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Archive for the 'Wildlife/Endangered Sp.' Category


27
Jan

Monarch Butterfly Near Extinction—Calls for Urgent Federal Action

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 2021) Lowest ever recorded! That’s the result of a yearly winter monarch count along the California coast, overseen each year by the conservation group Xerces Society. In 2020, citizen scientists counted only 2,000 butterflies. The findings indicate that many on the planet today are likely to experience, within their lifetimes, a world where western monarchs are extinct—unless the federal government acts now. Western monarchs migrate from the Pacific Northwest to overwintering grounds along the California coast, where they remain in relatively stationary clusters that are easy to count.  In the 1980s, roughly 10 million monarchs overwintered along the coast. By the 1990s, that number fell into the low single digits, roughly 1.2 million. Five years ago counts were at roughly 300,000. By 2019, numbers crashed below 30,000. This year’s count saw no monarchs at iconic overwintering sites like Pacific Grove. Other locations, like Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove and National Bridges State Park saw only a few hundred. “These sites normally host thousands of butterflies, and their absence this year was heartbreaking for volunteers and visitors flocking to these locales hoping to catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring clusters of monarch butterflies,” said Sarina Jepsen, […]

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07
Jan

Pesticides and Road Salt: A Toxic Mixture for Aquatic Communities

(Beyond Pesticides, January 7, 2021) Insecticides and road salts adversely interact to alter aquatic ecosystems, reducing organism abundance and size, according to a study in the journal Environmental Pollution. Pesticide use is ubiquitous, and contamination in rivers and streams is historically commonplace, containing at least one or more different chemicals. Although road salts can prevent hazardous ice formation during the colder months, the study raises critical issues regarding the adverse interaction between road salts and pervasive environmental pollutants that threaten human, animal, and environmental health and safety. Authors of the study note, “Our results highlight the importance of multiple-stressor research under natural conditions. As human activities continue to imperil freshwater systems, it is vital to move beyond single-stressor experiments that exclude potentially interactive effects of chemical contaminants.” To assess the impact of road salts and insecticides on aquatic communities, researchers created a mesocosm (controlled outdoor experimental area) to examines the natural environment under controlled conditions. These communities include zooplankton, phytoplankton, periphyton, and leopard frog (Rana pipiens) tadpoles. Researchers performed a toxicity evaluation of six insecticides from three chemical classes (neonicotinoids: thiamethoxam, imidacloprid; organophosphates: chlorpyrifos, malathion; pyrethroids: cypermethrin, permethrin). Additionally, researchers note the potentially interactive effects of these insecticides with three concentrations of […]

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06
Jan

Long-Term Roundup Exposure Found to Harm Keystone Wildlife Species

(Beyond Pesticides, January 6, 2021) Long-term exposure to formulated Roundup and glyphosate results in significant harm to wildlife species that form the bottom of aquatic food chains, according to a study published in Microbiome by researchers at University of Birmingham, UK. The water flea Daphnia spp. often functions as a keystone species in lakes and ponds, and because of its ecological importance is frequently used as an indicator species in toxicity tests performed by pesticide regulators. Lead author Luisa Orsini, PhD, notes that most of this testing is flawed by limitations in its scope. “The problem is that much of the evidence is rooted in outdated toxicity tests which only look at the number of animals that die on exposure to extremely high concentrations of these chemicals,” Dr. Orsini said. “These tests also overlook the pathological effects arising from long-term exposure to low doses. What we’re proposing is that toxicity is measured by looking at what happens to the animal at a molecular and fitness level following long-term exposure, which encompasses the entire animal life cycle.” Dr. Orsini and her research team exposed populations of Daphnia magna to the maximum contaminant level (1 mg/L) of both the formulated product Roundup, […]

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22
Dec

Farmworkers and Conservationists Ask Court to Remove Monsanto’s Roundup from the Market

