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Daily News Blog

15
Aug

Beyond Pesticides Journal Articles Link Pesticides to Soil Microbiota and Gut Microbiome Poisoning and Resulting Diseases

(Beyond Pesticides, August 15, 2017) With increasing scientific understanding about the importance of beneficial bacteria in soil and the human body —microbiota in the soil and microbiome in the human gut, the summer 2017 issue of Beyond Pesticides’ journal, Pesticides and You, publishes two critical articles to advance the importance of community discussion and action on organic and sustainable practices. The lead article, Sustaining Life: From Soil Microbiota to Gut Microbiome by professor of geomorphology (University of Washington) and author David Montgomery, PhD, contains excerpts from Dr. Montgomery’s talk to Beyond Pesticides’ 35th National Pesticide Forum, documenting the importance of soil microbiota to healthy soil, resilient plants, and sustainability. His piece explains the essentiality of bacteria in the human gut to a healthy life, with profound implications for both agriculture and medicine. Dr. Montgomery points to a “bonafide scientific revolution” in recognizing the failure to nurture the ecosystem in nature and the human body and the associated adverse health effects resulting from pesticide use –21st century diseases, including asthma, autism, bacterial vaginosis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Crohn’s disease, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut syndrome, multiple sclerosis, obesity, Type 1 and 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s.

Also in the Journal, Monsanto’s Roundup (Glyphosate) Exposed, by Terry Shistar, Ph.D., documents the science linking the most widely used herbicide on the planet, Monsanto’s glyphosate, to the blocking of an enzyme that supports the essential pathway for beneficial bacteria, critical to human health. With scientific awareness of the importance of bacteria to plants and animals and the understanding of pesticides’ deleterious effect on them, eliminating toxic pesticide use becomes a central issue in the quest to protect public health. Given what is known about the delicate balance of soil microbiota and gut microbiome, Roundup’s antibiotic properties raise new concerns about the effects of glyphosate residues in food and water and the importance of shifting to organic practices. Glyphosate was classified as a probable human carcinogen in 2015 by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

View talks on Beyond Pesticides’ YouTube channel. Dr. Montgomery and the complete series of talks and workshops from the 35th National pesticide Forum, Healthy Hives, Healthy Lives, Healthy Land, are now available. Other speakers include: Don Huber, PhD, professor emeritus of plant pathology at Purdue University and expert on soil biology and glyphosate effects;;Vera Krischick, PhD, associate professor, Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota and researcher on pesticides and pollinators; and other speakers on science, policy, organic land management, and advocacy.

See updated factsheets. Beyond Pesticides also releases today newly updated factsheets on both glyphosate and lawn and garden pesticides, in light of their widespread intersection with public exposure and adverse effects.

For more details, see Beyond Pesticides website.

Source: Beyond Pesticides Press Release

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14
Aug

Ask Your Senators to Co-Sponsor Bill to Ban Chlorpyrifos, the Neurotoxic Pesticide that Harms Children—After EPA Reversal

(Beyond Pesticides, August 14, 2017) Ask your U.S. Senators to co-sponsor legislation to ban the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed the previous administration’s proposal to discontinue its food uses. [The bill is currently co-sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).]

With EPA’s own assessment that the chemical is too toxic to children, it is time for Congress to intervene to get this highly toxic pesticide off the market.

In March 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed a 2015 proposal to revoke food residue tolerances of chlorpyrifos. A revocation of chlorpyrifos tolerances would have effectively banned the chemical from use in agriculture. Instead, Administrator Pruitt’s decision indicated the agency will continue to study chlorpyrifos and would not take any action until 2022.

EPA’s assessment, which incorporates recommendations from a 2016 Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP), finds that children exposed to high levels of chlorpyrifos have developmental delays, attention problems, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder problems, and pervasive developmental disorders. The SAP agreed with EPA that there is an association between chlorpyrifos prenatal exposure and neurodevelopmental outcomes in children. In 2016, EPA concluded that there is “sufficient evidence” that there are neurodevelopmental effects at low levels, and that current approaches for evaluating chlorpyrifos’s neurological impact are “not sufficiently health protective.”

Epidemiological data also points to subpopulations that are disproportionately affected by chlorpyrifos exposures. Low-income African-American and Latino families, including farmworker families, continue to suffer the most, and this disproportionate impact creates an environmental justice problem that the agency cannot continue to ignore.

>>>Urge Your Senators to Co-Sponsor Bill that Bans Chlorpyrifos.

U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the bill to ban the use of chlorpyrifos. The bill, “Protect Children, Farmers and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act,” S. 1624, amends the U.S. Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) that oversees pesticide food exposures to prohibit all chlorpyrifos use. In addition, the bill directs EPA to partner with the National Research Council to assess the neurodevelopmental and other low-dose effects of exposure to organophosphate pesticides to agricultural workers and children.

“Congress must act because Administrator Pruitt has shown that he won’t. There is no question chlorpyrifos needs to come off the market. The science linking chlorpyrifos to brain damage and neurodevelopmental disorders in children is undeniable. The EPA’s own scientists have established that chlorpyrifos on food and in groundwater is a threat to public health and should be banned,” Senator Udall said. The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

>>>Tell your Senators to co-sponsor Bill S.1624.

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11
Aug

Monsanto Papers Redux: More on Industry Suppression and Regulatory Collusion

(Beyond Pesticides, August 11, 2017) On August 1, a second round of internal Monsanto documents became public, stirring up additional questions and speculation about Monsanto’s potential malfeasance — i.e., its efforts to hide information about impacts of its popular glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup. This follows on the heels of the March 2017 unsealing, by federal judge Vince Chhabria, of internal Monsanto documents — the “Monsanto Papers” — that evidenced questionable research practices by the company, inappropriate ties to a top EPA official, and possible “ghostwriting” of purportedly “independent” research studies.

This latest release, of more than 700 documents, came courtesy of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, one of many law firms representing thousands of families who claim that exposure to Roundup caused non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL), a blood cancer, in their loved ones. Such litigation has been triggered, in part, by the 2015 finding of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a branch of the U.N.’s World Health Organization) that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The plaintiffs allege that the combination of glyphosate and surfactants used in Monsanto’s Roundup products is even more toxic than glyphosate alone, and that Monsanto has sought to cover up that information. Monsanto has continued to deny publicly any connections between glyphosate, or its Roundup product, and cancer.

Monsanto has in fact aggressively defended glyphosate, and has fought to keep such records, garnered in the discovery phases of various litigation efforts, sealed and away from the public eye. Indeed, of this August 1 release, Monsanto says that, although “the horse is now out of the barn,” the litigants acted outside of a standing order of confidentiality, and the company will seek penalties on the law firm. Monsanto is known for A partner at the firm contradicts Monsanto’s claim, insisting that the company made a mistake in its failure to file a required motion “to seek continued protection” of the documents. Monsanto maintains that no such filing of motion was necessary.

