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Daily News Blog

04
Nov

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

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

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

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

Shortly after it was registered, a lawsuit was filed by Beyond Pesticides and other environmental groups, challenging the approval under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The groups argued that in its approval of Enlist Duo EPA disregarded negative impacts on sensitive species, including nearly two hundred species protected under the Endangered Species Act, from the increased use of the toxic cocktail on crops genetically engineered to withstand its application. In addition to environmental damage, these chemicals have been linked to a myriad of human health problems. 2,4-D has been linked to soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, and harm to the reproductive system. Additionally, glyphosate has been classified as a human carcinogen based on laboratory studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2015.

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

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

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

How to Make a Difference, NOW

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

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

By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, organic farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most genetically engineered organisms have been falsely-marketed as solving. To learn more about organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Program Page.

Source: EPA, Center for Biological Diversity

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

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03
Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See a copy of our press release here.

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

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02
Nov

Study Reveals Extent of Pesticide Contamination in Medical Marijuana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Steep Hill Press Release

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01
Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The New York Times

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31
Oct

Report Reveals Food Retailers Failing Pollinators

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

Major retailers often lag behind public opinion when it comes to changing their official policies to promote practices that protect environmental interests. In 2foe_foodretailerreport_scorecard014, Friends of the Earth, Beyond Pesticides and allies released a report showing that 36 out of 71 (51 percent) of garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contain neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides — a key contributor to recent bee declines, despite the fact more than half a million Americans had signed petitions demanding that Lowe’s and Home Depot stop selling neonics. While it took more than two years for Home Depot and Lowes to respond to consumer pressure, their eventual commitment to eliminate bee-toxic products was encouraging for consumers and environmental groups, who hope to see a similar shift in policy from grocery retailers.

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Friends of the Earth Press Release, Report

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

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27
Oct

New Jersey Lawmakers Reintroduce Safe Playing Fields Act

(Beyond Pesticides, October 28, 2016) Lawmakers in the New Jersey House and Senate introduced bills this legislative session to stop the use of toxic lawn care pesticides on children’s playing fields. The Safe Playing Fields Act, introduced by Representatives Daniel Benson (D) and Holly Schepisi (R) in the New Jersey Assembly and Senator Shirley Turner (D) in the Senate will eliminate the use of toxic registered pesticides on school grounds in favor of “low impact pesticides” considered minimum risk by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This is the latest legislative push to pass this Act after attempts in 2011 and 2012.

touchfootballThe bill is modeled on similar efforts that have been successfully implemented in the states of New York and Connecticut. Connecticut first passed An Act Concerning Pesticides at Schools and Day Care Facilities in 2005, which restricted toxic pesticide use on elementary school grounds in the state. The act has been amended multiple times. First in 2007, An Act Banning Pesticide Use on School Grounds extended prohibitions to students in schools up to grade 8. In 2009, Connecticut’s law was amended again to extend pesticide protections to day care centers. Last year, the state passed another update, this time banning toxic lawn care chemicals on municipal playgrounds. New York’s Child Safe Playing Fields Act also restricts toxic pesticides at day care centers, preschools, and on school grounds, applying these protections to all students, from kindergarten through high school. Under these laws, use of toxic registered pesticides is only permitted if there is an emergency deemed threatening to human health, and it is approved by school administrators.

Updates to laws that protect New Jersey school children from toxic pesticides are long overdue. During 2012 legislative efforts to pass this measure, the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly endorsed the Act, writing in part, “
the past decade has seen an expansion of the evidence showing adverse effects after chronic pesticide exposure in children. The strongest links between pesticides and health effects to children involve pediatric cancer and adverse neuro-development. However, low birth weight, preterm birth, congenital abnormalities, cognitive deficits and asthma at times are pesticide-induced.”

Children are much more sensitive than adults to pesticide exposure because they take in more of a pesticide relative to adults and have developing bodies and organ systems. Children often have more intimate exposure to pesticides through playing and hand to mouth activities. Beyond Pesticides actively documents evidence of the danger pesticides pose to children through our Pesticide Induced Diseases Database, and through fact sheets like Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix and Pesticides and Playing Fields.

Beyond the danger these chemicals pose to children is the fact that toxic pesticides are simply not necessary in order to control weeds and pests that do cosmetic damage to fields and playgrounds. While certainly many parents do not feel that it is worth trading their child’s health for an aesthetically pleasing field or landscape, the fact is that those sort of trade-offs are not necessary when grounds are managed through a natural systems approach. Natural or organic turf management starts with improving the health of the soil, and focuses on managing turf through cultural practices and natural inputs. Guided by a soil test, this approach includes practices such as correcting pH and nutrient imbalances, amending soil through compost or compost tea, and a focus on proper mowing height, aeration, overseeding, and adequate watering. It is Beyond Pesticides’ experience and the experience of states like New York, Connecticut, and communities across the country that this approach is successful when properly implemented.

If you want to get involved in efforts to protect kids at school from toxic pesticides, such as the efforts underway right now in New Jersey or Minneapolis, MN,  contact Beyond Pesticides by calling the office at 202-543-5450 or email at [email protected].

Source: NorthJersey.com, New Jersey Legislature

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

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26
Oct

Massachusetts Attorney General Stops Deceptive Safety Claims about Bee-Toxic Pesticides, Beyond Pesticides Urges Other States to Follow

(Washington, D.C. October 27, 2016) With the Massachusetts Attorney General forcing Bayer CropScience to end its statewide advertising containing deceptive safety claims about bee-toxic pesticides, Beyond Pesticides yesterday asked the other 49 states to do the same. In a letter to State Attorneys General, Beyond Pesticides said, “With neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides linked to the increase in pollinator decline, we are writing to urge you, on behalf of our members in your state, to stop misleading and fraudulent advertising of these pesticide products.”

bayerBeyond Pesticides continues, “We make this request following the settlement reached by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy with Bayer CropScience, announced today, that ends the company’s deceptive advertising practices on their neonicotinoid-containing lawn and garden products.”

Bayer agreed to change its advertising practices, so that the neonic-containing lawn and garden products are no longer misrepresented by false safety claims. This landmark settlement, filed under the state’s Consumer Protection Act, is believed to be the first time any major pesticide company has agreed to a court order to address alleged false advertising regarding risks posed by neonic products to honey and native bees, and other pollinator species. The lawn and garden products subject to the settlement, which include Bayer Advanced¼ All-in-One Rose and Flower Care, Bayer Advanced¼ 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect and Feed II, and Bayer Advanced¼ Season Long Grub Control Plus Turf Revitalizer, contain the active ingredients imidacloprid and/or clothianidin, both neonics.

In addition, according to the Massachusetts AG, Bayer is paying the Commonwealth $75,000 to settle these claims against the company. Attorney General Healy stated that, “This company was misleading consumers with deceptive claims, including falsely advertising its products as akin to giving ‘a daily vitamin’ to plants, when, in fact, the pesticides are highly toxic to honey bees and other pollinators in the environment. This groundbreaking settlement will promote truth in advertising for consumer products that expose bees to harmful pesticides and will increase awareness about the risks these pesticides pose to bees and other pollinators essential for food production.”

Neonics are a class of insecticides with a common mode of action that affects the central nervous system of insects. There is extensive evidence that neonic pesticides play a major role in recent pollinator declines. Neonics decrease learning, foraging and navigational ability of bees, as well as increase their vulnerability to pathogens and parasites as a result of the suppression of bee immune systems. In addition to toxicity to bees, neonics have been shown to also adversely affect birds, aquatic organisms, and biodiversity, while contaminating soil and waterways. They are persistent in the environment and, because they are systemic, translocate throughout the plant and are expressed in the pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets, causing indiscriminate poisoning of wildlife.

Given the shortcomings in federal oversight of misleading labeling claims and the use of neonicotinoids, Beyond Pesticides asked State Attorney General offices take action to mitigate these concerns. With growing concerns surrounding the detrimental role that neonics have on pollinator health, we applaud the actions taken by the Massachusetts Attorney General and urge other states to assess the pesticide labeling practices and take appropriate action. Farm, beekeeper, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have urged EPA to follow the lead of the European Union and restrict neonics.

Download a copy of the letter here: http://bit.ly/NeonicAGLetter.

See a copy of our press release here.

Read the Massachusetts Attorney General’s press release here.

See the science on neonicotinoids and other efforts to protect pollinators from pesticides.

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

 

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26
Oct

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

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

epa_seal_profilesIn a statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, EPA’s Region 7 office said the Missouri Department of Agriculture received more than 100 complaints since June 22, 2016. The complaints allege damage to more than 41,000 acres of soybeans, and other crops including peaches, tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupe, rice, purple-hull peas, peanuts, cotton and alfalfa; as well as to residential gardens, trees and shrubs. More than 25 similar complaints were lodged with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Plant Board, with most coming from Mississippi and Craighead counties in northeast Arkansas. Those complaints are being looked into by plant board investigators.

