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Daily News Blog

01
Aug

President Signs Weak Product Labeling Law on Genetically Engineered Ingredients, Preempts States

(Beyond Pesticides, August 1, 2016) As expected, President Obama signed into law an amendment to S. 764, the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Law, which establishes a national GMO (genetically modified organisms or genetically engineered-GE) food labeling requirement that food safety advocates say may be deceptive, preempts states from adopting stronger label language and standards, and excludes a large portion of the population without special cell phone technology. Pushed by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS), the law is being characterized by its supporters as a compromise, stronger than the original legislation, the Biotechnology Food Labeling and Uniformity Act (S.2621), which was dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act. That bill failed to reach cloture in the Senate in March. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, a big supporter of genetically engineered food production, will have two years to develop the standard, during which time it will assess the question of equitable access to the disclosure of ingredients. This new law will invalidate a stronger GMO labeling law that took effect in Vermont on July 1.

cornQRcodeThe law, signed by the President on July 29, does very little to ensure that consumers will actually be able to identify¬†genetically engineered ingredients¬†because it¬†allows for a range of labeling options that will¬†not warn consumers ‚Äď quick response (QR) codes, 800 numbers, websites and on-package labeling. This approach leaves poorer Americans at a disadvantage in accessing¬†this information, as QR code labels require the use of a smartphone to read. Allowing food companies to decide how to label enables¬†them to misinform or mislead the public about their products. We have already seen on product labels¬†big food links to websites that extol the safety of GE foods. More on company labeling can be found here.

The law has split consumer groups from major organic manufacturers who, through their trade association, the Organic Trade Association (OTA), supported passage of the Stabenow-Roberts language. According to Natural News, ‚ÄúGroups and companies that lobbied on behalf of the bill and convinced Senators that the organics industry would accept it, include the OTA, Whole Foods Market and UNFI (the country’s largest organic and natural foods wholesalers). The OTA effort was led by Board Chair Melissa Hughes of Organic Valley. Other OTA brands leading the effort include Smuckers and White Wave.‚ÄĚ Successful Farming described the supporters this way: ‚Äú[F]ood and agriculture interests nationwide were united in their support for the bill, which had the support of the Organic Trade Association as well as the conventional industry that relies on biotechnology.‚ÄĚ In characterizing the bill‚Äôs passage, it reported, ‚ÄúPresident Barack Obama today quietly s igned into law legislation that prevents states from requiring on-package labeling of genetically modified ingredients, capping a historic win for farm groups, food companies, and the biotech industry.‚ÄĚ

Earlier in the month, the¬†Just label It campaign opposed the legislation when under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives because the bill does not require ‚Äúsimple at-a-glance GMO disclosure on the [food] package,‚ÄĚ but was silent on the preemption provision overriding state authority to adopt more stringent labeling. Gary Hirshberg is quoted in The New York Times on July 14 as saying, ‚ÄúWhat today really means is that we‚Äôve left the legislative period of this battle after seven years and moved into the regulatory and marketplace phase of it, which was where it was always headed anyway.‚Äú According to the Organic Consumers Association, “The proposed bill also gives food corporations another two years before they are even required to pretend to provide consumers with any information at all about the GMO ingredients in their products. Stabenow and Roberts are determined to preempt Vermont’s law, even though major food corporations such as General Mills, Campbell’s, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Mars, Kellogg’s, ConAgra are already labeling, to comply with Vermont’s July 1 deadline for labeling.”

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) withdrew its membership from the Organic Trade Association because of what it said were misleading assertions made to its membership and the public about what the bill would accomplish. See OSGATA statement, Organic Farmer Group Dumps Organic Trade Association.

The White House We the People has pointed to the USDA organic food label as notice to consumers of food commodities that are grown without GMO ingredients. Consumer and farmer advocates have asked USDA for years to protect organic production from GMO drift, while the agency advances a ‚Äúcoexistence‚ÄĚ policy that ignores genetic contamination of organic and non-GMO food and economic loss for organic growers. Beyond Pesticides has advanced a polluter pay policy that holds the patent holder responsible for genetic drift.

Public interest groups published an ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer during the Democratic Convention, urging President Obama to veto the bill.

Beyond Pesticides believes that consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients, not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and human health. GE agriculture is associated with the increased use of herbicides ‚Äďparticularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup‚Äď that crops are developed to tolerate. In light of findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that glyphosate is a human carcinogen based on laboratory animal test data, consumers have even more cause for concern about the health risks that these products pose. A¬†research study published in the journal Environmental Health ¬†links chronic, ultra-low dose exposure to glyphosate in drinking water to adverse impacts on the health of liver and kidneys. See Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering program page for more information on GE agriculture and alternatives to this toxic system of food production.

On July 9, a public interest petition was submitted to the White House. It generated over 100,000 signers, which required a response from the White House. The petition and the July 29 (same day as the bill signing) response is below:

A “We the People” Petition

VETO THE DARK ACT (S.764)

Created July 09, 2016
109,606 SIGNED; 100,000 GOAL

On July 7, the Senate passed a bill to label genetically modified foods allowing companies to use QR codes instead of words on the package. It discriminates against low income families, minorities, mothers, seniors, the disabled & those without smartphones.

In 2007 President Obama said, ‚ÄúWe‚Äôll let folks know whether their food has been genetically modified because Americans should know what they‚Äôre buying.‚ÄĚ

ALL Americans should know what they’re buying, not just the privileged. Only 21% of Americans surveyed have scanned QR codes; QR code software must be downloaded. Just 27% of seniors & 50% of low income Americans own smartphones. 42% of Blacks & 36% of Latinos have had to let their smartphone service lapse. President Obama: Stand up for ALL Americans. Veto this discriminatory bill.

The White House responded (see below) to the petition on its website and by email on Friday, July 29, 2016.

________________________________________
From: The We the People Team <[email protected]>
Sent: Friday, July 29, 2016 3:59 PM
Subject: An update on labeling:

An update on labeling:
In recent years, Americans have expressed increased interest in understanding how their food is produced — including whether it was produced using bioengineering (sometimes referred to as genetically modified organisms or GMOs).

This Administration is well aware of that interest, and we take it seriously.

As mentioned in this petition, earlier in July, both the Senate and the House passed a bill to require food manufacturers to disclose whether food includes ingredients that have been bioengineered. The legislation provides flexibility for companies to choose from the following options:

‚ÄĘ A text statement or symbol directly on the food packaging itself indicating bioengineered ingredients
‚ÄĘ A digital QR (Quick Response) code that customers can scan with their smartphone if they want to learn about bioengineered ingredients
‚ÄĘ Smaller companies could also offer a phone number or URL on the package that consumers can access for more info

Before the new disclosure program is put in place, the law calls for a study to be conducted to assess whether challenges exist related to consumers’ access to electronic disclosures. If the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) determines that consumers would not have sufficient access to the information, the bill directs USDA to provide for alternative methods of disclosure. USDA will do everything possible to ensure that the program provides information in an equitable way.

Today, the President signed this legislation. While there is broad consensus that foods produced using bioengineering are safe, we appreciate the bipartisan effort to address consumers’ interest in knowing more about their food, including whether it includes bioengineered ingredients. You can learn more about this legislation here or email questions to [email protected]

Through the USDA’s National Organic Program, consumers can already identify food that was produced without any genetically engineered ingredients. Whenever you see the USDA Organic seal (seen here), it means that the food was grown without the use of prohibited pesticides, genetic engineering, synthetic fertilizers, or irradiation.

Your voice and input will be important throughout the implementation process of this legislation and in helping design the best disclosure program possible.

USDA has established a working group to develop a timeline for rulemaking and to ensure an open and transparent process for effectively establishing this new program. We are committed to providing multiple opportunities for engagement, such as listening sessions and the opportunity for the public to provide written comments. This process will ensure you have the opportunity to provide the Executive Branch with input on the attributes of the bioengineered food disclosure program as it is developed.

We look forward to your continuous engagement and will keep you posted here as these opportunities arise.

— The We the People Team

Industry Response

The Vermont Retail and Grocers Association sent the following message to its members on July 29:

Vermont GMO Law Preempted by New Federal Law
[July 29, 2016]
Politico reported late today that President Obama signed into law a new federal bill governing GMO disclosure on food products, which preempts Vermont’s first in the nation GMO labeling law. Vermont’s Act 120 and the potential of other states passing similar but not identical labeling initiatives, were motivating factors by Congress to establish a new federal law on GMO disclosures.

There are a number of issues surrounding Vermont’s law that still need to be resolved. VRGA will continue to update our members on compliance related issues with the GMO regulations. The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has not updated their guidance on enforcement and are looking at various legal options that might be available to the state.

In the meantime, we have received assurances from the AG’s office that labels changed for Vermont’s law can be used for the next few years at least until the federal rules take effect. With all the consumer interest in this issue, several food manufacturers, like Campbell’s and Mars, have already indicated they will continue with on-pack labeling disclosures for the time being.

USDA has two years to develop regulations to implement the new federal statute, which requires products be labeled with disclosures either on packaging or online.

On Preemption of State Authority to Exceed Federal Standards

Those who argue for federal preemption of state environmental or public health laws say it creates needed uniformity. However, typically, states do not exceed federal standards unless there is a weakness in the public health or environmental protections. Throughout the history of pesticide regulation by the federal government, action at critical times is preceded by state action. Pesticides, such as DDT, DBCB, chlordane, EDB, and others were first banned by states, followed by federal action. Similarly, states have adopted requirements for posting and notice, school integrated pest management, field reentry restrictions for farmworkers, and other standards that more stringent than federal law. Recently, the states of Connecticut and Maryland banned the sale of neonicotinoid insecticides to consumers because of the overwhelming science linking their use to pollinator decline and the lack of federal (EPA) action. In fact, because the federal pesticide law has upheld the right of states to exceed federal standards for pesticide use, stronger federal law has resulted over time. As a result, Beyond Pesticides has maintained that it is essential to uphold the basic principle that states and localities must not have their authority to adopt more restrictive standards preempted by the federal government. This position states that the role of the federal government is to establish a regulatory floor, not a ceiling.

Going Forward

Beyond Pesticides will closely follow this issue as USDA implements the GMO labeling law and is working to ensure that organic standards are strengthened to protect organic production from GMO contamination and that the organic label reflects this. It is critical that the burden of contamination fall on the party responsible for contamination and that the organic industry stand up for organic producers and consumers, rather than accepting contamination as unavoidable, either by ignoring the problem or accepting levels of genetic drift. See Beyond Pesticides’ comments to the National Organic Standards Board. See Beyond Pesticides’ organic webpage.

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

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29
Jul

Study Adds to Findings that Link Prenatal Pesticide Exposure to Lower IQs


(Beyond Pesticides, July 29, 2016)
 A study released earlier this week finds lower IQ (intelligence quotient) in children born to mothers who during their pregnancy were living in close proximity to chemical-intensive agricultural lands where organophosphate pesticides were used. This study adds to the body of scientific literature that links prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides with lower IQ’s in children.

Organophosphate pesticides, a relatively older generation o13486470703_7f6d152fe7_bf highly neurotoxic pesticides still widely used on farms in California, have been associated with a broad range of diseases in both children and adults.  This latest study supports health and environmental advocates’ call to eliminate these toxic pesticides in agriculture and move toward safer, sustainable, and organic management practices.

The study, titled Prenatal Residential Proximity to Agricultural Pesticide Use and IQ in 7-Year-Old Children, looks at 283 women and children from the agricultural Salinas Valley who are enrolled in the long-term Center for the Health of Mothers and Children in Salinas (CHAMACOS) study. Specifically, researchers looked at pregnant women living within one kilometer of agricultural fields where organophosphate pesticides were used. They found that at age 7, the children of those women had declines of approximately two IQ points and three verbal reasoning points per 522 pounds of pesticides applied nearby. The researchers made sure to point out that it has been estimated that each one point decrease in IQ decreases worker productivity by approximately 2%, and reduces lifetime earnings of $18,000 (in 2005 market standards).

Organophosphates are pesticides that were used in World War II as nerve agents. As potent neurotoxicants, organophosphates are extremely harmful to the nervous system, give that they are cholinesterase inhibitors and bind irreversibly to the active site of an enzyme essential for normal nerve impulse transmission. A 2015 study, which also used participants from CHAMACOS, found that a decrease in lung function in children was linked to exposure to organophosphates early in life. Another 2015 study found that prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos, a potent organophosphate, is linked to tremors in children. Although organophosphate use is on the decline in the U.S., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has allowed the continued registration of many of these products. As a result of a lawsuit filed by environmental groups, the agency proposed a rule that would remove chlorpyrifos’ agricultural uses. However, EPA is not expected to finalize the rule until December 2016. In 2000, EPA announced the phase-out of residential uses of chlorpyrifos, with the exception of public health mosquito uses and golf courses.

This new study also found similar cognitive declines for three other classes of pesticides: neonicotinoids, pyrethroids, and manganese fungicides. Unfortunately, because the pesticides were almost always used in combination, it is impossible to determine whether the cognitive deficits were caused by organophosphate use alone, or by the interactive effect with other classes of pesticides. This adds to the¬†growing body of research¬†on the interactive effects of pesticides on human health and the environment. 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 ‚ÄĒfrequently used together in lawn products like Weed B Gone Max and Trillion‚ÄĒ on the mother‚Äôs ability to successfully bring young to birth and weaning. Researchers looked at pesticide concentrations diluted to levels that are considered ‚Äúsafe‚ÄĚ 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. For more information on pesticide synergy, see our 2004 article, ‚ÄúSynergy: The Big Unknowns of Pesticide Exposure.‚ÄĚ For information on individual pesticide health effects, see our¬†Pesticide Gateway.