(Beyond Pesticides, December 22, 2020) Opening arguments and evidence were filed by a coalition of farmworkers, farmers, and conservationists last week in litigation challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) re-approval of glyphosate, best known as the active ingredient in Monsanto’s “Roundup” pesticides. The lawsuit charges that the Trump Administration unlawfully ignored cancer risks and ecological damage of glyphosate.  Represented by the Center for Food Safety (CFS), plaintiffs, including the Rural Coalition, Farmworker Association of Florida, OrganizaciĂłn en California de Lideres Campesinas, and Beyond Pesticides, filed the federal lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in March. The groups seek to have the pesticide prohibited from use or sale because of its unlawful approval. “Farmworkers are on the frontlines of nearly every health and environmental crisis, from the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change, and are particularly at risk of health impacts from pesticide spraying,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at CFS. “EPA failed these essential workers. It rejected evidence that glyphosate causes cancer and entirely failed to assess the main way people are exposed at work, through their skin.” The court filing includes volumes of evidence showing how EPA ignored glyphosate’s health risks, including cancer risks, to farmworkers and farmers exposed during spraying. The evidence […]

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10
Dec

New Test Will Help Researchers Understand Pesticide Threats to Wild Bat Populations

(Beyond Pesticides, December 10, 2020) A new test developed by a team of Mexican and Canadian scientists will help field researchers detect early warning signs of pesticide exposure in wild bat populations. There are relatively few studies on the effects of pesticide exposure on bat populations, the authors note in a study published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, but there is considerable need to monitor the health of these important species. “Access to resources might be limited for institutions with less financial support such as conservation NGOs and researchers in developing countries,” said co-author Natalia Sandoval-Herrera, PhD. “The use of early warning biomarkers such as genotoxic effects are most needed in these regions, where the use of pesticides is extensive and there is high biodiversity.” The test in question is referred to as a micronucleus test. Although it does not measure the level of pesticide contaminating a bat’s body, it can assess genotoxicity (the effect of pesticides and other chemical agents that damage genetic information in a cell). This is done by taking blood samples of bats, and testing for the presence of micronuclei formation, which are materials in blood that contain damaged chromosomes not incorporated into a cell after […]

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04
Dec

Ubiquitous Herbicide Glyphosate/Roundup Threatens Nearly All Endangered Species, Says EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, December 4, 2020) Amid the maelstrom of national political news related to the recent election, and the Trump administration’s upcoming exit, comes a release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) draft biological evaluation (BE) of glyphosate. The assessment indicates that use of this ubiquitous herbicide likely threatens nearly every animal and plant species on the U.S. list of threatened and endangered species — 93% of them, in fact. Chemical and Engineering News reports that the EPA announcement was made public only a few days after the agency also reported that atrazine (another commonly used and toxic herbicide) probably harms more than half of those species. Given the Trump EPA’s eagerness, during the past four years, to serve industry interests rather than protect human health, biodiversity, and functional ecosystems, the timing of this released evaluation during the so-called “lame duck” period is puzzling. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many herbicides, including RoundupTM, Monsanto’s (now Bayer’s) ubiquitous and widely used weed killer; it is very commonly used with genetically modified companion seeds for a variety of staple crops, as well as for weed control on managed landscapes. These seeds are genetically engineered to be glyphosate tolerant. Glyphosate-based herbicides are the most […]

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01
Oct

Court Rejects Case to Reinstate Environmental Protections on U.S. Wildlife Refuges, as Report Shows Increasing Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, October 1, 2020) A federal judge on September 24, 2020 dismissed an  environmental lawsuit seeking to reinstate a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) rule, killed by the Trump Administration, which banned the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, genetically engineered (GE) crops, and adopted a precautionary approach to pest management. The decision comes on the heels of a Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) analysis that reports a 34% increase in the pesticide use on U.S. national wildlife refuge acres over a two year period from 2016-2018. This analysis is an update to CBD’s 2018 report, No Refuge, which is the first of its kind to offer comprehensive details of agricultural pesticide spraying in national wildlife refuges. Wildlife refuges act as a sanctuary, providing habitat and protection essential for the survival and recovery of species nationwide. However, pesticide spraying in or around wildlife refuges threatens the survivability and recovery of species that reside there as many of these pesticides are highly toxic to human and animal health. Analyses like these are significant, especially since the globe is currently going through the Holocene Extinction, Earth’s 6th mass extinction, with one million species of plants and animals at risk of extinction. In 2012, […]