This “dump” adds to the compendium of documents not only from the March unsealing, but also, in the vast collection that has come to be called “The Poison Papers.” A project of The Bioscience Resource Project (BRP) and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), The Poison Papers make publicly available more than 20,000 documents obtained through legal discovery in lawsuits against Dow, Monsanto, the EPA, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Air Force, and pulp and paper companies, among others. These papers were amassed largely by author and activist Carol Van Strum, who kept them in her rural Oregon barn for decades. BRP and CMD describe their project: “The Poison Papers represent a vast trove of rediscovered chemical industry and regulatory agency documents and correspondence stretching back to the 1920s. Taken as a whole, the papers show that both industry and regulators understood the extraordinary toxicity of many chemical products and worked together to conceal this information from the public and the press.” In addition, the Poison Papers are just one part of the larger DocumentCloud, which contains over a million documents.

Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman indicated that it released the documents at this moment because “they not only pertain to the ongoing litigation, but also, to larger issues of public health and safety, while shedding light on corporate influence over regulatory bodies.” The firm’s Brent Wisner said, “This is a look behind the curtain. . . . These [documents] show that Monsanto has deliberately been stopping studies that look bad for them, ghostwriting literature, and engaging in a whole host of corporate malfeasance. They [Monsanto] have been telling everybody that these products are safe because regulators have said they are safe, but it turns out that Monsanto has been in bed with U.S. regulators while misleading European regulators.” The firm also sent copies of the documents to authorities in Europe, EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which Monsanto has sued for listing glyphosate as a known carcinogen.

Despite industry’s protest, the dangers of glyphosate-based herbicides continue to be of great concern. Monsanto’s representations about the safety of the compound are belied by contents of the newly released documents, which reveal internal conversations about Roundup’s safety. One Monsanto scientist wrote, in an internal email, “If somebody came to me and said they wanted to test Roundup I know how I would react — with serious concern.” A Monsanto executive said, in a 2003 email, “You cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen . . .  we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement.” And in 2002, another executive said, “What I’ve been hearing from you is that . . . glyphosate is OK, but the formulated product [and thus the surfactant] does the damage.”

Beyond Pesticides continues to call for an end to glyphosate use and urges EPA to suspend its uses, while advising consumers to take steps to protect themselves and the environment from exposure to this harmful chemical. As the most widely used herbicide in the world, individuals are regularly exposed to glyphosate through contaminated food, in their work lives, and through its use on lawns and landscapes, whether by individuals themselves or through proximity to those who use it. Its antibiotic properties cause damage to both human gut and soil microbiota.

There are multiple ways to protect yourself, your family, and the environment from glyphosate and other toxic pesticides, among which are:

Sources: U.S. Right to Know/Aug. 1, U.S. Right to Know N.D., The New York Times/3.14.17, and The New York Times/8.1.17

 

 

 

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10
Aug

Reports of Increasing Honey Bee Colonies Mask Continuing Pollinator Crisis

(Beyond Pesticides, August 10, 2017)  New data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) earlier this month, indicating a slight increase in the number of honey bee colonies, is masked by beekeepers’ efforts to split hives in the face of losses. The USDA reports that Colony Collapse Disorder losses (CCD) are down 27% compared to the past year. While these numbers may seem to be a positive sign after over a decade of consistent pollinator declines, they are more indicative of a beekeeping industry that is using every available tactic possible to stay viable. With the continued use of highly toxic neonicotinoid insecticides in farms, gardens, and public spaces throughout the country, the long-term health honey bees and other pollinators continue to be in jeopardy.

According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the number of beekeeping operations with five or more colonies reported a total of 2.89 million colonies in April 2017, a 3% increase from April 2016, when numbers stood at 2.80 million. News media such as Bloomberg hailed this report in an article headlined “Bees Are Bouncing Back From Colony Collapse Disorder.” However, a closer look into the numbers and beekeeper accounts reveals what is actually occurring.

A more accurate reference point for the beekeeping industry would be beekeeping numbers reported in January 2017, during winter, which at 2.62 million remained unchanged from January 2016. Overall increases from January to April likely represented beekeepers ‘splitting’ hives, a practice through which beekeepers will create two or more hives from a singular strong hive. Although on paper this is displayed as an increase in hive numbers, in reality these hives are weaker than the colony from which they originated.

Tim May, a beekeeper in Harvard, Illinois and the vice-president of the American Beekeeping Federation based in Atlanta, who was interviewed by Bloomberg, indicates that this is the case. “You create new hives by breaking up your stronger hives, which just makes them weaker,” said Mr. May to Bloomberg. “We check for mites, we keep our bees well-fed, we communicate with farmers so they don’t spray pesticides when our hives are vulnerable. I don’t know what else we can do.”

A separate report from the Bee Informed Partnership published in late May 2017 indicates that colony declines over the past year stood at 33%, which is less than losses of 44% seen in the 2015-2016 loss reports, however far from normal, or economically viable rates. As the USDA NASS report indicates, reports of CCD, the name given to the mysterious disappearance of honey bees from an otherwise healthy looking hive filled with honey and brood, have decreased significantly. While this also appears to be good news, it is understood based upon past Bee Informed Partnership surveys that while CCD reports are down, summer colony losses ascribed to other, understood loss factors are up.

Despite continued attempts by the pesticide industry to spin the crisis by suppressing or denying evidence, scientific reports continue to point to neonicotinoid insecticides as the key factor in pollinator declines. A recent report funded by Bayer and Syngenta, the world’s two leading neonicotinoid manufacturers, actually found significant risks to pollinators, despite attempts by these two companies to influence the published results. It is little wonder why these corporations have needed to change their tune, if only slightly. In the Bloomberg article, when questioned over the impacts of pesticides, Syngenta CEO Erik Frywald had to admit that, “One of the very minor elements there is pesticides.” As one may expect from an industry CEO with vested interest in maintaining marketshare and profit, this is a vast understatement, but nonetheless indicative of a reality that even industry can no longer ignore.

In Europe, applying neonicotinoids to field crops has been banned since 2013, and the European Commission recently proposed expanding the prohibition and making it permanent. EPA data published earlier this year did find risks to pollinators from neonicotinoid insecticides, however the agency, which has long been accused of being captured by industry interests, suggested no substantive changes to their regulation.

While beekeepers and managed honey bee colonies continue to muddle through the ongoing crisis, reports indicate that wild pollinators may be at even greater risk. A review published by the Center for Biological Diversity this year indicates that 1 in 4 native bee species in North America are imperiled and at increasing risk of extinction.

Help stop the damage pesticide makers are causing to wild pollinators and the beekeeping industry by getting involved. Find the tools you need to advocate for pollinators in your community, state, and to the EPA through Beyond Pesticides’ Bee Protective webpage.