Beyond Pesticides has long been critical of EPA’s risk assessment process, which fails to look at chemical mixtures and synergistic effects (or inert ingredients) in common pesticide products, as well as certain health endpoints (such as endocrine disruption), disproportionate effects to vulnerable population groups, and regular noncompliance with product label directions. These deficiencies contribute to its severe limitations in defining real world poisoning, as captured by epidemiologic studies in Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

Ultimately, the widespread adoption of organic management is necessary to protect consumers and the environment in the long-term. Beyond Pesticides has long sought a broad-scale marketplace transition to organic practices that disallows the use of toxic synthetic pesticides by law and encourages a systems-based approach that is protective of health and the environment. This approach never allows the use of highly toxic synthetic pesticides, let alone toxic organophosphates, and advances a viable, scalable path forward for growing food. Find out more about why organic is the right path forward for the future of farming by going to Beyond Pesticides’ organic agriculture webpage.

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives, Californians for Pesticide Reform

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

 

 

 

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28
Jul

Neonicotinoid Insecticides Affect Bee Reproduction

(Beyond Pesticides, July 28, 2016)  Led by the Institute of Bee Health at the University of Bern, new research finds evidence that two commonly used neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides have a significant adverse effect on the reproductive ability of male honey bees (drones) and queen bees in managed and wild colonies. The study, Neonicotinoid insecticides can serve as inadvertent insect contraceptives, published in Royal Society Journal Proceedings B, focuses on the differences in lifespan and viability of sperm throughout exposed and unexposed drones.Pollinationn

Since 2006, honey bees and other pollinators in the U.S. and throughout the world have incurred ongoing and rapid population declines from hive abandonment and bee die-off in a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). Neonicotinoids, such as imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin, have been found by a growing body of scientific literature to be linked to the CCD phenomenon and pollinator decline in general. While science has become increasingly clear that these pesticides play a critical role in contributing to the ongoing decline of bee health, this is one of the first to look at how these chemicals specifically effect the fertility of male honeybees.

In the study, scientists randomly assigned honeybee colonies consisting of drones and workers (non-reproductive female bees) to either a control treatment or an insecticide treatment consisting of¬†thiamethoxam¬†and¬†clothianidin. The colonies were exposed to these neonics at ‚Äúfield-realistic concentrations found in plant pollen.‚ÄĚ Drones were assessed for their sperm quantity and viability once they reached sexual maturity, typically around 9-14 days old. When compared, the test drones yielded 39 percent less living sperm than the control group. These drones also had a significant difference in sperm viability, with the insecticide exposed drones having anywhere from 8 to 11.3 percent lower sperm viability than the control drones.

The reproductive ability of male honey bees helps ensure the overall health of the colony. Being able to successfully mate with the queen bee, an essential part of a drone’s role, relies on the health of their sperm.

‚ÄúThe process of the queen‚Äôs mating flight is a one-time thing so it‚Äôs really important that she collects plenty of quality sperm, if not, then worker bees in the hive will quickly sense that the queen is ineffective and kill her. We like to call it ‚Äėgame of drones,‚Äô‚ÄĚ said lead researcher Lars Straub, a Ph.D. student at the University of Bern, to¬†New Scientist.

The sperm that the queen honey bee collects from different drones provides genetic diversity within a colony, helping to protect the hive from the impacts of disease, parasitism, and different environmental changes.

Replacing the queen honey bee can only be done successfully during certain periods of the year and, because of this, colony growth significantly slows down after losing a queen, or it stops altogether. In 2015, study co-author Geoffrey Williams, MD, Ph.D, and senior bee researcher at the University of Bern led another study with an international team of researchers to prove how neonicotinoid exposure results in profound negative impacts to the health of honey bee queens. This study, Neonicotinoid pesticides severely affect honey bee queens, found that queen bees exposed to neonics are more likely to not lay worker eggs, a key indicator of queen health and mating success. In light of this, it may be inferred that individual bee mortality due to neonicotinoid insecticides results in an adverse positive feedback response from the queen that causes detrimental effects on the long-term success of the colony.

The potential link brought up between colony mortality and health of the queen bee caused researchers in the most recent study to point out the urgent need for further investigation into the matter.

The results in the new study demonstrate that exposure to neonicotinoids also significantly reduces the lifespan of drones. During the study, researchers found that the exposed drones had a mortality rate almost double that of the control drones. Considering how long it takes male honeybees to reach sexual maturity, a decrease in longevity could potentially deny neonicotinoid-exposed drones even the chance to mate with the queen bee.

This new study comes on the heels of another¬†study published earlier this year¬†in¬†PLOS One¬†that reported a high rate of U.S. honey bee colony decline coinciding with queen failure linked to drones’ dead sperm. “Queen failure is a big problem and this helps explain it,” said U.S. Department of Agriculture bee scientist Jeff Pettis, Ph.D. in an interview with the¬†Associated Press. Dr. Pettis was not a contributor to the new study, but was lead author of the¬†PLOS¬†study on queen health earlier this year. “It’s not the queens themselves, it’s the drones. It’s significant,” he said.

This new study provides even more weight to the scientific evidence that neonicotinoids play a critical role in the ongoing decline of bees and other pollinators. A USDA funded study published in July 2013 found that exposure to the vast array of chemical combinations found in honey bee hives can weaken bees’ immune systems, increasing their susceptibility to parasites and other pathogens. A 2015 study defined a linear relationship between neonicotinoids and the decline in insect pollinators due to brain dysfunction. With this impact, although bumblebees are unlikely to die, they are likely to encounter difficulty with their learning and memory. Exposed bees will have greater difficulty, for instance, in recognizing the smell of a flower, or how to navigate back to their colony.

Neonicotinoids affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and eventual death. These 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. Pesticide exposure can impair both detoxification mechanisms and immune responses, rendering bees more susceptible to viruses, parasites, and other diseases, and leading to devastating bee losses.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action to protect these beneficial organisms, it is left up to advocates and consumers to ensure that we provide safe havens for pollinators by creating pesticide-free habitat and educating others to do the same. Take action by calling on EPA to suspend neonicotinoids now. You can also declare your garden, yard, park or other space as pesticide-free and pollinator friendly. It does not matter how large or small your pledge is, as long as you contribute to the creation of safe pollinator habitat. Sign the pledge today! Need ideas on creating the perfect pollinator habitat? The Bee Protective Habitat Guide can tell you which native plants are right for your region. For more information on what you can do, visit our BEE Protective page.

Source: National Geographic, Associated Press

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

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27
Jul

Colombia Cautiously Declares End to Mosquito-Borne Zika Epidemic

(Beyond Pesticides, July 27, 2016) In South America, Colombia has officially declared an end to its Zika epidemic. The country, which previously had the highest cases of suspected Zika virus infection after Brazil, with a total of more than 99,721 people infected since September 2015 have registered a drop in the number of infections to 600 new cases a week, down significantly from a peak of more than 6,000 cases a week in February, according to health officials. Fernando Ruíz, M.D., Deputy Minister of Health and Service Provision in Colombia, said the numbers signaled that the epidemic had given way to an endemic phase of the disease, in which it continues to be present but spreads much more slowly.

This news arrives following the publication of Zika Virus Disease in Colombia ‚ÄďPreliminary Report, which suggests that infe
ctions late in pregnancy may pose less risk to the fetus than widely feared. The report follows thousands of women in Colombia who have had symptoms consistent with Zika virus disease during pregnancy to try to better understand the risk the virus poses. At the tiAedes_albopictus_on_human_skinme of the report, the country had only seven official cases of microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size, related to Zika infection.

The Zika virus, which is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus), generally causes no symptoms or only mild illness on its own in most healthy adults, but can be more hazardous to pregnant woman, as it has been linked to microcephaly, and Guillain-Barré syndrome, which causes temporary paralysis in adults. Meanwhile, many commonly used mosquito pesticides, such as permethrin, resmethrin, and malathion, are all associated with human and ecological health risks, especially among people with compromised immune systems, chemically sensitized people, pregnant women, and children with respiratory problems, such as asthma.

The Colombian Instituto Nacional de Salud (INS) began official surveillance for Zika in August 2015, and in early October 2015, a Zika outbreak was declared after the first cluster of laboratory-confirmed cases was identified in nine patients from northern Colombia. By April 2, 2016, a total of 11,944 pregnant women with Zika were reported in the country, with 1,484 (12%) of these cases confirmed by means of reverse-transcriptase‚Äďpolymerase-chain-reaction (RT-PCR) assay. In a subgroup of 1,850 pregnant women, more than 90% of women who were reportedly infected during the third trimester had given birth, and no infants with apparent abnormalities, including microcephaly have been identified.

However, the data are preliminary, cautions Margaret Honein, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, one of the authors of the report. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs somewhat reassuring‚ÄĚ that few severe problems have appeared in the babies born so far, Dr. Honein says, ‚Äúbut this is by no means final.‚ÄĚ

Data from other countries have suggested that the virus is most dangerous to a fetus early in pregnancy, so experts warn that Colombia may still face a wave of birth defects in the coming months. In fact, Dr. Ruíz predicts a spike of cases of in September and October, when pregnant women infected during the peak of the epidemic are due to give birth. But, these numbers are still expected to be much lower than initial projections. According to The Guardian, the Colombian government projected it could see some 500-600 cases of Zika-related microcephaly but later revised the projection downward and maintains an estimate of 100-300 cases.

While mosquitoes can pose serious public health threats when they carry diseases like Zika, West Nile virus and others, it’s important to not let fear lead on management approaches, and the decision to risk exposing vulnerable populations to potentially harmful diseases caused by mosquitoes or to chronic or deadly illnesses caused by pesticides.

Many experts agree that an efficient mosquito management strategy emphasizes public awareness, prevention, and monitoring methods. Combating mosquito-borne diseases should include good surveillance and scientific understanding for controlling mosquito populations, including a focus on eliminating or managing breeding areas, utilizing biological controls, exclusion from indoor environments with screening, and repellents. According to Dino Martins, PhD, a Kenyan entomologist, the explosion of mosquitoes in urban areas, which is driving the Zika crisis, is caused by a lack of natural diversity that would otherwise keep mosquito populations under control, and the proliferation of waste and lack of disposal in some areas which provide artificial habitat for breeding mosquitoes.

Beyond Pesticides’ Public Health Mosquito Management Strategy (see also mosquito management strategy summary) is an integrated approach that emphasizes education, aggressive removal of standing water (which are breeding areas), larval control, monitoring, and surveillance for both mosquito-borne illness and pesticide-related illness. Control of disease-carrying mosquitoes can be successful when emphasis is placed on public education and preventive strategies.Community based programs should encourage residents to employ these effective techniques, focus on eliminating breeding sites on public lands, and promote monitoring and action levels in order to determine what, where, and when control measures might be needed. Through education of proper cultural controls, and least-toxic and cost effective biological alternatives, the use of hazardous control methods, such as toxic pesticides, can be eliminated.

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

Sources: The Guardian, Science Magazine

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

 

 

 

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26
Jul

Health Canada Moves to Limit Exposure to Boric Acid Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, July 26, 2016) Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) announced this week it will cancel certain formulations of boric acid-based pesticides. The announcement reflects the latest science showing that certain products, such as those in dust formulations or
open baits, put residents at inhalation and ingestion exposure risk, respectively, to the naturally occurring element boron and borate
compounds. PRMA’s decision is part of the Health Canada’s registration review of boric acid, which, like that of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is conducted every 15 years.

PRMA is cancelling the following uses of boric acid and similar compounds

  • All domestic dust formulation products
  • All domestic granular formulation products
  • Domestic solution formulation products, with the exception of enclosed bait stations and spot treatment with gel formulations

For other uses, PRMA has amended label requirements to better protect handlers and users of the pesticide. For example, the agency will update label directions to specify that boron products can only be applied to areas inaccessible to children anhealthcanadad pets.

Jane Philpott, Minister of Health in Canada said in a press release, “even natural ingredients like boric acid can pose a risk to Canadians. That’s why Health Canada looks at all pesticide ingredients to make sure we are not being exposed to levels that could be a concern. These steps, including cancelling some registrations and introducing new, more stringent label requirements for others, are science-based interventions that will help protect Canadians.”

Beyond Pesticides agrees with PRMA‚Äôs determination on certain boric acid uses. While boric acid provides a good alternative to the use of highly toxic and volatile baits for control of pests like ants and cockroaches, it should never be placed in areas accessible by children and pets. Boric acid‚Äôs value as a bait or gel for household pest infestations lies in its non-volatility. While most synthetic insecticides ‚Äúoff-gas‚ÄĚ or evaporate into the air and can be easily inhaled by homeowners, boric acid baits are below the level of measurable detection in terms of its ability to evaporate once applied. Alternative dusts and powers that are not of similar toxicological concern are readily available in the market in¬†the form of diatomaceous earth or silica aerogels. However, even though these products contain no potentially toxic chemical compounds and act solely through desiccation, they also should be applied with extreme care in areas out of reach of children and pets, as Beyond Pesticides webpage on these products confirm.

Boric acid is highly toxic to skin and eyes, and has concerns regarding reproductive toxicity, and birth and developmental impacts. PRMA notes the occurrence testicular toxicity of boric acid across a range of mammalian species.

Even least-toxic pesticides like boric acid and diatomaceous earth should be used as a last resort, after structural, mechanical, and cultural practices have been attempted and proven ineffective. Rather that jumping to any pesticidal product, be it natural or synthetic, simple mechanical fixes, like doorsweeps, caulking and sealing cracks and crevices, a well-fitted trash can lid, and diligent cleaning, can prevent pest infestations in the first place, and isolate and contain ongoing problems. For a step-by-step guide on how to control common indoor pest problems without pesticides, see Beyond Pesticides ManageSafe database.

