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Daily News Blog

23
Mar

Vermont House Votes to Authorize State Regulation of “Treated Articles,” such as Neonic-Coated Seeds

(Beyond Pesticides March 23, 2016) Last week, the Vermont House of Representatives passed a bill that authorizes state regulation of pesticide-treated products, including telephone poles and coated seeds, that are exempt from federal pesticide regulations. H.861 is the latest in a string of laws introduced this legislative session in Vermont to address the impact of harmful neonicotinoid insecticides on Vermont’s ecology and agriculture, and symbolizes a concentrated effort by the legislature to reverse pollinator declines within the state. If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, the bill will allow the Secretary of Agriculture to regulate above and beyond current federal laws, which exempt treated articles from regulation completely, and write appropriate rules in response to recommendations from a state Pollinator Protection Committee.

Gary-Tate-Riverside-CA-Honey-Bee-taking-flight-Riverside-Ca-300x260-300x260The bill, which passed with wide support in the House, gives the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets the authority to regulate “treated articles,” a term coined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to denote products treated with pesticides, such as utility poles, commercial crop seeds, and lumber. Traditionally, EPA gives rulemaking authority over pesticides to states, but that authority does not extend to products pre-treated with pesticides, which, until this point, has posed a problem for states like Vermont that wish to adapt to growing concerns over the prevalent use of neonicotinoid-coated seeds and their impact on pollinator species.

“Not regulating toxic substances that may pose a threat to humans or the environment would be reckless and irresponsible,” said Rep. Teo Zagar, D-Barnard, a member of the House Committee on Agriculture and Forest Products where the bill originated.” We’ve learned too many things the hard way.”

Neonicotinoid seed treatments have become increasingly common and are linked to the explosion of genetically engineered (GE) crops. At least 94% of the nation’s 92 million acres of corn –greater than the total size of the state of Minnesota, Nebraska, or both Dakotas– will be treated with one of two neonicotinoids, both manufactured by Bayer CropScience. Currently, when farmers plant pesticide-treated, or coated, seeds using a mechanical seeder, lubricants used to keep the seeds from sticking to the planter mechanism become contaminated are and expelled from the equipment as fugitive dust. The dust contaminates nearby plants . A 2012 study found that high amounts of neonicotinoids are present in the exhaust of corn seed planters and that bees are exposed to these potentially lethal concentrations of the chemical simply by flying through the area during planting.

In June 2014, in a letter to EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) challenged EPA’s position that seeds coated with pesticides, commonly neonicotinoid pesticides, are exempt from regulation under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). EPA argued that pesticide-coated seeds are treated articles, exempting them from being regulated as a pesticide and should be regulated by USDA under the Federal Seed Act. CFS responded in early 2016 by filing a lawsuit in federal court charging the EPA with failing to adequately regulate neonicotinoid insecticide seed coatings used on dozens of crops throughout the U.S. The suit alleges that EPA has illegally allowed millions of pounds of coated seeds to be planted annually on more than 150 million acres nationwide, constituting a direct violation of the registration requirements established by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Vermont is the first state to take action to address the regulatory problems created by the treated article exemption.

As mentioned above, H. 861 is designed to give the Secretary of Agriculture the ability to regulate neonicotinoid coated seeds based on the recommendations of a state Pollinator Protection Committee. The creation of this committee is dependent on the passage of another legislative measure, H.539, which would establish the Committee to “evaluate the causes of reduced pollinator populations in the State” and “recommend measures the State can adopt to conserve and protect pollinator populations.” While the creation of a Pollinator Protection Committee would be a positive undertaking by the state of Vermont, another piece of legislation currently being considered by the Senate would have a more immediate and long-lasting effect on pollinator populations within the state. S.200 will ban the use, sale, or application of neonicotinoid pesticides in Vermont outright without waiting for a committee to confirm the well-documented scientific link between use of neonicotinoid pesticides and pollinator declines. S.200 currently awaits review by the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Regardless of whether Vermont decides to ban neonicotinoids or to establish a committee to explore the topic further, proactive State steps to address the issue of pollinator decline is critical in the absence of federal action. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. Farm, beekeeper, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have urged EPA to follow in the European Union’s footsteps and suspend the huge numbers of other bee-harming pesticides already on the market. We suggest an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, and instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of neonicotinoids. See how you can help through Bee Protective.

Source: VTDigger

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

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22
Mar

It’s Time to Protect Organic Integrity

(Beyond Pesticides, March 22, 2016)  Make your voice heard! The public comment period has opened on National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) proposed recommendations affecting organic standards, materials and policy. Comments are due by April 14, 2016 at 11:59 PM. As usual, there are many important issues that are under NOSB consideration. Your voice is integral to maintaining organic integrity and the value of the USDA organic label.

saveorganic1We have begun to analyze the numerous recommendations and are providing you with our positions that we hope you will use as the basis for your comments. We will provide positions on additional topics in the near future. Please feel free to develop your own comments or cut and paste ours from the following web page: Top Priority Issues.

Unfortunately, the only way to make your voice heard is to submit your comments to regulations.gov. If you cut and paste our comments into regulations.gov on major issues before the NOSB (below), please put a personal note of concern in order to reflect the importance if these issues to you as an organic consumer, farmer.

Some of the major issues before the spring 2016 National Organic Standards Board include:

• Inerts
Three items on the NOSB agenda concern so-called “inert” ingredients in pesticides –sunset of List 3 “inerts,” a discussion document on the prohibition of nonylphenol ethoxylates as List 4 “inerts,” and a verbal update from the Inerts Working Group. (1) The NOSB must take the sunset review of List 3 “inerts” seriously. The NOSB must do a full review of these chemicals, which it previously recommended to come off the list at the end of last year, but are likely to remain on for at least 5 more years without action at this meeting. (2) The NOSB should move as expeditiously as possible in recommending an end to the use of endocrine-disrupting nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). The evidence shows the dangers of NPEs, and alternatives are available. Postponing will not prevent formulators from procrastinating. (3) The fall 2015 recommendation on the “inerts” annotation must be implemented in a way that ensures NOSB participation in the initial review and future sunset review of the chemicals.

• Sanitizers
There are three proposals to list hypochlorous acid –for use in crops, handling, and livestock—and another petition for use of sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate in handling that are under consideration. While both materials offer some advantages over currently allowed materials, the NOSB lacks a frame of reference for deciding which sanitizing agents are needed in organic production. Sanitizers do not always offer improvements in health, and I urge the NOSB to do a comprehensive survey of needs for sanitizing agents before adding more to the National List. I suggest that the NOSB investigate sanitizers approved for EPA’s Safer Chemical Ingredients List –most of which are already allowed in organic production—as alternatives to harsher chemicals.

• Ancillary Substances
Ancillary substances are added to ingredients found in organic foods to achieve some effect in those ingredients –preservative, adjusting moisture, even pest control. The NOSB adopted a policy in 2013 that all ancillary substances would be reviewed according to OFPA criteria, but the Handling Subcommittee has simply been listing those ancillary substances known to be in use. Now the Handling Subcommittee is proposing to modify the policy. (1) Definitions are needed. In order to be meaningful and useful, the ancillary substances policy must define terms it uses: technical or functional effect, direct food additive, incidental food additive, food contact substance, functional class, and significant amount. (2) Each ancillary substance must be approved for each particular use. Whether the approval of ancillary substances is communicated by means of listing on the National List –which we believe to be required by OFPA—or by other means, each ancillary substance must be reviewed according to OFPA criteria. The NOSB must not categorically allow substances in a functional class that have not been specifically reviewed and it must not rubber stamp ancillary substance just because they are currently in use.

• Carrageenan
I oppose the relisting of carrageenan on §205.605(a) and believe that the substance should be removed from the National List. Carrageenan should be reclassified as a synthetic. This use does not meet the requirements of the Organic Food Production Act —carrageenan may have adverse effects on the health of consumers, its production results in adverse ecological impacts, there are alternatives to its use, and its use is inconsistent with a system of organic and sustainable production. Independent scientists have presented evidence to the NOSB demonstrating inflammatory impacts of carrageenan. Due to consumer concerns about the use of carrageenan in organic products, it has been removed from many, and every product containing carrageenan is available without it –demonstrating the lack of essentiality.

• Parasiticides
In reviewing all three parasiticides together, livestock subcommittee failed to bring forward motions to remove ivermectin and moxidectin due to adverse ecological effects. This would have allowed the NOSB to consider the full range of actions that have been supported by public comment. As noted in comments from former NOSB member Dr. Karreman, the intention of the NOSB in approving fenbendazole was to allow for the removal of ivermectin and possibly moxidectin. Since such an action at this meeting would be prohibited as a substantive action not proposed for public comment, these proposals should be referred back to the subcommittee, to return with proposals that address the full range of actions supported by the available evidence.

Please go to Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage to learn more about these and other substantive issues and provide a unique public comment.

We ask that you submit comments on as many issues and materials as you can by the April 14, 2016 deadline. For help crafting your comments, view Beyond Pesticides’ commenting guide.

Thank you for standing up to keep organic strong!

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

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21
Mar

Boulder County, Colorado to Phase Out GE Crops on Public Land

(Beyond Pesticides, March 21, 2016) Last Thursday, Boulder County (CO) commissioners directed staff to draft up a plan to phase out genetically engineered (GE) crops on all farmland owned by the county. The county’s current policy, adopted in 2011, allows tenant farmers to grow certain types of GE corn and sugar beets on land leased through Boulder County, and will remain in effect at least until the end of the year. The five-year policy old has frequently come under fire from individuals and environmental groups that challenge the safety of GE crop production systems, and their effect on human health, water quality, soil health, and the overall environment.

cornplantsThe Boulder County commissioners heard recommendations from the county’s advisory committees, including the county’s Croplands Policy Advisory Group, the Food and Agriculture Policy Group, and the Parks and Open Space Advisory Group. A public hearing was held on Feb. 29 also provided public input on whether to continue or change the current approval in Section 6.1 of the Boulder County Parks & Open Space Cropland Policy that allows for the use of certain genetically engineered (GE) crops on Open Space land. That approval expires on December 20, 2016. More than 100 people spoke at the day-long public hearing, and hundreds more have submitted written comments since mid-January. After the public comments, on a 5-3 vote the Parks and Open Space Advisory Group recommended that Boulder County commissioners permit GE crops for at least five more years. While this and other advisory groups’ recommendations must be considered, the Boulder County commissioners have the final say.

Before the final vote, two of the three commissioners, Deb Gardner and Elise Jones, expressed their support for transitioning away from GE crops on county lands. As reported by Times Call, Ms. Jones said the nearly 1,180 total acres of leased-from-the-county land now used to grow GMO crops annually could be phased out of those kinds of crops over a three-to-five-year period. Ms. Gardner said the transition “should happen in close partnership with the farmers leasing the land” and may have to be done “on a field-by-field” basis. The third commissioner, Cindy Domenico, concurred with the Parks and Open Space Advisory Group’s recommendation, supporting the continuation of current cropland policy.