In its statement, EPA said officials served federal search warrants during the week of Oct. 10 at “several locations in Cape Girardeau, Dunklin, New Madrid and Stoddard counties” of Missouri. The warrants were issued by a U.S. magistrate judge in Cape Girardeau “for the expressed purpose of gathering evidence of possible violations” of federal law governing the use of herbicides and regarding “other federal crimes,” according to the statement.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the dicamba-tolerant cotton, soybean and corn seed as a method to control glyphosate-resistant “superweeds,” which have spread as a result of the use of Roundup Ready on GE herbicide-tolerant crops. However, EPA has not yet approved the new dicamba product formulation for use on the new dicamba-tolerant crops. Current allowable uses for dicamba products are restricted to pre-plant and post-harvest burndown applications. The new formulation of dicamba is said to be lower in volatility than the other versions of dicamba. However, data on this has not been made public for peer review, and the validity of these claims remain unsubstantiated. Monsanto, the manufacturer of these GE seeds, told NPR that it made clear to farmers that they could not spray dicamba on its dicamba-tolerant crops.

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

The use of other highly volatile herbicides like 2,4-D on GE crops also presents growing pesticide drift concerns in light of new 2,4-D tolerant GE varieties. With lawmakers contemplating increasing fines on illegal pesticide applications in Missouri, ultimately, this problem will need to be addressed on a more comprehensive scale, as conventional farmers will need to diversify the crops they plant and implement other cultural practices to deter weeds, including using cover crops, crop rotation, and intercropping. Food distribution systems will also need to shift to accommodate greater diversity in farmer fields. Organic agriculture represents a time-tested approach to managing weeds and avoiding resistance problems that plague GE cropping systems. With organic, the use of toxic synthetic herbicides and GE seeds is prohibited, and farmers must craft an organic system plan aimed at improving soil health and managing pests and weeds should they arise.

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

Source: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 

 

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25
Oct

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

(Beyond Pesticides, October 25, 2016) Last week, a study, Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the USA: a population-based disease burden and cost analysis, published in The Lancet journal, concludes that exposure to pesticides and other chemicals found in common household items, such as toys, makeup and detergent, costs the U.S. more than $340 billion annually in health care costs and lost wages. The chemicals in question, endocrine disruptors (EDCs), interfere with the body’s hormone system, which can lead to a variety of health problems.

endocrine systemAccording to Environmental Health News, the researchers estimate the costs by looking at exposure data and then projecting 15 medical conditions that are linked to endocrine disruptors and their associated health costs and lost wages. The findings came from calculations made by the Endocrine Society, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations Environment Program. A group of flame retardant chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were the worst offenders in the U.S., accounting for nearly two-thirds of estimated health problems. These chemicals were estimated to annually cause about 11 million lost IQ points and 43,000 additional cases of intellectual disability, costing around $268 billion. Pesticide exposure, the second most costly chemical group in the U.S., causes an estimated 1.8 million lost IQ points and another 7,500 intellectual disability cases annual, with an estimated cost of $44.7 billion.

Endocrine disruptors work either by mimicking naturally produced hormones, blocking hormone receptors in cells, or affecting the transport, synthesis, metabolism or excretion of hormones. These impacts can result in devastating effects on one’s health, including behavioral and learning disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), birth defects, obesity, early puberty, infertility, cardiovascular disease, and childhood and adult cancers. Nearly 100 percent of people have detectable amounts of EDCs in their bodies, according to the introductory guide to EDCs published by the Endocrine Society and IPEN.

According to Environmental Health News, the American Chemistry Council, which represents chemical manufacturers, not surprisingly slammed the study, saying the research was speculative and the conclusions were based off of “cherry-picked” data. Leonardo Trasande, M.D., associate professor and researcher at the NYU School of Medicine, who is also the senior author of the study, countered that the estimates were actually on the conservative side. Researchers calculated the health-related costs from less than 5% of known endocrine disrupting chemicals. Philippe Grandjean, MD, a professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, commented on the study, saying, “Of course it would be great to know more, but my prediction is that the calculated costs to society will increase substantially once we get better documentation on … additional substances and additional adverse effects.”

Previous studies have shown that endocrine disrupting chemicals and other pesticides place a large burden of cost on the public through resulting health effects. In 2015, Dr. Grandjean co-authored a study showing that exposure to EDCs results in approximately € 150 billion ($162 billion) in health care costs in the European Union each year. The analysis found (with 70-100% probability) that each year in Europe, 13 million IQ points are lost due to prenatal organophosphate exposure (pesticides such as chlorpyrifos and malathion), and 59,300 additional cases of intellectual disability are caused. Pesticides were found to be the most costly of the EDCs analyzed, accounting for € 120 billion ($130 billion) of the estimated € 150 billion ($162 billion) in healthcare expenditures each year. In July 2016, a study was released that showed 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. The researchers 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).

Ultimately, the widespread adoption of organic management is necessary to protect consumers in the long-term. While some may argue that organic is too expensive, the simple fact is that chemical companies are able to externalize the social cost of their products in the form of healthcare costs to consumers, and numerous other adverse effects. Consumers should not feel upset over paying the higher cost. In essence, organic shoppers are paying more to protect their health, the environment where the food is grown, the farmworkers that grow the food, the soil the food is growth in, and the pollinators and other wildlife in the area. If consumers paid the true cost of conventional food production, prices for conventionally grown goods would certainly be more expensive than organic products, which are certified through a process that protects human health and the environment. For the real story on the affordability of organic food, see our article here.

As we encourage more farmers to move toward organic, and more consumers to purchase organic foods, we must fight to keep organic strong. Consumers and producers can help maintain the integrity of the organic label, and thus protect the food we eat as well as the environment, by reading more about the issues. Currently, the National Organic Standards Board is accepting comments to protect organic standards until October 26. Click here to see the issues! For more information on the benefits of purchasing organic foods, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience database, which documents the impacts on the environment and farmworkers of the toxic chemicals used in conventional agriculture.

Source: Environmental Health News

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

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24
Oct

Neonicotinoid Insecticide Exposure Reduces Bumblebee Colony Size

(Beyond Pesticides, October 24, 2016) Systemic neonicotinoid (neonic) exposure is associated with reductions in colony size and changes in foraging behavior, according to a recent field study done by a team of scientists at Imperial College London. The senior author of the study, Richard Gill, Ph.D., stated that when neonicotinoid “exposure is relatively persistent and combined with other stressors associated with land use change, they could have detrimental effects at the colony level.”

Gary Tate Riverside CA Honey Bee taking flight Riverside Ca2The study, Impact of controlled neonicotinoid exposure on bumblebees in a realistic field setting, assesses the effect of exposure to the neonic, clothianidin, on bumblebee foraging patterns and colony size. Clothianidin was given to 20 buff-tailed bumblebee colonies for five-weeks in a sugar solution at a concentration of 5 parts per billion, an environmentally relevant level of the pesticide. A bumblebee colony census was done before and after the field experiment, where the number of eggs, larvae, pupae, and workers bees were recorded along with the wax and pollen stores in the colony. The researchers found that the clothianidin treated colonies had fewer workers, drones and reproductive female bees compared to the colonies with no exposure. These data add to the growing body of research on sub-lethal effects, which must be considered when looking at the effects of pesticides on non-target organisms.

This study adds to the body of science that has examined the effects of neonic exposure to bee colonies under field conditions. However, neonic pesticides have long been identified as a major culprit in bee decline by independent scientists and beekeepers, yet chemical manufacturers like Bayer and Syngenta have focused on other issues such as the varroa mite. As Beyond Pesticides wrote in the 2014 issue of Pesticides and You, the issue of pollinator decline is No Longer a Big Mystery, and urgent action is needed now to protect pollinators from these toxic pesticides.

Neonics are associated with decreased learning, foraging and navigational ability, as well as increased vulnerability to pathogens and parasites as a result of suppressed bee immune systems. In addition to toxicity to bees, pesticides like neonicotinoids have been shown to also adversely affect birds, aquatic organisms and contaminate soil and waterways, and overall biodiversity.

These findings follow on the recent decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to add a group of bees to the Endangered Species List. FWS published a final rule in early October that declares seven species of yellow-faced bees that are native to Hawaii as endangered. This announcement follows the FWS’s proposed listing of the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). FWS says that it needs additional time to identify specific areas to be designated as critical habitat for the endangered bees. Further, though FWS has identified many threats to bees, including habitat loss and degradation due to urbanization, and other human activities, the final rule does not specifically point to pesticides. However, there is an overwhelming number of research studies demonstrating that neonicotinoid insecticides, working either individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of bees and other pollinators.

Over the past decade, numerous studies have illuminated the negative effect that neonics have on different pollinator species, but until now little research has been performed on the chemicals’ long-term impacts. The results of this recent study provide additional evidence that links the sublethal impacts of neonic exposure and large-scale population extinctions of wild bee species.