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

Source: Health Canada Press Release, PMRA Re-evaluation Decision, Boric Acid and its Salts

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25
Jul

Oregon Prohibits 14 Horticultural Products Used in Marijuana Production, Not Labeled as Containing Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides July 25, 2016) The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) last week issued 12 notices of statewide detainment and stop sale and removal orders for horticultural pesticide products that contain active ingredients not listed on the label. The orders call for the product manufacturers to immediately cease all sales, offers of sale, or other distribution in Oregon. This is the latest effort by a state with a legalized marijuana market to try to curb the use of illegal pesticides in cannabis production, a practice that poses potential health threats to consumers, creating a regulatory challenge for state officials in states that have legalOregon_s-Bipolar-Cannabis-Legalizationized marijuana for medicinal and or recreational purposes. Because the U.S. government classifies cannabis as a narcotic, the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) does not register pesticide products for use in its production, leaving consumers exposed to hazardous pesticides through inhalation, ingestion, and dermal absorption without any evaluation of potential health effects.

The products in question are commonly used in horticulture and hydroponics, including cannabis production. The 12 notices cover 14 products sold in Oregon that were also identified by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) in late June as containing undeclared pesticide active ingredients. In an attempt to try and protect human health and safety, ODA issued its orders and is currently sampling and testing these products sold in Oregon.

The latest move by Oregon to curb illegal pesticide use on marijuana follows¬†widespread cannabis recalls¬†in the City of Denver,¬†and actions from Colorado‚Äôs Governor¬†to declare pesticide-tainted cannabis ‚Äúa threat to public safety‚ÄĚ is a step in the right direction after ODA released a concerning list of pesticide products available for use on marijuana earlier this year that included products that violates the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Oregon‚Äôs¬†list, which contains 257 pesticide products, aligns with similar product lists published by¬†Washington State¬†and¬†Colorado, and raises concerns over the lack of health evaluations of public exposure to the pesticides used. The list construes broad label language to allow the use of pesticide products that have not been specifically tested for use on marijuana, despite the fact that the EPA has not registered or reviewed any pesticide product for use on cannabis. For example, one ingredient approved through these standards that raises a red flag when it comes to human health and safety is the synergist¬†piperonyl butoxide¬†(PBO).

PBO is a highly toxic substance that causes a range of short- and long-term effects, including cancer and adverse impacts on liver function and the nervous system. It is commonly used as a synergist in pyrethrin-based pesticide products, many of which can be found on ODA‚Äôs allowed pesticide list. The inclusion of an active ingredient like PBO highlights the data gaps that arise when pesticides are approved using broad and/or unspecific label language as opposed to undergoing full review by EPA.¬† According to CFR ¬ß180.1001(b)(4), while PBO is currently exempt from a tolerance (allowed residue) requirement ‚Äúwhen applied to growing crops in accordance with good agricultural practices,‚ÄĚ EPA, based on the results of limited field trials, has¬†recommended the revocation¬†of this tolerance exemption, an action it still plans to take after the assessment of additional residue data. It is unknown whether PBO was one of the active ingredients not labeled in the 14 products that Oregon prohibited for sale, but the inclusion of any active ingredient that has not been properly tested and registered for use on cannabis has raised serious public health and statutory and regulatory compliance concerns, spurring¬†ODA to¬†stop the sale of any marijuana treated with those pesticides.

With this action, use of these pesticide products should stop growers and processors to stop the marketing of treated cannabis, triggering action by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) for failure to pass pesticide testing requirements. Failing the test and using any of the since-banned products, warn regulators in both states, could lead to products being confiscated and destroyed. Neither Washington nor Oregon has taken the most extreme measures, however, and as of now, ODA has issued pesticide advisories to growers of all crops and retailers advising them to discontinue using or selling the products. In addition, products within Oregon or transported into the state by any type of business transaction or other method are currently detained.

Beyond Pesticides supports criteria that limits allowed pesticides to those that are exempt from registration under federal pesticide law and non-pesticidal materials permitted for use in organic production. Beyond Pesticides advocates that growers and states seek certification of marijuana under organic standards required by independent organic certifiers, which establish compliance with organic practices and provide assurances to consumers that hazardous pesticides are not use in its production or processing. As outlined in a letter sent from Beyond Pesticides to Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) officials, adhering exclusively to pesticides allowed under 25(b) of FIFRA is the best way to avoid any legal ramifications for unregistered pesticide use, as well as protect workers, consumers and the environment from the unstudied side effects that may result from the use of toxic pesticides on marijuana crops. With this approach, Beyond Pesticides urges growers to develop an organic system plan that encourages pest prevention, and eliminating pest-conducive conditions. Implementing this approach, advocates say, will ensure the sustained growth of cannabis production that protects public health and the environment.

For more information and background on 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: Oregon Department of Agriculture 

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22
Jul

Walmart Takes Limited Step to Eliminate Toxic Ingredients in Products It Sells

(Beyond Pesticides, July 22, 2016) This week, Walmart released the names of eight chemicals, including one pesticide, classified as High Priority Chemicals (HPCs), which it has asked suppliers to remove from their products. The HPCs are a subset of Walmart’s list of Priority Chemicals (PCs), which is compiled from chemicals identified as hazardous by a number of state, national, and international authorities. In 2013, Walmart released a Sustainable Chemistry Policy and pledged to increase transparency of product ingredients, advance safer formulations of products, and to attain U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Safer Choice certification for Walmart’s own private brand products. After three years, Walmart has not hit the mark on many of its stated goals.

Bubbles in orange liquid soapThe transparency provision of the Sustainable Chemistry Policy requires all suppliers to provide full online ingredient disclosure beginning January 2015 and Walmart Priority Chemicals on packaging beginning January 2018. Walmart says that 78% of suppliers responding reported disclosure for all products. For their goal of advancing safer formulations of products, Walmart focused on reducing the HPCs.

Importantly, seven of the eight high priority chemicals are undisclosed so-called ‚Äúinert‚ÄĚ ingredients in pesticide products, which should be disclosed under the policy. However, the disclosure occurs through the ‚Äúsupplier‚Äôs‚ÄĚ website, and these ingredients do not appear to be revealed. The eight high priority chemicals are [* indicates use as an undisclosed ‚Äúinert‚ÄĚ ingredient in pesticide products]: propylparaben* and butylparaben (paraben family of preservatives used by the food, pharmaceutical, and personal care product industries), nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs)* (surfactants used in industrial cleaning products, processes, and paints), formaldehyde* (mainly used in production of resins, such as particle board and coatings), dibutyl phthalate* (plasticizer and an additive to adhesives and printing inks), diethyl phthalate* (plasticizer), triclosan (an antimicrobial disinfectant and thus a pesticide active ingredient), and toluene* (a solvent¬†used in making paints, paint thinners, fingernail polish, lacquers, adhesives, and rubber and in some printing and leather tanning processes.).

Walmart reported a reduction in the total weight of HPCs and PCs in products sold (total pounds of HPCs going out the door) ‚Äď HPCs dropped by 95%, and PCs dropped by 45%. Frequency of use (number of products on store shelves that contain HPCs) did not have such a reduction, leaving consumers vulnerable to the effects of these dangerous chemicals through a broader exposure route. Overall, the percent of products containing HPCs dropped by only 3% (to 16%), while the percent of suppliers using HPCs actually increased to 39%. The percent of products containing PCs also went up one percentage point, to 80%.

Even exposure to small amounts of toxic chemicals can have dangerous sublethal effects. Triclosan, which is one of the eight high priority chemicals that Walmart has singled out, will still be allowed in toothpaste products for treating plaque. Allowing consumers to be exposed to this chemical is unacceptable, as triclosan is associated  with health effects such as endocrine disruption, cancer, impacts on fetal development and bacterial resistance.

In the past, public pressure, led by Beyond Pesticides and other groups, has contributed to growing awareness of the dangers of triclosan‚Äôs use. As a result, several major manufacturers have already taken steps to remove the chemical –including Johnson & Johnson,¬†Procter & Gamble¬†and¬†Colgate-Palmolive, which reformulated its popular line of liquid soaps, but continues to formulate Total¬ģ toothpaste with triclosan. Minnesota became the first state to ban the toxic antibacterial, announcing that retailers would no longer be able to sell cleaning products that contain triclosan, effective January 2017. In June 2015, the agency responsible for chemical oversight in the European Union announced that triclosan is toxic and bioaccumulative, and will be phased-out for hygienic uses and replaced by more suitable alternatives. According to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), ‚Äú[N]o safe use could be demonstrated for the proposed use of triclosan.‚ÄĚ

In a statement to Bloomberg, Mike Schade, who heads the retail campaign at Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, made clear that Walmart should expand its list of high-priority chemicals, given its power ‚Äúto transform the marketplace and bring safer products into the hands of consumers across the world.‚ÄĚ Walmart has created a system of measuring and tracking chemicals, but has fallen short in taking real, meaningful action to reduce the number of products on its shelves that contain those dangerous chemicals.

Walmart has also reported that it has hit snags in making progress with Safer Choice certification, and has not released any quantitative data as of this writing. In order to earn a Safer Choice Standard label, products must have chemical ingredient formulations that ‚Äúfunction in making the product work,‚ÄĚ which allows formulators ‚Äúto use those ingredients with the lowest hazard in their functional class.‚ÄĚ Safer Chemical Ingredients are listed on EPAs website.

Beyond Pesticides advocates for products that eliminate¬†ingredients linked to human health or environmental hazards. The recently amended chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), embraces a risk assessment approach to regulating toxic chemicals, similar to the regulation of pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which has proven to allow the unnecessary use of toxic chemicals under a ‚Äúhealth-based safety standard‚ÄĚ ‚Äďuses for which there are safer, less-toxic practices and products. Risk assessment fails to look at chemical mixtures, synergistic effects, certain health endpoints (such as endocrine disruption), disproportionate effects to vulnerable population groups, and regular noncompliance with product label directions. In the end, risks may be allowed that are unnecessary, given the availability of less or non-toxic alternatives. These deficiencies contribute to its severe limitations in defining real world poisoning, as captured by epidemiologic studies in the database. Beyond Pesticides has long criticized risk assessment methodology,¬†encouraging an alternatives assessment which creates a regulatory trigger to adopt alternatives and drive the market to go green.

Amendments to TSCA, adopted by Congress last month, also limits, or preempts, state authority to restrict substances that are under review, diminishing the right of states and communities to establish protective laws, regulations, and standards in the face of involuntary toxic chemical exposure.

For consumers who are concerned about the safety of the ingredients in products they use, the Safer Choice label is a limited, but important, step in improving consumer transparency and education. We encourage all consumers to read the label of all cleaning products and opt to choose products that carry the Safer Choice label. Click here to see examples of Safer Choice Products. You can also visit Beyond Pesticides’ Safer Choice page for other non-toxic suggestions on how to avoid hazardous home, garden, community, and food use pesticides.

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

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21
Jul

Mixtures of Multiple Pesticide Ingredients in Products Not Evaluated by EPA for Elevated Toxicity

(Beyond Pesticides, July 21, 2016) An investigative report released yesterday by Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) concludes¬†that, over the past six years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved nearly 100 pesticide products with chemical mixtures that elevate the formulations’¬†toxicity, but are not specifically evaluated¬†by the agency. CBD finds that these formulations add¬†more stress to already-jeopardized pollinators and rare plants. The report Toxic Concoctions: How the EPA Ignores the Dangers of Pesticide Cocktails, highlights a long-running blind spot within EPA‚Äôs pesticide evaluation program, which Beyond Pesticides has long sounded the alarm on: the risk associated with combining mixtures of different pesticide active ingredients, which independent science shows may be more toxic than a single active ingredient by itself, also known as pesticide synergism. The mixtures occur as a result of multiple ingredients in individual products or¬†because of exposure to multiple pesticide product residues in food, air, water, and land areas, such as lawns, playing fields, and parks.

sprayer‚ÄúIt‚Äôs alarming to see just how common it‚Äôs been for the EPA to ignore how these chemical mixtures might endanger the health of our environment,‚ÄĚ said Nathan Donley, Ph.D., a scientist with the CBD, and author of the report. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs pretty clear that chemical companies knew about these¬†potential dangers, but the EPA never bothered to demand this information from them or dig a little deeper to find it for themselves.‚ÄĚ

Dr. Donley’s research was fueled in part from the fact that  EPA did not analyze patent applications for toxicity data back in 2014, when despite opposition from many farmers and environmental groups, the agency approved Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist Duo, an herbicide that incorporates a mix of glyphosate and a formulation of 2,4-D, for use on genetically engineered (GE) crops. This approval was done before a patent application from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Database was discovered, which included information on the potential toxic synergistic effects these two ingredients have on non-target plants, including endangered species. This finding led EPA to ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate its approval of Enlist Duo, due to a lack of proper knowledge and evaluation of the adverse effects the product had on the environment.

The report specifically looks at recently approved patent applications for four major agrichemical companies (Bayer, Dow, Monsanto, and Syngenta) for pesticide products containing two or more active ingredients. Among the key findings in the examination of approvals for the four companies:

  • 69 percent of these products (96 out of 140) had at least one patent application that claimed or demonstrated synergy between the active ingredients in the product;
  • A breakdown of the patent synergy claims by company indicates that 71 percent (35/49), 46 percent (12/26), 40 percent (2/5) and 78 percent (47/60) of Bayer, Dow, Monsanto and Syngenta products had patent applications that claimed synergy between at least two of the active ingredients in the product, respectively;
  • 72 percent of the identified patent applications that claimed or demonstrated synergy involved some of the most highly used pesticides in the United States, including glyphosate, atrazine, 2,4-D, dicamba and the neonicotinoids thiamethoxam, imidacloprid and clothianidin, among others.