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

Source: USDA, Bloomberg

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09
Aug

Glyphosate Stresses Tadpoles to Produce More Venom

(Beyond Pesticides, August 9, 2017) Common toad tadpoles express more venom when chronically exposed to glyphosate herbicides, a study published last month in Proceedings of the Royal Society B indicates. Glyphosate, an increasingly controversial chemical found in Roundup brand herbicides produced by Monsanto, has been linked to a range of adverse impacts in both wildlife and people. The results of this research indicate a need to reduce the use of glyphosate in our environment to ease chronic stressors to sensitive wildlife like amphibians.

Scientists tested the effects of formulated glyphosate products on toad tadpoles through experiments in a laboratory setting, as well as a mesocosm, a controlled outdoor environment that replicates natural conditions. Tadpoles in the lab were split into a series of groups which were each exposed to varying levels of glyphosate, some for the duration of the experiment, and others for 9 day periods during different stages in their development. For mesocosm tadpoles, researchers set up large plastic tubs and created small self-sustaining ecosystems with pond water and beech leaves. Glyphosate herbicides were added to certain tubs at either low or high concentrations. Both lab and mesocosm experiments had control tadpoles not exposed to any glyphosate herbicides.

Tadpoles exposed to the highest levels of glyphosate products throughout the duration of the lab experiment were found to have considerably more venom concentration in their bodies than control tadpoles. However, lab results found little correlation between higher venom levels and 9 day periods of glyphosate exposure at different developmental stages. For the mesocosm experiments, tadpoles exposed at high and low glyphosate concentrations had significantly higher venom concentrations than control tadpoles.

Common toads will excrete venom, or bufotoxins containing the chemical bufadienolide, which adversely affects another animal’s heart, in order to ward off predators. Scientists indicate that while higher levels of venom may seem good for the toad, they may cause unintended effects throughout the ecosystem. Increases in toxin concentrations detected after glyphosate exposure were comparable to those seen in other species under predatory threat, which resulted in death to the predator, researchers note. “Although pesticides make toads more toxic, the predator-prey balance and the composition of natural habitats in freshwater, as much as on land, may be altered,” said Veronika Bókony, PhD, an author of the study.

This is not the first instance of glyphosate altering the normal development of amphibians. Earlier this year, the same team of researchers found that glyphosate products reduced the survival and growth of common toads, and otherwise slowed down their development. A 2012 study from the University of Pittsburg found that glyphosate induced morphological changes in the development of leopard and wood frogs similar to those seen under significant predatory threat.

The results of accumulated scientific research on stress-induced changes following glyphosate exposure points to underlying flaws in U.S. regulation of pesticides. Ecosystem-wide impacts caused by the secondary effects of pesticide use are rarely, if ever, considered under the risk assessment framework used to register pesticides.

For alternatives to the use of glyphosate, start with practices that encourage healthy soil, such as mowing high, proper, aeration and proper watering to reduce weed pressure. When cultural practices have been attempted and mechanical means are ineffective or impractical, use Beyond Pesticides’ List of Organic Compatible Products as a guide. And for more information on the impact of pesticides on amphibians, see Beyond Pesticides’ wildlife program page.

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

Source: The Brussels Times, Proceedings of the Royal Society B

 

 

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08
Aug

Crop Damage from Monsanto’s Herbicide Dicamba Being Investigated in 17 States, Pointing to New Formulation Used in GE Fields

(Beyond Pesticides, August 8, 2017) More than 1,400 official complaints of crop damage related to the herbicide dicamba have been recorded across 17 states this year, leading some to question a new formulation of the chemical used in genetically engineered (GE) fields. Dicamba, a toxic pesticide prone to drift off the target site, has been used in agriculture for decades. However, new GE crops developed by Monsanto must be paired with specific formulations of dicamba, and until now many believed these drift incidents were the result of illegal formulations of dicamba being applied to fields. But the extent of damage now being observed, covering over 2.5 million acres, is casting doubt on this theory, and raising more questions as to whether the new dicamba formulation is actually the cause of the widespread drift damage.

Fruits and vegetables, as well as other crops that are not genetically engineered to tolerate dicamba are often left cupped and distorted when exposed to the chemical. Monsanto, DuPont Co. and BASF SE sell new formulations of the herbicide for use on dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton, and state enforcement officials and farmers have attributed last year’s damage incidents to off-label uses of older dicamba products.

Initial reports began to surface in Arkansas and Missouri, which recently issued bans on the sale and use of dicamba. As of July 7, nearly 600 complaints of dicamba damage have been filed by Arkansas farmers in 23 different counties. In Missouri, as of July 3, there are 123 cases of dicamba injury complaints under investigation, and according to the Missouri Soybean Association, “[M]ore than 200,000 Missouri soybean acres currently show signs of suspected dicamba damage.” The Arkansas Agriculture Department announced an emergency 120-day ban, which raised civil penalties for misuse of the toxic herbicide from $1,000 to a maximum of $25,000. Missouri Department of Agriculture followed and announced a temporary “Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order” on all dicamba products in the state labeled for agricultural use.

Monsanto has defended its new dicamba product, Xtendimax with VaporGrip Technology, blaming growers for using older versions of dicamba or not following directions on the new product label.

As reported by Bloomberg:  “The company attributes the drifting problem to farmers using illegal, off-label products that are more volatile—and thus more prone to drift—than the latest versions of dicamba. They may also be cleaning or using their spraying equipment incorrectly, or applying dicamba when it’s windy, said Robb Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer.”

Weed scientist at the University of Missouri, Kevin Bradley, PhD, in his blog notes dicamba damage of crops on approximately 2.5 million acres by his estimation “constitute a problem for U.S. agriculture,” which cannot be explained away by user errors, failure to follow guidelines, or generic dicamba usage, but on the inherent volatile nature of the herbicide. Other extension agents also cast doubt on current industry talking points blaming farmers, noting it is hard to simply blame the use of old dicamba formulations for all the hundreds of thousands of acres injured. There are reports that the latest dicamba formulation that is to be used on GE dicamba crops (Xtend, Eugenia) is responsible for some cases of drift, and preliminary tests have found that the new formulation does volatilize enough to drift.

It is no coincidence that with the deregulation of GE dicamba-tolerant varieties came increased dicamba use, and now increased incidences of drift and damage to other non-tolerant crops. Dicamba has stirred up fights between neighbors in a number of agricultural communities. Bader Farms, which grows over 110,00 peach trees on over 1,000 acres in Missouri, is suing Monsanto after its insurance company issued a refusal to pay for damages caused by off-label dicamba drift from surrounding farms. In June of this year, University of Arkansas’ agricultural research station had over 100 acres of soybeans ruined from nearby dicamba use. Shockingly, NPR reports that last October a dispute over dicamba drift led to the murder of one Arkansas farmer.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach  that prohibits hazardous chemical use and requires alternative assessments to identify less toxic practices and products under the unreasonable adverse effects clause of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Farm, beekeeper, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have urged EPA to follow in the steps of countries like Canada and the European Union by following the precautionary principle, which generally approves products after they have been assessed for harm, not before. Beyond Pesticides suggests 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 toxic chemicals. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, organic farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most genetically engineered organisms have been falsely-marketed as solving.