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30
Sep

Neonicotinoid Insecticides Trigger Neurodegeneration and Can Blind Insects at Low Doses

(Beyond Pesticides, September 30, 2020) Low doses of neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides are known to disrupt insect learning and behavior, but new science is providing a better understanding of how these effects manifest at a cellular level. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this study finds that the neonic imidacloprid binds to brain receptors, triggering oxidative stress, reducing energy levels, and causing neurodegeneration. “Although many studies have shown that low doses of insecticides can affect insect behavior, they have not uncovered whether insecticides trigger changes at the cellular and molecular levels,” said lead author Felipe Martelli, PhD, of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. “The goal of this work was to have a better understanding of the effects of low doses of the common insecticide imidacloprid at the cellular, physiological and behavioral levels.” Researchers used the fruit fly Drosophilia melanogaster, a common experimental organism, as it contains a number of nicotinic acetylchloline receptors, the primary site of action for imidaclorpid. The neonic binds to these receptors, which regulate a number of physiological processes, such muscle contraction. Binding closes these channels, leading to the range of harm researchers observed through their study. Larval fuit flies were exposed to imidacloprid […]

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17
Sep

Fashion Killer: Report Finds that the Apparel Industry is a Major Contributor to Biodiversity Loss

(Beyond Pesticides, September 17, 2020) The apparel industry becomes the latest contributor to global biodiversity loss, directly linking soil degradation, natural ecosystems destruction, and environmental pollution with apparel supply chains, according to the report, “Biodiversity: The next frontier in sustainable fashion,” by McKinsey & Company. Although there are many studies on the fashion industry’s impact on climate change, much less research discusses the impact the industry has on biodiversity. The globe is currently going through the Holocene Extinction, Earth’s 6th mass extinction, with one million species of plants and animals at risk of extinction. With the increasing rate of biodiversity loss, advocates say it is essential for government agencies to hold the fashion industry accountable for the direct (i.e., excessive agrochemical use, water consumption) and indirect (i.e., water pollution from run-off) impacts on the environment, not only to protect the well-being of animals, but humans, as well. Researchers in the study note, “We expect biodiversity to become an even greater concern for consumers and investors in the coming years. Covid-19, instead of slowing the trend, has accelerated it—perhaps because people now understand more deeply that human and animal ecosystems are interdependent. It’s time for the apparel industry, which to date has contributed heavily […]

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16
Sep

The Way Humans Alter the Environment Increases the Prevalence of Disease Carrying Mosquitoes

(Beyond Pesticides, September 16, 2020) Disease carrying mosquitoes are more likely to flourish in areas being altered by human activities, according to new research published by scientists at Oregon State University. With climate change facilitating the spread of mosquitoes into new regions throughout the world, it is critical to understand the drivers of mosquito-borne disease in order to establish effective mitigation measures. “People care a lot about what environment a lion needs to succeed in; we’ve researched that extensively. But people don’t do that with mosquitoes. We don’t understand them as a group of species and how their ecology differs between species,” said study co-author Brianna Beechler, PhD, a disease ecologist and assistant professor of research in Oregon State University’s Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine. Authors of the study note that most mosquito collection occurs opportunistically, with samples taken at known mosquito breeding sites. To better understand mosquito spatial ecology, scientists conducted paired sampling at locations inside and outside South Africa’s Kruger National Park, the largest nature preserve in the country. Each sample location inside the park was paired with another sample from a similar location (in terms of landscape and climatic conditions) in developing areas outside of the park. […]

