intellectual disability, costing around $268 billion. Pesticide exposure, the second most costly chemical group in the U.S., […]

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24
Oct

Neonicotinoid Insecticide Exposure Reduces Bumblebee Colony Size

(Beyond Pesticides, October 24, 2016) Systemic neonicotinoid (neonic) exposure is associated with reductions in colony size and changes in foraging behavior, according to a recent field study done by a team of scientists at Imperial College London. The senior author of the study, Richard Gill, Ph.D., stated that when neonicotinoid “exposure is relatively persistent and combined with other stressors associated with land use change, they could have detrimental effects at the colony level.” The study, Impact of controlled neonicotinoid exposure on bumblebees in a realistic field setting, assesses the effect of exposure to the neonic, clothianidin, on bumblebee foraging patterns and colony size. Clothianidin was given to 20 buff-tailed bumblebee colonies for five-weeks in a sugar solution at a concentration of 5 parts per billion, an environmentally relevant level of the pesticide. A bumblebee colony census was done before and after the field experiment, where the number of eggs, larvae, pupae, and workers bees were recorded along with the wax and pollen stores in the colony. The researchers found that the clothianidin treated colonies had fewer workers, drones and reproductive female bees compared to the colonies with no exposure. These data add to the growing body of research on sub-lethal […]

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19
Oct

Reckitt Benckiser, Manufacturer of d-Con, Issues Apology for Disinfectant Deaths in South Korea

(Beyond Pesticides, October 19, 2016) Reckitt Benckiser, the company that fought tooth and nail to keep its highly toxic d-CON ® anticoagulant rodenticides on the market in the U.S., has recently issued an apology for another product of theirs that  is responsible for the deaths of pregnant women and children in Korea: humidifier disinfectants. According to The Wall Street Journal, 189 deaths and 506 injuries from humidifier disinfectants, primarily Reckitt Benckiser’s humidifier disinfectant, Oxy Sac Sac (Oxy). The main ingredient in the sanitizers found to be toxic is polyhexamethylene guanidine phosphate, or PHMG. In a statement on Wednesday, September 21, Reckitt Benckiser CEO Rakesh Kapoor offered his “deepest sympathy” for “the pain and the irreparable damage suffered by many families.” The apology was made during a visit with Oxy victims and  families, as well as representatives of the Korean National Assembly Special Committee at the Company’s headquarters in Slough, UK. Hazards associated with the humidifier disinfectants were first discovered in 2011 when seven pregnant women were hospitalized with acute respiratory disease, resulting in four deaths from  lung failure. Korean Center for Disease Control (KCDC) led an investigation that found that the chemicals used to clean humidifiers were to blame, and […]

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18
Oct

Pesticide Restrictions in Wisconsin Fail to Protect Groundwater Adequately

(Beyond Pesticides, October 18, 2016) A Wisconsin family is speaking out against groundwater contamination after their son fell ill two years ago, prompting them to test their well water. The test results found the water contaminated with fertilizers and pesticides, most notably the weed killer atrazine, which has been banned in their area for 20 years. Atrazine has been registered for use since 1958. Although many residential turf grass uses of the chemical have been eliminated voluntarily, homeowner uses do persist. The chemical has been linked to human health impacts such as childhood cancer, and rare birth defects, including gastroschisis, and choanal atresia. According to Minnpost, in the spring of 2014, Jacob, son of Doug and Dawn Reeves, fell mysteriously ill. His body became swollen and he developed an unusual rash. He was finally diagnosed with juvenile dermatomyositis, a rare inflammatory disease that affects the muscles, skin and blood vessels. The cause of the disease is unknown, so the Reeves family began their own hunt as to why Jacob became sick. When they received the test results from Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, it showed that their well contained atrazine at twice the state and federal drinking water health standard. […]

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13
Oct

California Regulators Allow an Increase in Toxic Fumigant Use, Failing to Protect Public and Farmworker Health

(Beyond Pesticides, October 13, 2016) Last week, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) released new rules that allow for continued use of the toxic fumigant Telone and reduce public health protection by permitting increased usage. One of the active ingredients in the product Telone,  1,3-Dicholorpropene (1,3-D), has many documented health risks, including cancer and kidney and liver damage. While CDPR and many news outlets reported the rule change as a tightening of the restrictions, the new rules effectively increase the previous annual cap from 90,250 pounds to 136,000 pounds per township, a defined area of 6×6 miles. According to CDPR documents, the primary revisions include: increasing the annual limit to 136,000 pounds within each pesticide township, eliminating “rollover” of unused pesticide allotments from prior years, and banning use of Telone in December, when weather conditions are especially problematic for air pollution. These new rules, which go into effect January 1, will allow for 1,3-D’s continued use in strawberry fields, vineyards, almond orchards, and other crops around California. CDPR has been characterizing  its changes in management of 1,3-D as increasingly protective of public health in the state. In making these revisions to the rules, CDPR completed an updated risk assessment […]