The report adds to the growing body of research on the interactive effects of pesticides on human health and the environment. 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 ‚ÄĒfrequently used together in lawn products like Weed B Gone Max and Trillion‚ÄĒ on the mother‚Äôs ability to successfully bring young to birth and weaning. Researchers looked at pesticide concentrations diluted to levels that are considered ‚Äúsafe‚ÄĚ 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. Research by Tyrone Hayes, PhD,¬†professor of integrative biology at UC has compared the impact of exposure to realistic combinations of small concentrations of pesticides on frogs, finding that frog tadpoles exposed to mixtures of pesticides took longer to metamorphose to adults and were smaller at metamorphosis than those exposed to single pesticides, with consequences for frog survival. The study revealed that ‚Äúestimating ecological risk and the impact of pesticides on amphibians using studies that examine only single pesticides at high concentrations may lead to gross underestimations of the role of pesticides in amphibian declines.‚ÄĚ

Other studies note that the synergistic combinations of different pesticide combinations (especially fungicides and insecticides like pyrethroids and neonicotinoids) are of great concern to pollinators, since the toxicity of the individual compounds is already very high. Current risks to bees from neonicotinoids are underestimated because of their cumulative toxicity, synergistic effects with fungicides, and additive effects in combination with pyrethroids are not well understood.

In an interview process with stakeholders for the March 2016 report done by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), EPA took the position that¬†it did not know where to find information on common pesticide mixtures: ‚ÄúEPA officials agreed that such mixtures may pose risks to bees but said that EPA does not have data on commonly used mixtures and does not know how it would identify them.‚ÄĚ However, the GAO report, in its critique of EPA‚Äôs efforts to protect pollinators, notes that EPA can collect and source data on commonly used mixtures from farmers, pesticide manufacturers, and many others. This current report, in utilizing the data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (a publicly available information source), to provide a report on the potential hazards of different chemical mixtures that EPA has already approved is a direct refute of EPA’s position.

The report concludes that potential additive and synergistic impacts of chemical mixtures must be evaluated: ‚ÄúClearly pesticide synergy is not a rare occurrence and should no longer be treated as such. The EPA must take into account relevant patent data and other lines of evidence and fundamentally alter its approach to assessing pesticide mixtures.‚ÄĚ

Beyond Pesticides has long been critical of EPA‚Äôs 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, ‚ÄúSynergy: The Big Unknowns of Pesticide Exposure.‚ÄĚ For information on individual pesticide health effects, see the Pesticide Gateway.

Dr. Donley joined Aaron Blair, Ph.D., Warren Porter, Ph.D. and others as part of the Environmental Health and Law Workshop at Beyond Pesticides’ 34th National Pesticide Forum April 16, 2016 in Portland, Maine. You can watch the discussion here.

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

Source: Press Release

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20
Jul

Designated Pollinator Habitat Areas Still Put Pollinators At Risk

(Beyond Pesticides, July 20, 2016) Farmers and land managers across the U.S. are being encouraged to plant pollinator habitat adjacent to farmlands to provide shelter and food for pollinator species. But according to a new study published last week, these conservation areas still put bees at risk for pesticide contamination, as they fail to provide spatial or temporal relief. This study emphasizes that meaningful solutions to reversing pollinator decline does not lie with focusing on planting pollinator habitat, but ensuring that these refuge areas are free from pesticide contamination, highly toxic to bees and other pollinators, and reducing the reliance on toxic chemical inputs in agriculture and other landscapes.

hedgerowThe study, ‚ÄúNeonicotinoid-contaminated pollinator strips adjacent to cropland reduce honey bee nutritional status,‚ÄĚ finds that pollinator habitat adjacent to agricultural areas not only becomes a source for pesticide, especially neonicotinoid, exposures, but also poses significant risk to honey bees. The authors, Christina Mogren, PhD, and former USDA entomologist, Jonathan Lundgren, PhD, initially sought to study whether increasing forage by planting pollinator habitat in an agricultural-dominated region would serve to buffer against the harmful effects of plant-incorporated pesticides. However, the authors note that it soon became apparent that the unintended consequence was that these planted habitats become a source for neonicotinoid exposure.

In testing for clothianidin, the neonicotinoid most widely used to coat corn and soybean seeds planted across farmlands in much of the U.S., residues were ubiquitous in leaf tissue and honey. Higher levels of clothianidin were detected in nectar collected by bees. One major caveat emerging from this study was that levels of clothianidin in habitat adjacent to organic fields had similar residues in leaf tissues and honey when compared to areas with coated seeds, with the exception of bee bread which had lower levels. Clothianidin-coated seeds are not permitted in certified organic production. Although organic farmers take precautions to limit the extent of pesticide drift and contamination trespassing unto their harms, this study finds that these precautions apparently fail to sufficiently protect from pesticide contamination, and that habitat near organic farms may not provide sufficient refuge for pollinators with widespread chemical-intensive agriculture.

According to the study, clothianidin uptake in plants within designated pollinator habitat was the same at treated and untreated sites, and is present in plants tissues throughout the growing season. The residues detected were at levels that impair the reproductive potential of honey bee queens and impact hive overwintering success. Drs. Mogren and Lundgren conclude that the placement of designated pollinator habitats needs to be carefully considered, given the study shows that these areas set aside for conservation do not provide spatial or temporal relief from neonicotinoid exposures in agricultural regions where their use is largely prophylactic. ‚ÄúIn all likelihood, reducing bee exposures to these pesticides will require reductions in their use across the landscape and a movement away from prophylactic applications towards more integrated pest management strategies…‚ÄĚ

The findings of this study challenge one of the central recommendations in the recent White House Pollinator Protection Action Plan, which focuses primarily on planting pollinator habitats, particularly in agricultural areas, urging farmers and land managers to use best management practices to minimize impacts to bees. Little to no mention was made about addressing pesticides known to be highly toxic to bees and other pollinators. Until there is a shift from continued and pervasive pesticide use across all landscapes, bees and other pollinators will continue to be at risk. A recent government-sponsored survey, conducted by Bee Informed reports that beekeepers lost 44 percent of their colonies between April 2015 and April 2016. Bee losses continue to be elevated and unsustainable.

Pesticides have been identified as a major contributing factor in pollinator decline and both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lead federal efforts to reverse the decline and restore healthy populations. However, very little meaningful action has been taken to address pesticide impacts on pollinators, and industry groups have been working to weaken and derail any pesticide reforms at state and local levels that may protect pollinators. Even a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report finds that USDA and EPA are not doing enough to protect pollinators. EPA has made some pesticide label amendments and proposals to restrict pesticide use under certain conditions however beekeepers and activists say these measures are not enough. Currently EPA is reviewing the neonicotinoid class of pesticides, found to be highly toxic to honey bees and linked to numerous bee die-offs and bee impairments. Its preliminary pollinator assessment for imidacloprid earlier this year identified several risks to bees, including use on cotton and citrus crops. Assessments for the other neonicotinoids are due out later this year.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action to protect these beneficial organisms, it is left up to us to ensure that we provide safe havens for pollinators by creating pesticide-free habitat and educating others to do the same. Take action by calling on EPA to suspend neonicotinoids now. You can also declare your garden, yard, park or other space as pesticide-free and pollinator friendly. It does not matter how large or small your pledge is, as long as you contribute to the creation of safe pollinator habitat. Sign the pledge today! Need ideas on creating the perfect pollinator habitat? The Bee Protective Habitat Guide can tell you which native plants are right for your region. For more information on what you can do, visit our BEE Protective page.

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

Source: Nature.com

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19
Jul

Common Pesticide Exposure Alters Behavior of Fish and Amphibians

(Beyond Pesticides, July 19, 2016) Exposure to common pesticides at levels often found in the environment can have subtle but significant impacts on the behavioral health of fish, amphibians and other aquatic invertebrates. According to researchers at Northern Arizona University, who analyzed data from nearly 40 experiments to reach their conclusion, fish and amphibians swam 35% slower and were 72% less active after pesticide exposure.

Chemical Class Type Example Pesticides
Carbamates Insecticide Carbaryl, Aldicarb
Organochlorine Insecticide DDT, Endosulfan, Chlordane
Organophosphates Insecticide Diazinon, Chlorpyrifos
Organotins Biocide Tributyltin
Phosphonoglycines Herbicide Glyphosate, Glufosinate
Pyrethroids Insecticide Permethrin, Bifenthrin, Esfenvalerate
Triazines Herbicide Atrazine, Simazine

The study, published in Science of the Total Environment, found that the overall effect on aquatic wildlife varied based on the chemical class the animals encountered. While pyrethroids, carbamates, and organophosphates resulted in a significant decrease in swim speed, triazines and phosphonoglycines showed no overall effect. Pyrethroids, carbamates, organophosphates, organochlorines, and organotins decreased activity, while phosphonoglycines had no overall effect, and triazines actually increased activity. ‚ÄúI didn‚Äôt think that we would see [an effect] across such a wide range of pesticides so consistently, but we did,‚ÄĚ said study co-author, Catherine Propper, PhD to KNAU, ‚Äúand that leads to some concerns about environmental exposure for organisms.‚ÄĚ

Changes in swim speed and activity level of fish and amphibians can have profound implications for their overall fitness in the environment. Authors of the analysis cite several studies linking specific sublethal pesticide exposures to reduced health outcomes. For example, one study finds reduced activity levels in flathead minnows after exposure to a pyrethroid can result in higher predation and slower growth rates. Salmon exposed to carbamates and organophosphates result in reduced growth, feeding, and size at the time of their migration. Other studies find that pesticide-induced decreases in activity can result in reduced predation on amphibians, but at the cost of reduced growth and delayed development.

The effects of pesticide exposure can alter spawning-salmonspecies interactions, and potentially create trophic cascades, situations where the interaction between predators and prey in the food web becomes imbalanced. For example, a predacious fish may, under normal circumstances, exert a population control on smaller fish that feed on insects that eat algae. Decreased activity and reduced predation among predacious fish can result in an explosion of smaller fish, which can then result in an overconsumption of algae-eating insects, ultimately leading to an increase in algae in an aquatic area. These difficult to perceive interactions underscore the call from the authors of the study for future research to better understand how pesticide-induced changes in behavior can alter the fitness, populations, and make-up of aquatic communities and ecosystems.

The varying interactions as a result of sublethal exposure from a range of common pesticide classes highlights the need for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to re-evaluate its methodology for analyzing the impacts of these chemicals. As it stands, EPA‚Äôs review of pesticide ingredients fails to account or deems negligible difficult to perceive impacts on wildlife, such as changes in behavior or endocrine disruption. Instead, the agency relies on an outdated toxicological approach focused on acute effects, and the 16th-century maxim that ‚Äúthe dose makes the poison.‚ÄĚ Independent science continues to tell us otherwise; the effects of these chemicals in the real world are much more complex than the scope of our regulatory system under EPA.

For more information on the impacts of pesticides on wildlife, and what you can do to reverse biodiversity declines, see Beyond Pesticides new Wildlife program page.  There you can find out not only the ecological impacts of pesticides, but the add-on effect these situations create for your wallet, and the litigation underway to save threatened and endangered species. Additional information about pesticides and aquatic environments can be found on the Threatened Waters program page.

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

Source: KNAU, Science of the Total Environment

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18
Jul

Glyphosate Causes Changes to DNA Function Resulting in Chronic Disease, According to Study

(Beyond Pesticides July 18, 2016) A¬†review of the scientific literature links¬†glyphosate, one of the most popular weed killers in the U.S. and the active ingredient in Roundup, to a wide range of diseases through a mechanism that modifies DNA functioning, adding a new even more troubling dimension to the herbicide’s cancer classification by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. According to the most recent review, Glyphosate pathways to modern disease V: Amino acid analogue of glycine in diverse proteins, conducted by independent scientists Anthony Samsel, Ph.D. and Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D., a scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), glyphosate acts as a glycine analogue that¬†incorporates into peptides during protein synthesis. In this process, it alters a number of proteins that depend on conserved glycine for proper function. According to the authors, glyphosate substitution for glycine correlates with¬†several diseases, including diabetes, obesity, asthma, Alzheimer‚Äôs disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson‚Äôs disease, among others.DNA

Glycine, the smallest amino acid commonly found in proteins, has unique properties that support flexibility and the ability to anchor to the plasma membrane or the cytoskeleton. This new direct biological evidence, taken together with correlational data, make a compelling case that glyphosate action as a glycine analogue accounts for much of glyphosate’s toxicity, according to the study. The authors find that glyphosate, as an amino acid analogue of  glycine, may  be  incorporated into polypeptide chains during protein synthesis. In doing so, it has an impact on the structure and function of the proteins. Proteins fold up, and glycine is a small molecule that is often found at the folding places. Since glyphosate is much larger, it prevents the protein molecule from folding properly, leading to the disruption of function of many  proteins with essential roles in metabolism and regulatory processes.

The article cites a number of ways that this affects humans and other organisms. According to the study, the consequences of this action can lead to impaired fatty acid release leading to obesity, impaired insulin receptor response leading to diabetes, impaired one-carbon metabolism leading to neural tube defects and autism, impaired cell cycle control during DNA synthesis, and disregulated phosphorylation cascades leading to cancer, lung disorders, and autoimmune diseases.