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19
Aug

Dolphins Stranded Along Eastern Seaboard Are Diseased, Contaminated with Pesticides, Plastics, Disinfectants, and Heavy Metals

(Beyond Pesticides, August 19, 2020) Stranded dolphins and whales along the United States Eastern Seaboard contain herbicides, disinfectants, plastics, and heavy metals, research published in Frontiers of Marine Science finds. The witches brew of toxins is likely contributing to ill health among these ecologically important, intelligent, and charismatic species, and may be playing a role in the occurrence of strandings. “It’s really hard to judge, when an animal strands, if the toxins in the animal were related to why it stranded,” said James Sullivan, PhD, executive director of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Florida, which participated in the study, to UPI. “But these health problems do stack up. The animal is much more susceptible to succumbing to natural disease and environmental problems, just like humans are more likely to get ill from coronavirus if they have underlying conditions.” Dr. Sullivan’s statement rings true across a range of impacts resulting from chemical exposure or other stressors – while an individual may not be killed outright, weakening that occurs after exposure can significantly affect long term fitness in the wild. Eventually, these effects can add up to significant population declines. Unfortunately, this phenomenon in the natural world is often presented as “mysterious” […]

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13
Aug

Scientists Link Toxic Coronavirus Disinfectant Use to Wild Animal Deaths

(Beyond Pesticides, August 13, 2020) An alarming new scientific report finds that excessive, indiscriminate disinfectant use against COVID-19 puts wildlife health at risk, especially in urban settings. The analysis, published in the journal Environmental Research, finds many of the chemical ingredients in disinfectant products are “acutely toxic to both terrestrial and aquatic animals,” causing death following exposure. Additionally, these chemicals have implications for human health as infectious disease specialists at the World Health Organization (WHO) warn excessive disinfectant use can cause respiratory problems, especially for those with underlying respiratory conditions. With the total U.S. COVID-19 cases rising above 5.1 million, and the pressure to reopen public facilities, like schools, restaurants, gyms, etc., increasing, lack of proper disinfection guidelines and monitoring generates concerns surrounding heightened environmental pollution. The authors’ analysis supports the need for global leaders to regulate the spraying of disinfectants, especially in urban areas, with input from the scientific community. Wildlife are moving into urban areas at higher rates due to food availability and protection from hunting and natural dangers. However, if indiscriminate dispersal of disinfectants continues, these urban inhabitants face a whirlwind of health risks associated with exposure. The report’s analysts note, “The overuse of disinfectants may contaminate the habitats of urban wildlife. […]

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12
Aug

Atrazine Found to Harm Marsupial Health

(Beyond Pesticides, August 12, 2020) The herbicide atrazine can interfere with the health and reproduction of marsupials (including kangaroos and opossums) kangaroo, Virginia opossum, according to research published in the journal Reproduction, Fertility, and Development. Although the research focuses on the health of the Australian wallaby, the data is relevant for the only marsupial in the United States, the opossum. Unfortunately, the research is no surprise, as atrazine has a long history of displaying endocrine (hormone) disrupting properties, affecting sex and reproduction in a broad range of species. The study, under the auspices of University of Melbourne Animal Experimentation and Ethics Committee, exposed pregnant female adult wallabies to atrazine through gestation, birth, and lactation. Doses of the weedkiller were slightly higher than real world models, but according to researchers, “It is quite possible a wild animal could get such an exposure.” Researchers then euthanized the newborn wallabies to study atrazine’s effects. The gonads and phallus of young wallabies were analyzed for any physiological changes or impacts to gene expression. Researchers found changes to the gene expression necessary for basic function of the testis, and a significant reduction in phallus length. “These results demonstrate that [atrazine] exposure during gestation and lactation can […]

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16
Jul

Health and Behavioral Development of Beneficial Black Garden Ants Stunted by Low Levels of Pesticide Exposure in Soils