Last September, after pressure from local advocacy groups like Bee Safe Boulder, Boulder County enacted a historic measure, stating the county’s dedication to and plan for countywide bee safe practices, which also briefly addressed the issue of GE crops:

  • Reduce and minimize all chemical pesticide use on County lands and in County buildings;
  • Not apply neonicotinoid or other systemic insecticides on its County rights of way, along watersheds and ditches, on public trees and landscapes or in its buildings;
  • Allow exceptions only after consideration of both the necessity of treatment and of alternative treatments to achieve the necessary protection of those lands, trees, or landscapes
  • Enhance safe and healthy pollinator forage habitat on County lands, including revision of mowing policies where possible to allow wildflowers and other appropriate flowering species to flourish and feed pollinators; and,
  • Facilitate the transition of County owned agricultural lands to organic production by providing incentives to make it possible for farmers to make the transition from conventional to organic practices and will require management practices for farmers leasing county lands.

The City of Boulder has long been a national leader in sustainable approaches to the management of public lands. Boulder has a comprehensive integrated pest management program to manage weeds and insects on city land, discontinued the use of Roundup (glyphosate) in public places in 2011, and restricted the use of bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides on city property in May 2015.

Over 70% of all GE crops are altered to be herbicide-tolerant. Increased planting of glyphosate-tolerant  (or Roundup Ready) GE crops has led to a dramatic increase in glyphosate use. The use of herbicide-tolerant crops has also led to “super weeds” and the destruction of pollinator habitat. The wave of marketplace transitions towards food produced with safer practices is a sign of the growing power of consumers and the food movement to protect not only human health, but the health of farm workers that cultivate and harvest much of the nation’s food, and pollinators and other wildlife that may be adversely affected in the course of its production.

Currently, the best way to avoid GE food is to support organic agriculture and eat organic food. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for organic management practices as a means to foster biodiversity, and research shows that organic farmers do a better job of protecting biodiversity than their chemical-intensive counterparts. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and biotechnology, organic farms focus on fostering habitat with biodiversity and ecological balance, and only resort to the use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective.

For more on genetic engineering and GE crops visit Beyond Pesticides’ program page Genetic Engineering. Make sure to also visit the Organic page for information on organic food, gardening and what you can do.

Source: Times Call

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

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18
Mar

World’s Largest Community Kitchen at India’s Golden Temple To Serve Organic Food

(Beyond Pesticides, March 18, 2016) One of the world’s largest community kitchens, will soon be serving organic food. Guru Ramdas Langar Hall at Sri Harmandir Sahib (popularly known as the Golden Temple) in Amritsar, India feeds 100,000 people daily for free. Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which administers the gurdwaras (places of worship for people of the Sikh faith) across the country, has decided to adopt organic farming, foregoing the use of use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.

spgc logo“Organic farming is the new mission of SGPC to inspire farmers to cut down on the use of chemicals and pesticides and switch to sustainable agricultural practices,” an SGPC official said.

Grains, fruits and vegetables like carrot, reddish, cauliflower, spinach and fenugreek are now being grown at farms in Patiala and Gurdwara Gurusar Satlani Sahib near Amritsar, the official said, adding that they have now started receiving supply of 10 quintals (about 2,200 pounds) of organic produce every 1-2 days which is being used to prepare nourishing vegetarian meals.

While applauding this landmark decision, Dr. Rajwant Singh, founder and president of EcoSikh, a non-profit organization working to raise awareness about environmental issues and inspiring farmers to focus on producing food through organic means, said that they are now hoping that around 25,000-30,000 gurdwaras in Punjab will follow suit to serve organic food.

Organic farming also got a boost in Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Union Budget this year. Under the Parmparagat Krishi Vikas scheme launched by the government, the aim is to increase the area under organic farming in Indian to 500,000 acres in the next three years. The government has also allocated Rs. 412 crore (USD $61.6 million) to organic farming in the budget.

“Everyone today is aware of how badly chemically-grown food affects their lives and the environment,” Dr. Singh told NDTV.

Importantly, studies find that consumers are exposed to elevated levels of pesticides from conventionally grown food. Organic foods have been shown to reduce dietary pesticide exposure, and children who eat a conventional diet of food produced with chemical-intensive practices carry residues of organophosphate pesticides that are reduced or eliminated when they switch to an organic diet. One 2015 study from the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH) shows that children, especially those in low-income and agricultural families, who switched to an organic diet reduced their bodies’ level of pesticides.

Beyond Pesticides advocates in its program and through its Eating with a Conscience website choosing organic because of the environmental and health benefits to consumers, workers, and rural families. The Eating with a Conscience database, based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), describes a food production system that enables toxic pesticide use both domestically and internationally, and provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page.

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

Sources: NDTV

 

 

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17
Mar

Senate Blocks Vote on Bill To Stop GE Labeling

(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2016) Yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted to block a vote on a food labeling bill that would eliminate consumers’ right to know whether genetically engineered (GE) ingredients are in the food they purchase. Senate Amendment 3450, National Voluntary Bioengineered Food Labeling Standard, proposed by Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), failed to garner the 60 votes necessary for cloture, which would have ended the debate and allowed a vote on the bill. The vote of 48-49 effectively killed the Senate bill.

Capitol-SenateThe amendment is the Senate version of H.R. 1599, Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, sponsored by Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS). Opponents have dubbed the legislation the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act (DARK Act). The bill passed the House in July, 2015 on a vote of 275-150. In addition to preempting the ability of all states to impose mandatory labeling standards, the bill imposes a weak voluntary federal scheme in its place.

Backed largely by House Republicans, the DARK Act makes it harder for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require mandatory national labeling of products containing GE ingredients, and safeguard current policies that allow companies to voluntarily decide whether to label foods containing GE products, an option they rarely choose. The bill also continues to allow misleading “natural” claims for foods that contain GE ingredients. Of immediate concern, is the impact that the DARK Act could have on states that have already passed laws requiring GE labeling within their borders. If adopted, Vermont, the first state in the nation to pass a GE labeling law and then survive a federal court challenge from the food industry, would be prevented from implementing its policy when it is slated to go into effect on July 1, 2016.

In October 2015, the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held a hearing, entitled Agriculture Biotechnology: a Look at Federal Regulation and Stakeholder Perspectives, that critics called lopsided. Most witnesses characterized GE food as safe or side-stepped the issue of safety, as government witnesses refused to distinguish GE from conventional food and opposed food labeling. The hearing was the first Senate discussion on biotechnology in 10 years. A second hearing to discuss the new Senate version of the bill took place on March 1, passing the Senate Agriculture committee 14-6.

Opponents have argued against the weak legislation, asserting that it violates states’ rights and denies Americans “need-to-know” information. Large corporations, like Campbell Soup Company, have publicly announced support for mandatory food labeling laws, and at the same time vociferously argue that GE ingredients are safe. Based on a mock-up of a label, the company plans to use labeling to drive consumers to their website for information on GE safety.

In response to the Roberts’ bill, Senators Jeff Merkley (OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation to require that consumer food packaging that displays GE ingredient labeling. The Senators’ legislation, the Biotechnology Food Labeling and Uniformity Act (S.2621), presents an alternative to the primarily Republican-backed Biotechnology Labeling Solutions Bill that passed the Senate Agriculture Committee. “This bill is an important step forward to give consumers a uniform national mandatory label, and it seeks to address the needs of food producers by giving them a suite of options to comply with a mandatory national label,” said Senator Leahy. “I believe that until a national mandatory label like this is enacted, Congress should not preempt state laws, like Vermont’s Act 120.” While ensuring nationwide labeling, the legislation preempts states from requiring labeling, such as a warning, that is stronger than the language in the legislation.

According to Beyond Pesticides, it is important that even a positive, mandatory labeling requirement not preempt states from setting a higher bar regarding information provided on GE ingredients in food. For instance, although Campbell Soup has supported mandatory labeling, it intends to direct consumers to a website, describing the safety of GE ingredients.

Despite concerns with opposing positive legislation, it is certain that the Senate’s The Biotechnology Labeling Solutions Bill, which embodies several provisions of the much opposed DARK Act, would have effectively hidden important ingredient information from consumers.

Beyond Pesticides believes that consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients, not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and human health. GE agriculture is associated with the increased use of herbicides –particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup– that crops are developed to tolerate. In light of findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that glyphosate is a human carcinogen based on laboratory animal test data, consumers have even more cause for concern about the health risks that these products pose. See Beyond pesticides Genetic Engineering program page for more information on GE agriculture and alternatives to this toxic system of food production.

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

Source: United States Senate

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16
Mar

Study Finds Bees’ Pollination Skills Impaired by Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, March 16, 2016) Another study, this time from researchers at the University of Guelph, finds that at very low levels the neonicotinoid pesticide thiamethoxam affects the foraging behavior of bumble bees, changing their floral preferences, hindering their ability to learn and extract nectar and pollen. This study is one of many that detail the negative effects of pesticides on bees’ learning behavior and ability to pollinate essential crops. Pesticides, like the neonicotinoid class of insecticides, have been implicated in the global decline of pollinator populations, while advocates call for limiting pesticide exposures to reverse population declines.

Susan Jergans Elkhorn WI These were taken at a bank in Elkhorn3According to the authors of this Canadian study, “Chronic exposure to a neonicotinoid pesticide alters the interaction between bumblebees and wild plants, “published in the journal Functional Ecology, it is the first to explore how pesticides may impact the ability of bumble bees to forage from common wildflowers that have complex shapes such as white clover and bird’s foot trefoil. The researchers found that bumble bees exposed to environmental levels of thiamethoxam (10ppb) took longer to collect pollen than unexposed bees, as well as foraged from different flowers. Importantly, this study reports that bumble bees that were not exposed to thiamethoxam are able to learn how to manipulate complex flowers to access pollen and nectar after only a few visits, while exposed bees were not.

Nigel Raine, PhD, the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation at the University of Guelph and senior author of the paper, notes, “If exposure to low levels of pesticide affects their ability to learn, bees may struggle to collect food and impair the essential pollination services they provide to both crops and wild plants. Our results suggest that current levels of pesticide exposure could be significantly affecting how bees are interacting with wild plants, and impairing the crucial pollination services they provide that support healthy ecosystem function.” Co-author Dara Stanley, PhD, of Royal Holloway University of London, said, “Bumble bees exposed to pesticide initially foraged faster and collected more pollen. However unexposed (control) bees may be investing more time and energy in learning. Our findings have important implications for society and the economy as pollinating insects are vital to support agriculture and wild plant biodiversity.”

Previous studies have found that pesticides, especially the neonicotinoids, impair bees’ ability to learn, forage, navigate as well as communicate. These pesticides, which are highly toxic to bees, have also been found to impair bee’s immune systems, leaving them more susceptible to parasites and disease. Other studies detail impairments in the brains of exposed bees, specifically in the areas associated with learning and memory. The science has become increasingly clear that pesticides, either working individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of honey bees.

Just last week a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concluded that U.S. regulatory agencies are falling short in addressing the multiple threats contributing to declining pollinators. The GAO report recommends that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) increase the monitoring of wild, native bees, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) efforts thus far regarding pesticides (label amendments and restrictions) have done little to change pesticide exposure patterns to pollinators. GAO identified the need for EPA to develop a plan to assess pesticide risks to a range of bee species beyond honey bees, as current EPA evaluations only use honey bees a surrogate for other wild bee species. Further, the report finds that the impact from exposure to chemical mixtures also needs to be investigated.