Stephen Frantz, Ph.D., a pathobiologist research scientist explains it like this: ‚ÄúWhen a cell is trying to form proteins, it may grab glyphosate instead of glycine to form a damaged, mis-folded protein. After that it‚Äôs medical chaos. Where glyphosate replaces glycine, the cell can no longer conduct business as usual causing unpredicted consequences with many diseases and disorders as a result.‚ÄĚ

The release of this study comes on the heels of several other discussions and actions on glyphosate that have taken place over the past few weeks. Last month 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, Monsanto’s flagship herbicide. 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, the active ingredient in RoundUp, is linked to autism, Alzheimer’s, cancer, birth defects, obesity, and gluten intolerance, among other health issues. EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs’ Deputy Director and his staff met with the panelists and provided an overview of EPA’s registration process for glyphosate. EPA staff had some interest in the information presented, which was forwarded to relevant staffers. However, EPA indicated that much of the information provided may not impact their current risk assessment for glyphosate, which is expected sometime in 2017.

Glyphosate, created by Monsanto, is touted as a ‚Äúlow toxicity‚ÄĚ chemical and ‚Äúsafer‚ÄĚ 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. In early 2015, glyphosate was classified by the World Health Organization‚Äôs (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of as a ‚Äúprobable human carcinogen.‚Ä̬†Just a few months later, a study published in¬†Environmental Health News¬†found that¬†chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate¬†led to adverse effects on liver and kidney health. Roundup formulations can also 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 ‚Äúacceptable‚ÄĚ residues have all been observed.

Roundup also harms crops‚Äô ability to capture carbon from the air, an important factor in fighting climate change. ‚ÄúGlyphosate negatively affects the soil microbiome,‚ÄĚ said Frantz. ‚ÄúIt is destroying the ability of soil to be a nutritive medium for producing crops. Organic or biological regenerative agriculture is the solution for the sustainable agricultural sector and will conserve soil, air and water quality, and sequester carbon that helps to mitigate the climate crisis. We call for a ban on glyphosate.‚ÄĚ

Beyond Pesticides urges individuals concerned about glyphosate exposure to support organic systems that do not rely on hazardous carcinogenic pesticides. In agriculture, concerned consumers can buy food with the certified organic label, which not only disallows synthetic pesticides like glyphosate, but also the use of sewage sludge and genetically engineered ingredients. Beyond Pesticides also urges the adoption of organic lawn and landscape programs.

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

Source: Research Gate, Huffington Post

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15
Jul

Toxic Algae Bloom in Florida’s Largest Lake Tied to Chemical-Intensive Agriculture

Image from NASA

(Beyond Pesticides, July 15, 2016) A toxic algae bloom that has expanded throughout Florida‚Äôs largest freshwater body, Lake Okeechobee, and around south Florida beaches, has created vast problems for residents, compelling Governor Rick Scott to declare an environmental state of emergency.¬†However, the Governor’s¬†declaration fails to address the root of the problem‚ÄĒincluding the extreme levels of nutrient buildup and the dangerous amount of phosphorous and nitrogen found in the water, caused by excess fertilization runoff from both chemically-intensive agricultural and residential sources. Instead, Gov. Scott has placed blame on the federal government due to their lack of proper maintenance on the Herbert Hoover Dike, which prevents Lake Okeechobee from overflowing into nearby water sources. While this is certainly problematic, the crux of the issue stems from the polluted water itself, which allows bacteria to grow swiftly when nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen are abundant.

“We just are putting way too much nitrogen and phosphorus into our natural waters, and they respond,” Florida Atlantic University research professor, Bill Louda, Ph.D. told CBS news.

A few weeks ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, as a means of flood prevention,¬†released¬†the lake‚Äôs water¬†into local canals¬†with a¬†large amount of nutrient pollution. Jackson Kirk of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, stated, ‚ÄúPart of our mitigation to prevent a breach situation includes managing the water level in the lake to keep it from rising too high. Unfortunately, this requires releasing water in quantities that, when combined with an equally large volume of basin runoff, upset the freshwater-saltwater mix in the estuaries. The change in that mix, coupled with hot weather, and excessive nitrogen and phosphorus in the system from a variety of sources, are all among the factors fueling the algae affecting the estuaries.‚ÄĚ The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville district, released a statement on July 14¬†stating they ‚Äúwill further reduce the amount of water flowing from Lake Okeechobee beginning this weekend.‚ÄĚ

This algae bloom, which, according to NASA grew to cover 33 square miles as of May 2016, has been called ‚Äúunprecedented‚ÄĚ by many of Florida officials. In reality, this type of occurrence has been on the rise over the past few years throughout the country. Similar to the algal blooms that occurred in Lake Erie back in 2013, Lake Okeechobee is both extremely shallow, averaging about 9 feet deep, warm, and surrounded by industrial agricultural land, making its water more prone to this type of algal bloom. Hotter and more frequent extreme weather events alongside harmful trends in chemically-intensive, conventional agricultural practices have caused these destructive algal blooms to strike more frequently in these types of waterbodies.

‚ÄúBasically, we are fertilizing Florida to death,‚ÄĚ Dr. Louda told Huffington Post. ‚ÄúYou could throw some nasty herbicides or synthetic inhibitors on top of it, but it would kill everything else too, the seagrass, the phytoplankton fish eat. We just have to let nature take its course.‚ÄĚ Dr. Louda, who is based¬†in¬†Boca Raton, has been studying and testing the algae.

Fertilizer runoff not only causes what many news outlets are describing as the smelly ‚Äúguacamole thick‚ÄĚ toxic algal blooms, it can also severely harm humans and aquatic wildlife. An unnaturally high level of phosphorous in aquatic ecosystems creates a setting that compromises the diversity, stability, and resiliency of the natural environment. Once algae die off, aerobic bacteria consume the dead algae, resulting in dangerously low oxygen ‚Äúdead zones,‚ÄĚ which further decrease¬†biodiversity. In a study done by Environment America, agribusiness pollution is a leading cause of dead zones that plague waters all over the United States, estimating ‚Äúmanure footprints‚ÄĚ of major agribusiness companies. The manure that is generated as waste by these companies is put on crop land, leading to run off issues.

Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), alongside many environmental advocates and scientists, believe climate change impacts have begun to make these type of conditions in which blooms thrive a common occurrence.

Community members and those visiting the affected areas have also voiced frustration and concern over the known health effects associated with exposure to toxic algae. Many report experiencing symptoms such as headaches and respiratory problems that they believe are linked to the outbreak. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has been consistently monitoring the blooms and urges residents to report new blooms.

Audubon Florida, an environmental group, recommends multiple long-term solutions to protect the health of Lake Okeechobee and surrounding waters, including an update to the state’s Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) to fully address the scope of the negative water quality as a result of unnaturally high nutrient levels. It also recommends more focus on monitoring and enforcement of on-farm Best Management Practices (BMPs), which is a step in the right direction, but falls short of organic standards.

Organic farming and land management uses natural, less soluble sources of nitrogen, phosphorous and magnesium; including cover crops, compost, manure and mineralized rock, in order to promote increases in soil organic matter and a healthy soil structure. Healthy soil structure allows water to infiltrate the ground slowly, rather than escaping across the surface and carrying soil particles, nutrients, and other inputs with it. Also, it allows plants to establish vibrant root systems that resist erosion. For more details, see Beyond Pesticides fact sheet, Organic Land Management and the Protection of Water Quality. In addition to agricultural practices, residential use of lawn care fertilizers represents a significant portion of the phosphorous load that runs into local water bodies in the U.S. For more details on how to prevent phosphorous contamination, see Beyond Pesticides’ article Maintaining a Delicate Balance.

For further resources on pesticides and water quality, please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Threatened Waters page.

Sources: NASA, CBS News, Huffington Post

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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14
Jul

Congress Proposes to Strip Farmworker Protection Standards in Funding Bill

(Beyond Pesticides, July 14, 2016) A funding bill (H.R. 5538) for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Interior Department is receiving pushback from conservation groups, environmental lobbyists, and workers‚Äô rights advocates for containing dozens of controversial amendments, including¬†one that would strip funding for parts of the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS), which establishes many¬†protections for ¬†those¬†in the country who experience the highest and most dangerous pesticide exposure ‚Äď farmworkers.

farmer worker protectionTitle IV, Section 437 of H.R. 5538 states that, ‚ÄúNone of the funds made available by this or any other Act may be used to implement or enforce, or to require States to implement or enforce, the provisions of 40 CFR 170.311(b)(9) as published in the Federal Register on November 2, 2015.‚ÄĚ The provisions of 40 CFR 170.311(b)(9) refer to the WPS revisions passed in 2015, which had previously not been updated for over 20 years. The revisions are designed to provide at least some protections from pesticide exposure to farmworkers and their families is scheduled to effect in¬†December 2016.

Historically, farmworker advocates have criticized WPS as woefully inadequate in protecting the health of agricultural workers, but these new revisions strengthen the standards through increased training for workers handling pesticides, improved notification of pesticide applications, and a higher minimum age requirement for children to work around pesticides.

According to a factsheet released by Farmworker Justice, a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of¬†migrant and seasonal farmworkers, ‚ÄúTitle IV, Section 437 of the FY 2017 House Appropriations Bill for the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies would prohibit ‚Äėthe use of funds to implement or enforce,‚Äô the provisions of the WPS that allow access to pesticide application and hazard information by a worker‚Äôs designated representative. By denying access to such information to a designated representative, Congress would create barriers that could delay medical treatment and add more to healthcare costs. The idea that workers should not be able to designate representatives is unacceptable.‚ÄĚ

Farm work is demanding and dangerous physical labor. As the scientific literature confirms, farmworkers, their families, and their communities face extraordinary risks from pesticide exposures. Application and pesticide drift result in dermal, inhalation, and oral exposures that are typically underestimated. A 2004 study detected agricultural pesticides in the homes near to agricultural fields. According to a 2010 study, workers experience repeated exposures to the same pesticides evidenced by multiple pesticides routinely detected in their bodies. As a result of cumulative long-term exposures, farmworkers and their children, who often times also work on the farm, are at risk of developing serious chronic health problems such as cancer, neurological impairments, and Parkinson’s disease. Children, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report, face even greater health risks compared to adults when exposed to pesticides. For more information, read our factsheet, Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix.

We need Congress to reject this attack on farmworker health and safety. Please urge your member of Congress to vote “no” on H.R. 5538.

What More Can We Do?

Our food choices have a direct effect around the world on those who grow and harvest the food we eat around. 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. See Beyond Pesticides’ guide to Eating with a Conscience to see how your food choices can protect farmworkers. In addition to organic, it is also important to consider food labels that create standards for farmworker safety and fairness. For more information on the different types of food labels, including the Agricultural Justice certification label, see the transcription of Michael Sligh’s talk at the 32nd National Pesticide Forum, titled Social Justice Labeling: From Field to Table.

For more information on Agricultural Justice, and how you can make a difference, see the Agricultural Justice Initiatives Panel from the 33rd National Pesticide Forum.

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

Source: H.R. 5538; Bloomberg BNA

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13
Jul

California to List Atrazine and Other Triazine Weedkillers to Prop 65 as Reproductive Toxicants

(Beyond Pesticides, July 13, 2016) California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has announced that atrazine, its chemical cousins, propazine, simazine, and its break down triazine compounds des-ethyl atrazine (DEA), des-isopropyl atrazine (DIA) and 2,4-diamino-6-chloro-s-triazine (DACT) would be added to the list of chemicals known to the state to cause reproductive toxicity for purposes of the state’s Proposition 65. The formal listing has been delayed and will not be effective until July 15, 2016 due to litigation from the manufacturer, Syngenta, which opposes the listing.

OEHHA logoIn 2014 the state announced its Notice of Intent to list the triazines: atrazine, propazine, simazine and their breakdown products under Proposition 65 ‚Äď the state‚Äôs law on toxic chemicals. The listing of these chemicals was initially to be effective on August 3, 2015. However, Syngenta, manufacturer of atrazine, challenged the listing decision, leading to a delay in the formal decision. Syngenta Crop Protection v OEHHA¬†(Sacramento Superior Court case#34-2014-800001868). Syngenta‚Äôs challenge was unsuccessful and now the official listing can move forward, in spite of Syngenta‚Äôs pending appeal. The six chemicals will now be known as reproductive toxicants in the state of California effective July 15, 2016. See listing notice. http://oehha.ca.gov/media/downloads/crnr/listingnoticetriazines070516.pdf

Proposition 65, officially known as the¬†Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, was enacted as a ballot initiative in November 1986. The proposition protects the state’s drinking water sources from being contaminated with chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and requires businesses to inform Californians about exposures to such chemicals.

According to OEHHA, the determination to list atrazine and the other triazines is based on the findings of several previous U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documents which conclude that they cause developmental and reproductive effects through a common mechanism of toxic action. Some of these cited EPA documents include, ‚ÄėTriazine Cumulative Risk‚Äô (2006); 2006 Decision Documents for Atrazine, ‚ÄėReregistration Eligibility Decision Document for Simazine‚Äô¬†(2006) and ‚ÄėPropazine: Revised HED [Health Effects Division] Risk Assessment for the Tolerance Reassessment Eligibility Decision Document‚Äô¬†(2005). Further, EPA established several reference doses (maximum acceptable oral dose) on the basis of reproductive and developmental toxicity, relying on endpoints that included impacts on the endocrine system and physical malformations.

Specifically, 2006 EPA‚Äôs Cumulative Risk Assessment on the triazines states, ‚ÄúThe underlying mechanism of the endocrine-related changes associated with atrazine and similar triazines is understood to involve a disruption of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis‚Ķ In particular, the triazine-mediated changes in the HPG relating to neuroendocrine and neuroendocrine-related developmental and reproductive toxicity are considered relevant to humans, and these adverse effects were identified as endpoints for the exposure scenarios selected for consideration in the quantitative cumulative assessment.‚ÄĚ (p. 4) OEHHA explains that based on the evidence reviewed from EPA‚Äôs findings the requirements for Prop 65 listing have been met.