(Beyond Pesticides, July 16, 2020) Long-term exposure to sublethal (low-level) concentrations of the neonicotinoid in soil negatively affects the health and behavioral development of black garden ants (Lasius niger) colonies, according to a study published in Communications Biology by scientists at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Ants are one of the most biologically significant insects in the soil ecosystem, acting as ecosystem engineers. Their burrowing behavior aerates the soil, allowing oxygen and water to penetrate down to plant roots. Additionally, ants increase soil nutrient levels by importing and accumulating organic material like food and feces, thus enhancing nutrient cycling. Like many other insects, ants are unfortunate victims of the global insect apocalypse or population decline, and much research attributes the recent decline to several, including pesticide exposure. Broad-spectrum pesticides, like neonicotinoids, indiscriminately kill pests and nontarget organisms alike, as their ubiquitous use contaminates soils, even in untreated areas. This study highlights the necessity of rethinking chemical pest management, developing sustainable agricultural practices that reduce the use of agrochemicals, like pesticides, to prevent permanent environmental ecosystem damage. Researchers in the study note, “To prevent irreparable damages to functioning ecosystems, [we] suggest to either fully incorporate long-term effects in risk assessment schemes, or to make a shift […]

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29
Jun

Tell USDA to Reject Bayer-Monsanto’s Multi-Herbicide Tolerant Corn—Please sign the petition by Monday, July 6, 4pm EDT

(Beyond Pesticides, June 29, 2020) Bayer’s Monsanto is requesting non-regulated status for corn that will increase the use of drift-prone and toxic herbicides. This means that the planting of a new genetically engineered (GE) variety of corn, which requires substantial weed killer use, will not be restricted in any way. The syndrome of ‘more-corn, more-pesticides, more-poisoning, more-contamination’ must stop—as we effect an urgent systemic transformation to productive and profitable organic production practices. Because USDA is proposing to allow a new herbicide-dependent crop under the Plant Protection Act, the agency must, but does not, consider the adverse impacts associated with the production practices on other plants and the effects on the soil in which they are grown. Business as usual is not an option for a livable future. Sign the petition. Tell USDA we don’t need more use of 2,4-D, Dicamba, and other toxic herbicides associated with the planting of new GE corn. Bayer-Monsanto has developed multi-herbicide tolerant MON 87429 maize, which is tolerant to the herbicides 2,4-D, dicamba, glyphosate, glufosinate, and aryloxyphenoxypropionate (AOPP) acetyl coenzyme A carboxylase (ACCase) inhibitors (so-called “FOP” herbicides, such as quizalofop). Now the company wants this corn to be deregulated—allowing it to be planted and the herbicides […]

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26
May

EU Proposes 2030 Goal to Reduce Pesticide Use by 50% and Increase Arable Land in Organic Production by At Least 17%

(Beyond Pesticides, May 26, 2020) Across the pond, the European Commission (EC) has announced plans to protect biodiversity and build a more sustainable food system, and identified the reduction of pesticide use  and the expansion of organic agriculture as pillars of the scheme. The EC expects that the initiative, which will require EU member states’ endorsement, will advance progress on the EU goal of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, given that 10% of emissions arise from the agricultural sector. The EC’s goals are important and laudable, but Beyond Pesticides is clear: reduction of pesticide use in service of them is not an adequate strategy to ensure long-term success. Genuine success requires the elimination of the use of synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and other toxic inputs, and the transition to agricultural and land management systems that work with nature, rather than fight against it. Regenerative, organic practices are the path to a livable future, according to Beyond Pesticides. The EC, which is the executive branch of the EU, expects its plan to reduce use of pesticides by 50% by 2030; reduce use of antimicrobial chemicals, including antibiotics, in fish and animal farming by 50%; dedicate a minimum of 25% of arable […]

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23
Apr

Monarch Butterfly Larvae Adversely Affected by Pesticide Drift from Contiguous Soybean and Maize Crop Fields