Despite limited action in the United States by federal agencies and Congress to discontinue the use of neonicotinoid insecticides and toxic pesticides in general, consumers and advocates around the country can create safe pollinator habitat and encourage local governments to do the same. Ultimately, the widespread adoption of organic management is necessary to protect pollinators and the environment in the long-term. Farms or other land areas that are managed with chemical-intensive practices turn habitat into pollinator killing fields.

Beyond Pesticides has long sought a broad-scale marketplace transition to organic practices that prohibits the use of toxic synthetic pesticides by law and encourages a systems-based approach that is protective of health and the environment. For information on growing plants to protect pollinators, see our Pollinator-Friendly Seeds and Nursery Directory. Use the Bee Protective Habitat Guide to plant a pollinator garden suited for your region, and consider seeding white clover into your lawn. You can also declare your garden, yard, park or other space as pesticide-free and pollinator friendly. Sign the pledge today!  More information on the adverse effects neonics can be found in the Beyond Pesticides’ report Cultivating Plants that Poison.

Source: Science Daily, Imperial College London

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

 

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21
Oct

EPA Postpones Glyphosate Cancer Review Meeting after Letter from CropLife America

(Beyond Pesticides, October 21, 2016) Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) postponed a long-planned Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) on the carcinogenicity of the widely used herbicide glyphosate due to “recent changes in the availability of experts for the peer review panel.”  However, as veteran journalist, formerly with Reuters, Carey Gillam reports in the Huffington Post, the move was likely the result of a letter industry front group CropLife America sent to EPA just days before the postponement, challenging the bias of certain experts on the panel. Croplife America is a national trade association that represents manufacturers, formulators, and distributors of pesticides, and has a vested interest in tamping down consumer concerns over glyphosate’s carcinogenicity.

epa_seal_profilesCropLife’s letter focuses in on two experts that were set to present in front of the EPA panel, Peter Infante, Dr.PH., and Kenneth Portier, PhD. CropLife writes that Dr. Infante will “reflexively discount any and all industry sponsored studies
” and indicates that his bias should preclude him from participation in the SAP. The group also asserts that Dr. Portier, who despite admission that “he has not previously testified against or otherwise expressed the patent bias against pesticide manufacturers,” should not be completely disqualified from participation, but somehow vetted and confirmed by EPA that he will not approach the issue without preformed conclusions.

Biographies of members of the EPA glyphosate SAP cancer panel are available here and speak largely for themselves. According to Dr. Infante’s biography, which includes robust experience in government safety programs, “He has served as an expert consultant in epidemiology for: the National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) Report on Carcinogens (RoC); for working groups of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC); the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) Chemical Assessment Advisory Committee; and as an expert on cancer risk from asbestos exposure for the World Trade Organization (WTO).”  Despite this objectively deep experience, CropLife was concerned that he would be the only epidemiologist and would not emphasize studies the industry itself has put out about the safety of glyphosate.

Dr. Portier is the Vice President of the Statistics and Evaluation Center at the American Cancer Society, and, “has participated in over 60 FIFRA-SAP meetings since 1999 and five SAB science review panels. In addition, Dr. Portier has served on expert and advisory panels for the National Institutes  of  Health  (NIH),  National  Institute  of  Environmental  Health  Sciences  (NIEHS),  the  National Toxicology Program (NTP), and the World Health Organization Food and Agriculture Organization  (WHO/FAO) in Geneva, Switzerland.” However, CropLife believes Dr. Portier would not be an objective panel member because his brother is “a noted and vehement anti-glyphosate activist.”

These attacks on independent scientists, and the American Cancer Society, represent a new low for the pesticide industry. EPA’s quick turnaround, apparently in response to CropLife criticims, postponed a meeting less than a week before it was to take place, for which plane tickets were purchased and was planned for months in advance, raises serious concerns that advocates say warrant an independent investigation on the objectivity of EPA’s approach to this issue.

Beyond Pesticides is concerned about what it views as incessant industry driven attacks on independent and government scientists.  In 2015, one of the top entomologists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) filed a whistleblower complaint against a federal agency, citing unprofessional retaliation following the publication of a study linking neonicotinoid insecticides to the decline of monarch butterflies. Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., former senior research entomologist and lab supervisor for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in South Dakota, faced suspension for publishing research deemed “sensitive” by his USDA superior, underscoring why legal protections for government scientists are sorely needed.

Glyphosate, which is produced and sold as RoundupTM by Monsanto, has been touted by industry and EPA as a “low toxicity” chemical, “safer” than other pesticides. It is widely used in food production and on lawns, gardens, parks, and children’s playing fields. In 2015, the IARC classified glyphosate as a Group 2A “probable” carcinogen. According to IARC’s 2015 findings, Group 2A means that the chemical is probably carcinogenic to humans based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. IARC considered the findings from a prior EPA Scientific Advisory Panel report, along with several recent studies in making its conclusion. The international organization also noted that glyphosate caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells. Further, epidemiologic studies have found that exposure to glyphosate is significantly associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL).

According another 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’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson’s disease, among others.

EPA indicated to the Huffington Post that it was “working to reschedule as soon as possible.” In order to ensure an outcome based on fact, and not industry spin, it is critical that EPA not continue to cave to industry pressure on this important issue. For more information about glyphosate’s carcinogenicity, see Beyond Pesticides fact sheet on glyphosate, or the 2015 article on the IARC decision in Pesticides and You, our quarterly newsletter.

Source: Huffington Post, EPA

 

 

 

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20
Oct

New Study Shows Reduction of Persistent Pollutants in Breast Milk, Though Concerns Remain

(Beyond Pesticides, October 20, 2016) Researchers at the University of Western Australia (UWA) and Murdoch University recently released a study whose findings show that levels of pesticides in breast milk have dropped significantly over the past forty years, though some major concerns remain. Published in the international journal Chemosphere, the research shows a 42-fold decrease in levels of pesticides detected in breast milk, and ties the reduction to government efforts to prohibit persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in Australia, which has lead to decreased exposure over time. Led by UWA’s internationally renowned human lactation researcher Emeritus Professor Peter Hartmann, Dr. Donna Geddes and Murdoch’s Associate Professor Robert Trengove, the study is a testament to the positive impact banning pesticides can have on the health of individuals, especially vulnerable populations like infants, but also shows that there is a long way to go before our bodies are void of any bioaccumulated toxic residues.

Pregnant_womanwikiResearchers often study breast milk because it can bioconcentrate, or accumulate, persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Multiple studies on breast milk have been performed throughout the years, many of them confirming the fact that common toxic chemicals, such as glyphosate and triclosan, build up in our bodies over time. Most people are unaware that they carry chemical compounds in their bodies, a natural phenomenon dubbed chemical “body burden.” At any given time, hundreds of chemicals can be found in blood, urine, breast milk and even umbilical cord blood. Many of these chemicals enter our bodies through the foods we eat or drink, products we put on our skin and air we breathe. Before birth, people normally carry a body burden inherited from their mothers. Scientists believe the typical human being hosts close to 500 chemicals in various compartments in the body, mostly in fatty tissue. Many chemicals are broken down in our bodies and their metabolites are eliminated, but others linger in bodies for a lifetime and can increase the risk of certain diseases, such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

For this study, researchers recruited 40 breastfeeding mothers and performed mass spectrometry tests to determine the levels at which their human milk (HM) showed the presence of 88 different pesticides. While traditional POPs, such as organochlorines, organophosphates, carbamates and pyrethroids, were not detected in HM, the study revealed that 87.5% of mothers tested positive for dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), the toxic chemical dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane’s (DDT)’s major metabolite. DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972, following a massive environmental movement spurred by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which documents the adverse environmental effects resulting from the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Despite the fact that DDT was banned in the U.S. 43 years ago, concentrations of DDE have remained alarmingly high in many ecosystems, a fact supported by the prevalence of DDE in HM reported in this study.

Aside from the presence of DDE, the study does bring with it some positive findings, as researches point out that infants how have a daily intake of POPs 59-times below the amount that is considered safe. “It’s really good news,” said Professor Hartmann, Ph.D., while speaking to the problematic effects that the presence of pesticides can have on the growth and development of babies, “some of these compounds do mimic some of the body’s hormones
 so it is a bit of a problem if they are at high levels.” He also reiterated that his research showed that legislation to ban pesticides in the 1970’s has had positive impacts on health. “The restriction of sale of these pesticides has had an enormous effect in bringing the levels down to very good levels,” he said.

The study specifically looks to the banning of POPs in the 1970’s to explain the reduction in pesticides found in breast milk. Chemicals such as organochlorine pesticides, organophosphate pesticides, pyrethroids and carbamate pesticide were classified as persistent organic pollutants because they remain for long periods of time in the environment, eventually making their way up food chains, accumulating in the fatty tissues and animals and humans. Their legacy of poisoning the environment has been well documented, despite being banned for decades. Recent studies have linked these POPs to hormonal disturbances, abnormal sperm development, cancer, diabetes, obesity and environmental contamination.