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

Source: EcoWatch

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07
Aug

Action: Oppose Release of Genetically Engineered Moth in New York

(Beyond Pesticides, August 7, 2017) Help stop a dangerous plan hatched in New York to control a caterpillar in cabbage. Under the plan, up to 10,000 genetically engineered (GE) male diamondback moths (DBMs) will be released each week during the cabbage planting cycle (which runs about three to four months). According to USDA, “The males are genetically engineered with a lethal gene that they pass on to females when they mate.”

Because of the widespread release, this plan –a first of its kind in food crops– will contaminate organic farms with genetically engineered material. And, this is all being done based on a cursory environmental assessment, without an in-depth environmental impact assessment.

This is an issue that affects all of us –not just New Yorkers–because the moths do not respect state boundaries, and this action would set a precedent for other states.

Inadequate Environmental Review
Following a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on Cornell University’s proposed release, there is an urgent need to ensure that the state of New York addresses contamination issues that APHIS failed to consider. At the top of the list is possible contamination of organic crops, which could threaten the standing of organic products with consumers and holds the threat of decertification. Other  contamination concerns are raised by scientists at the Center for Food Safety, Food and Water Watch, and GeneWatch UK.

>>Act now to tell Cornell University, the New York Department of Conservation, and New York Governor Cuomo to stop releases of genetically engineered diamondback moths until a thorough environmental impact study is performed!

The FONSI absolves APHIS from the duty to perform an in-depth environmental impact statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) points out that this is the first food use of this particular kind of GE technology –using a genetically engineered male to produce inviable female offspring— and, as such, deserves the full investigation of an EIS, rather than the more cursory evaluation of the environmental assessment that led to the FONSI.

In addition to NEPA, New York state law requires a state agency to conduct a review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) when it uses its “discretionary” authority to approve, fund, or directly undertake an action that may affect the environment. In order to release the insects, Cornell must receive a permit under New York Environmental Conservation Law §11-0507 from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), as it did for the release of caged insects in the past. However, DEC has denied responsibility for permitting the action. As a university with a state extension service, Cornell is subject to SEQR. If Cornell or DEC does not perform the required EIS, enforcement is up to citizens. According to the DEC website, “[C]itizens or groups who can demonstrate that they may be harmed by this failure may take legal action. . . . Project approvals may be rescinded by a court and a new review required under SEQR. New York State’s court system has consistently ruled in favor of strong compliance with the provisions of SEQR.” NOFA-NY has made a strong showing that organic growers may be harmed by this release.

>>Act now to tell Cornell University, the New York Department of Conservation, and New York Governor Cuomo to stop releases of genetically engineered diamondback moths until a thorough environmental impact study is performed!

Harm to Organic
Organic growers maybe harmed if the moths escape from the research plots. The engineered trait is designed to leave behind dead moth larvae and pupae resulting from the mating of the engineered males with wild females. These residues , if left on organic crops (cabbage, broccoli, and other brassica plants), could threaten the standing of organic products with consumers and the threaten decertification. In addition, there are plausible scenarios that would result in release of viable DBMs, which could increase damage to crops.

In general, the environmental assessment performed by APHIS ignored a number of important issues, including: contamination of crops with GE dead insects; the impacts on the ecological balance of native brassicas; the lack of research on the migration of DBMs from site to site; impacts in the future if engineered DBMs are released in commercial agriculture; other alternatives besides “no action,” such as the systems approach used by organic growers; the lack of adequate monitoring and buffer zones; food safety; impacts on predators; antibiotic resistance as a result from the use of tetracycline in breeding the moths; other ecological effects; and movement of the DBM across international borders.

Voice you Opposition
Voice your opposition to the release of genetically engineered DBMs to Cornell University (which proposes to release the moths), DEC (which is responsible for state permits of releases of wild animals), and Governor Cuomo (who is responsible for ensuring that state agencies meet their responsibilities.)

>>Act now to tell Cornell University, the New York Department of Conservation, and New York Governor Cuomo to stop releases of genetically engineered diamondback moths until a thorough environmental impact study is performed!

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04
Aug

Court Overturns Montgomery County, MD Pesticide Restrictions, Groups Say Decision Defies Local Authority to Protect Health

(Beyond Pesticides, August 3, 2017) A Circuit Court for the state of Maryland  on Thursday struck down key components of the landmark Healthy Lawns Act pesticide ordinance passed in Montgomery County, Maryland in 2015. The court’s decision, issued by Judge Terrence McGann, eliminates pesticide use restrictions on private property, but does not touch provisions limiting toxic pesticides used on public, county owned land.

Grassroots advocates who supported passage of the Healthy Lawns Act to protect children, families and the environment are dismayed by the court’s ruling, but nevertheless vow to keep up the fight for protections from hazardous pesticides used in their community. “The court should have recognized that, in restricting lawn pesticides throughout its jurisdiction, Montgomery County is exercising a local democratic principle under Maryland and federal law to ensure the safety of the community, including children, pets, and the environment, from a known hazard not adequately regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the state,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “After extensive hearings and study, the county council understands that toxic chemicals are dangerous and not needed to have beautiful lawns and landscapes,” Mr. Feldman said.

By passing the Healthy Lawns Act, the Montgomery County Council acknowledged growing demand within the community for natural and organic lawn care practices and compatible products. These cost-effective lawn care methods have been shown to eliminate the need for toxic pesticide use through improvements in soil biology that support more resilient plants. Pro-pesticide plaintiffs challenging the restrictions were led by Complete Lawn Care, and supported by the pesticide industry lobby group, Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE). “Just like big tobacco’s attacks on local smoking restrictions to control secondhand smoke, the chemical industry is attempting to head-off a growing movement asking for common-sense measures that protect public health from pesticide exposure,” Mr. Feldman said.

Advocates say Judge McGann’s ruling ignores historical precedent set by Maryland counties in leading the way on health and environmental laws, including bans on plastic bags and coal-tar sealants. At times, the Judge’s written opinion is dismissive of the danger posed by pesticide use, including an aside opining “…why neighborhood children sell lemonade on the street corner and not pesticides.”

Beyond Pesticides’ Map of U.S. Pesticide Reform Policies lists over 150 communities in 23 states that restrict chemical pesticide use. In Maine, over 20 policies address both public and private pesticide applications. Eight of ten Canadian provinces, and over 170 Canadian municipalities have laws with a similar structure to Montgomery County’s Healthy Lawns Act. “For the health of Maryland’s children, pets, wildlife, and waterways like the Chesapeake Bay, we will continue to support the ever-growing movement for healthy, pesticide-free communities,” Mr. Feldman said.

The Montgomery County Council is in recess until September at which time it will consider appealing the Circuit Court ruling.