(Beyond Pesticides, April 23, 2020) Pesticide spray drift from adjacent farmlands expose butterfly larvae to lethal pesticide concentrations, according to research published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry by Iowa State University (ISU). Lack of previous experimental pesticide toxicity data makes it unclear as to what degree insecticides impact monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) productivity in milkweed (Asclepias spp.) habitats near pesticide-treated pasture. This study adds weight to the idea that pesticides are playing a role in the ongoing decline of this iconic butterfly, as researchers find insecticide drift from adjacent fields to be strongly associated with larval mortality. Future monarch butterfly conservation efforts should consider risks stemming from pesticide exposure when developing butterfly rehabilitation efforts, according to advocates. As co-author Niranjana Krishnan (ISU graduate student) states, “In order to make the best decisions about how and where to plant milkweed, we first need to find basic toxicity and exposure data.”  ISU researchers established monarch butterfly colonies by collecting larvae from roadside milkweeds, which they then reared in the laboratory for incubation. To analyze the relative toxicity of various insecticides on monarch butterflies, researchers applied normal field-application rates of each pesticide at different larval development stages. Scientists used a bioassay to measure the […]

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21
Apr

California Fish and Game Commission Grants Mountain Lions Temporary Protective Status

P-22 is being treated for mange; blood tests found anti-coagulant rodenticides, commonly known as rat poison. (Beyond Pesticides, April 21, 2020) Last week, the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to give mountain lion populations in certain parts of the state temporary protective status, and initiate a year-long study to consider permanent safeguards. Mountain lions in California are under considerable threat from a range of issues, including inbreeding, human developments, and the use of hazardous rodenticides. “There’s an extraordinary urgency for action to preserve this population,” said Commissioner Samantha Murray prior to the unanimous vote, according to the OC Register. According to a study published last year in the journal Ecological Applications, mountain lion populations in Southern California’s Santa Ana and Santa Monica Mountains are at risk of local extinction within 50 years without intervention. Highways and other man-made structures have hemmed in the cougars, resulting in inbreeding that threatens genetic diversity and can result in sterile offspring.  Although specific actions under the new status are not guaranteed, it will force changes within California executive agencies. “For Caltrans, this could include building wildlife crossings over or under existing freeways or as part of freeway expansion projects,” J.P. Rose, staff […]

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16
Apr

Farmland Birds’ Exposure to Neonicotinoid-Treated Seeds (during Winter Seeding) Confirmed by Blood Plasma Tests

(Beyond Pesticides, April 16, 2020) Pesticide exposure in farmland birds is a concomitant of pesticide-treated muesli (cereal) seed commonly planted during winter months, according to research published in Science of the Total Environment by United Kingdom (UK) scientists. Not only do pesticide-treated seeds pose the highest dietary risk to birds, but pesticide-treated seeds also go underreported as farmers often lack knowledge of what pesticides are on the seeds they plant. This study emphasizes the global effects of treated seeds, and their corresponding pesticide exposure, on bird species. Future risk assessments for bird should address these implications when implementing agricultural pesticide policies.  Farmers use of treated seeds exposes farmland birds to pesticides like neonicotinoids (neonics), including clothianidin (CLO). Pesticide residues then accumulate in the birds’ blood. UK scientists examined pesticides in farmland bird blood samples to connect the field-based use of treated seeds to clothianidin exposure patterns. At the time of this study, CLO was the most widely used pesticide on treated winter cereal seeds in the UK. Scientists recorded the presence of neonicotinoid-treated seed in 39 fields of 25 farms after seeding. Camera traps monitored farmland birds’ seed consumption. To measure CLO concentration in treated seed and seedling, scientists used liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry to identify inorganic, organic, […]