To find out more about the impacts of pesticides on your health, please visit our Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database. You can also support organic food practices that reduce or eliminate our reliance on toxic pesticides by Eating with a Conscience.

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

Source: University of Western Australia

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19
Oct

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

(Beyond Pesticides, October 19, 2016) Reckitt Benckiser, the company that fought tooth and nail to keep its highly toxic d-CON¼ anticoagulant rodenticides on the market in the U.S., has recently issued an apology for another product of theirs that is responsible for the deaths of pregnant women and children in Korea: humidifier disinfectants. According to The Wall Street Journal, 189 deaths and 506 injuries from humidifier disinfectants, primarily Reckitt Benckiser’s humidifier disinfectant, Oxy Sac Sac (Oxy). The main ingredient in the sanitizers found to be toxic is polyhexamethylene guanidine phosphate, or PHMG.

ì˜„ì‹œì•Ąìž(100X80)In a statement on Wednesday, September 21, Reckitt Benckiser CEO Rakesh Kapoor offered his “deepest sympathy” for “the pain and the irreparable damage suffered by many families.” The apology was made during a visit with Oxy victims and families, as well as representatives of the Korean National Assembly Special Committee at the Company’s headquarters in Slough, UK.

Hazards associated with the humidifier disinfectants were first discovered in 2011 when seven pregnant women were hospitalized with acute respiratory disease, resulting in four deaths from lung failure. Korean Center for Disease Control (KCDC) led an investigation that found that the chemicals used to clean humidifiers were to blame, and the Korean government recalled six humidifier disinfectant products from the market nationwide, while recommending against the use of other similar products and ordered a voluntary recall in 2011.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the company commissioned Seoul National University, Hoseo University and Korea Conformity Laboratories to test its humidifier disinfectant, and privately hired two researchers from the universities as consultants. The company then purportedly rejected test results showing its products were unsafe, bribed the researchers to create favorable results and ignored toxicity warnings about its product in 2000, according to the Journal. Former CEOs and officials at Reckitt Benckiser Korea were charged in May and fined for and evading necessary toxicity tests before introducing it to market in South Korea in 2001, falsely advertising their product as “safe for humans.”

Reckitt Benckiser’s humidifier disinfectants are not sold outside of South Korea, however the multi-national company has a history of selling products that are known to be hazardous to children. In the U.S., Reckitt Benckiser, well known as the manufacturer of d-CON mouse and rat control products, refused to adopt EPA safety standards despite known health and safety risks.

Between 1993 and 2008, the American Association of Poison Control Centers logged somewhere in the range of 12,000 to 15,000 reports of rat and mouse poison exposures each year for children under the age of six. These numbers and other concerns about pet and non-target wildlife exposures spurred EPA to renew its efforts to establish better protections for children and the environment. Children are particularly susceptible to these risks because they play on floors and explore by putting items in their mouths, which can include loose rat poisons like d-CON.

The company refused to abide by EPA’s 2013 cancellation order of 12 of its products for not meeting statutory risk mitigation measures established by the agency in 2008. These measures required that products be sold in bait stations and secured bait forms, instead of loose baits that children can more readily access, and not contain the most toxic and persistent active ingredients.

The company challenged EPA’s decision keeping products on shelves for over one year, even suing the state of California for enacting EPA’s order to remove the products from shelves. This was the first time in more than 20 years that a company declined to implement EPA risk mitigation measures for pesticide products. Eventually, Reckitt Benckiser agreed to phase out production of the products under question in June 2014, nearly eight years after EPA warned about the threats to children’s health, however existing stocks may continue to be sold at retail stores.

While Reckitt-Benckiser outlined a compensation plan to the victims and their family members in South Korea, and has vowed to review its safety process, no plans to remove the products from market have been identified. Meanwhile, major retailers in South Korea have stopped selling Reckitt Benckiser products, which also includes such popular brands as Durex condoms, Air Wick and Lysol. For more information, including victim’s stories and a timeline of the history of Reckitt Benckiser’s hazardous humidifier disinfectant in South Korea, see the Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV), a coalition of victims’ groups, trade unions and other labor groups across Asia, committed to the rights of Victims and for overall improvement of health and safety at the workplace.

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

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV) and The Korea Herald

Photo Source: Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV)

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18
Oct

Pesticide Restrictions in Wisconsin Fail to Protect Groundwater Adequately

(Beyond Pesticides, October 18, 2016) A Wisconsin family is speaking out against groundwater contamination after their son fell ill two years ago, prompting them to test their well water. The test results found the water contaminated with fertilizers and pesticides, most notably the weed killer atrazine, which has been banned in their area for 20 years. Atrazine has been registered for use since 1958. Although many residential turf grass uses of the chemical have been eliminated voluntarily, homeowner uses do persist. The chemical has been linked to human health impacts such as childhood cancer, and rare birth defects, including gastroschisis, and choanal atresia.

water_well_in_garden_of_cambremer_franceAccording to Minnpost, in the spring of 2014, Jacob, son of Doug and Dawn Reeves, fell mysteriously ill. His body became swollen and he developed an unusual rash. He was finally diagnosed with juvenile dermatomyositis, a rare inflammatory disease that affects the muscles, skin and blood vessels. The cause of the disease is unknown, so the Reeves family began their own hunt as to why Jacob became sick. When they received the test results from Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, it showed that their well contained atrazine at twice the state and federal drinking water health standard. Follow up testing by the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) found 8.2 parts per billion of atrazine – almost triple the state health standard.

While there is currently no link between atrazine exposure and juvenile dermatomyositis, the DATCP warned in a letter that, “Long-term exposure to atrazine may cause a variety of health problems, including weight loss, heart damage and muscle spasms.” Testing also revealed 19.2 parts per million of nitrate, which is almost double the state health standard of 10ppm. Nitrate is a common groundwater contaminant that is sourced mainly from chemical fertilizers and animal waste, and has been linked to birth defects, cancers and thyroid problems.

Wisconsin regulators have already taken steps to mitigate the effects of atrazine. In 1991, the state created a rule that allowed DATCP to set maximum application rates and even prohibit the use of atrazine in certain areas. The last update was in 2011, with 101 prohibition areas covering 1.1 million acres. Unfortunately for the Reeves family, these restrictions were not enough. Their well was poisoned even though they are in the middle of a prohibition zone where atrazine use is banned. The Reeves family has installed filtration systems to remove the contaminants, but are worried about other chemicals.

Stan Senger, DATCP’s environmental quality section chief, expressed similar concerns. “My biggest concerns are in the cocktail of very low impacts of pesticides and their metabolites that are showing up in wells,” Mr. Senger said to Minnpost. “So you’ll find four or five of these pesticide components in a water sample, and you don’t know what to tell the homeowners.” Joanna Ory, a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture pre-doctoral fellow at the University of California-Santa Cruz, who studied Wisconsin’s approach to atrazine, stated to Minnpost that, “There may be negative synergistic effects if groundwater contains a ‘chemical soup’ of pesticides.”

There is a 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 —frequently used in lawn products like Weed B Gone Max and Trillion, and in conventional agriculture —on the mother’s ability to successfully bring young to birth and weaning. Researchers looked at pesticide concentrations diluted to levels that are considered “safe” by EPA and found that it is capable of inducing abortions and resorptions of fetuses at very low parts per billion. The greatest effect was at the lowest dose. For more information on pesticide synergy, see our 2004 article, “Synergy: The Big Unknowns of Pesticide Exposure.”

Drinking water treatment plans and filtration systems are a short-term, band-aid option to a problem that is persistent and must be addressed through preventive, long-term solutions. Beyond Pesticides has long supported “feed-the-soil” approaches to all types of landscape management. Understanding the role of healthy soils in creating healthy landscapes and plants, Beyond Pesticides promotes a systems approach that centers on management of soil health and proper fertilization that eliminates synthetic fertilizers and focuses on building the soil food web and nurturing soil microorganisms.

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.

Source: Minnpost

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

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17
Oct

EPA Review Keeps Bee-Toxic Pesticide Sulfoxaflor on the Market with Limited Restrictions

(Beyond Pesticides, October 17, 2016) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed its plan last Friday to register the toxic chemical sulfoxaflor, in the face of overwhelming evidence that it negatively affects bee populations. This decision is the final result of a long-fought legal battle over the chemical’s registration, spearheaded by beekeepers and public health organizations concerned with what has been identified as EPA’s inadequate and flawed pesticide review processes. The agency claims that amendments made to the original registration, such as reducing the number of crops for which use is permitted or only allowing post-bloom applications, will protect pollinators. However, scientific studies have shown that there is no way to fully limit exposure to bees, especially native species that exist naturally in the environment, given that the chemical, being systemic, is found in pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets. Given the evidence of harm related to sulfoxaflor’s use, as well as its demonstrated lack of need, advocates maintain that the agency’s decision to issue an amended registration violates its duty to protect human health and the environment.