California’s Prop. 65 is the only law in the nation to prohibit businesses from knowingly and intentionally exposing consumers to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive harm without first providing a warning. Violations are subject to potential penalties of up to $2,500 per day for each violation, and each sale can constitute a violation. Prevailing plaintiffs can also recover their attorneys’ fees.

In addition to atrazine and its cousin‚Äôs impact on human health, their impact on environmental health is also well documented.¬† Just last month EPA released its triazine ecological risk assessment, which found that these chemicals pose risks to fish, amphibians, aquatic invertebrates, and even birds, reptiles and mammals. The assessments evaluated risks to animals and plants including, amphibians, birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, aquatic invertebrates, aquatic plant communities, and terrestrial plants. For atrazine, EPA concludes, ‚Äúaquatic plant communities are impacted in many areas where atrazine use is heaviest, and there is potential chronic risks to fish, amphibians, and aquatic invertebrate in these same locations. In the terrestrial environment, there are risk concerns for mammals, birds, reptiles, plants and plant communities across the country for many of the atrazine uses.‚ÄĚ Levels of concerns were exceeded by as much as 200-fold for some organisms! When it comes to amphibians, impacts which have been¬†extensively documented¬†by researchers like Tyrone Hayes, PhD, at the University of California, Berkeley, EPA finds that ‚Äúthere is potential for chronic risks to amphibians based on multiple effects endpoint concentrations compared to measured and predicted surface water concentrations.‚ÄĚ Previous scientific reviews, like the¬†2009 analysis of more than 100 scientific studies¬†conducted on atrazine, found evidence that atrazine harms fish and frogs. All three chemicals are mobile and persistent in the environment, which results in water contamination. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), atrazine is one of the most frequently detected pesticides,¬†found at concentrations at or above aquatic benchmarks, and is also frequently detected in shallow ground water.

Studies by Dr. Hayes¬†and others have shown that concentrations as little as 0.1ppb impact hormone function in organisms and turns tadpoles into hermaphrodites ‚Äď creatures with both male and female sexual characteristics. Research also finds that atrazine interferes with mammary gland development in the breast of mammals and is¬†linked to certain birth defects¬†like gastroschisis and choanal atresia, which are significantly increased for pregnant women with high levels of atrazine exposure in agricultural areas, and in urban streams.

EPA is currently in the registration review process for these chemicals, and the draft ecological assessments are now open for public comment until August 5, 2016. EPA will have atrazine’s assessment peer reviewed by the Scientific Advisory Panel in 2017. Submit your comments for Atrazine (EPA-HQ-OPP-2013-0266), Simazine (EPA-HQ-OPP-2013-0251) and Propazine (EPA-HQ-OPP-2013-0250) by October 4, 2016 at the federal docket. https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2015-0794-0005

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

Source: OEHHA

 

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12
Jul

Canadian Environmental Groups Sue to Stop Bee-Toxic Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, July 12, 2016) Canadian environmental organizations sued the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PRMA) last week in a bid to overturn the approval of two neonicotinoid pesticides linked to the decline of honey bees and wild pollinators. The move comes amid growing awareness, action, and scientific evidence linking this widely used class of insecticides to the global decline of pollinator populations.

Bev Veals Kure Beach NC Beeliever Though they spray for mosquitoes bees find a way to visit.The lawsuit, filed¬†by Ecojustice on behalf of¬†The David Suzuki Foundation, Friends of the Earth Canada, Ontario Nature, and the Wilderness Committee, argues that pesticide products containing two neonicotinoids, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, are unlawfully registered in Canada. The groups allege that PMRA failed to ensure that it had the data necessary to determine the environmental risks, particularly those concerning pollinators, posed by the chemicals. ‚ÄúThe PMRA has taken a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil approach by repeatedly registering these neonicotinoid pesticides without important scientific information on their risks to pollinators,‚ÄĚ said Charles Hatt, staff lawyer at Ecojustice.

Under Canada‚Äôs Pest Control Products Act, PMRA must have ‚Äúreasonable certainty‚ÄĚ that a pesticide will not cause harm to the environment before it is registered. The groups also note that several thiamethoxam-based products have been registered by the agency for years without a mandated public consultation period.

‚ÄúPollinators are key players in our ecosystems, and their declines are extremely concerning. A stunning variety of plants ‚ÄĒ including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and 90 per cent of flowering plants ‚ÄĒ need pollinators to reproduce and thrive,‚ÄĚ said Anne Bell, PhD, Director of Conservation and Education at Ontario Nature.

Although PMRA has not taken substantial action to restrict neonicotinoids, certain Canadian provinces and cities have begun eliminating significant uses of these chemicals. Last year, Ontario became the first jurisdiction in North America to restrict the use of neonicotinoid coated seeds, limiting acreage planted with these toxic seeds by 80% by 2017. ‚ÄúThe Province of Ontario recently¬†brought in strong¬†restrictions on the¬†use of¬†dangerous¬†neonicotinoid pesticides in agriculture,‚ÄĚ said Faisal Moola, PhD, Director General of Ontario and Northern Canada at the David Suzuki Foundation. ‚ÄúWe’re hoping that our¬†court case will¬†compel the federal government to take similar action¬†in response to widespread public concern over the fate of pollinators in Canada.‚ÄĚ Neonicotinoid coated seeds have been implicated in massive bee kills as a result of ‚Äúfugitive dust‚ÄĚ that sloughs off and drifts during planting, contaminating bee-attractive plants nearby. A report by the American Bird Conservancy found that a single neonic-coated corn kernel was enough to kill a songbird. A study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that neonicotinoid soybean seed treatments offered little to no benefit to farmers in terms of pest control or increased economic well-being.

Late last year, the Quebec city of Montreal moved to completely ban the use of neonicotinoids within the city, following similar moves in the U.S., where local governments in Minneapolis, MN, Lafayette and Boulder, CO, Portland, OR, Montgomery County, MD, and numerous other locations have restricted or eliminated the use of neonicotinoids on public and/or private property.

Federal action in the U.S to restrict neonicotinoids has been equally as lackluster as Canada’s response. Although federal agency have announced some pollinator protective measures as part of the National Pollinator Health Strategy, and EPA has acknowledged the neonicotinoid imidacloprid presents acute risks to pollinators, these moves have largely been seen as inadequate.  The agency continues to approve other bee-toxic pesticides, like sulfoxaflor, despite evidence showing unacceptable adverse impacts to pollinators, and court cases to back up these claims.

In 2013, Beyond Pesticides joined with beekeepers and environmental allies in a lawsuit similar to the one recently launched in Canada, challenging EPA’s approval of thiamethoxam and clothianidin. These highly toxic, persistent and systemic chemicals have been widely implicated as leading factors in pollinator declines. For a primer on the pollinator crisis, see the lawsuit’s Press Release. Also, read the 2013 Lawsuit, Appendix A: Clothianidin, and Appendix B: Thiamethoxam.

For more information on how you can take action to protect pollinators in your community, and advocate for change at the federal level, see Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective program page.

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

Source: Commondreams.org, Montreal Gazette

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11
Jul

CDC, EPA Urge Aerial Mosquito Spraying in Puerto Rico Amid Protest

(Beyond Pesticides, July 11, 2016) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last Wednesday, July 6 that Zika is spreading rapidly in Puerto Rico, and recommends aerial spraying of the toxic pesticide Naled for mosquito control, much to the dismay of many area farmers, activists and concerned citizens who feel that the decision was made without consultation or information provided to the local population. Aerial spraying of pesticides have long been used for mosquito control, but many experts believe that these methods fail to sufficiently manage mosquito populations, increase pesticide resistance, and kill other species that would have acted as a natural predator to mosquitoes. Many experts agree that combating mosquito-borne diseases should include good surveillance and scientific understanding for controlling mosquito populations, including a focus on eliminating or managing breeding areas, utilizing biological controls, exclusion from indoor environments with screening, and repellents.

Aedes_aegypti_feedingAn efficient mosquito management strategy emphasizes public awareness, prevention, and monitoring methods. However, if these methods are not used properly or in time, communities must determine if they should risk exposing vulnerable populations to potentially harmful diseases caused by mosquitoes or to chronic or deadly illnesses caused by pesticides.

Note that mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus has not been reported in the U.S., but has been found in U.S. ‚Äúterritories‚ÄĚ – Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, and other countries. The virus has been found in travelers to the U.S. from countries where infected mosquitoes have been reported.

The power struggle stems from the recent approval by the U.S. Congress and the signature of President Obama of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (or PROMESA, meaning promise in Spanish), which has stripped the island of much of its autonomy. According to Workers World, Puerto Rican experts have proposed other, more appropriate ways to counter Zika, but the government has not listened to them, and several environmental, health, agriculture, social justice, and other organizations have banded together to create the United Front Against Aerial Fumigation in opposition to the spraying. There have also been numerous protests.

Puerto Rico‚Äôs Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President and gubernatorial candidate David Bernier has also been outspoken against the plan to aerially spray. According to Carribean Business, Mr. Bernier said that he was concerned about ‚Äúthe manner in which reports were made known to the public, mainly through unofficial channels and without any formal announcement on the matter, which prompted additional speculation and confusion.‚ÄĚ He also cited concerns about the potential hazards it would have on the people‚Äôs health, the ecosystem, and specifically the many bodies of water.

According to EPA, Naled can cause cholinesterase inhibition in humans, meaning that it can overstimulate the nervous system causing nausea, dizziness, confusion, and at very high exposures (e.g., accidents or major spills), respiratory paralysis and death. Residents can be exposed as by-standers from wide-area mosquito control applications, such as what they are recommending. In the decision statement to consider Naled, CDC points to studies from earlier this year demonstrating that mosquitoes in Puerto Rico are resistant to all aerial formulations of pyrethroid insecticides. Naled and many other commonly used mosquito pesticides, such as permethrin, resmethrin, and malation, are all associated with some measure of human and ecological health risks, especially among people with compromised immune systems, chemically sensitized people, pregnant women, and children with respiratory problems, such as asthma.

Furthermore, the efficacy of aerial and ground spraying of pesticides is questionable. Large-scale mosquito control applications are made with ultra-low volume (ULV) sprays that dispense very fine droplets of the pesticide product into the air. Only those mosquitoes that come in contact with the fine particles are killed. The sprayed pesticides do not affect mosquito larvae left behind, which spawn new adult mosquitoes, ensuring the need for subsequent spraying.

Beyond Pesticides’ Public Health Mosquito Management Strategy (see also mosquito management strategy summary) is an integrated approach that emphasizes education, aggressive removal of standing water (which are breeding areas), larval control, monitoring, and surveillance for both mosquito-borne illness and pesticide-related illness. Control of disease-carrying mosquitoes can be successful when emphasis is placed on public education and preventive strategies.

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

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

Sources: Carribean Business, Workers World, and CDC Statement.

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

 

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08
Jul

Government Lacks Data on Widespread Herbicide Use on Public Lands

(Beyond Pesticides, July 8, 2016) Researchers at the University of Montana (UM) recently released a study that found a lack of government data and accountability on the use of herbicides on public lands to kill invasive and non-native plants. The report raises serious questions about the widespread management practice, which the researchers say may be causing more harm than good.

cheat grassUM researchers, Cara Nelson, Ph.D. and Viktoria Wagner, Ph.D., along with two researchers from Canada, looked at government agencies and agricultural statistics companies in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to find their data. The study found that the government agencies in Canada and Mexico kept no archived database of herbicide usage for invasive plant management. In the U.S., five out of seven agencies that were contacted by the researchers tracked herbicide usage, and only four of those agencies shared their data. These agencies include the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service. The U.S. Forest Service, which oversees 193 million acres in the U.S., declined to share its data on herbicide use. The report found that even the agencies that did share their data did not consistently archive information on the effectiveness of the herbicide usage, the costs associated with usage, or make the information publicly available.

‚ÄúWe were surprised that we could not obtain a full accounting of herbicide usage for natural areas management in the U.S. and that no data were available for Canada,‚ÄĚ Dr. Nelson said to the Missoulian. Dr. Nelson, who is a botanist and an associate professor in UM‚Äôs Department of Ecosystems and Conservation Science, stated to the Missoulian that herbicide use for managing invasive species can ‚Ķ‚Äúalso have substantial downsides, including the potential to further degrade ecosystems by reducing germination and establishment of native plants and facilitating secondary invasion by weeds,‚ÄĚ she explained. ‚ÄúAlthough herbicides may kill target weeds, if native plants don‚Äôt establish after spraying, there is a high probability that undesirable plants will colonize and these so-called ‚Äėsecondary invaders‚Äô can have even more detrimental impacts than the plant that was the initial target for control. A common secondary invader in the west is cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), which is one of the invaders that has the most severe effects on wildlife habitat and ecosystem function.‚ÄĚ

The researchers found that in 2010, 1.2 million acres of U.S. federal and tribal wildlands were sprayed with 200 tons of herbicide. The most commonly used active ingredient was glyphosate, which is a nonselective herbicide that can also kill native grasses and herbs. The researchers point out that more oversight is needed to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used wisely and effectively. They concluded that it is essential to ensure ecological restoration practices have the intended effect, which would mean implementing a better system to monitor treatment outcomes.