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03
Apr

With Wildlife Extinction on the Rise, Trump Administration Reduces Protections for Endangered Species, Allows Greater Harm from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, April 3, 2020) In mid-March, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rolled out new rules for “biological evaluations” — assessments of pesticide risks to endangered plant and animal species that are supposed to be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The agency’s press release announcing the change is misleadingly titled: “Trump Administration Takes Major Step to Improve Implementation of the Endangered Species Act.” But as the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) reports, the “revised methods for assessing pesticide risks . . . will allow widespread harm to most of the nation’s most endangered plants and animals.” Beyond Pesticides reviewed the status of pesticide threats to endangered species in November 2019 and provides ongoing coverage of the issue. ESA requires EPA to conduct biological evaluations (BEs) of pesticides to assess their impacts on listed (endangered and threatened) species and their critical habitats. EPA’s new “Revised Method” ignores many of the ways that protected species are commonly hurt or killed by pesticides, and allows the continued marketing and use of pesticides without sensible constraints that would protect those species. CBD cites two examples of ignored impacts: downstream impacts of pesticide runoff into waterways from treated farmland, and the loss of […]

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17
Mar

Monarch Population, Under Threat from Pesticide Use and Habitat Loss, Declines by Half in One Year

(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2020) The number of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico is down 53% from last year, according to a count conducted by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Mexico. While WWF indicates the decline was expected due to unfavorable weather conditions during the species southward migration, other environmental groups are raising red flags. “Scientists were expecting the count to be down slightly, but this level of decrease is heartbreaking,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Monarchs unite us, and more protections are clearly needed for these migratory wonders and their habitat.” WWF’s count found that monarchs occupied seven acres this winter, down from 15 acres last year. Reports indicate that 15 acres is a minimum threshold needed to prevent a collapse of the butterfly’s migration and possible extinction. This was the goal stated by the 2015 White House Pollinator Task Force, which the current administration is failing to see through. While weather conditions play an important role in monarch migration from the U.S. and Canada south to Mexico, the species is under threat from a range of environmental factors. Monarchs depend on milkweed plants to lay eggs, and monarch caterpillars feed solely on […]

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26
Sep

Settlement Reached to Protect Habitat of Endangered Bumblebee

(Beyond Pesticides, September 27, 2019) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will be required to protect the habitat of the endangered rusty patched bumblebee, per a settlement with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reached earlier this week. The bee was listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2017, but USFWS has yet to designate the “critical habitat” for the bee where improved protections must be made to ensure its recovery. With the decline of both wild and managed pollinators throughout the U.S., action on this issue by federal agencies is sorely needed. According to NRDC, the settlement will require FWS to propose critical habitat by July 31, 2020, unless it makes a finding that habitat protections are not prudent. The Service must then finalize any habitat protections by July 31, 2021. Under ESA, FWS is required to designate the critical habitat of a listed species within one year of its listing if not included within its listing announcement. Thus, by drawing out this process, FWS is flouting this important action that will lead to real on-the-ground protections. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has violated federal law—again—by not designating critical habitat for the rusty patched bumble bee,” […]

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24
Sep

Study Finds Three Billion Birds Lost Since 1970: “Early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song”

(Beyond Pesticides, September 24, 2019) “Over increasingly large areas of the United States, spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song,” Rachel Carson wrote in Silent Spring in 1962. New research finds that quote has held true since it was written. Over three billion birds, or 29% of 1970s abundance have been lost in North America over the last 50 years. To make these dismal determinations, scientists drew from multiple long-term bird monitoring datasets, and a network of nearly 150 weather radars that pick up and thus have recorded the trajectory of migratory birds. Long-term surveys helped scientists determine the 3 billion bird decline, while satellite data found that migratory bird abundance has declined by 9.1% since 2007. In general, 57% of bird species are in decline, with showing the largest loss. Ninety percent of all declines were within 12 bird families: American sparrows, warblers, blackbirds, larks, Old world sparrows, swallows, nightjars, swifts, finches, flycatchers, starlings, and thrushes. Only waterfowl and wetland bird species showed any increase, 13% and 56%, respectively. Ducks, geese, and raptors all improved population levels more […]

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