For Press Inquiries:
Contact- Jay Feldman, 202-255-4296
jfeldman@beyondpesticides.org
www.beyondpesticides.org

 

 

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03
Aug

Chronic Pesticide Exposure at Work Tied to Breathing Disorders

(Beyond Pesticides, August 3, 2017) Working in close contact with pesticides over the course of one’s lifetime increases the risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other breathing disorders, according to a study published in Thorax by a team of Australian researchers. While cigarette smoke remains the single leading cause of lung disease worldwide, there is growing interest in understanding the environmental exposures of individuals that develop breathing problems, but have never smoked. Given the growing list of pesticide-induced diseases, the study’s results reinforce calls for a change in pest management approaches that safeguard farmwokers and pest control operators.

Researchers’ examination of pesticide exposure made use of a health study that first began in Tazmania in 1968, and tracked asthma prevalence in participants at ages 12, 18, and 30. With this background data in hand, researchers followed up with a subset of study participants, now roughly 45 years old, and were able to further analyze 1,255 participants via in-person laboratory tests.

“Our study looked at long-term exposure to pesticides,” said Sheikh Alif, PhD, lead researcher of the study at the University of Melborne to Reuters. “[I]t is thought that long-term exposure to pesticides increases mucus secretion and muscle contraction in the lungs, causing breathlessness, cough and wheeze,” Dr. Alif said.

The study controlled its results to incorporate variability in sex, smoking, and current lung conditions. Risk was calculated based on overall number of jobs where one was exposed to pesticides, as well as estimated cumulative exposure accrued over the course of a study participant’s life.  Researchers found that lung disease and airway obstruction was 75% higher for those with exposure to any pesticides in their occupation (including herbicides, insecticides, fungicides), and 109% higher for those specifically reporting occupational exposure to herbicides. As part of cumulative exposure calculations, scientists determined that for every 10 years of exposure to any pesticide on the job, COPD risk increased by 12%, chronic bronchitis by 16%, chronic cough by 12%, and chronic phlegm problems increased by 13%. Chronic exposure to only herbicides resulted in a 16% increased risk of COPD and 22% risk of chronic bronchitis. Insecticide exposure alone represented a 10% increase in COPD and a 15% increase in cronic bronchitis.

The study concludes that, “[B]y enhanced monitoring and use of protective equipment, the burden of COPD caused by occupational exposures has the potential to be substantially reduced.”

Researchers further recommend the use of personal protective equipment when applying pesticides, and the implementation of equipment to monitor exposure levels. While these could certainly be good interim measures, a much more effective long-term strategy to address chronic exposure is to eliminate the need for pesticide use in the first place.

This prevention-based approach is particularly important for farmworkers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that for individuals occupationally exposed to pesticides, agricultural workers are 37 times more likely than nonagricultural workers to experience pesticide poisoning.  Efforts by environmental justice advocates to institute long-overdue revisions to farmworker protection requirements, which would ensure some of the basic measures recommended by the current study are put in place, have been stymied by political opposition from Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Beyond Pesticides continues to advocate for the wholesale transition of U.S. agriculture to organic production practices. Under the Organic Foods Production Act, which advises USDA’sNational Organic Program, only organic compatible substances are allowed in inspected and certified organic systems that are intended to eliminate synthetic inputs. in favor of cultural, mechanical, and biological pest management. With these methods, we can protect farmworkers and applicators, and begin to reverse long-terms trends in diseases that correlate with pesticide use.

For more information on the connection between pesticides and breathing disorders, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database listing for asthma.

Source: Reuters, BMJ Journals-Thorax

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

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02
Aug

August’s PolliNATION Pollinator of the Month – The Pollen Wasp

(Beyond Pesticides, August 2, 2017). August’s PolliNATION Pollinator of the Month is the Pollen Wasp! Pollen wasps, of the small subfamily Masarinae are the only “vegetarian” wasp in the family Vespidae., They feed solely on nectar and pollen, unlike their more aggressive Vespid wasp cousins. There are 300 species of pollen wasp from 14 genera spread across the globe, however, in the U.S., all 14 species of pollen wasps originate from the genus Pseudomasaris.

Range

Pollen wasps are found throughout the world, though they tend to concentrate in arid areas of southern Africa, and North and South America. They are not documented in the tropics or in Antarctica. In the United States, they can be found from Washington to as far south as New Mexico, and as far east as Nebraska. They are solitary pollinators who make their nests out of mud, often attached to branches, rocks, or hanging off ledges.

Diet and Pollination

Pollen wasps differ from their omnivorous Vespid wasp relatives by rearing their young on nectar and pollen, rather than other insects. They are the only Vespid species which do so. Their nests, made up of a mixture of soil and nectar, are usually comprised of 4-10 parallel cells that hold an egg, nectar, and a small pollen patty. Pollen wasps then seal their nests with mud. Before emerging, newborn larvae consume the stored food, pupate, and break then through the mud seal as adults.

Pollen wasps are known to specialize in foraging on very specific flowers, including beardtongues, borage, and tansies, though there are also reports of the insects feeding on mallows and marigolds. These wasp pollinators have long proboscis that allow them to reach nectar in their preferred flowers species. Most bees will use corbicula, or “pollen baskets,” a small indent surrounded by hairs on their back legs, to secure collected pollen before bringing it back to a nest or hive. However, pollen wasps do not have corbicula, but instead exclusively collect pollen in their crop –an expanded portion of the pollen wasp’s digestive track that can be used to temporarily store pollen and nectar, and which they will subsequently use to feed their young.

Physiology

Pollen wasps are generally striped with colors that may include red, brown, black, white, and yellow. Pseudomasaris species in the United States are often mistaken for yellow jackets, as they both share the same striped yellow and black pattern across the top of their abdomen. However, the major distinguishing characteristic between the two wasps are is the shape of their antennae. While the yellow jacket’s antennae stick straight out, the pollen wasp’s antennae is clubbed at the end. In contrast to the mud nests of the pollen wasp, a yellow jacket nest is made of paper and grows to thousands of cells by late summer.

There is no reported explanation in current scientific literature for the similarity in appearance between pollen wasps and yellow jackets. However, it may be a form of Batestian mimicry, whereby the relatively docile pollen wasp invokes the warning signals of the more aggressive yellow jacket. While the pollen wasps rarely sting, they are capable of doing so. Unlike honey bees and like their closer wasp relatives, their stinger is not barbed, allowing the insect to sting multiple times.

Ecological Role and Threats to Existence

Pollen wasps can play an important role in pollinating certain flowers. For instance, the United States Forest Service (USFS) notes that the pollen wasp species Pseudomasaris vespoides specializes in pollinating beardtongue. It has been observed pollinating the blowout beardtongue, an endangered flowering plant limited in range to nine counties in Nebraska and one location in Wyoming. A number of additional rare beardtongue species rely on P. vespoides pollination, giving the insect an important role in maintaining ecological diversity in the Western U.S.