At the start of the year, EPA released its long awaited pollinator risk assessment for the widely used neonicotinoid imidacloprid. The assessment confirms the pesticide’s toxicity to bees and that its presence in the pollen and nectar of various crops can put bees at risk. Imidacloprid, like others in its class are systemic pesticides, meaning they are taken up by the vascular system of the plant and then expressed through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets, exposing all that come into contact. The other neonicotinoids, including thiamethoxam, are still under EPA review. Similarly, in February, a United Nation’s assessment of pollinations and the global food supply warned that many species of wild bees, butterflies and other pollinators are on a dangerous path toward extinction, further threatening the food supply if the causes of these declines, many of them human-made, are not halted. The assessment found that an estimated sixteen percent of vertebrate pollinators are threatened with global extinction. Meanwhile, the European Union, numerous retailers, and local cities and towns have adopted policies that stop or restrict their use. Beyond Pesticides points to a thriving organic industry as the alternative to neonicotinoids.

Join us at Cultivating Community and Environmental Health, the 34th National Pesticide Forum, April 15-16, 2016 in Portland, ME to discuss pollinators and other local and national environmental concerns.  Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., a senior USDA entomologist will join other top scientists and leaders who have stood up to protect human and environmental health, despite facing industry backlash and scientific suppression. Dr. Lundgren’s research on the harm neonicotinoids pose to monarch butterflies reflects a growing scientific consensus that these chemicals present significant risks to declining pollinator populations. Registration, which includes access to all sessions as well as organic food and beverages, is $45 for grassroots activists, and $25 for students. Register online today.

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

Source: News Release

Photo Source: Susan J, WI

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15
Mar

GAO Report Finds USDA, EPA Not Doing Enough to Protect Pollinators

(Beyond Pesticides, March 15, 2016) Executive agencies are falling short in their efforts to protect honey bees and other wild pollinators from catastrophic declines, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). GAO, an investigative agency that works on behalf of the U.S. Congress, was tasked by the Senate to evaluate the progress the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have made in their actions to address the multiple threats contributing to declining managed and wild pollinators.

Layla Brooks Maida Vale London, Bee in flight at Kew GardensSince 2006, U.S. beekeepers have experienced unsustainable colony die-offs, averaging over 30% each year. Concurrent declines in wild and native pollinators are also occurring, though data on
the magnitude of these losses have not undergone comprehensive scientific evaluation. While a range of factors, from habitat loss, to climate change, diseases, viruses, and parasites are all contributing to these declines, independent science has identified that pesticides, specifically a new class of systemic insecticides called neonicotinoids, are the major drivers of the crisis for both managed and wild bees. In fact, some studies show that the widespread exposure to neonicotinoids increases bees’ vulnerability to diseases, viruses, and mites.

The GAO report recommends a number of action items for EPA and USDA to implement moving forward. USDA is advised to increase the monitoring of wild, native bees. Although charged to do so by the White House Pollinator Task Force, USDA had not begun to develop a mechanism to coordinate these efforts with other federal agencies, according to GAO. The report notes, “USDA officials said they had not coordinated with other agencies to develop a plan for monitoring wild, native bees because they were focused on other priorities.” USDA was also chastised by GAO for its inability to evaluate its conservation programs. Although the agency has dedicated millions of dollars to conservation programs, the report notes that USDA does not have the internal expertise to evaluate the effectiveness of its methods. “By evaluating gaps in expertise, USDA could better ensure the effectiveness of its efforts to restore and enhance bee habitat plantings across the nation,” the report says.

Within its recommendations to EPA, GAO’s report focuses on how the agency evaluates the effect of pesticides on pollinators. Although EPA has taken modest steps to revise pesticide labels and is encouraging states to develop voluntary management programs, these efforts have done little to change pesticide exposure patterns to pollinators. GAO identified the need for EPA to develop a plan to assess pesticide risks to a range of bee species beyond honey bees, as current EPA evaluations only use honey bees a surrogate for other wild bee species. While the report notes that EPA is working in coordination with international partners to create standardized guidelines for analyzing pesticide risks to pollinators, GAO recommends that EPA develop a stop-gap program to analyze these risks while more formal guidelines are under consideration.

GAO’s report highlights a long-running blind spot within EPA’s pesticide evaluation program: pesticide synergism, the risk of combining mixtures of different pesticide active ingredients, which independent science shows may be more or less toxic than a single active ingredient by itself. Currently, EPA only evaluates the toxicity of an active ingredient alone, and does not consider the hazards of pesticide mixtures (or inert ingredients) in common pesticide products. In fact, during GAO’s interview process with stakeholders, EPA claimed it did not know where to find information on common pesticide mixtures. “EPA officials agreed that such mixtures may pose risks to bees but said that EPA does not have data on commonly used mixtures and does not know how it would identify them.” The report notes that other stakeholders said that this data could be found by surveying farmers, pesticide manufacturers, and others. GAO’s suggestion that mixtures be evaluated echoes the White House Pollinator Task Force’s recommendation, and is an area of research long overdue not only for bees and wild pollinators, but for human impacts as well.

GAO investigations are conducted by interviewing a range of stakeholders, including government officials, university researchers, commercial beekeepers, environmental advocates and pesticide industry officials (see page 71). Beyond Pesticides was interviewed for this GAO report. Along with farmers, commercial beekeepers, state organizations, and university researchers, it was suggested that USDA investigate, “[i]ssues related to the effects of pesticides on bees, including: the effects from entire pesticide products, fungicides, inert ingredients, adjuvants, multiple pesticides from different crops and locations, treated seeds, and tank mixes; the sublethal and synergistic effects of pesticides; the effects on different life stages of bees, native bees, individual bees, and the entire colony over its life span; and the effects of pesticide concentrations in surface water.”

Within the pesticide industry, Bayer and Syngenta, the two major manufactures of neonicotinoid pesticides were interviewed for the report. It is telling that the pesticide industry stands alone in its opposition to the vast majority of stakeholders, even within conventional agriculture, regarding the need to study impact of pesticides on pollinators. Representatives of the pesticide industry told GAO that, “USDA should conduct less research on the connection between pesticides and bee declines. (see page 64)” Although this assertion should not be surprising, its implications are stark. Industry has already moved to suppress the research of USDA scientists investigating the connection between pesticides and pollinators. Last week a front-page story in The Washington Post Magazine detailed the ways in which USDA retaliated against a top researcher for discussing his studies on pesticide hazards with the public. It is evident that pressure from industry played a role in Jonathan Lundgren’s, Ph.D, demerits.

GAO has a long history of producing fair and balanced assessments of federal agency work, including a 2013 report on EPA’s conditional registration process, and several reports in the 1990s on risks regarding lawn care pesticides (1,2,3). Given the inadequacy of actions to date and the pesticide industry’s position that there is no problem to be investigated, reversing pollinator declines will take sustained advocacy efforts from concerned residents across the United States. Join Beyond Pesticides to help pollinators. Sign on to show your support for a pesticide-free community, and work to lobby elected officials to eliminate toxic pesticide use in your town. Also, make sure to buy organic, the only U.S. certified system of agriculture that disallows the use of bee-toxic, synthetic pesticides like neonicotinoids and requires farmers to foster soil health and biodiversity.

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

Source: GAO Report on Bee Health

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14
Mar

Report Calls for Improved Pesticide Regulation and Assessment on Kauai, Hawai’i

(Beyond Pesticides, March 14, 2016)  According to a draft version of a report commissioned by Hawaii and Kauai County, Hawaii should dramatically improve its regulation of pesticide use and study its impacts, which the state legislature has repeatedly refused to consider. Unsurprisingly, agrichemical companies that produce genetically engineered (GE) seeds criticized the new government report, saying it “raises unfounded and unsubstantiated fears about chronic exposure and chemicals in general.” Association members include Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences and BASF, multi-billion-dollar multinational agrochemical companies that farm thousands of acres in Hawaii and produce the state’s largest export crop, seed corn.

Tkauaicornfieldshe Joint Fact Finding (JFF) report was conducted by Peter Adler of the consulting firm Accord3.0. and eight participants, including two representatives of DuPont Pioneer and Dow AgroSciences. According to the study website, it was commissioned by the Hawaii State Department of
Agriculture (HDOA) and Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho in order to conduct a joint fact finding project on the island of Kauai. The preliminary results were released after a year-long investigation into the impacts and regulation of pesticide use by Hawaii’s GE seed industry and Kauai Coffee. The draft report is available for public comment until April 8, 2016.

The draft report’s recommendations include:

  • The state should establish new standards of pesticide safety that consider Hawaii’s unique environment and take into account the impacts of chronic exposure.
  • The Department of Agriculture should implement a pilot program to monitor pesticide drift and improve current protocols for responding to incidents of pesticide exposure.
  • The department should also add a user fee to pesticide sales to fund pesticide monitoring initiatives; add more pesticide inspectors to tackle the agency’s backlog; require that field workers undergo mandatory medical checks for pesticide toxicity; and create an annual monitoring program for bees and honey.
  • The Department of Health should implement continuous water monitoring and air, soil and dust sampling programs. The agency should also complete all missing years of data on cancer and birth defects, and start including zip codes in its data collection.
  • The Department of Education should pursue an air monitoring program at Kauai schools and offer voluntary blood and urine tests.
  • The Department of Land and Natural Resources should start a pilot program to test for pesticides in wildlife and test surface waters in wetland habitats and bird sanctuaries.
  • The Office of Hawaiian Affairs should annually monitor the presence of pesticides in salts collected by Native Hawaiian practitioners.

In 2013, local leaders crafted Bill 2491 (which became Ordinance 960) in response to public outcry from residents, many of whom live, work, or have children that go to school near agricultural fields leased by chemical corporations. Many in the community had hoped that the passage of Ordinance 960 would be the beginning of local efforts to reign in excesses and abuses of agrochemical companies operating on the island. In late October of that year, the Kauai County Council approved the bill in a 6 to 1 vote. However, a lawsuit challenging the ordinance was brought against Kauai by agrochemical giants, DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., Syngenta Seeds, Agrigenetics, Inc, (owned by Dow Chemical) and BASF Plant Sciences LP, who argued that the County had no authority to regulate pesticides and GE plantings because state and federal laws did so already, and that the ordinance places unnecessary and unfair restrictions on their operations. Unfortunately, in late 2014, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren ruled that Kauai County Ordinance 960 is preempted by state law and therefore is unenforceable.

State preemption laws effectively deny local residents and decision makers their democratic right to better protection when a community decides that minimum standards set by state and federal law are insufficient. Given this restriction, local jurisdictions nationwide have passed ordinances that restrict pesticide use on a town’s public property, or school districts have limited pesticides on its land. As pesticide pollution and concerns over the effects of GE crops on human and environmental health mount, many are fighting to overturn preemption laws and return the power back to localities, enabling them to adopt more stringent protective standards throughout their communities.

The JFF report urges Governor David Ige to take the lead in reforming pesticide regulations, but in a statement to Civil Beat, he said that he does not think his department will move forward with imposing most of the draft report’s recommendations, citing that the study did not substantiate the claims of Bill 2491. The study found no statistically significant evidence that pesticide use by large agricultural companies has harmed Kauai’s environment or the health of residents, but says serious data gaps hindered the analysis. While the current draft analysis may not have found evidence substantiating Bill 2491’s claims, other data easily fills in the gaps and demonstrates resident’s cause for concern.