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07
Oct

Seven Bee Species Make Endangered Species List

(Beyond Pesticides, October 7, 2016) For the first time in U.S. history, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has added a group of bees to the list of Endangered Species. FWS published a final rule last Friday that  declares seven species of yellow-faced bees (genus Hylaeus) that are native to Hawaii as endangered. This announcement immediately follows last week’s news that FWS has proposed listing the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). While the decision is great news for these bees and the environmental groups who have fought to protect them, there is still much work that needs to be done, and FWS says that it needs additional time to identify specific areas to be designated as critical habitat for the endangered bees. Further, though FWS has identified many threats to bees, including habitat loss and degradation due to urbanization, and other human activities, the final rule does not specifically point to pesticides. However, there is an overwhelming amount of research demonstrating that neonicotinoid insecticides, working either individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of bees and other pollinators. Neonicotinoids have been linked to a range of […]

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06
Oct

Nitrate Pollution in Groundwater Linked to Birth Defects, Cancers and Thyroid Problems

(Beyond Pesticides, October 6, 2016) According to a report published last week by the Iowa Environmental Council (IEC), the associations between elevated levels of nitrate in drinking water and health risks go well beyond the “blue-baby syndrome” and nitrate concentrations lower than the drinking water standard may be harmful through long-term exposure. The lead author of the report, Ann Robinson, Agricultural Policy Specialist at IEC, stated that the focus was on “significant findings that multiple studies have associated with nitrate in drinking water, including birth defects, bladder cancer and thyroid cancer.”  Nitrate is a common groundwater contaminant that is sourced mainly from chemical fertilizers and animal waste. Nitrate is a common contaminant of drinking water, particularly in agricultural areas where nitrogen fertilizers are used. In 1962, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the drinking water standard of 10 mg/L of nitrate to prevent blue baby syndrome, a fatal infant blood disease. In addition to Iowa, the U.S. Geological Survey has also identified the following states as areas with high risk clusters from nitrate contamination to groundwater: Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The report reviewed studies conducted in the U.S., Canada, and Australia […]

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03
Oct

Proposal to Restrict Pesticide Use Near CA Schools, Criticized as Weak, Open for Public Comment

(Beyond Pesticides, October 3, 2016) On Friday, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) released a rule titled, Pesticide Use Near Schoolsites, that proposes limited restrictions for certain agricultural pesticide applications near schools and child day care facilities. CDPR, whose proposal  has been criticized by advocates as not adequately protective of workers and communities, is accepting public comments on the proposal until November 17, 2016. The  proposed rule, effective October 1, 2017, will require farmers to notify public schools and child day care facilities when “certain pesticide applications made for the production of an agricultural commodity near a school site are planned in the coming year and also a few days prior to the applications.” For pesticides applied via aircraft, airblast sprayer, sprinkler chemigation, and fumigation, there must be a minimum ¼  mile buffer around the school or child day care facility. While the move by CDPR is a step in the right direction, it is not rigorous enough and does not adequately protect the most vulnerable populations from pesticide exposure, according to advocates. The rule does not include private K-12 schools or family day care homes, a move that according to CDPR documents is due to the potential for […]

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30
Sep

Make Your Voice Heard to Protect Organic Integrity!

(Beyond Pesticides, September 30, 2016) Stand up for organic! The public comment period has opened on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) proposed recommendations affecting  organic standards, materials and policy. The fall 2016 meeting dates have been announced and public comments are due by October 26, 2016. Your comments and participation are critical to the integrity of the organic label. Make your voice heard before the comment period closes. We’ve made tremendous progress in creating an organic food production system. Let’s not let USDA turn back the clock. Beyond Pesticides has  begun to analyze the numerous recommendations and are providing you  with our positions that we hope you will use as the basis for your comments. We will provide positions on additional topics in the near future. Please feel free to develop your own comments or cut and paste ours. If you cut and paste our comments into regulations.gov, please first put a personal note of concern in order to reflect the importance if these issues to you as an organic consumer, farmer or other concerned party. Some of the major issues before the fall 2016 National Organic Standards Board include: Chlorine Dioxide Gas: Beyond Pesticides is appalled that the […]

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22
Sep

United Nations Addresses the Alarming Rise of Antibiotic Resistance

(Beyond Pesticides, September 22, 2016) Yesterday, the United Nations (UN) gathered to address the alarming rise of antibiotic resistance at a day-long meeting in New York. The UN General Assembly, made up of delegates from 193 countries, has only convened health-related meetings on three other issues: Ebola, HIV, and noncommunicable diseases. According to the World Health Organization, which collaborates with the UN on health-related priorities, “Antimicrobial resistance has become one of the biggest threats to global health, such as human development.” At this high-profile meeting, Heads of State and Heads of Delegations addressed the urgency of the situation and discussed multisectoral approaches to addressing antimicrobial resistance. This UN meeting elevated the discussion to a historic level and led to the approval of a declaration, but did not result in legally binding actions and failed to include language to eliminate excessive antibiotic use in animal agriculture. In an interview with Vox, Kevin Outterson, Professor of Law at Boston University, stated that “it has taken 15 years to get [antimicrobial resistance] back on the global agenda” since the UN last tried to take action in September 2001. Experts are warning that we may be entering or have already entered a post-antibiotic era […]