As the National Research Council (NRC) noted in its 2007 report on the status of pollinators in North America, data on the prevalence and distribution of Pseudomasaris species is sparse. For example, P. micheneri has only been observed in the Inyo Mountains of California, and that research was conducted as far back as the 1940s. Another species, P. macswaini, is suspected of having a very limited distribution in California and may be at risk, according to NRC.

How to Protect the Species

One of the most important actions one can take to protect pollen wasps is eliminating the use of pesticides that can harm these unique insects. Neonicotinoids, once applied, will make their way into a plant’s vascular system, and express itself in pollen and nectar, putting pollen wasps at risk. Other insecticides, like synthetic pyrethroids, are acutely toxic to many non-target pollinators, and may leave harmful residue on plants and their flowers once applied. Since there is little data on the range and distribution of pollen wasps, encouraging public land managers to forgo the use of insecticides and herbicides in natural areas can make an important impact on the availability and quality of forage for pollen wasps.

Although there is insufficient data on pollen wasp flower preferences, and one cannot guarantee the strain of beardtongue planted, for instance, will be attractive to pollen wasps, establishing a diversity of flowers in one’s garden will foster a diversity of pollinators. In addition to beardtongues, residents within pollen wasp range can try to attract these insects by planting water leaf species, borage, and tansies. Lastly, use careful judgement before swatting at lone yellow jackets, or going after their nests, as they may be easily mistaken pollen wasps.

Citations

BugGuide.net. 2005. Subfamily Masarinae- Pollen Wasps. http://bugguide.net/node/view/22272

Eaton, Eric. 2011. Wasp Wednesday: Pollen Wasp. http://bugeric.blogspot.com/2011/11/wasp-wednesday-pollen-wasp.html

Encyclopedia of Life. N.D. Pollen Wasps. http://eol.org/pages/5243/details

National Research Council. 2007. Status of Pollinators in North America. https://www.nap.edu/catalog/11761/status-of-pollinators-in-north-america

United States Forest Service. N.D. Pollen Wasps. https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/masarines.shtml

Xerces Society. 2011. Attracting Native Pollinators. https://books.google.com/books?id=ry243ZLP2OAC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

 

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01
Aug

Government and Chemical Industry Collusion Going Back Decades Showcased in “Poison Papers”

(Beyond Pesticides, August 1, 2017) A collection of long archived documents dating back to the 1920s were released last week showcasing the efforts of the chemical industry and the federal government to conceal from the public the real dangers associated with the use and manufacture of chemical products. The Bioscience Resource Project and the Center for Media and Democracy released more than 200,000 pages of these documents now accessible on the “Poison Papers” website.

First reported in The Intercept, the project, “Poison Papers,” makes publicly available documents obtained through legal discovery in lawsuits against Dow, Monsanto, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Forest Service, the Air Force, and pulp and paper companies, among others. Activist Carol Van Strum stored much of these documents in her rural Oregon barn. Ms. Van Strum’s activism on pesticides and other toxic chemicals began in the mid-1970s, when she and her neighbors in Oregon filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service to stop the spraying of 2,4,5-T, a dangerously toxic herbicide that made up one-half of the ingredients in the deadly Agent Orange (the other ingredient was the still widely used herbicide 2,4-D). The spraying directly doused her four children, who developed headaches, nosebleeds, and bloody diarrhea. Miscarriages among local women and deformities in the wildlife were also seen after the spraying. Between 1972 and 1977, the Forest Service sprayed 20,000 pounds of 2,4,5-T in the 1,600-square-mile area that included Ms. Van Strum’s house and the nearby town of Alsea. Ms. Van Strum’s suit led to a temporary ban in 2,4,5-T in their area in 1977. 2,4,5-T, which is unavoidably contaminated with the carcinogenic dioxin 2,3,7,8-TCDD, was formally banned in the U.S. by 1985.

Over the years, Ms. Van Strum conducted research and assisted others in lawsuits against chemical companies, and accumulated hundreds of documents on chemical industry practices in the manufacture, disposal, and marketing of these products. According to the Intercept, there are two documents that detail experiments that Dow contracted a University of Pennsylvania dermatologist to conduct on prisoners in the 1960s to study the effects of TCDD.

Another 1985 document shows that Monsanto sold a chemical that was tainted with TCDD to the makers of Lysol, who, apparently unaware of its toxicity, used it as an ingredient in their disinfectant spray for 23 years. A never-released study undertaken by EPA on the relationship between herbicide exposure and miscarriages showed the samples from water, various animals, and “products of conception” were significantly contaminated with TCDD. In one transcript from the cross-examination of Monsanto’s George Roush, PhD, in Kemner et al. v. Monsanto No.80-I-970, Dr. Roush admits that data from TCDD-exposed workers were deliberately included with data from the unexposed workers to purposely weaken any association between the chemical and cancer deaths.

The Poison Papers include documents featuring dioxins, pesticides like 2,4-D, dicamba, permethrin, atrazine and Agent Orange, all, with the exception of Agent Orange, are still used in the U.S. The Bioscience Resource Project and the Center for Media and Democracy, which obtained Ms. Van Strum’s collection, said that the project offers a unique opportunity for researchers, the public, and the media to discover what exactly was known about chemical toxicity, when, and by whom.

Specifically, the papers (1) disclose EPA meeting minutes of a secret high-level dioxins working group that identifies dioxins as extraordinarily poisonous chemicals, (2) demonstrate EPA collusion with the pulp and paper industry to “suppress, modify or delay” the results of the congressionally-mandated National Dioxin Study, which found high levels of dioxins in everyday products, such as baby diapers and coffee filters, as well as pulp and paper mill effluents, (3) show that EPA colluded with pesticide manufacturers to keep pesticide products on the market by covering up massive problems with many of the tests conducted for these chemicals by concealing and falsifying its own studies that found high levels of dioxin in environmental samples and human breast milk.

These documents provide tangible evidence of EPA’s and other agencies’ close relationship with the industries they are regulating. EPA’s failure to take action against chemicals that are known to pose harms to humans and wildlife continues today. Just this past spring, EPA’s new administrator Scott Pruitt rejected the scientific conclusions and reversed a proposed decision from 2015 to revoke food residue tolerances of chlorpyrifos, even though it has been shown to lower IQ, mental development delays, attention problems, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder problems, and pervasive developmental disorders in children. It was revealed that Administrator Pruitt met privately with the CEO of Dow, maker of chlorpyrifos, several weeks before reversing EPA’s tentative decision to ban on the chemical. In a similar case, the New York Times reported on Monsanto’s internal emails and email traffic between the company and federal regulators, which suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research on glyphosate (Roundup) that was later attributed to academics. There is now an investigation by the Inspector General for EPA into whether or not an EPA official engaged in collusion with Monsanto regarding the agency’s safety assessment of glyphosate.