Residents living on the Hawaiian Islands are subject to a particularly pronounced form of environmental assault, as the state’s premiere growing conditions have made it a prime target for agrochemical companies to test new, experimental forms of GE crops. Data released in 2014 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. According to the Center for Food Safety, in 2014 alone, there were 1,381 field test sites in Hawaii, compared to only 178 sites in California, a large agricultural state. Most of these crops are engineered to tolerate herbicides. Testing these crops means repeated spraying of dangerous chemicals near neighborhoods, schools, and waterways.  Residents of the Hawaiian Islands who live, work, or go to school near these fields are subject to incessant pesticide spraying, as the climate provides a year-round growing season for GE crops. A May 2014 report found 25 herbicides, 11 insecticides and 6 fungicides in Hawaii’s waterways, underscoring resident concerns for both the land and human health.

Beyond Pesticides continues to be an ardent supporter of common sense protections from pesticides and their associated use on GE crops. If you too support these issues, please consider joining us in person to help us continue the fight against pesticide use. This spring Beyond Pesticides is convening, with local and regional partner organizations, the 34th National Pesticide Forum from April 15-16 in Portland, Maine. Early bird registration is currently in effect, so make your plans to register today!

Source: Civil Beat

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

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11
Mar

Colorado Rancher To Be Jailed for Pesticide Drift

(Beyond Pesticides, March 11, 2016)  A judge found a Colorado rancher to be in violation of a court order that protected his neighbors, organic farmers Rosemary Bilchak and her husband Gordon MacAlpine, who suffers from leukemia, from sprayed pesticides that drifted onto their property. The decision in western Colorado’s North Fork Valley sets a precedent in protecting farmers and sensitive people from pesticides. State Judge Jeff Herron sentenced Hopper to jail for two days —and fined him $7,500 — ruling that his spraying until 2015 violated a 2012 court order that protected his neighbors. Despite this court order, records say Mr. Hopper continued spraying through August 2015. Mr. Hopper had obtained a state license to spray pesticides in 2011 after his wife was diagnosed with West Nile virus, which is spread by mosquitoes. However, Mr. Hopper’s neighbors took him to court, claiming the pesticides were harmful to Mr. MacAlpine’s health and prevented them from expanding into organic vegetable production.

Tmunicipal-fogging.jpg-300x225he presiding judge at the time of the 2012 court ruling, Charles Greenacre, determined that an application of the insecticide, Fyfanon, a form of malathion, had drifted, and thus trespassed, onto the neighboring organic farm of Rosemary Bilchak and her husband, Gordon MacAlpine. In granting the permanent injunction, Judge Greenacre decided that: “Plaintiffs have an interest, shared by the public in general, in not having their property invaded by third persons or things. Plaintiffs also have a specific interest in not having pesticides invade their property because such invasions will delay or negate their efforts to have their property certified for the production of organic crops.”

“This case makes an important and historic contribution,” said Jay Feldman, director of Beyond Pesticides. “When you use a chemical and it moves off the target site, you’re violating the label and you’re putting people at risk and also causing economic damage,” Mr. Feldman said. “Courts need to intervene to enforce the law and protect people.”

According to The Denver Post, state-administered Paonia Mosquito Control District sprayers had tried for years to control mosquitoes that breed in pools, junk, discarded tires and elsewhere across the North Fork Valley. But in 2008, the district switched tactics after Ms. Bilchak led a campaign against pesticides. Growers shifted toward more use of larvicides, injected into pools of water to kill mosquito eggs. Spraying pesticides into the air from a truck at full-grown flying mosquitoes, Ms. Bilchak said, “is like shooting a machine gun to hit a fly on the wall.”

Mr. Hopper responded by taking a state exam and receiving, in June 2011, a Colorado pesticide applicator’s license. He then obtained a London Fogger, an engine-size device with a funnel that he mounted on the back of a pickup. He filled it with fyfanon, a pesticide containing malathion, and sprayed it out in white puffs to eradicate mosquitoes. But those puffs floated in the air onto the adjacent 20-acre property that Mr. Hopper sold in 2005 to Ms. Bilchak and Mr. MacAlpine, farmers who wanted to expand their organic vegetable production.

Mr. MacAlpine suffers from a form of leukemia, court documents show. He and Ms. Bilchak began farming to be able to eat healthier, pesticide-free food, dreading pesticide residues that could suppress Mac Alpine’s immune system.

They applied for an “organic” certification that attorney Mr. Weiner argued would be jeopardized by pesticides. Mr. Weiner also presented evidence from cancer doctors that pesticides could hurt Mr. MacAlpine’s immune system, pressing his case that unwanted white puffs equate to trespassing.

Pesticides can volatilize into the gaseous state and be transported over long distances fairly rapidly through wind and rain. Documented exposure patterns resulting from drift causes particular concerns for children and other sensitive population groups, as adverse health effects such as nausea, dizziness, respiratory problems, headaches, rashes, and mental disorientation may appear even when a pesticide is applied according to label directions.

In 2011, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that pesticides drifting from one farm to another may constitute trespass, and courts in other states have ruled in favor of organic farmers. Pesticide drift is not only a problem for organic growers. Pesticide drift has been suspected in the tree deaths throughout the East Coast and Midwest. A 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has found that pesticide drift from chemical-intensive farming has poisoned thousands of farmworkers and rural residents.

For more information on pesticide drift, read Beyond Pesticides’ report, Getting the Drift on Chemical Trespass: Pesticide drift hits homes, schools and other sensitive sites throughout communities. You can see a video of Rosemary Bilchak speaking at Beyond Pesticides’ 2014 National Pesticide Forum here. In addition, please check out Beyond Pesticides’ mosquito management page and extensive work on the most efficacious methods for Public Health Management Strategy for insect-borne diseases. See mosquito management for Zika virus.

Sources: The Denver Post, (download a PDF version of The Denver Post article)

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

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10
Mar

“Muzzled” USDA Scientist to Speak at National Pesticide Forum

(Beyond Pesticides, March 10, 2016) Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., a top U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist who received a prestigious national award for civic courage for his work on neonicotinoids and pollinator decline in the face of agency attempts to suppress his work, will be speaking at Cultivating Community and Environmental Health, the 34th National Pesticide Forum, April 15-16, 2016 in Portland, ME. Dr. Lundgren will join other top scientists and leaders who have stood up to protect human and environmental health, despite facing industry backlash and scientific suppression. His story was recently featured in Sunday’s The Washington Post Magazine, Was a USDA Scientist Muzzled Because of His Bee Research, as censorship of federal scientists has grown.

As a Senior Research Entomologist and Lab Supervisor for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in South Dakota, Dr. Lundgren had worked for USDA for eleven years with great success, with his research drawing national attention and international recognition. However, in October 2015, Dr. Lundgren, represented by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a whistleblower complaint charging the agency with suppression of research findings that challenged the safety and efficacy of a widely used class of pesticides, neonicotinoids.

In April 2015, PEER filed a petition for rulemaking with USDA, urging the agency to strengthen its Scientific Integrity Policy and adopt best practices used in other federal agencies in order to prevent politicized suppression or alteration of studies. The group claims that at least 10 USDA scientists have been investigated or have faced other consequences as a result of research questioning the safety of certain pesticides. The current policy disallows scientists from “making statements that could be construed as being judgments of or recommendations on USDA or any other federal policy, either intentionally or inadvertently.”

Although a USDA scientific integrity review panel recently rejected Dr. Lundgren’s complaint, the USDA Office of the Inspector General indicated it will open a wide-ranging investigation into scientific censorship within the agency.

Dr. Lundgren’s research on the harm neonicotinoids pose to monarch butterflies reflects a growing scientific consensus that these chemicals present significant risks to declining pollinator populations. However, as stated in the complaint, despite receiving approval for the paper through proper protocols, higher-ups at USDA deemed the research “sensitive,” and claimed that Dr. Lundgren had not received approval to publish the study.

In response to the growing suppression of scientific work, a coalition of more than 50 sustainable agriculture, environmental, beekeeper, and public interest organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, is pressing the agency for overdue reforms. The coalition sent a letter to USDA Tuesday expressing growing concerns over the alleged suppression, harassment, and censorship of agency scientists, particularly with regard to research showing harms to pollinators from certain pesticides, a controversial topic in the agriculture community. In addition, Beyond Pesticides will join other groups today to deliver petition signatures urging the USDA to stop silencing its own scientists and suppressing research findings on bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides, and urging the resignation of Catherine Woteki, Under Secretary for USDA’s Research Education and Economics mission area, who is ultimately responsible for this suppression.

Next month, Dr. Lundgren will join other top scientists at the 34th National Pesticide Forum, including Aaron Blair, Ph.D., a National Cancer Institute researcher (emeritus), who has authored over 450 publications on occupational and environmental causes of cancer, and served as the overall chair of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) evaluation panel which found that one of the most widely used herbicides, glyphosate (Roundup), is a carcinogen. He also joins other notable leaders who have stood up to protect the public against a culture of putting industry profits first, including Jim Gerritsen, a Maine organic for over 38 years, and president of the national farmer-run membership trade organization, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), which served as lead plaintiff in the landmark organic community federal lawsuit, OSGATA et al. v. Monsanto.

Cultivating Community and Environmental Health, is the 34th National Pesticide Forum, and is convened by Beyond Pesticides, Toxics Action Center, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), and University of Southern Maine Department of Environmental Science and Policy. Co-sponsors include: Environment America, Food and Water Watch Maine, Friends of Casco Bay, GreenCAPE, Organic Consumers Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine, Portland Pollinator Partnership, Portland Protectors, and Regeneration International.

This national environmental conference, which will be held April 15-16, 2016 at the University of Southern Maine will feature panel discussions, workshops and keynote talks. Registration, which includes access to all sessions as well as organic food and beverages, is $45 for grassroots activists, and $25 for students. Register online today.

For more information on the program go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

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09
Mar

Senate Democrats Introduce Bill Requiring GE Food Labeling, Includes Preemption of States

(Beyond Pesticides March 9, 2016) Last week, Senators Jeff Merkley (OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation to require that consumer food packaging displays genetically engineered (GE) ingredient labeling. The Senators’ legislation, the Biotechnology Food Labeling and Uniformity Act (S.2621), presents an alternative to the primarily Republican-backed Biotechnology Labeling Solutions Bill that recently passed the Senate Agriculture Committee on a 14-6 vote. The Biotechnology Labeling Solutions Bill, which embodies several provisions of the much opposed DARK Act, will hide ingredient information from consumers by overturning state GE labeling laws like that of Vermont’s.

“Rather than blocking consumers’ access to information they want, the U.S. Senate should move forward with a solution that BP Dark Actworks for businesses and consumers alike,” said Senator Merkley. “There is a way to give consumers the information they are asking for without placing unfair or conflicting requirements on food producers. This legislation provides the common-sense pathway forward.”

The Biotechnology Food Labeling and Uniformity Act will allow American consumers to see whether a food has been prepared with GE ingredients, while offering food manufacturers several options for including this information on or near the ingredients list. This framework meets the needs of consumers, the vast majority of whom support labeling according to polls, and producers, who worry that a patchwork of state labeling laws would be costly and difficult to comply with and confusing for consumers.