Sulfoxaflor’s initial 2013 registration was challenged by beekeepers and subsequently vacated by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals due to overwhelming risks to beGary-Tate-Riverside-CA-Honey-Bee-taking-flight-Riverside-Ca-300x260es and EPA’s inadequate review of the data. Last September, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unequivocally rejected EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor. The Court concluded that EPA violated federal law when it approved sulfoxaflor without reliable studies regarding the impact that the insecticide may have on honey bee colonies. By vacating EPA’s unconditional registration of the chemical, sulfoxaflor could no longer be used in the U.S. This decision was issued, at least in part, as a response to a suit filed by beekeepers challenging EPA’s initial registration of sulfoxaflor, which cited the insecticide’s threat to bees and beekeeping. The case was Pollinator Stewardship Council, American Honey Producers Association, National Honey Bee Advisory Board, American Beekeeping Federation, Thomas Smith, Bret Adee, Jeff Anderson v. U.S. EPA (9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, No. 13-7234). As a result of this favorable holding, a similar lawsuit was filed by European beekeepers, who asked the European Court of Justice to take the same action.

Sulfoxaflor, the chemical at issue, is a relatively new active ingredient, registered in 2013, whose mode of action is similar to that of neonicotinoid pesticides. Even though it has not been classified as a neonicotinoid, it elicits similar neurological responses in honey bees, with many believing that sulfoxaflor is the new generation of neonicotinoid. Neonicotinoids, as well as sulfoxaflor, are “systemic” insecticides, which means that they are applied to plants, they are absorbed and distributed throughout the plant, including pollen, and nectar. Sulfoxaflor was previously registered in the U.S. for use on vegetables, fruits, barley, canola, ornamentals, soybeans, wheat and others, but the amended registration removes citrus, cotton, cucurbits, soybeans and strawberries from that list. This reduction, though aimed at protecting pollinators, comes up short. Like nenonicotinoids, sulfloxoflor has a long half-life and persists in soil, where it is taken up by growing plants, presenting itself in the nectar and pollen that pollinators rely on for food. Because it can last in the environment into the next growing season, efforts to protect pollinators by mitigating measures, such as not spraying while crops are in bloom, do not do enough to protect bees.

In an effort to stop the amended registration from going through, public comments were submitted by concerned beekeepers and environmental advocacy groups, like Beyond Pesticides, that stated that approval of a pesticide highly toxic to bees would only exacerbate the problems faced by an already tenuous honey bee industry and further decimate bee populations. However, EPA dismissed these concerns and instead pointed to a need for sulfoxaflor by industry and agriculture groups for justification, claiming they need it to control insects no longer being controlled by increasingly ineffective pesticide technologies. The comment period closed earlier this summer, and the recently issued amended registration indicates that the concerns of beekeepers and environmental groups were not addressed, as EPA believes these restrictions will “practically eliminate exposure to bees on the field, which reduces the risk to bees below EPA’s level of concern such that no additional data requirements are triggered,” despite comments submitted showing evidence to the contrary.

Honey bees and wild bees have been suffering elevated population declines over the last few years. A recent government-sponsored survey reports that U.S. beekeepers lost 44 percent of their honey bee colonies between April 2015 and April 2016, one of the highest recorded losses. A recently published study by researchers at Purdue University found that honey bees collect most of their pollen from non-crop plants that are frequently contaminated with a wide range of pesticides. Numerous pesticides, including sulfoxaflor, neonicotinoids, pyrethroids, and fungicides are highly toxic to honey bees and have a range of effects including impacts on learning behavior, foraging, reproduction and queen production, as well as impairing bee immune systems making them more susceptible to parasites and disease.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action to protect these beneficial organisms, pollinators need pesticide-free habitat throughout communities. You can 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: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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14
Oct

Soil Biota Adversely Affected by Interaction of Inputs and Practices in Chemical-Intensive Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, October 14, 2016) A recent study has shown that the interaction between pesticides, tillage and soil fertilization can have an effect on soil organisms. The study demonstrates that simple evaluations of pesticide exposure on single organisms does not give a complete picture of pesticide risk, and the authors of the study conclude that a more realistic risk assessment was needed to fully encompass the complex factors that can influence the effects of pesticides.

The study, titled Pesticide Interactions with Tillage and N Source, Effects on fauna, microoganisms and selected ecosystem services, monitored soil biota during two cropping seasons of winter wheat. The researchers studied pesticide effects in both moldboard plowed soil and directly seeded (no-till) soil. Either mineral fertilizer or cattle slurry was applied to the soil, along with either a fungicide, an insecticide, or both. Following the application of pesticides in the spring, and again after the winter wheat harvest in September, researchers studied how the populations of earthworms, springtails, mites and microbial life were affected. Researchers observed a negative effect due to pesticide treatment on mites, and generally found that all taxonomic groups were affected negatively, especially following insecticide treatment.

When looking at the effects of direct seeding versus plowed, and the addition of cattle slurry versus mineral fertilizer, researchers found that there was a higher population of soil biota in the soil under direct seeding versus plowed soil, and a positive effect from the addition of cattle slurry as opposed to the mineral fertilizer. Pesticide effects on soil organisms were also examined after the incubation of soil columns. Researchers found that soil biota populations were greater in the soil that had been directly seeded compared to plowed soil.

According to the conclusion of the study, “This project demonstrated a complex interaction between management factors that should be considered in risk assessments, for example by supplementing traditions dose-response tests with more realistic test systems that can also take indirect effects into account. Negative effects of pesticides on populations occurred in this project mainly at highly elevated doses, but also sublethal effects, and changes in species composition, are important, as loss of biodiversity can reduce the robustness of cropping systems towards, e.g., climate change.”

Other studies have demonstrated the detrimental effects that a wide range of pesticides can have on earthworms and other soil biota. A 2015 study demonstrated that glyphosate, the controversial and toxic active ingredient in Roundup, reduces activity and reproduction in two species of earthworms and increases soil nutrient concentrations to dangerous levels. Another study on worms found that chronic and/or acute exposure to glyphosate and/or mancozeb promotes neurodegeneration in GABAergic and DAergic neurons in Caenorhabditis elegans, a type of roundworm. In 2014, researchers also found that earthworms exposed to fungicides in conventionally farmed soil are at a stark disadvantage to worms in land managed organically. Earthworms exposed to the fungicide epoxiconazole are able to detoxify the chemical, but gain half as much weight as worms from an organic farm, where their population is also 2 to 3 times higher.

Soil biota is essential to ecosystem functioning because it breaks down organic matter, enables chemical elements to be reused, and fixes nitrogen, which is necessary for nutrient cycling in the ecosystem. A study published in February 2016 reveals that a decrease in soil biota impacts the services that healthy soil provides. The study finds that soil microbial diversity positively relates to multi-functionality in terrestrial ecosystems. Simply put, when soil diversity is high, the soil can function more efficiently and provide a multitude of ecosystem services. Any loss in microbial diversity will likely reduce multi-functionality, negatively affecting the services provided by soil, such as climate regulation through atmospheric carbon sequestration, fertility, and productivity. A further decline in soil biodiversity has adverse economic impacts as well. The European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) estimates soil organisms and their role in agricultural productivity to be worth $25 billion a year, globally.

One way to protect soil biota, other wildlife, biodiversity, and the ecosystem as a whole from the harmful effects of pesticides is to support organic agriculture over conventional, chemical-intensive farming. Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to this serious environmental threat. It is impossible to discuss the ecological benefits of organic agriculture without discussing the devastating effects of conventional agriculture.

Conventional, or chemical-intensive, agriculture relies on toxic pesticides that contaminate air, water, soil, and living things; organic agriculture does not allow the use of toxic pesticides. Chemical-intensive agriculture relies on synthetic chemical fertilizers that reduce soil organic matter and contaminate waterways; organic agriculture does not permit the use of synthetic fertilizers and relies instead on nutrient sources that tend to be less soluble and more stable in the soil, because of the expectation that healthy soil will produce microbes that can make the nutrients naturally available over a longer period of time.

To learn more about the impacts of pesticides on wildlife (which includes soil biota), visit Beyond Pesticides’ Wildlife Page for a discussion of how organic systems protect wildlife from the dangerous impacts of pesticides, encourage them to flourish, and restore the natural balance that is unable to exist in chemical-intensive agriculture.