Poison Papers are just one part of the larger DocumentCloud, which contains over a million documents. “Cloud” is truly appropriate because the site is filled with documents, with little structure to aid users beyond that supplied by their own searches. Searches that go beyond the dioxin and related chemicals will be more fruitful on the larger database.

As for Ms. Van Strum, she lost her four children in a house fire in 1977, an investigation into which was never completed. She suspects some of her opponents might have set the fire. But her commitment to the battle against toxic chemicals survived the ordeal, and she now feels it is time to pass on her collection of documents, some of which pertain to battles that are still being waged, so “others can take up the fight.” The seeds of many of the fights over chemicals still going on today can be traced to the documents in her barn.

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

Source: The Intercept; EcoWatch

 

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31
Jul

Take Action: Stop Fraudulent Organic Food Imports

(Beyond Pesticides, July 31, 2017)  At a time when the U.S. market demands more organic corn and soybeans than are supplied by domestic organic growers, those same growers are threatened by the flooding of the market with cheaper fraudulent grains. The resulting impacts of eliminating market opportunities while at the same time threatening the value of the organic label hurt organic farmers in this country.

The National Organic Program (NOP) must take action to protect the organic label.

According to the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM), the U.S. currently produces only about 60% of the organic corn and 10-30% of the organic soybeans the market demands, while demand is increasing by about 14% per year. Meanwhile, the U.S. market is being flooded with fraudulent “organic” corn and soybeans. In May, the Washington Post documented three large shipments –totaling 7 percent of annual organic corn imports and 4 percent of organic soybean imports— originating from questionable overseas certification and fraud.

>>>Act now to tell NOP Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, and your Congressional delegation to protect the organic label for the sake of farmers and consumers!

OFARM says, “For over two years, organic grain producers have seen their prices, market opportunities and bottom-lines on their farms decline due to fraudulent imports. The losses to the twelve Midwestern state organic grain producers (ND, SD, NE, KS, MO, IL, IA, WI, IN, MI, MN, OH) totals over $150 million in lost income for the crop years 2015 and 2016 and if all 48 states and 2017 income losses are included, it is over $250 million. This situation is unsustainable and will not grow the domestic supply of organic grain.”

USDA must exercise its authority to enforce existing regulations and develop additional stringent regulatory oversight procedures to fulfill its obligations under the Organic Foods Production Act and safeguard the integrity of the USDA organic seal. USDA must immediately:
⦁    Enforce the currently enacted regulations to ensure imports comply with the U.S. organic standards;
⦁    Implement additional regulations to deter and prevent the import of fraudulent organic products; and
⦁    Regulate third-party certifiers and equivalent agencies in other countries administering USDA organic standards.

If you are a farmer who has been harmed by import fraud, please add your story to the letter.

>>>Act now to tell NOP Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, and your Congressional delegation to protect the organic label for the sake of farmers and consumers!

Thank you for taking action to protect organic farmers and consumers from fraudulent imports.

Source: Washington Post

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28
Jul

Toxic Ingredients Found in Various Mac and Cheese Products

(Beyond Pesticides, July 28, 2017) According to a report released earlier this month by the Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging, a national alliance of leading public health and food safety groups, toxic, hormone disrupting, industrial chemicals have been found in 10 varieties of macaroni and cheese products. The coalition is calling on food companies, especially the Kraft Heinz Company, maker of the iconic boxed mac and cheese, to eliminate sources of these chemicals from their cheese products.

The tested mac and cheese products contained elevated levels of phthalates, chemicals used in industrial processing of plastics, adhesives and rubber, among other things, as well as “inert” ingredients in pesticide products. The study tested 30 items of individual cheese products from various manufacturers that were purchased at retail grocery stores in the U.S and shipped to the lab, unopened, in their original packaging. The cheese product items tested include nine of Kraft’s many cheese products. Results found that nearly every cheese product tested contained 10 different phthalates, with six found in a single product. Eight of the nine Kraft mac and cheese products tested contained phthalates. DEHP, a phthalate currently banned in several countries, was found in 10 of the mac and cheese products and accounts for 60 percent of all phthalates found in the tested cheese products. Phthalate levels were about four times higher in the powdered cheese when compared to regular, hard cheeses.

Phthalates are used to soften plastic and are found in homes across the U.S. in a wide range of products, including shower curtains, shampoos, perfumes, toys and pesticides, to name a few. Phthalates are a ubiquitous class of chemicals and are found in most of the population. Studies have found that male babies born to women with high levels of phthalates in their blood exhibited changes related to low sperm count, undescended testicles, and other reproductive problems. Other studies have connected some phthalates to liver and kidney cancer. They are associated with adverse developmental and reproductive health effects, including low sperm counts. Scientific research has indicated that phthalates act as hormone disruptors and children can ingest these toxicants by acts as simple as chewing on their plastic toys and contaminated food. Several phthalates have already been listed as potential endocrine disruptors. These chemicals also cross the placenta during pregnancy, and prenatal exposure has been linked in studies to problems with attention and intellectual deficits.

Scientists reported this year that up to 725,000 American women of childbearing age may be exposed daily to phthalates at levels that threaten the healthy development of their babies, should they become pregnant. Many agree that for most people the greatest exposure to phthalates comes from the food we eat. Phthalates area not added to food directly, but can migrate into food from plastics or adhesives during processing, packaging and preparation.

The European Union (EU) has already banned six phthalates from children’s products, and more than a dozen other countries have done the same. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has banned the use of six phthalates in toys and child care products, but they are still widely used in all kinds of products, from food packaging to personal care products and building materials in the U.S.

In response to these results, the Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging has requested that Kraft identify and eliminate any sources of phthalates in the production of its cheese products, and use its leadership position to change the industry. Kraft has agreed to review the test results. The company has already been responsive to concerns regarding food dyes and preservatives in its mac and cheese, and announced phase-out in 2015.

“Kraft Heinz must take action now because the federal government has not done so. The European Union already banned most phthalates for use in food contact materials. They followed the science, but here, Trump’s Food and Drug Administration has yet to act,” said Peter Lehner, Senior Attorney at Earthjustice, a member of the Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging. “Parents and their children should not have to wait longer to know that their food does not contain toxic chemicals. We are asking manufacturers to act now.”

Detailed information and a public petition are available at http://www.KleanUpKraft.org

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

Source: Earthjustice Press Release

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27
Jul

Bill to Ban Neurotoxic Chlorpyrifos Introduced in the U.S. Senate

(Beyond Pesticides, July 27, 2017) Earlier this week U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a bill that would ban use of the insecticide chlorpyrifos. The Protect Children, Farmers and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act, S. 1624, comes one week after an appeals court refused to require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make a decision over whether to ban the chemical. Removing this neurotoxic insecticide from the environment would significantly reduce health risks for children and farmworkers in underserved rural communities, build pressure to address all toxic organophosphates, and help push U.S. agriculture in a more sustainable direction.