Specifically, the Biotechnology Food Labeling Uniformity Act will amend the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act to require manufacturers to disclose the presence of GE ingredients on the Nutrition Fact Panel in one of four ways:

  1. Manufacturers may use a parenthesis following the relevant ingredient to indicate that this ingredient is “Genetically Engineered.”
  2. Manufacturers may identify GE ingredients with an asterisk and provide an explanation at the bottom of the ingredients list.
  3. Manufacturers may simply apply a catch all statement at the end of the ingredient list stating the product was “produced with genetic engineering.”
  4. The FDA would have the authority to develop a symbol, in consultation with food manufacturers, which would clearly and conspicuously disclose the presence of GE ingredients on packaging.

None of these options will require front panel disclosures or “warning” statements intending to disparage GE ingredients.

“This bill is an important step forward to give consumers a uniform national mandatory label, and it seeks to address the needs of food producers by giving them a suite of options to comply with a mandatory national label,” said Senator Leahy. “I believe that until a national mandatory label like this is enacted, Congress should not preempt state laws, like Vermont’s Act 120.”

Despite the clear requirement that food labels will under 2621, if passed, will require disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients, the legislation clearly preempts state labeling authority with the following language. “SEC. 4. FEDERAL PREEMPTION. (a) IN GENERAL.—No State or political subdivision of a State shall impose different or additional requirements to state the presence of the same genetically engineered food or ingredients covered by this Act under the laws, regulations, requirements, or standards of such 16 State or political subdivision of a State.”

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

In the case of this legislation, states, based on the science may want to issue a warning on food labeling, whereas S.2621 requires language that states that the product is produced with genetically engineered ingredients. It is expected that manufacturers will us their websites to exclaim the safety of GE ingredients. Campbell Soup has indicated support for labeling, but intends to describe the safety of GE ingredients.

Beyond Pesticides believes that consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and human health. GE agriculture is associated with the increased use of herbicides –particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup– that crops are developed to tolerate. In light of the recent findings by International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) that glyphosate is a human carcinogen based on laboratory animal test data, consumers have even more cause for concern about the health risks that these products pose.

To join Beyond Pesticides in our fight to promote GE labeling, voice your opposition to the DARK Act and let your elected officials know you support for legislation like the Biotechnology Labeling Food Labeling and Uniformity Act.

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

Source: Senator Merkley Press Release

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08
Mar

Study Finds Majority of Germans Have Glyphosate in their Bodies

(Beyond Pesticides, March 8, 2016) A vast majority of German citizens are contaminated with the herbicide glyphosate, according to a report from the Heinrich Boll Foundation. The findings come just one week after another environmental group in Germany, the Munich Environmental Institute, found traces of the popular weed killer in popular German beers. The results of this study add concern to EU-wide deliberations regarding the renewal of glyphosate’s registration.

rndupflikrAccording to the study, 99.6% of the 2,009 German citizens monitored have some level of glyphosate found in their urine. Over 75% of these individuals have concentrations that are higher than the EU’s legal level for glyphosate in drinking water. Further, children up to age 19 are found to exhibit higher levels of urinary glyphosate than older adults. Individuals living near agricultural areas also show elevated concentrations compared to those that did not.

Given recent data finding glyphosate to be the most widely used herbicide on the globe, it is not surprising that the chemical is near ubiquitous in human bodies. Similar results are expected in the United States. A pilot study conducted by the group Moms Across America in 2014 found that glyphosate may also bioaccumulate in the human body, as revealed by high levels of the chemical in the breast milk of mothers tested. Although risk assessors and industry attempt to downplay the impact of widespread glyphosate exposure, recent studies call these claims into question.

In September 2015, a study published in Environmental Health News found that chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate led to adverse effects on liver and kidney health. Beyond direct impacts to the kidney and liver, glyphosate has recently been implicated as a having sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity based upon an analysis of laboratory animals studies conducted by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Despite this data, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessments (BfR) has consistently attempted to downplay the dangers associated with glyphosate exposure. Shortly after IARC’s assessment was released, BfR disputed its claims through a report that relied heavily on unpublished studies from the Glyphosate Task Force, an industry group dedicated to reregistering glyphosate in the EU. The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) signaled its intent to move forward with glyphosate registration after determining it was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.” It is important to note that IARC and EFSA’s evaluations differ, as EFSA only evaluates pure glyphosate, while IARC reviews consider both the chemical and its formulated products, which individuals are actually exposed to in the real world.

In response to the latest report, Harold Ebner of the German Greens noted in a statement to the EU-news website Euroactive, “Now nearly every single one of us has been contaminated by plant poison, it is clear to me that no new authorisations for 2031 should be issued [for glyphosate].”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has indicated it will release its preliminary risk assessment on glyphosate for public comment this year. It was already announced last month that the Food and Drug Administration will begin testing glyphosate residues in food. However, although a positive step, this move is largely seen as political by the agency, a response to public pressure and not focused on evaluating health concerns.

Beyond Pesticides urges individuals concerned about glyphosate exposure to support organic systems that do not rely on hazardous carcinogenic pesticides. In agriculture, concerned consumers can buy food with the certified organic label, which not only disallows synthetic pesticides like glyphosate, but also the use of sewage sludge and genetically engineered ingredients. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and biotechnology, responsible organic farms focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and other beneficial insects, and only resort to judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective.

To control weeds in lawns and landscapes, organic systems can also replace toxic pesticides. By focusing on soil health, organic systems build natural resiliency that resists insect and weed pressure. A growing number of communities are moving towards organic land care on their public and private spaces. Help us build the movement by signing your support for a pesticide-free community today!

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

Source: Euroactiv, Heinrich Boll Foundation report [German]

 

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07
Mar

UN Report Warns of Decline in Pollinators and Global Food Supplies

(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2016) A United Nation’s report, released late last month, has warns the world that many species of wild bees, butterflies and other pollinators are on a dangerous path toward extinction, and that the food supply will suffer if the causes of these declines, many of them human-made, are not stopped. The report is based on many different scientific studies. The scientists who led the assessment pointed to pesticides as one of the leading causes of pollinator decline, specifically, a class of toxic chemicals called neonicotinoids, which adversely affect the nervous system of insects.

Susan Quals Algood TN Honeybee on Yellow Crownbeard2According to their press release, the assessment, Thematic Assessment of Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production, is the first ever issued by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). IPBES was founded in 2012 with 124 member nations to “form a crucial intersection between international scientific understanding and public policy making.”

Before its release, the assessment attracted some controversy for including two representatives from the agrochemical industry, including Bayer CropScience and Syngenta, as lead authors. Even though the IPBES requires all lead authors to complete conflict-of-interest statements, some scientists and environmentalists expressed concern. Given the roll of agrochemicals in pollinator decline, some believe that scientists funded by the pesticide industry should not be allowed to take part in these types of assessments, which are meant to be unbiased. That said, the report did highlight the role of pesticides in pollinator decline.

The assessment found that an estimated sixteen percent of vertebrate pollinators are threatened with global extinction – increasing to thirty percent for island species – with a trend towards more extinctions. Although most insect pollinators have not been assessed at a global level, regional and national assessments indicate high levels of threat, particularly for bees and butterflies – with often more than 40 per cent of invertebrate species threatened locally. The assessment also found that pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides, threaten pollinators worldwide. Other factors that the report pointed to as contributors for pollinator declines included pests, diseases, genetically modified crops and the decline of farming practices that are based on indigenous and local knowledge.

The science on bee health has demonstrated that even small, low-dose (sublethal) neonicotinoid exposures can have detrimental effects on bees. In 2015, researchers found that bumblebees exposed to field levels of neonicotinoids accumulate the toxic pesticides in their brains, and acute and chronic exposure increase neuronal vulnerability to mitochondrial dysfunction. Other studies on the subject reveal a clear link between these chemicals and the synergistic effects they have on bees when combined with parasites and disease, such one published by Di Presco et al. (2013), which found that the neonicotinoid clothianidin reduces insect immunity, and  promotes viral replication in honey bees by up to 1,000-fold, after exposure to field-realistic and sublethal doses. A review of recent literature concludes that the weight of evidence “strongly confirms that systemic insecticides, notably the neonicotinoids…, are the primary factor in the death of millions of bee colonies globally.”

The report also cites the vast economic importance of pollinators and pollinator services. According to the press release, seventy-five percent of the world’s food crops depend at least in part on pollination. The annual value of global crops directly affected by pollinators is estimated to be $235 to $577 billion, and the annual honey production from the western honey bee is 1.6 million tonnes.

In conclusion, researchers pointed to numerous options that could be implemented to safeguard pollinators, such as maintaining or creating greater diversity of pollinator habitats in agricultural and urban landscapes, supporting traditional practices in agriculture, such as crop rotation, and utilizing other indigenous local knowledge, and decreasing exposure of pollinators to pesticides by reducing pesticide usage, seeking alternative forms of pest control, and adopting specific application practices.

While industry may argue that bee-toxic pesticides, such as neonicotinoids, are necessary for agricultural output and pest control, these claims have not been proven. In August 2015, reports out of the UK found that the country was poised to harvest higher than expected yields of canola in its first neonicotinoid-free growing season since the European moratorium on neonicotinoids went into place in 2013. According to the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Harvest Report, with 15% of canola harvested, yields are between 3.5 and 3.7 tons per hectare, higher than the normal farm average of 3.4.

Relying on the promotion of chemical-intensive agricultural practices is not a sustainable solution. In addition to the impact that pesticides have on pollinators, these chemical inputs can contaminate waterways, leading to eutrophication and “dead zones,” where nothing is able to live or grow. Chemical-intensive agriculture also depletes organic matter in the soil and undermines biological systems necessary to sustain life. Conversely, increasingly organic agriculture is understood as a sustainable agricultural system that restores and regenerates the environment and long-term security. Organic agriculture is not only necessary in order to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals, it is necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of food production, ecosystem functionality, and the economy.

In order to make a difference at home, declare your garden, yard, park or other space 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.

Sources: The Big Story, Nature, IPBES

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

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04
Mar

Chlorpyrifos Reduces Memory and Learning in Exposed Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, March 4, 2016) Honey bees experience a learning and memory deficit after ingesting small doses of the insecticide chlorpyrifos, potentially threatening their success and survival, according to a study in New Zealand. Chlorpyrifos is a highly neurotoxic organophosphate pesticide used worldwide on crops to protect against insects and mites.

BeesThe study, Measurements of Chlorpyrifos Levels in Forager Bees and Comparison with Levels that Disrupt Honey Bee Odor-Mediated Learning Under Laboratory Conditions, published in Ecology, examines chlorpyrifos levels in bees collected from 17 locations in Otago, New Zealand and compared doses of the pesticide that cause sub-lethal effects on learning performance under laboratory conditions with amounts of chlorpyrifos detected in bees in the field. Researchers found chlorpyrifos in 17% of the sites sampled and 12% of the colonies examined. Honey bees are found to experience harmful effects to smell memory and learning, and reduction in specificity of memory recall.