The use of herbicides has been linked to shape changes in frogs and harm to non-target species, indicating that the risks are not worth the benefits. As with all pest problems, least-toxic alternatives provide a solution that addresses natural systems, and is more cost effective in the long term. A 2014 study shows that goats can adequately fill this need. Goats act as broad-spectrum weed killers; they will eat everything. In fact, goats are often more efficient at eradicating weeds, and are more environmentally sustainable than using harmful pesticides and chemicals. Once goats graze a weed, it cannot go to seed because it has no flower and cannot photosynthesize to take in sunlight and build a root system because it has no leaves. Grasses are a last choice for goats, which means desirable grass species are left behind with natural fertilizer to repopulate the land. Goats are notorious for eating poisonous plants, such as poison ivy and poison oak, and can handle them without getting sick.

Just recently, New York City‚Äôs Prospect Park decided to bring in a herd of goats to fight back against opportunistic species that are encroaching in an area of the park after damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Rather than spray toxic weed killers like 2,4-D, triclopyr, or glyphosate, the Prospect Park Alliance used the grant money it obtained from the National Park Service to bring in these 4-legged weed warriors as a safe and environmentally friendly way to restore storm-damaged areas. Prospect Park joins the long and growing list of places that have opted for goat-powered weed control over the use of toxic pesticides. The list ranges from ¬†Washington, DC’s Congressional Cemetery, to Google‚Äôs Corporate Campus, Chicago O‚ÄôHare International Airport, and cities from Durango, CO, to Carrboro, NC, and Cheyenne, WY. In California, they have been used to prevent wildfires during the drought.

Beyond Pesticides has long been an advocate for the use of goats and grazing animals as a least-toxic, biological solution for weed management. To learn more, read ‚ÄúSuccessfully Controlling Noxious Weeds with Goats: The natural choice that manages weeds and builds soil health.‚ÄĚ Watch Beyond Pesticides‚Äô Board Member Lani Malmberg, a professional goat herder and owner of Ewe4ic Ecological Services, speak at the 33rd National Pesticide Conference along with other experts on the Organic Land Management and Cutting Edge Alternatives panel. For more information on natural, non-chemical land management strategies see Beyond Pesticides‚Äô Lawns and Landscapes and Invasive Weed Management pages.

Source: Journal of Applied Ecology, Missoulian

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

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07
Jul

U.S. Senate Moves to Limit GMO Labeling

(Beyond Pesticides, July 7, 2016) Despite an outpouring of letters, calls and protests, in a key procedural vote yesterday, the Senate voted to deny Americans the right to know what is in in their food products, and to preempt states’ rights to create their own genetically engineered food labeling laws. In a cloture vote of 65-32, the highly-flawed genetically engineered (GE or GMO) labeling bill, S.B. 764, offered by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KY), also known as the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, passed through the Senate. This ‚Äúcompromise‚ÄĚ bill allows producers to use QR codes and ‚Äúsmart labels‚ÄĚ instead of clear, on-package labeling of food products that contain genetically modified organisms, which means that consumers will need to use a smart phone for the information. The bill also exempts major portions of current and future GE foods from being labeled, and, in an affront against democracy, preempts the genetically engineered food labeling laws in Vermont (which went into effect July 1), Connecticut, Maine and Alaska.

Capitol-Senate“The American people have a right to know what they’re eating,” said Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who vowed to put a hold on the bill if they didn’t reach the 60 votes needed for cloture during a press conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. “The timing of this legislation is not an accident. Its goal is to overturn and rescind the very significant legislation passed in the state of Vermont. I will do everything that I can to see that it‚Äôs defeated.”

Before the vote on Wednesday, food and consumer advocates dropped over $2,000 on the chamber floor as part of a symbolic protest against the act, highlight the financial ties between senators and biotechnology companies. Additionally, polls and surveys show overwhelming public support for labeling of genetically engineered foods, yet the same food and chemical companies continue to ignore consumers fight for the right to know every chance they get.

‚ÄúIt is deeply disturbing that a majority in the Senate would support a bill that openly discriminates against America’s low income, rural and elderly populations,” said¬†Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director, Center for Food Safety. “This denies them their right to know simply because they are not able to afford or have access to smartphones. The bill itself is poorly drafted and would exempt many and perhaps most current genetically engineered foods from labeling. It was written behind closed doors between a handful of Senators and the big chemical and food companies. It is a non-labeling bill disguised as a labeling bill, a sham and a legislative embarrassment.‚ÄĚ

The Senate bill includes no mandatory standards. Instead, it preempts Vermont‚Äôs law through a discretionary process that will be determined by a future Secretary of Agriculture. It also does very little to ensure consumers will actually have access to this information because the bill would allow for a range of labeling options that will not warn consumers ‚Äďquick response (QR) codes, 800 numbers, websites and on-package labeling. This approach leaves poorer Americans at a disadvantage in receiving this information, as QR code labels require the use of a smartphone to read. Allowing food companies to decide how to label all but ensures they will work to misinform the public about their products; we have already seen big food links to websites that extol the safety of GE foods. The bill also contains a very weak definition the term ‚Äúbiotechnology‚ÄĚ that may permit exemptions for a number of genetically engineered foods. There are no penalties for companies that do not comply with the conditions of the law.

An alternative approach to federal labeling, the Biotechnology Food Labeling and Uniformity Act (S.2621), led by Senators Jeff Merkley (OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) would have required that all consumer food packaging visibly display GE ingredient labeling. While ensuring nationwide labeling, the legislation would still preempt states from requiring labeling, such as a warning, which is stronger than the language in the legislation. Beyond Pesticides believes it is important that even a positive, mandatory labeling requirement not preempt states from setting a higher bar regarding information provided on GE ingredients in food.

In addition to concerns over the safety of eating GE food, there are direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and human health. GE agriculture is associated with the increased use of herbicides ‚Äďparticularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup‚Äď that crops are developed to tolerate. In light of findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that¬†glyphosate is a human carcinogen¬†based on laboratory animal test data, consumers have even more cause for concern about the health risks that these products pose.

The only way to truly avoid food produced with genetically engineered crops or processed with genetically engineered ingredients in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture and 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. To learn more about organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture, and Eating With a Conscious pages. For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website.

Source: Press Release, Common Dreams

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

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06
Jul

Glyphosate Extended for 18 Months in Europe – With Restrictions

(Beyond Pesticides, July 6, 2016) Unable to come to a formal decision on glyphosate, the European Commission has issued a limited license extension for glyphosate, the pesticide in Monsanto’s flagship product Roundup. The decision also comes with some restrictions, including obligations for member states to minimize use on playgrounds, and a ban on formulations with the ingredient POEA. The 18-month interim license will allow glyphosate-containing products to remain on the market until the European Chemicals Agency rules on glyphosate’s safety, an action due by the end of 2017.

roundup sprayerAccording to the European Commission, ‚ÄúDespite repeated efforts from the Commission to address concerns expressed about the re-approval of glyphosate, Member States were not prepared to take responsibility for a decision¬†as no qualified majority was reached‚Ķ‚ÄĚ Debate has been raging in Europe about the continued use of glyphosate in light of the 2015 classification by the World Health Organization‚Äôs (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of glyphosate as a ‚Äúprobable human carcinogen.‚ÄĚ However, confusion peaked when a few short months later the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its report finding that glyphosate is¬†‚Äúunlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.‚ÄĚ However, EFSA‚Äôs report is¬†limited in that it reviewed glyphosate alone, unlike IARC which reviewed glyphosate and its formulated products (Roundup) which are more relevant for evaluating risks to human health.

Now the Commission waits on another agency, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to conduct and complete another assessment of glyphosate, due in 2017. In the meantime, the Commission did offer some restrictions to the European use of glyphosate. These include a ban of the co-formulant polyethoxylated tallow amine or POEA from glyphosate-based products, obligations to reinforce scrutiny of pre-harvest uses of glyphosate, as well as to minimize use in specific areas like public parks and playgrounds. POEA, commonly used in glyphosate products and listed as an ‚Äúinert‚ÄĚ ingredient, has been shown to be even more toxic than glyphosate itself, and responsible for the elevated toxicity of glyphosate products.

Earlier this year, a European poll reported that the majority of people across the EU’s five biggest countries, including three-quarters of Italians, 70% of Germans, 60% of French and 56% of Britons, support a ban on glyphosate. The herbicide is the most widely used chemical in the world, according to reports, and as a result is being detected in food and human bodies. Tests have detected glyphosate residues in German beer, at levels higher than allowed in drinking water. Last year, glyphosate residues were found in bread being sold in the UK. The results of the bread study also shows that glyphosate use in the UK increased by 400% in the last 20 years and is one of the three pesticides regularly found in routine testing of British bread -appearing in up to 30% of samples tested by the UK government. A pilot study conducted by the group Moms Across America in 2014 found that glyphosate may also bioaccumulate in the human body, as revealed by high levels of the chemical in the breast milk of mothers tested.

Glyphosate, created by Monsanto, is touted as a ‚Äúlow toxicity‚ÄĚ chemical and ‚Äúsafer‚ÄĚ 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. In addition to IARC’s findings, previous studies¬†have linked the toxicant to non-Hodgkin‚Äôs lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It is also an endocrine disruptor, causes reproductive effects, kidney and liver damage, and is toxic to aquatic organisms, according to studies.¬†In September 2015, a study published in¬†Environmental Health News¬†found that¬†chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate¬†led to adverse effects on liver and kidney health. Roundup formulations can also 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 ‚Äúacceptable‚ÄĚ residues have all been observed.

In the U.S., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has indicated it will release its preliminary risk assessment of glyphosate for public comment later this year. However, the agency found itself embroiled in some controversy after pulling its cancer risk assessment for glyphosate, which was noted as concluding that the chemical is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. After pulling the report, the agency stated that the document was not final.

EPA also indicated that federal testing will¬†begin for glyphosate residues in food. However, although a positive step, this move is largely seen as political ‚Äďa response to growing public pressure and not focused on evaluating health concerns. A¬†scientific review,¬† released in February 2016 by a group of 14¬†scientists, expressed concern about the widespread use of glyphosate-based herbicides, the lack of understanding regarding human exposure, and the potential health impacts. According to the report, U.S. agencies, such as the National Toxicology Program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and EPA, have not adequately kept up with cutting-edge research. The researchers call for the global science and regulatory community to step back and take a fresh look at glyphosate due to widespread exposure patterns.

Beyond Pesticides urges individuals concerned about glyphosate exposure to support organic systems that do not rely on hazardous carcinogenic pesticides. In agriculture, concerned consumers can buy food with the certified organic label, which not only disallows synthetic pesticides like glyphosate, but also the use of sewage sludge and genetically engineered ingredients. Beyond Pesticides also urges the adoption of organic lawn and landscape programs.

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

Source: European Commission Press Release

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05
Jul

Malibu, CA City Council Unanimously Votes to Ban Pesticides on Public Property

(Beyond Pesticides, July 5, 2016) Last week, Malibu City Councilmembers, in a unanimous decision (5-0), voted to make Malibu, California’s (CA) public spaces poison free, which means an immediate ban on all pesticides, rodenticides and herbicides. During a marathon meeting that ran into the early hours past midnight, more than 24 Malibu residents and stakeholders came to give public comments on pesticide use on public parks and city property. You can view the city council meeting here. The entire discussion and vote is included, starting at 3:29:37 (or section 6.A.).

Malibu_CA_sealMany of the residents were with an community group called Poison Free Malibu, which is a group that advocates for the elimination of toxic pesticide use in the area. According to the Malibu Times, Kian Schulman, RN, founder of Poison Free Malibu, gave a presentation on the effects of pesticide chemicals and their connection to diseases such as cancer and neurological issues like ADHD and Alzheimer’s. Ms. Schulman’s presentation included a picture of a city worker spraying pesticides on Legacy Park, while wearing a full hazmat suit as a child rode their bicycle close by. Several Poison Free Malibu supporters attended the meeting and gave a presentation on the adverse effect of the chemicals and the failures of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the public.

The Malibu Monarch Project, a group dedicated to bringing the monarch butterfly population back to Malibu, also showed support for the pesticide removal. ‚ÄúMalibu should be the leader of environmental protection,‚ÄĚ said Anya Jessup of the Malibu Monarch Project. Other non-affiliated residents expressed a desire for Malibu to lead the charge on environmental issues. ‚ÄúWe say we‚Äôre environmentally conscious. Now we need to start acting like we‚Äôre environmentally conscious,‚ÄĚ said local activist Jennifer deNicola, ‚ÄúMalibu needs to be this beacon of what cities can be.‚ÄĚ

According to the Malibu Times, council members had met with Poison Free Malibu prior to the meeting, receiving additional information about the issues. All five members of the council showed support in their comments and provided potential additions on top of the suggested actions. ‚ÄúThe City of Portland has a 60-page document of all the things they‚Äôve looked at and tried. We ought to be doing that,‚ÄĚ said Council Member John Sibert. He also cited the Environmental Sustainability Committee that was created in Malibu a year ago to specifically look at environmental sustainability policy.

Because of the state’s regressive pesticide preemption law, the city is barred from passing legislation that halts the use of pesticides on private property. However, Malibu joins dozens of communities across the country that have not let the issue of state preemption get in the way of passing policies that are still protective of human health and the environment, even if they are unable to restrict pesticide use on privately owned land. Concern over unnecessary cosmetic pesticide use has been echoed across the nation by grassroots coalitions of health and environmental advocates. In Montgomery County, Maryland, legislation introduced by Councilmember George Leventhal, successfully advanced by the parent group Safe Grow Montgomery, allows only lawn care products to be used on private and public property that are compatible with organic practices. Maryland is one of only seven states that has not preempt local jurisdictions from restricting pesticides more stringently than the state.