Source: Eurekalert

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

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13
Oct

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

(Beyond Pesticides, October 13, 2016) Last week, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) released new rules that allow for continued use of the toxic fumigant Telone and reduce public health protection by permitting increased usage. One of the active ingredients in the product Telone, 1,3-Dicholorpropene (1,3-D), has many documented health risks, including cancer and kidney and liver damage. While CDPR and many news outlets reported the rule change as a tightening of the restrictions, the new rules effectively increase the previous annual cap from 90,250 pounds to 136,000 pounds per township, a defined area of 6×6 miles.

cdprAccording to CDPR documents, the primary revisions include: increasing the annual limit to 136,000 pounds within each pesticide township, eliminating “rollover” of unused pesticide allotments from prior years, and banning use of Telone in December, when weather conditions are especially problematic for air pollution. These new rules, which go into effect January 1, will allow for 1,3-D’s continued use in strawberry fields, vineyards, almond orchards, and other crops around California.

CDPR has been characterizing its changes in management of 1,3-D as increasingly protective of public health in the state. In making these revisions to the rules, CDPR completed an updated risk assessment to determine the annual use limit of 1,3-D that would still maintain a minimal risk of cancer to humans. The risk assessment failed to consider synergistic effects and does not adhere to the standard of “one-in-a million risk of cancer from life-long exposure” recommended by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which ultimately enabled the increase in the annual limit of 1,3-D in crop production.

1,3-D is a federally restricted use soil fumigant, used to kill nematodes, insects, and weeds that has strong links to cancer and other serious health issues. The use of the chemical in the production of strawberries came into prominence with the forced reduction of another fumigant, methyl bromide. Scientists became concerned about methyl bromide in the 1970’s, when it was linked to serious effects on the ozone and was blamed for between 5 and 10 percent of ozone depletion. Methyl bromide is still widely used in California to grow strawberries, despite its ban under the Montreal Protocol, but it will no longer be eligible for a critical use exemption after 2016. This phasing out of methyl bromide gave rise to a new class of fumigants, which included 1,3-D, the chemical in Telone.

Telone was also the subject of a recent University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study that found mixtures of pesticides to be more harmful than individual pesticides. The report, titled Exposure and Interaction – The Potential Health Impacts of Using Multiple Pesticides: A Case Study of Three Commonly Used Fumigants, was published by the Sustainable Technology and Policy Program, based in the UCLA School of Law and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. The case study looked at three commonly used fumigants – chloropicrin, Telone, and metam salts, and found that:

  • These pesticides may interact to increase the health risk for California farm workers and residents,
  • Workers and residents are regularly exposed to two or more of these pesticides simultaneously, and
  • DPR does not regulate the application of multiple pesticides to prevent or decrease risks to human health, despite having authority to do so.

Additionally, in late September, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) filed a lawsuit against Dow Agrosciences LLC, Telone’s manufacturer, charging that the “chemical manufacturing giant” fails to warn communities across California about the dangers associated with wide use of the chemical Telone. The case focuses on the air pollution caused by the pesticide, as it has been found to linger in the air for multiple days after application, disproportionately impacting the rural communities, often with large minority populations, that live in the immediate vicinity. The case was filed in the State of California Alameda County Superior Court, and Dow has yet to comment or release a statement addressing the allegations against the company.

This lawsuit, reports like the Dark Side of Strawberries, and other documented hazards associated with fumigants and crop production emphasize the need to shift away from dependency on toxic chemicals and seek sustainable, organic solutions to food production and feeding families. There are less toxic ways to grow the crops that have relied on these toxic fumigants for decades that can create healthier soils and improve pollination success.

Ultimately, advocates maintain that what is needed to protect community health is a transition away from toxic pesticides toward agricultural practices that promote soil and ecosystem health, plant resilience and organic compatible materials, which eliminate the need for toxic chemicals. A wide variety of alternative practices and products are available to assist growers in preventing pest problems before they start. Organic agriculture, which requires farmers to improve soil health and craft an organic system plan to guide pest control decisions, represents a viable path forward for agriculture in California and beyond.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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

 

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12
Oct

In Bayer-Monsanto Merger, Bayer Pledges Not to Push GE Crops on Europe

(Beyond Pesticides, October 12, 2016) German chemical company Bayer said it would not introduce genetically engineered (GE) crops in Europe after its historic takeover of U.S. seed and pesticide producer Monsanto. The European Union (EU) has been skeptical of GE crops, with many countries refusing to approve certain varieties of them. However, in the U.S., where GE crops make up about half of the crops grown, the merger will probably have little to no effect on GE use.

bayer-monsantoLast month, St. Louis-based agrichemical giant Monsanto Co. agreed to sell the company to German pharmaceutical and chemical conglomerate, Bayer, in an unprecedented $66 billion dollar deal. This takeover of the U.S. firm is the biggest ever by a German company. The combination would create a global agricultural and chemical giant —and bring Bayer together with a leading producer of genetically engineered seeds that are engineered to resist pesticides, particularly Monsanto’s flagship product, Roundup.

Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate, is used alongside various GE crops including corn and soybeans. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a landmark report naming glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Glyphosate’s EU license was set to expire this year, and some member states including France, Sweden, and the Netherlands objected to the renewal. A vote to reauthorize usage of glyphosate on a temporary basis failed in June 2016. However, glyphosate’s license was extended for 18 months just as it was about to expire. The next re-evaluation of the license is scheduled at the end of 2017. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is convening a Scientific Advisory Panel next week to evaluate glyphosate’s carcinogenic potential, even though the agency is proposing to classify glyphosate as not likely to be carcinogenic.

Bayer CEO Werner Baumann was quoted Monday as telling German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung: “We don’t want to take over Monsanto in order to establish genetically modified plants in Europe.” He added, “If politics and society in Europe don’t want genetically modified seeds, then we accept that, even if we disagree on the substance.”

This stance not to force GE on Europeans may stem from concerns from Bayer on assuming Monsanto’s tarnished reputation, which dates back to its production of the Agent Orange defoliant used by U.S. forces in the Vietnam War. According to reports, Bayer had begun discussions about whether to dump the Monsanto name upon the merger’s closing. Bayer is reportedly looking to avoid “sullying its reputation” as it is looking to expand its European operations by building consumer trust. However, Bayer also faces close scrutiny over its own pesticides –the neonicotinoids, identified as contributing to mass die-offs of bees.

The companies say that the takeover will contribute to chemical and agricultural research and eventually will help farmers to produce more food. However, critics express concerns that the merger will only tighten a monopolist grip on markets, and will lead to price increases, lack of availability of non-GE and non-treated seed, increased GE crops, and growing reliance on toxic pesticides.

The merger is not set in stone, however. Several steps must take place before the deal can be finalized. Federal regulators would have to give the go-ahead for the deal, as would the European Commission, which generally opposes the use of GE seeds, an area of specialization for Monsanto. Similarly, chemical giants DuPont and Dow Chemical are also slated to merge, with their boards of directors unanimously approved the merger of their companies through an all-stock deal, valuing the combined market capitalization at $130 billion. In February 2016, China National Chemical Corp. acquired Syngenta AG, and then cleared a major hurdle to the merger this past August when the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) gave the go-ahead for the merger to move forward, a deal worth nearly $43 million.

Observers say that in the long-term, markets will reveal that relying on the promotion of chemical-intensive agricultural practices is not a sustainable business practice. Chemical-intensive agriculture depends on chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides that have been shown to reduce soil organic matter and decrease the diversity of soil biota. These chemical inputs contaminate waterways, leading to eutrophication and “dead zones,” where nothing is able to live or grow. Sustainability advocates say that the only way that the agricultural industry can create a sustainable business model is to produce products that are compatible with organic agriculture.

If you oppose the Bayer-Monsanto merger, please consider reaching out to your Senators or Representative to ask them to reject the approval of a merger that consolidates seed availability, and encourage them instead to focus on increasing the availability of organic seeds, which do not negatively affect soil, water or human health.

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

Source: RT

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11
Oct

U.S. House Committee Wages War on Finding that Monsanto’s Glyphosate (Roundup) Causes Cancer

(Beyond Pesticides, October 11, 2016) Last week, in a calculated attack on the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC), the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform summoned the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to answer questions about taxpayer contributions to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer agency. From reports, it is easy to gather that the committee has problems with IARC scientists’ findings that glyphosate, among other things, is a probable carcinogen. Led by Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the hearing is clearly aimed at undermining IARC’s March 2015 listing of glyphosate as a probable carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity found in laboratory studies.

Set to take place in private, limiting any opportunity for public oversight, the hearing will consist of NIH officials answering questions on the scientific processes and public funding from politically-charged committee investigators. If Rep. Chaffetz is persuasive in this rouse against science, he stands to put in jeopardy a significant amount funding for IARC provided by NIH, a devastating outcome for individuals who value the importance of IARC’s work in the scientific community.