Chlorpyrifos is just one of many pesticides that have frequently been detected in honey bees. According to a study conducted last year by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), 72% of bees tested positive for pesticide residues, raising concerns about unintended pesticide exposures where land uses overlap or are in proximity to one another. Researchers find residues of the bee-toxic neonicotinoids thiamethoxam (46%), clothianidin (24%), imidacloprid (13%), as well as fipronil desulfinyl (7%; degradate). They also detected bifenthrin (28%) and chlorpyrifos (17%), and the fungicides azoxystrobin (17%), pyraclostrobin (11%), fluxapyroxad (9%), and propiconazole (9%), along with the herbicides atrazine (19%) and metolachlor (9%).

Honey bees are not the only living organisms adversely affected by chlorpyrifos exposure. Studies have documented that exposure to low levels of organophosphates like chlorpyrifos during pregnancy can impair learning, change brain function, and alter thyroid levels of offspring into adulthood. The evidence of the neurotoxic dangers associated with chlorpyrifos’ exposure is extensive and consistent. See the Pesticide Induced-Disease Database (PIDD) for more information.

In fall of 2015, EPA proposed to revoke all food tolerances for chlorpyrifos. If EPA’s rule is finalized, chlorpyrifos would be effectively eliminated from use in agriculture 15 years after consumer uses were discontinued. However, non-food uses, including application to golf courses, turf, greenhouses and for public health mosquito control, are not affected by this decision and will remain.

Chlorpyrifos leads a list of numerous toxic chemicals that are central to chemical-intensive agricultural practices that threaten human health and the environment. Although eliminating its use in agriculture is important, the delay in removing the remaining uses of this well-researched and highly toxic chemical reflects the failure of the pesticide regulatory process. Ultimately, the widespread adoption of organic management is necessary to protect consumers and the environment in the long-term. Beyond Pesticides has long sought a broad-scale marketplace transition to organic practices that disallow the use of toxic synthetic pesticides by law and encourages a systems-based approach that is protective of health and the environment. This approach never allows the use of highly toxic synthetic pesticides, let alone organophosphates, such as chlorpyrifos, and advances a viable, scalable path forward for growing food.

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

Sources: Phys.org

 

 

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03
Mar

Label Warning on Dangerous PCP-Treated Poles Deemed Unconstitutional

(Beyond Pesticides, March 3, 2016) Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt declared a dangerous wood preservative label ordinance unconstitutional, ending a three year battle between a New York town and Public Service Enterprise Group (PESG). In 2014, under the authority of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), PESG installed thousands of hurricane-resistant utility poles containing the hazardous wood preservative pentachlorophenol (PCP or penta). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines pentachlorophenol as “extremely toxic” to humans even from short-term exposure and is listed as a “probable human carcinogen.”

Pole_RouteJudge Spatt cited the First Amendment doctrine of commercial speech, stating that, “In order to qualify as commercial speech, the message sought to be regulated must necessarily bear some discernible connection to the commercial interests of the speaker.” Because the utility poles are not intended to be sold to the public nor influence consumer behavior, PESG is not required to post “compelled warning signs” on their dangerous utility poles.

In 2014, the Town of North Hempstead on Long Island New York passed a law requiring warning labels on the utility poles that are treated with PCP. At a town board meeting on September 9, a vote of 7-0 mandated the labeling with the following warning: “This pole contains a hazardous chemical. Avoid prolonged direct contact with this pole. Wash hands or other exposed areas thoroughly if contact is made.” Later that month, New York Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and State Senator Kenneth LaValle introduced legislation that would prohibit the future use of utility poles treated with PCP, and called for the posting of warnings to inform people about the dangers of contact with PCP on existing poles. PSEG Long Island and LIPA filed the suit against the Town of North Hempstead, New York in 2015, seeking to block the town ordinance.

In October 2014, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) released its 13th Report on Carcinogens, a science-based document that identifies chemical, biological, and physical agents that are considered cancer hazards for people living in the U.S. Four substances were added, including PCP. Despite the classification, the U.S. government has continued to oppose international efforts to forego the use of the dangerous chemical. In May 2015, more than 90 countries voted to ban PCP at a combined Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions. The U.S. is not a signatory to those conventions. As the largest producer and user of PCP, the U.S. government ignored recommendations from the United Nations committee of experts to add it to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, supported by countries worldwide, to halt the global use of PCP. The committee noted the wide availability of non-chemical alternatives that are much safer than PCP, which include steel, composite, and concrete poles, as well as the burying of power lines.

In spring 2015, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to immediately investigate the specific use of PCP to treat utility poles throughout Long Island and urged PSEG Long Island to immediately suspend further use of this chemical until a federal review is complete. In his press release, Senator Schumer expressed serious concern about PCP’s health risks to utility workers, adults, and children and its ability to move into water over the long-term as the chemical leaches from the poles. The Senator also notes that a private firm has conducted a study based on a very limited sample size that does not consider long-term risks as the pole decomposes and further leaches toward groundwater. EPA, which is responsible for evaluating PCP’s health and environmental risk, has noted public health concerns related to the chemical when ingested or inhaled, including neurological, respiratory, kidney and immune system effects.

For more extensive information about pesticide-treated wood for utility poles and railroad ties, see Beyond Pesticides Wood Preservatives program page, and read Beyond Poison Poles: Elected officials say no to toxic utility poles in their communities, from the Fall 2014 issue of Pesticides and You.

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

Source: Lexology

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02
Mar

EPA Moves to Cancel Toxic Pesticide It Allowed without Complete Review, Manufacturer, Bayer, Reneges on Agreement to Take Product Off Market

(Washington, DC, March 1, 2016) After pesticide manufacturer Bayer CropScience would not voluntarily remove from the market the insecticide flubendiamide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formally issued a Notice of Intent to Cancel the insecticide, citing its high toxicity to aquatic organisms. Bayer is embroiled in controversy over its neonicotinoid insecticides because, as systemic pesticides, they move through the entire plant and express the poison through pollen and nectar, indiscriminately killing bees and other pollinators and polluting waterways. Flubendiamide, a benzenedicarboxamide pesticide, is “locally systemic” within the plant’s leaves. EPA’s action today may take years of regulatory review and legal action while the pesticide remains on the market.

bayerlogoEPA used the controversial conditional registration provision of federal pesticide law, when in 2008 it allowed flubendiamide on the market, despite outstanding environmental data. At the time, it struck an agreement that, if unreasonable adverse effects on the environment were found, Bayer would withdraw the chemical’s registration. Today’s action serves to exemplify the consequences of allowing potentially harmful substances onto the market without all the information necessary to issue a complete finding of environmental and public safety. Because of EPA’s long cancellation process, unless it takes the rare action of finding imminent hazard, it is standard practice at the agency to negotiate voluntary cancellations by pesticide manufacturers. EPA thought it was short circuiting this long process with its agreement, but Bayer has refused to remove the pesticide voluntarily. [Note: For instance, Reckitt Benckiser LLC, maker of D-Con and other rodenticides, refused to abide by EPA’s 2013 cancellation order of 12 of its products for not meeting statutory standards even after the company refused to adopt risk mitigation measures established by EPA in 2008. 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. Eventually, Reckitt Benckiser agreed to phase out production of the products under question in June 2014].

Since its conditional registration, studies showed that flubendiamide –which is registered for use on over 200 crops, including soybeans, almonds, tobacco, peanuts, and cotton– is toxic to aquatic organisms, breaking down into a more highly toxic substance that harms organisms important to aquatic ecosystems, especially fish. The insecticide is also persistent in the environment. According to EPA, after being informed of the agency’s findings on January 29, 2016, the manufacturers, Bayer CropScience, LP and Nichino America, Inc., were asked to submit a request for voluntary cancellation by Friday, February 5, 2016. Bayer has rejected the request and EPA’s interpretation of the science.

“The prudent approach to protecting environmental health would be to halt conditional registrations of pesticides,” said Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides’ executive director. The Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) recently decided to stop the practice.

Source: Press Release

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01
Mar

Fish and Wildlife Service to Assess Harm from Glyphosate and Atrazine on Endangered Species

(Beyond Pesticides, March 1, 2016) Under the terms of an agreement reached lasted month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will begin studying the effects of four commonly used herbicides on the health of 1,500 endangered species in the United States. Based on the terms of the settlement, the result of a series of lawsuits launched by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), FWS must develop a plan to mitigate the effects of glyphosate, atrazine, and its chemical cousins propazine and simazine, on any threatened or endangered species.

“fishandwildlifeservice-logoThis agreement will result in long-overdue protections for our country’s most endangered species,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at CBD. “Once the Fish and Wildlife Service completes its analysis, and the public finally learns just how toxic and deadly these pesticides are to endangered species, we hope that the government will ultimately take most of these products off the shelf.”

Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to consult with FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on the impacts of pesticides on endangered species when it registers a chemical under federal pesticide law (the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA). EPA is required to ensure that the registration of a pesticide will not jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species by diminishing the species’ numbers and reproduction. However, the agency has consistently failed in this statutory obligation, as a report from the National Academy of Sciences’ Research Council (NRC) found in 2013.

CBD launched its initial lawsuit over the four pesticides in 2007, targeting the use of these chemicals in habitats around 11 endangered species in the San Francisco Bay area. A 2010 agreement established a schedule to review 75 different chemicals’ impact on those 11 listed species. In 2015, after 59 of the 75 chemicals had been reviewed, the agreement was amended, with EPA agreeing to complete a nationwide study on glyphosate, atrazine, propazine, and simazine, rather than a limited review of the last 16 pesticides on San Francisco Bay area species. EPA has until 2020 to complete that assessment. This latest settlement with FWS gives the agency until December 2022 to complete its assessment. CBD expects the review to lead to permanent restrictions on certain uses of these hazardous herbicides.

“With more than 300 million pounds of Roundup and 80 million pounds of atrazine being dumped on the landscape each year, it’s hard to even fathom the damage being done to endangered species, our environment and our own health,” said Mr. Hartl. “The analysis required under the Endangered Species Act is our best bet for forcing the EPA to stop acting as a rubber stamp for industry, and to finally make environmental protection the highest priority in decisions about these dangerous pesticides.”

Glyphosate and the three triazine herbicides under national review by FWS and EPA have evidenced significant adverse effects in wildlife. Beyond glyphosate’s recent classification as a carcinogen based on laboratory study by the World Health Organization, the chemical has been shown to harm earthworm populations, cause sub lethal damage to bees, drift and eliminate crucial habitat for monarch butterflies, and cause shape changes in amphibians. Groundbreaking data on atrazine from embattled researcher Tyrone Hayes, PhD, implicates the chemical as an endocrine (hormone) disruptor that mimics estrogen in the body. While Dr. Hayes’ research has focused on observing the herbicide’s impact on male frogs, which when exposed to atrazine develop ovaries and the ability to lay eggs, other researchers from across the country have replicated his results in other species, including fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals. (See Protecting Life: From Research to Regulation). Triazine herbicides, like atrazine, have been linked to widespread groundwater contamination, and were the subject of a $105 million lawsuit brought by community water systems against chemical’s manufacturer, Syngenta.