In 2012, Ohio‚Äôs Cuyahoga County Council voted to limit the use of chemical insecticides, weed killers and other pesticides on county property. That same year, Richmond, California‚Äôs City Council unanimously approved a pesticide reform ordinance targeting the use of toxic chemical pesticides within city boundaries. In February 2016, the¬†city council of St. Paul, MN adopted a resolution to make the city more pollinator friendly by banning bee-toxic neonicotinoids and other pesticides ‚Äúproven¬†to be harmful to pollinators‚ÄĚ and require an¬†updating of its¬†Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program,¬†mandating¬†non-chemical methods. That same month, the City Council of Irvine, CA, with a population of over 250,000 people, voted unanimously to stop the use of hazardous pesticides on city property. Just this month, Howard County, Maryland has taken the initiative to restrict the use of neonicotinoids on parklands.

Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 17 are linked with cancer or carcinogenicity, 11 are linked with birth defects, 19 with reproductive effects, 24 with liver or kidney damage, 14 with neurotoxicity, and 18 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system. Of those same 30 lawn pesticides, 17 are detected in groundwater, 23 have the ability to leach into drinking water sources, 24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem, 11 are toxic to bees, and 16 are toxic to birds. With numbers like this, the only logical question becomes: is this really necessary and what can we do to stop or prevent this kind of contamination?

For more information on organic-based, pesticide-free lawn and landscape management, see Beyond Pesticides‚Äô Lawns and Landscapes program page. Beyond Pesticides encourages concerned citizens to stand up and make their voices heard in their community. If you‚Äôd like to join Malibu, CA and help ban pesticide use in your community‚Äôs public spaces, contact Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450 or at [email protected].

Source: Malibu Times

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

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01
Jul

France on Track to Ban All Neonicotinoid Pesticides by 2018

(Beyond Pesticides July 1, 2016) Lawmakers in France approved plans to totally ban neonicotinoid pesticides by 2018, based on their link¬†to declining populations of pollinators, specifically bees. This new restriction would go above and beyond current European Union (EU) restrictions on neonicotinoids, which limit the use of neonicotinoids, but do not ban them. The outright ban on neonicotinoid pesticides in France was adopted by a narrow majority of the¬†country’s¬†National Assembly, as part of a bill on biodiversity. While the bill must still gain the approval of the French Senate, which rejected it in a previous reading, passage by the Assembly is significant, as France becomes the first country to join state and local movements to eliminate the use of these toxic chemicals.

Neonicotinoids have been found by¬†a growing body of scientific literature¬†to be linked to honey bee and other pollinator declines. In light of these findings, in 2013 the European Commission¬†voted to suspend¬†the use of neonicotinoid pesticides for two years. The ban came several months afrance_beesfter the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)¬†released a report¬†identifying ‚Äúhigh acute risk‚ÄĚ to honey bees from uses of certain neonicotinoid chemicals.¬† Along with recent reports and studies highlighting the role these chemicals play in pollinator decline, there is evidence that the use of neonicotinoids are not efficacious or even necessary in agriculture. In August of 2015,¬†figures for the first oilseed rape harvest¬†since the European-wide ban was introduced show that the yield so far is higher than the average for the previous decade, when the chemicals were used on the majority of oilseed rape grown in the UK.¬† In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a¬†report¬†concluding that soybean¬†seed treatments with neonicotinoid insecticides provide little or no overall benefits in controlling insects or improving yield or quality in soybean production.¬†The seed treatment market has¬†more than tripled in size¬†between 1990 and 2005, with neonicotinoids making up 77 percent of the market share.

While France has established itself a leader in protecting pollinators, other European countries have not followed suit. The United Kingdom (UK) has raised opposition to EU efforts to limit the use of neonicotinoids at every turn. It¬†opposed the two year moratorium on neonicotinoid use, citing a study published in 2013 by Britain‚Äôs Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), which found¬†‚Äúno clear consistent relationship‚ÄĚ between exposure to neonicotinoids and the growth of bee colonies and the number of queens they produce. However, a¬†new analysis of the FERA data was conducted and it was concluded that the data clearly showed substantial negative effects of neonicotinoids on the performance of colonies. As a result, Britain was required¬†to comply with the ban under EU rules, though it did not stop FERA from approving an emergency application for the use of neonicotinoids in 2015. With UK‚Äôs recent decision to leave the EU, it is uncertain whether it¬†would continue the EU-wide restrictions currently in place on neonicotinoid pesticides.

France‚Äôs environment minister, Segolene Royal, is in favor of the proposed neonicotinoid ban, though he acknowledges that getting it past the Senate remains a significant obstacle. He is also¬†in favor of phasing out glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup. He said in a statement: ‚ÄúThis decision will prepare us for the future and protect bees and the role they play. Research and development of substitute products has to accelerate.‚ÄĚ

Earlier this month, a proposal for a temporary ‚Äėtechnical extension‚Äô of the EU approval of the herbicide glyphosate failed to secure the support of a majority of EU governments at a meeting of the EU standing committee on plants, animals, food and feed, putting the chemical‚Äôs chance for re-approval up in the air. Glyphosate¬†has been subject to widespread public scrutiny since the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified it as a¬†2A probable carcinogen¬†based on animal studies.

In the U.S., the struggle to address the pollinator crisis continues to face obstacles, even in face of a growing number of Americans who believe bee declines are critical and linked to pesticide use.  Last week, advocates delivered over four million signatures to the EPA calling for decisive action on the rampant use of neonicotinoids and similar systemic insecticides, which scientists say are a driving factor in declining bee populations. See more information on the serious decline of honey and other pollinators at www.beeprotective.org.

All unattributed positions are those of Beyond Pesticides

Source: Natural Society

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30
Jun

Howard County, MD, Plans to Ban Neonics on Parklands

(Beyond Pesticides, June 30, 2016) In a move that goes one step further than the recently passed state-wide bill restricting consumer sales of neonicotinoid (neonics) products, Howard County, Maryland has taken the initiative to restrict the use of neonicotinoids on parklands. The new policy, announced June 16, cites the growing number of studies linking neonicotinoid use to adverse effects on pollinator species.

howard_county_sealThe Department of Recreation and¬†Parks (DRP) manages approximately 10,000 acres of parkland within Howard County. According to the new policy and procedure, DRP is restricting the use of neonicotinoids, ‚Äúdue to recent research suggesting that there is a link between pesticides that contain neonicotinoids negatively effecting populations of pollinator species, such as; honeybees, native bees, butterflies, moths and other insects.‚ÄĚ Neonics were often used on parklands for grubs on turf, Japanese beetles on trees,¬†and aphids on flowers and are now prohibited on all County parkland, including sports fields, garden plots, golf course and open space. Exemptions exist for agricultural uses and invasive pest infestations. Read the new neonicotinoid policy.

Just this past May, Maryland officially became the first state in the nation to pass legislation against neonicotinoids. The state legislature passed the Maryland Pollinator Protection Act (Senate Bill 198/House Bill 211), under which consumers will not be permitted to buy pesticides that contain neonicotinoids starting in 2018. Certified pesticide applicators, farmers and veterinarians will still be allowed to use neonicotinoids. Numerous studies confirm that neonics contribute to bee mortality and colony health deterioration, as well as to declines in native pollinators, including birds and butterflies. At the national level, beekeepers lost an average of 44% of their colonies over the past year. Last year, Maryland lost more than 60 percent of its beehives as commercial beekeepers Рof which there are more than 1,800 statewide. These are losses are higher than the average reported national losses.

In an official statement, Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman said, ‚ÄúMany of us have heard about the decreasing numbers of both honey bees and monarch butterflies. While the EPA continues to look at the potential negative impacts of neonicotinoids, the Department of Recreation and Parks has crafted a policy that is practical and sets forth guidelines for those instances when there is no other option but to use neonicotinoids. We hope that this new policy will encourage the entire community to use alternative means to control pests.‚ÄĚ

The policy incorporates feedback from the Recreation and Parks Board, the Howard County Bird Club, the Sierra Club and others. DRP began developing the policy after discussions between Mr. Kittleman and environmental advocates during fall 2015.

Other states like Connecticut are also taking action to restrict the use of these harmful pesticides. Numerous local communities, universities, and retailers have also taken steps to remove neonicotinoid pesticides from use. At the federal level, Congress has an opportunity to suspend the use of neonics until they have been proven not to result in unreasonable adverse effects on pollinators through the Saving America’s Pollinators Act. Last week, the White House released its Pollinator Partnership Action Plan (PPAP), a follow-up to its 2015 National Pollinator Health Strategy, which outlines action that can and are being taken to provide pollinators with more forage and habitat. However, the plan continued to fall short of meaningful action for pollinators, calling for very little protections from pesticides.

Beyond Pesticides and its allies have called for suspensions on neonicotinoid pesticides, particularly the most widely used and toxic: imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. These pesticides are used in a variety of home and garden products, and most commonly in corn and soybean seed coatings, where they remain in plant tissues, including pollen and nectar, for long periods of time. Along with suspensions of registrations, groups have urged EPA to conduct broader reviews on the impact of these systemic pesticides on ecosystems and organisms, including endangered species and biodiversity.

For more information of pesticides and pollinators visit, www.beeprotective.org.

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

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29
Jun

Herbicide Use and Chemical Inputs Doubled on VT Dairy Farms with GE Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, June 29, 2016) A new report published by Regeneration Vermont finds that herbicide and chemical fertilizer use on Vermont dairy farms nearly doubled from 2002 to 2012, increasing from 1.54 to 3.01 pounds of herbicide per acre, respectively. The report, Vermont’s GMO Legacy: Pesticides, Polluted Water & Climate Destruction, by Will Allen, Ph.D. of Regeneration Vermont and Cedar Circle Farm, focuses on the failed promises of genetically engineered (GE, or GMO) crops to reduce chemical inputs required for crop production. While Vermont leads the nation on the GE labeling front, with its law set to go into effect on July 1, the report, which highlights the flawed exemption on dairy and meat products, is a sobering reminder that this is only a part of the solution to the effects of GE crops and chemical-intensive agriculture.

‚ÄúWhile the law will force mainstream food corporations to label GMOs in products like Cheetos and Spaghetti-os before coming into the state, it turns a blind eye to the GMO-derived dairy that is the primary ingredient in, for VT Ag Pesticidesexample, Ben & Jerry‚Äôs ice cream and Cabot‚Äôs cheddar cheese,‚ÄĚ says Dr. Allen. ‚ÄúThis is about more than the consumer‚Äôs right to know. It‚Äôs also about the impact GMO-centered agriculture is having on Vermont‚Äôs environment and wildlife, its role in the continued monopolization of the food supply, and the roadblocks it creates in the path toward a truly regenerative, eco-sensitive, and socially-just form of agriculture in the state.‚ÄĚ

At issue is the fact that the law specifically exempts dairy and meat products, though the state’s number one crop is feed corn, with over 92,000 acres of GE feed corn grown in Vermont. In fact, it finds that in a span of 13 years, there was a 12-fold increase in the adoption of GE corn in Vermont, from 8% of corn acreage planted with GE seed in 2002 to 90% in 2012.  The report finds that from 2002 to 2007, when GE production was at 47%, herbicide use averaged 160,201 pounds per year. From 2008-2012, when GE production was planted on 67-90% of corn acreage, herbicide use nearly doubled, with an average of 262,096 pounds per year.

Further, the report finds that eight highly toxic herbicides dominated pesticide use on Vermont corn crops, including atrazine, metholachlor, simazine, pendimethalin, glyphosate, acetochlor, dicamba,and alachlor. In light of findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that glyphosate is a human carcinogen based on laboratory animal test data, consumers have even more cause for concern about the health risks that these products pose. Beyond Pesticides has long ascertained that consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients, not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and human health. Furthermore, there are many environmental consequences of reliance on chemical-intensive, genetically engineered agriculture. Repeated spraying of these herbicides destroys refuge areas for beneficial insects, such as the monarch butterfly, and leads to resistance in the very weed species that GE technology is intended to control. Yet, despite rampant glyphosate resistance and the presence of organic management practices that are more protective of human health and the environment, the agrichemical industry continues to resort to increasingly toxic combinations of chemicals.

On the positive side, the report offers encouragement in the fact that more than 20% of Vermont’s dairies are organic, which is the highest percentage in the U.S. About 200 of the 970 Vermont dairy farms have adopted sophisticated organic rotational grazing systems, according to the report, which enhance the quality of the forage, and sequester large amounts of carbon that can help reverse climate change. Good organic practices work to build the soil and maintain an ecological balance that makes chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides unnecessary.

‚ÄúVermont is blessed with abundant water, lush pastures, and an environment where pastured cows can thrive,‚ÄĚ concludes Will. ‚ÄúAll of Vermont‚Äôs dairies could adopt a more sustainable form of dairy management, and the government and private businesses could help farmers make the transition and curb the pollution. We have the technical knowledge to make these management changes, but we urgently need to accelerate the transition to cleaner, safer, and more environmentally friendly dairy farming systems.‚ÄĚ

Will Allen, Ph.D., is a longtime educator, activist and farmer dedicated to organic agricultural techniques that benefit the environment, farm workers and consumers. He was the founder of the Sustainable Cotton Project, a group that promoted organic growing practices and organic clothing, and the author of the seminal work on the history of toxic pesticides, The War on Bugs. Dr. Allen is currently the co-founder and co-manager, along with his wife, Kate Duesterberg, of Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, Vermont, a pioneering organic farm and education center. Will and his wife both spoke at the 34th National Pesticide Forum, Cultivating Community and Environmental Health, in Portland, Maine. You can hear about his personal experience on GE contamination and many of the issues brought forth in the report in the video of their talk, Regenerative Agriculture: Farming as if the Earth Matters.

The only way to truly avoid food produced with genetically engineered crops or processed with genetically engineered ingredients in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture and 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. To learn more about organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture, and Eating With a Conscious pages. For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website.

Sources: VT Digger, Regeneration Vermont

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

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