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21
Sep

EPA Proposes that Glyphosate (Roundup) Does Not Cause Cancer

(Beyond Pesticides, September 21, 2016) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs released last week  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.” Glyphosate, the controversial active ingredient in Roundup, was classified in 2015 by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “probable carcinogen” and numerous studies have associated the chemical with cancer and other human health issues. However, EPA’s proposed a classification that is contrary, not only to WHO’s, but also a position  it had previously held. The issue paper was released in preparation for the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meeting, October 18-21, which convenes to review EPA’s evaluation of the carcinogenic potential of 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 […]

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20
Sep

Study Finds Bee Colonies Die-off as the Number of Different Pesticide Exposures Increase

(Beyond Pesticides, September 20, 2016) Honey bee colonies are declining as the total number of pesticide products they are exposed to increases, regardless of the amount of exposure, according to research published last week from scientists at the University of Maryland (UMD). The study aimed to look at honey bee colonies’ exposome, a term traditionally used in cancer research, defined as the measure of all exposures over an individual’s lifetime and how those exposures relate to health. In their investigation, researchers did not look at individual honey bees but instead treated the colony as a single super-organism, and based results on lifetime exposure to agricultural chemicals. The 91 honey bee colonies studied by researchers were exposed to a total of 93 different pesticide compounds throughout the course of their pollination season. Of these residues, 13 different compounds were found in bees, 61 in beebread (packed pollen within the hive), and 70 were found in wax. Researchers gauged the effect of pesticide exposure not only by looking at the number of pesticides in colonies, but also their toxicological relevance over a specific threshold, as well as through the calculation of a hazard quotient (HQ), which evaluates  the cumulative toxicity of various […]

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19
Sep

Two Chemical Companies Tied to Human and Environmental Atrocities, Bayer and Monsanto, Set to Merge

(Beyond Pesticides,  September 19, 2016) Last week, a  proposed Bayer-Monsanto merger was announced, as St. Louis-based agrichemical giant  Monsanto Co. agreed to sell the company  to German pharmaceutical and chemical conglomerate, Bayer, in  an unprecedented $66 billion dollar deal. It is the merger of two companies that have been tied to past atrocities against humanity, one whose chemical product was  used  to kill  concentration camp victims under Adolf Hitler and the other a producer of the  deadly defoliant, Agent Orange, which was sprayed by the U.S. government over Vietnam and left a legacy of health damage to the Vietnamese people and U.S. veterans of the armed forces. At the same time, these companies are currently embroiled in controversy on  some of the most hazardous pesticides, including glyphosate (RoundupTM) and neonicotinoids, used in food production and in communities and home gardens    —continuing a history of profiting from a technology that has adverse effects on human life and the environment, but has been shown to be unnecessary and unsustainable in food production and the management of lawns, landscapes, playing fields, and parks. In 1995, the Associated Press reported that the then-CEO of Bayer,  Helge Wehmeier, apologized to Elie Wiesel, Ph.D., holocaust […]

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13
Sep

U.S. Land Use Changes Add Further Strain to Commercial Beekeeping

(Beyond Pesticides, September 13, 2016) Land suitable for commercial beekeepers in the U.S. Northern Great Plains (NGP) is declining rapidly, according to a new study released earlier this month by the U.S. Geological Service (USGS). The region, which supports over 40% of managed honey bee colonies, is quickly replacing suitable pollinator habitat with more and more pesticide-intensive biofuel crops, particularly corn and soybean, as a result of increased crop prices and federal subsidies for biofuels. The concerning trend adds another layer of stress not only to honey bee colonies, but beekeepers whose livelihood depends on the health of their commercial livestock. From early summer to mid-fall, roughly one million honey bee colonies make their way through the Northern Great Plains of North and South Dakota. The area is not usually a stop for pollination services, but a place where beekeepers go to generate a honey crop and improve the health of their colonies. Most of the colonies that summer in the NGP are trucked across the country to pollinate fruiting crops like apples, cherries, melons, and almonds during the winter, or are otherwise moved south to produce packaged bee colonies or queens. According to the USGS study, published in the […]

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12
Sep

Court Rules Consumers and Farmers Can Sue USDA for Weakening Standard that Allows Synthetics in Organic

(Beyond Pesticides September 12, 2016) On Thursday, September 8, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California rejected the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit (Case No. 15-cv-01590-HSG) that challenges changes to the rules that review the potential hazards and need for allowed synthetic and prohibited natural substances used in certified  organic food production. Finding that plaintiffs had established both proper jurisdiction and a viable claim, this ruling allows the case to move forward on its merit. The court will now  be able to review the substantive importance of formal notice and public comment regarding  the rules for organic food production, which were changed dramatically by USDA in 2013. Plaintiffs in this case, recognized  by the court as “approximately a dozen advocacy and industry groups representing organic farmers, retailers, and consumers,” filed a complaint last April asking the court to require USDA to reconsider its decision on the rule change and reinstitute the agency’s customary public hearing and comment process. Specifically at issue in the lawsuit is a rule that implements the organic law’s “sunset provision,” which since its origins has been interpreted, under a common reading of the […]

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