Glyphosate, which is produced and sold as RoundupTM by Monsanto, has been touted by industry and EPA as a “low toxicity” chemical, “safer” than other chemicals.  It is widely used in food production and on lawns, gardens, parks, and children’s playing fields. However, IARC’s classification of glyphosate as a Group 2A “probable” carcinogen revealed to the world that glyphosate is anything but safe. According to IARC’s 2015 findings, Group 2A means that the chemical is probably carcinogenic to humans based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. The agency considered the findings from an EPA Scientific Advisory Panel report, along with several recent studies in making its conclusion. The agency also noted that glyphosate caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells. Further, epidemiologic studies have found that exposure to glyphosate is significantly associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL).IARC logo

In defending IARC’s previous findings, IARC director Christopher Wild, Ph.D. rejected Rep. Chaffetz’ criticisms and defended IARC’s findings, known as “monographs,” as “widely respected for their scientific rigor, standardized and transparent process and. . .freedom from conflicts of interest.” He also pointed to IARC’s willingness to adjust these monographs to be consistent with future findings, as they did with coffee, as evidence that IARC is solely concerned with uncovering the truth, not pushing any sort of hidden agenda. Coffee was classified “no conclusive evidence for a carcinogenic effect” after an original listing as “possibly carcinogenic” based on a reevaluation using additional science. The intentions of IARC’s scientists are further supported by comments from Aaron Blair, Ph.D., a National Cancer Institute researcher, author of more than 450 publications on occupational and environmental causes of cancer, and chair of IARC’s evaluation panel that found glyphosate (Roundup) to be a carcinogen. Dr. Blair spoke at Beyond Pesticides 34th National Pesticide Forum. His full remarks on the subject can be viewed here.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the U.S. government has tried to stifle scientific findings in order to its own position or that of the regulated industry. In 2015, one of the top entomologists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) filed a whistleblower complaint against a federal agency, citing unprofessional retaliation following the publication of a study linking neonicotinoid insecticides to the decline of monarch butterflies. Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., senior research entomologist and lab supervisor for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in South Dakota, faced suspension for publishing research deemed “sensitive” by his USDA superior, underscoring why legal protections for government scientists are sorely needed.

A similar attack was waged on Harvard educated biologist and professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D. by the chemical industry. In a study funded by Navartis Agribusiness, Dr. Hayes’ research found that the herbicide atrazine feminizes male frogs and that amphibian species are in decline because of its pervasive use. Dr. Hayes’ work showed that current regulatory reviews allow widespread use of pesticides that cause serious adverse effects well below allowable legal standards and when in mixtures not studied. When Novartis Agribusiness, one of two corporations that would later form Syngenta and the maker of atrazine, found out that Dr. Hayes’ findings contradicted its expected or desired outcome, Dr. Hayes was criticized by the company, which withdrew its funding. Dr. Hayes continued his research with independent funding and found more of the same results: exposure to doses of atrazine as small as 0.1 parts per billion (below allowed regulatory limits) turns tadpoles into hermaphrodites –organisms with both male and female sexual characteristics. When his work appeared in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sygenta attacked the study, starting an epic feud between the scientist and the corporation. In fact, a June 2013 investigative report by 100Reporters and Environmental Health News exposed the chemical giant’s multi-million dollar campaign to discredit atrazine critics. This undermining of scientific research led Beyond Pesticides to develop the Fund for Independent Science.

The Fund for Independent Science was developed to act as a mechanism for raising substantial dollars from those who support independent scientific research to inform sound public policy that protects health and the environment. Independent scientists are needed to understand the toxicology of chemicals that are allowed to be introduced into the environment and the food supply. This information is critical to influence state and local decision makers to act because of industry-dominated regulatory decisions, such as The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs’ counter determination that glyphosate does not cause cancer. Building systems that are not reliant on toxic inputs requires continual understanding of the destructive capacity of toxic materials in commerce and the sustainable practices that can replace them in the marketplace.

With independent science both in and outside of the U.S., including IARC, pointing to a growing list of impacts from pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) crops, ranging from the decline of bees to the carcinogenicity of the widely used herbicide glyphosate, it is critical that federal scientific agencies tasked with protecting human and environmental health be able to inform the public without repercussions from industry groups, which have a vested interest widespread marketing of their toxic products. Additionally, while public oversight can be a positive thing, Rep. Chaffetz’ efforts to limit NIH funding for IARC must be viewed in context, with an eye toward his ties to the agrichemical industry. For more information, see Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility’s (PEER) pattern of science manipulation at USDA. To see the history of industry influence in federal agencies, visit this link to our Daily News Blog.

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

Source: Reuters

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07
Oct

Seven Bee Species Make Endangered Species List

(Beyond Pesticides, October 7, 2016) For the first time in U.S. history, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has added a group of bees to the list of Endangered Species. FWS published a final rule last Friday that declares seven species of yellow-faced bees (genus Hylaeus) that are native to Hawaii as endangered. This announcement immediately follows last week’s news that FWS has proposed listing the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

yellow-faced_bee_15334189274While the decision is great news for these bees and the environmental groups who have fought to protect them, there is still much work that needs to be done, and FWS says that it needs additional time to identify specific areas to be designated as critical habitat for the endangered bees. Further, though FWS has identified many threats to bees, including habitat loss and degradation due to urbanization, and other human activities, the final rule does not specifically point to pesticides. However, there is an overwhelming amount of research demonstrating that neonicotinoid insecticides, working either individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of bees and other pollinators.

Neonicotinoids have been linked to a range of both acute and chronic effects on pollinators. Studies have found the insecticides can adversely affect reproduction, impair pollination, and alter behavior. Once these chemicals are used in the environment, their persistence and long half-life means that they remain a problem for beekeepers well into the future.

This final rules comes one year to the day since the proposed rule was published, and following a multi-year effort by the Xerces Society, which submitted petitions to FWS in March 2009, to gain recognition and protection for these bees. According to Xerces, these bees are often found in small patches of habitat connected by agricultural land or developments. There is only one genus of bees that is native to the Hawaiian Islands, Hylaeus, commonly called yellow-faced bees because of colored markings on their faces.

These bees are often found in small patches of habitat hemmed in by agricultural land or developments. This is particularly troubling as Hawaii’s year-round growing conditions have made it a prime target for agrichemical companies to test new, experimental forms of genetically engineered (GE) crops, which brings with it increased pesticide use. Data released last year reveals that high levels of restricted use pesticides, in some cases almost double the pounds per acre average of other states, are being used in Kauai County. A May 2014 report found 25 herbicides, 11 insecticides and 6 fungicides in Hawaii’s waterways, underscoring concerns for ecological health. Further, a study published earlier this year found that even when attempting to protect pollinators by planting pollinator habitat and hedgerows around conventional farms, neonicotinoids used onsite can make their way into flowering crops in field margins, putting pollinators in danger.

For these reasons and many others, Beyond Pesticides works to promote the widespread transition of conventional farmland to organic production. With one in three bites of food reliant on pollination from bees, other insects, and birds, the decline in pollinators due to pesticides, and other human-made causes, demands immediate action. For help on how you can get involved to reverse pollinator declines, see Beyond Pesticides’ Bee Protective webpage. And for more information on why organic is the right path for the future of agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Agriculture program page.

Sources: FWS, Xerces

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

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06
Oct

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

(Beyond Pesticides, October 6, 2016) According to a report published last week by the Iowa Environmental Council (IEC), the associations between elevated levels of nitrate in drinking water and health risks go well beyond the “blue-baby syndrome” and nitrate concentrations lower than the drinking water standard may be harmful through long-term exposure. The lead author of the report, Ann Robinson, Agricultural Policy Specialist at IEC, stated that the focus was on “significant findings that multiple studies have associated with nitrate in drinking water, including birth defects, bladder cancer and thyroid cancer.” Nitrate is a common groundwater contaminant that is sourced mainly from chemical fertilizers and animal waste.

usgs-nitrate-in-groundwaterNitrate is a common contaminant of drinking water, particularly in agricultural areas where nitrogen fertilizers are used. In 1962, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the drinking water standard of 10 mg/L of nitrate to prevent blue baby syndrome, a fatal infant blood disease. In addition to Iowa, the U.S. Geological Survey has also identified the following states as areas with high risk clusters from nitrate contamination to groundwater: Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

The report reviewed studies conducted in the U.S., Canada, and Australia that found statistically significant associations between elevated levels of nitrate in drinking water and birth defects including neural tube defects such as spina bifida, oral cleft defects, limb deficiencies, and other skeletal system deformities. Studies conducted in Iowa, Spain, Germany, and Taiwan all reported similar increased risk for bladder cancer when nitrate concentrations in drinking water increased. And finally, two large long-term studies conducted by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health concluded that there was an increased risk for thyroid cancer with increased intake of nitrate through drinking water and other sources.

Ann Robinson said in a statement that, “While more research is needed, the current findings offer compelling reasons to accelerate efforts to reduce pollution from nitrate flowing into our surface and ground water from farm fields, urban yards, livestock facilities, water treatment plants and other sources.” High rates of fertilizer application may also increase the natural nitrate levels found in certain vegetables, such as lettuce and root crops. Prior research has indicated that long-term exposure to nitrates through food and water may increase the risk of thyroid disease. In the body, nitrate competes with uptake of iodide by the thyroid, thus potentially affecting thyroid function.