EPA has been the subject of numerous lawsuits for failing to consult with wildlife agencies in pesticide registrations. In 2014, the agency finalized a settlement in a lawsuit filed in 2002 to protect Pacific Northwest salmon populations from five toxic pesticides: diazinon, chlorpyrifos, malathion, carbaryl, and methomyl. In this case, a coalition of environmental groups sued EPA for failing to consult with NMFS. Years later, NMFS had not yet issued biological opinions for mitigation measures, and was sued again in 2007. Then, after NMFS issued its opinion, EPA failed to implement these protective measures, and another lawsuit was filed in 2010. Not until 2014 were common-sense buffer zones for pesticide applications near salmon habitat required by law. Another lawsuit launched last year challenges EPA’s approval of expanded uses of the herbicides 2,4-D and glyphosate on genetically engineered cropland without consulting FWS. CBD also sued EPA last year for not consulting with wildlife agencies regarding the recent registration of the fungicide benzovindiflupyr, which is highly toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates.

For additional information on how pesticides impact wildlife and endangered species, as well as links to other lawsuits challenging EPA’s failure to consult with wildlife agencies before allowing toxic pesticide use, see Beyond Pesticides’ Wildlife program page.

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

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

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29
Feb

Glyphosate Residues in Popular German Beers

(Beyond Pesticides, February 29, 2016) Last Thursday, the Munich Environmental Institute stated that it had found traces of glyphosate, the widely used and controversial weed-killer, in 14 of Germany’s most popular beers. These findings are a potential blow to Germany’s Beer Purity Law, which is highly regarded in German beer culture. Industry and German government immediately sought to downplay the results, saying that the levels found did not pose a risk to humans. However, according to the study’s results, all levels found were above the glyphosate residue level allowed in drinking water. Consumers have a right to be worried about the findings, as glyphosate was classified in March 2015 as a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Tbeerfullhe results, published in German, are broken down by beer and by micrograms per liter in picture format. The researchers cite the laboratory test results of the 14 beers, which found glyphosate levels between 0.46 and 29.74 micrograms per liter. The highest reading is 300 times the legal limit for drinking water in Germany, which is 0.1 microgram per cubic meter. Hasseroeder, a beer brewed in Saxony-Anhalt in eastern Germany and owned by Anheuser Busch Inbev, contained the highest trace of glyphosate at 29.74 micrograms per liter. The smallest amount, 0.46 micrograms per liter, was found in Augustiner, made in Munich. Other popular beers in the study, which can also be commonly found in the U.S., were Beck’s Pilsner and Franziskaner Weissbier. Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk (BfR) assessment said the levels do not pose a risk to consumers’ health. In contrast, geneticist Sophia Guttenberger of the Munich institute said glyphosate should simply be neither “in beer nor in our bodies.”

The German purity law, or the “Reinheitsgebot,” is one of the world’s oldest food safety laws and is celebrating its 500th anniversary this year. Under the law, brewers have to produce beer using only malt, hops, yeast and water. The simple recipe, which was initially implemented as a health measure, has helped make German beer so famous abroad. While this may have been a sufficient health measure in 1516, we know that current food safety standards must be scrutinized and monitored at a much higher degree. The Brauer-Bund beer association said there were government controls in place in breweries to ensure that no harmful substances made their way into the production process and echoed BfR’s previous statements. While government agencies and industry alike claim harmful substances are not entering the human diet, the current research shows otherwise.

In July 2015, the Soil Association disclosed findings of glyphosate residues in bread being sold in the UK. The results of that study show that glyphosate use in the UK increased by 400% in the last 20 years and is one of the three pesticides regularly found in routine testing of British bread –appearing in up to 30% of samples tested by the UK government. In August 2015, a research study published in Environmental Health linked long-term, ultra-low dose exposure to glyphosate in drinking water to adverse impacts on the health of liver and kidneys.

A scientific review was released earlier this month by a group of 14 scientists in which they expressed concern over the widespread use of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs), the lack of understanding regarding human exposure, and the potential health impacts. According to the report, BfR, along with a few U.S. agencies, such as the National Toxicology Program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have not adequately kept up with cutting-edge research. “It’s time to call on the global science and regulatory community to step back and take a fresh look at glyphosate since everyone on the planet is or will be exposed,” said senior author Charles Benbrook, an agricultural economist and consultant at Benbrook Consulting Services.

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 genetically engineered (GE) crops has led it to be implicated in the decline of monarch butterflies, whose sole habitat to lay their eggs, milkweed plants, are being devastated as a result of incessant use of glyphosate.

Beyond Pesticides advocates for a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and calls for alternative assessments. The organization suggests an approach that focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture. Thus, the best way to avoid glyphosate residues in beer, bread and other foods is to buy and support organic agriculture and the USDA organic label. Our 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.

Beer labeled organic must by law be brewed with hops that are grown with organic practices, which prohibit the use of glyphosate. Beer drinkers in the U.S. can find some great organic breweries, such as Peak Organic Brewery, Wolaver’s Fine Organic Ales, Bison Brewing, and Fish Tale Organic Ales. Other breweries may have a bottle or two that are organic, even if the whole brewery is not, so just look for the USDA organic label on the bottle to be sure.

Source: Reuters

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

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26
Feb

Feminine Hygiene Products Tainted with Glyphosate, Other Toxic Chemicals

(Beyond Pesticides, February 25, 2016) Feminine care products sold in France may contain “potentially toxic residues,” according to a study conducted by 60 Millions de Consommateurs, a French consumer rights group. The study finds traces of chemicals, such as dioxins and insecticides, in 5 of 11 products tested. A separate analysis conducted by Corman, a manufacturer of feminine care products, also finds residues of the weedkiller glyphosate, which was classified in March 2015 as a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Tampons-Researchers at 60 Millions reported finidng traces of halogenated waste, a by-product related to the processing of raw materials, in Tampax Compak Active Regular Fresh tampons. The
researchers also detected residues of organochlorine and pyrethroid pesticides, linked to a wide range of adverse health impacts, in some Always sanitary towels. Highly toxic dioxins, which can be cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems and damage the immune system, according to the World Health Organization, were also found in products by OB and the European Nett brands.

Corman, which makes Organyc panty liners, told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency that it conducted its own analysis that confirmed the trace amounts of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weedkiller, in its cotton-based products. A spokesperson for Corman said residual traces of glyphosate were found in one sample that “should not have been present in organic cotton.”

The findings caused the company to withdraw a batch of 3,100 boxes of sanitary towels on sale in France and Canada.

Glyphosate, produced and sold by Monsanto, is touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by industry. However, glyphosate has been shown to have detrimental impacts on humans and the environment. Given its widespread use on residential and agricultural sites, its toxicity is of increasing concern. Previous studies have linked the toxicant to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

“Even though the percentage of residual toxins found in the specific sample was minimal and not proven to be dangerous we decided to withdraw products from one lot as a precaution,” the spokesman added. “For us, the most important thing is the safety and health of our customers.”

The report has caused France’s National Institution for Consumers to demand that the government enforces stricter controls on feminine hygiene products and greater transparency through labeling, The Local reported.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. Beyond Pesticides points out that the current pesticide regulatory system relies on risk assessments that allow public exposure hazards and uncertainties deemed acceptable by EPA, despite he availability of less or non-toxic alternative practices and products that are effective, such as organic agriculture.

Sources: Independent

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

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25
Feb

Irvine, CA Adopts Organic Management Policy for City Property

(Beyond Pesticides, February 25, 2016) On Tuesday, the City Council of Irvine, California, with a population of over 250,000 people, voted unanimously to stop the use of hazardous pesticides on city property. The Council adopted an organic management policy that limits the use of synthetic pesticides on city property, which includes 570 acres of parks, more than 800 acres of right-of-way, 70,000 trees and nearly 1.5 million square feet of facilities. The policy permits pesticides  “only when deemed necessary to protect public health and economic impact.”

non toxic irvineThe vote capped a campaign led by the local advocacy group Non Toxic Irvine, which has been advocating that the city nix synthetic pesticides in favor of better plant management and materials compatible with organic practices. The group is led by local mothers concerned about the synthetic pesticide health risks related to children. Kathleen Hallal, a leader with Non Toxic Irvine, said, “It is not radical for a city to use organic methods. It’s radical to use toxic methods to control weeds and pests around our children.”

According to the Orange County Register, in May 2015, the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) agreed to end the use of glyphosate (RoundUp) on all school properties. The school board was persuaded by the presentation by Non Toxic Irvine, which pointed to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for the Research on Cancer (IARC) classification of glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen, or chemical that causes cancer in humans based on laboratory testing. Glyphosate is a phosphanoglycine herbicide that inhibits an enzyme essential to plant growth. Since this decision, Joe Hoffman, Director of Maintenance and Operations, established a Pest Management Team to come up with a pest management plan that does not include synthetic pesticides. The IUSD has also implemented pilot sites on school grounds and playing fields at Canyon View Elementary, in response to community health concerns and in order to test the effectiveness of organic practices.

In the last few months, Non Toxic Irvine has shifted its focus to the city in order to seek a change in policy that would affect all city property. After receiving a petition with hundreds of signatures from Change.org, Irvine Mayor Steven Choi ordered a temporary moratorium on pesticide spraying by city maintenance staff. Non Toxic Irvine then met with the City of Irvine’s Landscape Maintenance Superintendent to discuss organic land management, where they discussed the elimination of synthetic pesticides from city property. In January, Irvine Councilmembers Christina Shea and Beth Krom placed the toxic chemicals discussion on their February agenda with an opportunity to vote. That discussion took place on Tuesday and resulted in a unanimous vote to eliminate the use of synthetic pesticides.

What started as a group of concerned mothers, Non Toxic Irvine has grown into an advocacy group that is determined to transition all of Irvine to organic practices. The group’s concerns stem from numerous studies about the effects of glyphosate on children and those associated with cancer. As a result of the IARC listing, California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced that it intended to list glyphosate and three other chemicals as cancer-causing chemicals under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65). Under California law, Proposition 65 requires that certain substances identified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) be listed as known cancer-causing chemicals. The major manufacturer of the toxic herbicide, Monsanto, has since sued the state, fearing consumer blowback should it be required to label its flagship product Roundup as carcinogenic.

Concern over unnecessary cosmetic pesticide use has been echoed across the nation by grassroots coalitions of mothers, health activists, and environmental advocates. In Montgomery County, Maryland, legislation introduced by Councilmember George Leventhal, successfully advanced by the parent group Safe Grow Montgomery, allows only lawn care products to be used on private and public property that are compatible with organic practices. Maryland is one of only seven states that has not preempt local jurisdictions from restricting pesticides more stringently than the state.  The Safe Grow Montgomery group worked with Beyond Pesticides to educate the public about the dangers of pesticides, the involuntary poisoning of children and pets, water pollution, and the widespread decline of pollinators. With state preemption law in California, Irvine is not able to expand this policy to restrict the use of toxic pesticides on private property. However, Irvine joins dozens of communities across the country that have not let the issue of state preemption get in the way of passing policies that are still protective of human health and the environment, even if they are unable to restrict pesticide use on privately owned land. In 2012, Ohio’s Cuyahoga County Council voted to limit the use of chemical insecticides, weed killers and other pesticides on county property. That same year, Richmond, California’s City Council unanimously approved a pesticide reform ordinance targeting the use of toxic chemical pesticides within city boundaries. Just this month, the city council of St. Paul, MN adopted a resolution to make the city more pollinator friendly by banning bee-toxic neonicotinoids and other pesticides “proven to be harmful to pollinators” and require an updating of its Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, prioritizing non-chemical methods.