Iowa has been at the center of a growing debate about synthetic fertilizer use and the harmful effects caused by high nitrate levels in drinking water systems. This heavily agricultural state relies on a tile drainage system running under millions of acres of land that initially transformed the swampy land into highly productive farmland. This tile system is extremely problematic when it comes to non-point source pollution from nitrates, which leach into Iowa’s waterways by way of the drainage pipes. This issue has received heightened attention following the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against three drainage districts in northwest Iowa over the high nitrate levels in the city’s water supply. Additionally, Iowa is a leading contributor to the nutrient pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus that contributes to the large “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

State and federal officials must address the root of the problem—including the extreme levels of nutrient buildup and the dangerous amount of nitrogen and phosphorus found in the water, caused by excess fertilization runoff from both chemically-intensive agricultural and residential sources. Drinking water treatment, which has been advocated for by some, is a short-term, band-aid option to a problem that is persistent and must be addressed through preventive, long-term solutions. Beyond Pesticides has long supported “feed-the-soil” approaches to all types of landscape management. Understanding the role of healthy soils in creating healthy landscapes and plants, Beyond Pesticides promotes a systems approach that centers on management of soil health and proper fertilization that eliminates synthetic fertilizers and focuses on building the soil food web and nurturing soil microorganisms.

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.

Source: Iowa Environmental Council, TakePart

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

 

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05
Oct

Oregon Approves 26 Recreational Marijuana Retailers

(Beyond Pesticides, October 4, 2016) Last week, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) approved 26 licences for 26 recreational marijuana retailers as well as modified state rules regarding state licensure testing requirements and packaging limitations. According to a OLCC press release, some of the marijuana retailers began operating on October 1st, fulfilling the OLCC’s promise to Oregon’s citizens that recreational marijuana stores would be open for business in fall 2016.

foliage-1157792_960_720OAR 845-025-5700 previously required that all batches be tested for pesticides. Under the new Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) Temporary Pesticide Rules (“Limited Batch Testing”) OAR 845-025-5700, effective September 30, 2016 until March 1, 2017, the OLCC requires a minimum of 33.3% of batches per harvest lot of cannabis to be tested. According to OAR 333-007-0010, if the OLCC finds that there is not enough laboratory capacity for pesticide testing, the Commission may permit randomly chosen samples from batches of usable marijuana to be tested for pesticides by a licensed lab, rather than requiring every batch of usable marijuana from a harvest lot to be tested. If any part of those samples fails pesticide testing, every 10-pound lot is required to be tested. If the samples that are tested all passed, the entire harvest lot is considered “passed,” and may be transferred or sold.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown said in a news release on September 30, “Based on what we have learned from the nationwide legalization effort, it is more important than ever to ensure certain products that make it to shelves are free from pesticides and contaminants.”

In July, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), in an effort to curb the use of illegal pesticides in cannabis production, 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. This raised serious public health, statutory, and regulatory compliance concerns, pushing ODA to make pesticide testing more of a priority. Oregon’s guide list for pesticide products allowed for use in the production of cannabis contains 313 pesticide products, and aligns with similar product lists published by Washington State and Colorado. This list 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), which is often mixed with pesticides to increase their potency.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and OLCC decided not to change the packaging and labeling standards for new products, yet instead allow licensees who do not have pre-approved packaging and labels to use generic packaging and labeling until their packaging is approved by the OLCC. The OLCC did, however, pass a temporary rule that prohibits wording that is deemed “attractive to minors,” as defined in OAR 845-025-7000(1).

In early September, King County in Washington State, proposed creating their own program that would test marijuana for prohibited pesticides. In the absence of state and federal testing programs to keep consumers safe, King County stands to be the first local jurisdiction to take protecting marijuana consumers from the potential harms of toxic chemicals into their own hands.

In Washington State, it took nearly two years after the first legal retail sales of marijuana before the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) finally took action to protect the rights of consumers by strengthening its ability to issue product recalls when there is a risk to health and safety. The move by Washington followed widespread cannabis recalls in the City of Denver, and actions from Colorado’s Governor to declare pesticide-tainted cannabis “a threat to public safety,” highlighting the ongoing struggle of states to regulate marijuana despite its federal status as a Schedule I drug.

Beyond Pesticides is urging states to prohibit registered pesticides in cannabis production, given the lack of testing for increased exposure through inhalation, ingestion, and skin absorption. Beyond Pesticides supports criteria that limits allowed pesticides to those that are exempt from registration under federal pesticide law and also permitted for use in organic production, as long as they do not have a tolerance established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 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) [Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)] is the best way to avoid any legal ramifications for unregistered pesticide use, as well as protect workers, consumers and the environment safe 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: Cannabis Business Times, Oregon Live

 

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04
Oct

Former Undisclosed Ingredients in Pesticide Products Found in Fish, Birds, and Dolphins

(Beyond Pesticides, October 4, 2016) Chemicals previously used as inert ingredients in pesticide formulations have been detected in a wide range of North American wildlife species, according to research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The compounds, perfluroalkyl phosphinic acids (PFPIAs), were widely used as anti-foaming agents in pesticide formulations until 2006, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took regulatory action to cancel their use, citing “human health and environmental risks of concern.” However, the chemicals continue to be used today in consumer goods, including carpet cleaning formulas.

4881676285_f98cea8b76_bWhile scientists did not find what they would consider high concentrations of the chemicals in wildlife, the ubiquity of the detections was found to be most concerning. Researchers detected the presence of PFPIAs in the blood of 100% of animals sampled. This includes northern pike in Montreal, Canada, cormorants from the Great Lakes, and bottlenose dolphins from Sarasota Bay, Florida. “We aimed for diversity: air-breathing versus water-breathing, differences in habitat, different taxonomic groups,” Amila O. De Silva, PhD, coauthor of the study, said to CNN. Part of the reason for the wide range of detection lies with the properties of these chemicals. They are highly stable and resist degradation from exposure to water or sunlight, or breakdown by microbes. Dr. De Silva indicated to CNN that the usual ways that the environment remediates chemicals “don’t seem to apply” to PFPIAs.

“Previous work by other scientists in three separate publications have shown perfluorophosphinic acids are found in human blood samples from North America and Germany,” Dr. De Silva continued to CNN. Dr. De Silva’s previous research detected the presence of PFPIAs in 83% of household dust samples from homes sampled in Toronto, Canada.

The widespread presence of these little known persistent organic pollutants is cause for concern for regulators and the public. While limited research has been conducted to look for these compounds, even less is known about its toxicity and effects on humans, wildlife, or the wider environment. In EPA’s 2006 determination to remove these chemicals from pesticide products, the agency stated, “The very limited information available to the Agency indicates that there may be serious human health and environmental risk issues associated with these compounds.”

Despite the widespread presence of these chemicals and concern among U.S. regulators, these compounds have likely been used in pesticide formulations since the 1970s, according to Zhanyun Wang, PhD, a German scientist and expert on perfluroalkyl chemicals interviewed by CNN. This information is difficult to uncover however, because manufacturers are not required to disclose data on inert ingredients in pesticide products, despite the fact that they may be more toxic than the active ingredient in a pesticide or create hazardous synergistic interactions between it and the active ingredient or other inert ingredients.

In 2006, Beyond Pesticides and allies petitioned EPA to require manufacturers to disclose inert ingredients in pesticide product formulations. In 2009, the agency responded and took steps toward inert ingredient disclosure, publishing a proposed rule in the federal register. However, the agency took no action after proposing the rule. In 2014, the coalition filed an “undue delay” complaint against EPA, but was met with resistance. EPA backtracked on its original intent to require disclosure, and the lawsuit was thrown out because the agency indicated it would no longer issue rulemaking.

The agency instead released a list of 72 inert ingredients it had already discontinued from use in pesticide formulations. The proposal failed to address the issue of disclosure for 300 other inert ingredients allowed in pesticide formulations, but did indicate the past use of hazardous compounds, such as rotenone, turpentine oil, and cresol.

In response to this insufficient action, Beyond Pesticides and allies sued the agency again, charging that EPA’s current allowance for voluntary disclosure of inert ingredients does not protect the public or the environment. However, a federal court ruling handed down this past June stated that, “The EPA has no mandatory duty to require disclosure of “inert” ingredients in pesticides, even if those ingredients qualify as hazardous chemicals under separate statutes.”

Consumers are becoming increasingly wary of products with toxic ingredients, driving a huge shift towards ‘greener’ technologies. More and more consumers are choosing least-toxic product alternatives for pest management that are exempt from federal pesticide registration and considered minimum risk by EPA. With these products, all ingredients, including inerts, must be disclosed.  This, coupled with a growing organic market, offers opportunities and challenges for formulators to develop and market least-toxic products with minimum risk pesticides that may be compatible with low hazard standards, such as organic, and consumer expectations.

Source: CNN, Environmental Science and Technology

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

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