Contact Beyond Pesticides at [email protected] for support of  campaigns to adopt local organic policies and transition to organic practices.

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

Source: The Orange County Register

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24
Feb

Colorado Legislature Considers Pesticide-Free Marijuana Bill

(Beyond Pesticides February 24, 2016) Last Friday, Colorado’s House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee heard a proposal to create a contaminant-free certification system for marijuana sold within the state. This program, intended to resemble the federal National Organic Program, was offered as a legislative response to protect consumers after the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) failed to implement meaningful regulations to keep marijuana users within the state safe from the harms associated with unregulated pesticides use on cannabis crops. If the proposal moves forward, Colorado will becomes the first state to establish and regulate an organic label in its marijuana industry, paving the way for other states with legalized marijuana industries to follow suit. Massachusetts and New Hampshire require that cultivation practices are consistent with USDA national organic standards.

gavel“Consumers have a right to know what they’re putting in their body,” said Colorado Rep. Jonathan Singer, co-sponsor of HB16-1079, which requires that CDA set up an independent program to certify that cannabis sold in the state is pesticide-free. Companies that meet the standard would then be able to use special labeling to alert consumers that their products are entirely pesticide-free. The program will also attempt to address concerns over the use of the word “organic” in marijuana production, a practice that has been investigated by the Colorado Attorney General in the absence of federal regulation.

Consumer confusion over organic marijuana emerged as an area of concern in Colorado in 2015 and shows no signs of slowing down. Beginning in May of 2015, City of Denver health authorities seized thousands of marijuana plants from growers suspected of using off-limits chemicals on their plants and required companies to issue dozens of recalls over the course of the year. Recently, as a result of an executive order issued by Governor Hickenlooper that declares pesticide-laden marijuana a “public safety risk,” the state Marijuana Enforcement Division has also begun to seize plants that test positive for illegal pesticides. Invoking their authority for the first time, Colorado marijuana regulators announced that they had put a large number of plants and products on hold from two cultivation facilities in Colorado Springs over concerns they were treated with unapproved pesticides.

Officials said the inspectors had identified the presence of myclobutanil on plants from each location. Myclobutanil is a powerful fungicide that, when heated, converts to a potentially hazardous form of hydrogen cyanide. Myclobutanil is also the subject of a lawsuit brought by two Colorado consumers against the state’s largest marijuana grower challenging the use of illegal pesticides in marijuana they later consumed, one of them being a medical card holder with a brain tumor. The lawsuit, was dismissed earlier this month when Denver District Judge Eric Eliff sided with the industry, saying that the consumers behind the case were not actually harmed, dealing a large blow to the plight of consumers trying to protect themselves from the potential harm associated with consuming cannabis treated with illegal pesticides.

While in theory developing an organic label for the marijuana may protect consumers by offering them a way to tell if the marijuana they purchase was treated with pesticides, in execution such a program may not be so simple. Organic standards are currently regulated federally, and marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, making it so the entire program would have to be regulated and enforced by the state. As written, the legislative measure does not specify what growers would have to do to get the certification or how much it would cost them. It, instead, directs the state’s agricultural department to get a third party to draft the regulations, a likely high-cost undertaking for the state. Finally, the bill doesn’t specify which pesticides would be off-limits for organic growers, opening the door for an organic program that does not mirror the standards of the federally administered organic label, further misleading consumers. On the flip side, however, any program that informs consumers about the pesticide content in the marijuana they purchase is an improvement to Colorado’s current regulatory system.

For more information on what the states on doing in the face of a hands-off federal policy to assess the dangers of pesticides used in the production of cannabis, read 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: USA Today

 

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23
Feb

California Health Advocates Continue Call for Increased Buffer Zones Near Schools

(Beyond Pesticides, February 23, 2016) A coalition of local parents and community health groups from California’s Central Valley are calling on the state to set one mile buffer zones around schools in order to reduce children’s exposure to highly toxic pesticides. The request comes after research from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found widely used fumigant pesticides in central California interact synergistically and increase health risks.

spraydriftAlthough California is subject to regressive pesticide preemption laws, county agricultural commissioners have the authority to regulate and enforce pesticide use at the local level. While the state currently sets minimum buffer zones around schools at 500 ft., certain California counties require increased levels of protection around these sensitive sites. However, activists charge that state standards and even locally wider buffer zones are not adequately protecting community health, and comprehensive statewide regulations are needed. In July of 2015, after years of pressure from activists, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) held a series of workshops to gather community input on new rules governing pesticide use near schools. According to The Desert Sun, CDPR is expected to release its first draft of the new regulations for public comment at the end of February.

The stakes are high for families living in the Central Valley. Fumigant pesticides are highly toxic and have a strong propensity to drift far off a target site. UCLA’s recent report found that mixtures of fumigant pesticides may increase the possibility of gene mutations and decrease the body’s ability to repair damaged DNA. The Fresno Bee reported that a nine year old boy, who lives and goes to school close to an orange grove where pesticides are often applied, tested positive for over 50 different chemicals, based on a hair sample provided to researchers. “I was concerned and upset,” the boy’s mother said to the paper.

While increased buffer zones may provide some reprieve from pesticide trespass, it will not eliminate health concerns for children in the region. Virginia Zaunbrecher, JD, of UCLA’s Science and Technology program remarked to Fresno Bee, “In general, a buffer zone is going to decrease exposure, but it’s not going to eliminate exposure.” Beyond Pesticides has long encouraged a minimum two mile buffer zone for agricultural pesticide use around sensitive areas. Also important for communities isan adequate route of communication and notification when pesticide applications will be taking place.

“We can work with growers. We don’t have to tell them to stop using them, but we have to learn about the cross-sectionality that these pesticides have,” said Michelle Hasson of the Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability to The Desert Sun. “If we’re going to use the most hazardous pesticides, they can’t be along a school bus route. There are alternatives.” These statements point to the overwhelming obstacles adversely affected low-income and minority communities are subject to in this fight for health-protective policies.

More than a decade ago, six families filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that details the dangerous levels of pesticides at Latino public schools throughout California that exposed Latino kids to chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, neurodevelopmental disorders and other serious health problems. The complaint urged EPA to enforce the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits recipients of federal funds from engaging in discriminatory practices. In 2011, as a result of a settlement agreement EPA reached with CDPR, EPA found that CDPR’s past renewal of the toxic fumigant methyl bromide discriminated against Latino school children whose schools are located near agriculture fields, conceding that unintentional adverse and disproportionate impact on Latino children resulting from the use of methyl bromide during that period could have occurred. Methyl bromide is still widely used in California to grow strawberries, despite its ban under the Montreal Protocol. However, little was done to remedy these exposures and so a lawsuit was filed in 2013 against EPA’s continuing failure to protect Latino students. The case was subsequently moved for dismissal in federal court in part due to lack of jurisdiction.

In the county of Kauai, Hawaii, even a modest proposal to implement California’s current 500 ft buffer zones around sensitive sites like schools and hospitals was met with intense opposition from agrichemical industry interests. Although a law was passed, it was struck down in the courts, and a state proposal currently faces significant hurdles.

Ultimately, what is needed to truly protect community health is a transition away from toxic pesticides towards agricultural practices which promote pest resilience and decrease the need for toxic chemicals. A wide variety of alternative practices and products are now coming online 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. As researchers from Washington State University established earlier this month, the transition to organic agriculture is essential to a healthy, sustainable future for people and the planet.

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

Source: The Desert Sun, Fresno Bee

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22
Feb

Scientists Express Concern Over Widespread Use of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides

(Beyond Pesticides, February 22, 2016) A scientific review was released last week by a group of fourteen scientists in which they expressed concern over the widespread use of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs), the lack of understanding regarding human exposure, and the potential health impacts. Along with the reasons for concern, the scientific panel called for increased government scrutiny of glyphosate and further testing. In an excerpt from the review, the scientists’ state that,“A thorough and modern assessment of GBH toxicity will encompass potential endocrine disruption, impacts on the gut microbiome, carcinogenicity, and multigenerational effects looking at reproductive capability and frequency of birth defects.”

roundupThe study, published in the journal Environmental Health, was authored by 14 health scientists mostly from universities. Pete Myers, founder and chief scientist at Environmental Health Sciences is the lead author of the report.
“It’s time to call on the global science and regulatory community to step back and take a fresh look at glyphosate since everyone on the planet is or will be exposed,” said senior author Charles Benbrook, an agricultural economist and consultant at Benbrook Consulting Services.

According to the report, federal health agencies, such as the U.S. National Toxicology Program, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have not adequately kept up with cutting-edge research. “Since the late 1980s, only a few studies relevant to identifying and quantifying human health risks have been submitted to the U.S. EPA,” the authors write, adding that such assessments need to be based on “up-to-date science.”

According to a separate report authored by Dr. Benbrook, published in early February, two-thirds of the total volume of glyphosate applied in the U.S. from 1974 to 2014 has been sprayed in just the last 10 years. And, in 2014, enough glyphosate was sprayed to leave more than three-quarters of a pound of the active ingredient on every harvested acre of cropland in the U.S., and remarkably, almost a half-pound per acre on all cropland worldwide (0.53 kilogram/hectare).

Glyphosate, touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by EPA and industry, is widely used in food production, especially with herbicide-tolerant genetically engineered (GE) crops, and on lawns, gardens, parks, and children’s playing fields.

Following the carcinogenic classification by International Agency for Research on Cancern (IARC), a research study published in Environmental Health linked long-term, ultra-low dose exposure to glyphosate in drinking water to adverse impacts on the health of liver and kidneys. The study focuses on GHBs, rather than pure glyphosate, unlike many of the studies that preceded it. 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 genetically engineered (GE) crops has led it to be implicated in the decline of monarch butterflies, whose sole habitat to lay their eggs, milkweed plants, are being devastated as a result of incessant use of glyphosate. All of these findings support the review’s conclusion that “a fresh and independent examination of GBH toxicity should be undertaken.”

In the face of these widespread health and environmental impacts, and in the absence of real action to restrict this chemical at the federal level, it is up to concerned citizens to advocate for changes in public land management practices within their community. Whether it’s your local government, homeowner’s association, or child’s playing field, concerned residents can make positive change and get glyphosate and other unnecessary toxic chemicals out of your community. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but it can be done with perseverance. Get your community campaign going with Beyond Pesticides’ “Start Your Own Local Movement” fact sheet. Although glyphosate is an important chemical to remove from use in your community, recall that a range of chemicals are linked to public health impacts, and a comprehensive approach that encourages organic land management is the best long-term solution.

Another way to avoid glyphosate and other harmful pesticides is to support organic agriculture and eat organic food. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for organic management practices as a means to foster biodiversity, and research shows that organic farmers do a better job of protecting biodiversity than their chemically-intensive counterparts. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and biotechnology, responsible organic farms focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and other beneficial insects, and only resort to judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective.

Tell EPA and USDA to stop glyphosate use now by signing Beyond Pesticides’ petition. After you sign the petition, we encourage you to craft your own unique letter to your local, state, and federal representatives, as well as officials at EPA and USDA. Let them know that you’re not okay with a carcinogen on our lawns and in our food.

Source: Environmental Health; Environmental Health News

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

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