As with other organophosphate class chemicals, chlorpyrifos, first registered in 1965 by Dow Chemical, is derived from nerve agents used during World War 2. The chemical is linked to a range of negative health and environmental outcomes that warrant its prohibition. Children are at particular risk from the chemical due to their developing immune, organ, and nervous systems.  As with other organophosphate nerve agents, the chemical acts on the body’s nervous system, inhibiting the movement of neurotransmitters called cholinesterase. Chlorpyrifos chemically binds to the site where cholinesterase would in the body, preventing normal nerve impulse transmission. While the outward display of this effect is seen as incessant twitch of the body, the internal effects can lead to long-term decreased motor function, impaired cognition, behavioral disorders, and lower IQ.

Many organophosphates like chlorpyrifos are also endocrine disruptors, which mimic naturally produced hormones, and block hormone receptors in cells. As one may expect, this effect is particular concerning for children. Health risks of endocrine disruptors range from learning disorders to obesity, infertility, early-onset puberty and childhood cancers. These impacts, as shown by an international team of scientists led by researchers New York University, result in organophosphate-exposed children having lower lifetime earnings, causing a ‘brain drain’ for the economy that costs the U.S.  over $44.7 billion annually.

In March 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed a tentative decision from 2015 to revoke food residue tolerances of chlorpyrifos due to the chemical’s neurotoxic impacts. This would have effectively banned the chemical from use in agriculture. This decision stemmed from a petition and lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)  ten years ago, calling for EPA to revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances and cancel all registrations. A Federal Appeals court mandated that EPA take final action by March 31, 2017. Administrator Pruitt’s decision indicated the agency will continue to study chlorpyrifos, yet as Senator Udall said in a statement, “The science hasn’t changed since EPA proposed banning chlorpyrifos in 2015 and 2017. Only the politics have.”

Given the multitude of health risks associated with the chemical, many Americans are sickened by the current Administration’s decision to play politics with children’s health. Late last month, reports surfaced that Administrator Pruitt met privately with the CEO of Dow Chemical only weeks before reversing the agency’s decision on chlorpyrifos.

Ultimately, a federal ban on chlorpyrifos should be the beginning of the end of the use of organophosphate insecticides in pest management. Like DDT and organochlorine chemicals before it, it has taken decades for EPA, under the previous administration, to acknowledge the full extent of the dangers these chemicals pose to human health and the environment. And even once those dangers are brought to the public, again and again the pesticide industry uses all available means – media spin, disreputable science, and political influence- to slow the tide towards safer practices.

As a result of greater public awareness and actions to restrict a number of organophosphates, recent EPA data show declining uses of these chemicals. In the year 2000, roughly 70 million pounds of organophosphates were applied in the U.S, representing 71% of all insecticide use. While this number dropped to 33% by 2012, there are still 20 million pounds of these neurotoxic, endocrine disrupting chemicals applied each year, and disproportionately in low-income and vulnerable communities, where children and farmworkers are most greatly impacted.

Banning chlorpyrifos, as proposed by the sponsors, must be accompanied by additional measures to encourage practices that do not replace the chemical with other organophosphates, or lead farmers to turn to newer insecticides like synthetic pyrethroids and neonicotinoids, chemical classes for which a robust body of documented hazards is already available. As Beyond Pesticides continues to argue, organic production practices represent the only real sustainable path forward for U.S. agriculture. By creating a system that fosters natural resiliency through biodiversity, pest populations do not reach the point where toxic pesticides are necessary. These practices lead to healthier working conditions for farmworkers, their families, and children in rural agricultural communities.

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

Source: Sen. Tom Udall Press Release

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26
Jul

Campbell’s Soup Parts with Grocery Manufacturers Association over GE Labeling

(Beyond Pesticides, July 26, 2017) Campbell Soup Co. announced that it will leave the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) by the end of the year over concerns that the trade association no longer represents its views concerning labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food. Campbell’s President and CEO Denise Morrison said that while the company does not question the safety of GE food, it recognizes that most consumers want to see GE ingredients on the label. Meanwhile, Campbell’s has supported the GMA digital disclosure and lists ingredients that “may be derived from crops grown from genetically engineered seeds” on its website.

The move by Campbell Soup comes as USDA is pondering possible disclosure options under the “compromise” bill on labeling genetically engineered food passed last year by the U.S. Congress. The company says, “While this legislation offers a range of disclosure options for manufacturers, we will introduce an on-pack statement as we know that’s what the overwhelming majority of Americans support. We’re working on language that provides specific ingredient information and supports the science that GMOs are safe.” A number of other companies have also announced their intention to label GE ingredients, while similarly maintaining their safety.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has extended to August 25 the comment period for responding to 30 questions regarding the implementation of the law. The law includes labeling options other than on-package labeling, such as QR codes and websites, which would only serve to hide the information this law was passed to provide. It also allows USDA to decide which GE ingredients must be disclosed. Commenting provides a chance to help shape USDA’s proposal. So far, more than 3100 people have sent comments to AMS in response to a Beyond Pesticides alert.

Beyond Pesticides is telling USDA the following:

  • The definition of “bioengineering” must include all forms of genetic engineering including newer forms like CRISPR and RNA interference (RNAi). Definitions should be compatible with those recommended by the National Organic Standards Board.
  • Each GE ingredient must be identified, including highly refined GE sugars and oils and processed corn and soy ingredients. Even if they are so highly processed that the GE ingredients are present only at undetectable levels in the final product, they are still GE foods.
  • GE ingredients must be identified on product labels, or product shelves in the case of raw foods. All products required to have labels should included identification of GE ingredients on the label.
  • There must be no delays in making regulations effective. Manufacturers have already had years’ worth of notice and preparation to provide this information, at the state and federal level. Indeed, many major food companies have been labeling for some time.

Send your comments to AMS in support of your right to know now! Deadline extended until August 25, 2017.

USDA regulations will determine whether genetically engineered (GE) ingredients are identified on product labels, or hidden behind high-tech codes. Genetically engineered foods pose risks that are not considered by regulators. Consumers have a right to know whether the products they buy contain GE ingredients. This information should be on the product label.

Send your comments to AMS in support of your right to know now!

Genetically engineered foods pose risks that are not considered by regulators. The most dependable way to avoid GE ingredients is to buy organic, but all consumers have a right to know what is in their food.

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

Sources: Food Business News

 

 

 

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25
Jul

EPA Rejects Pesticide Use in Cannabis Production, Paves Way for Organic Marijuana

(Beyond Pesticides, July 25, 2017) With the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in dozens of states, the question of pesticide use in commercial cannabis production and resulting residues in a range of products is a burning issue. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) injected itself into this question when last week it issued a notice of intent to disapprove the planned registration of four pesticides for cannabis production by the state of California.

Given cannabis’ narcotic status by the federal government, EPA does not register pesticides for use in marijuana production. However, states and previously EPA have considered using a Special Local Needs (SLN) permit under the nation’s pesticide law, the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (Section 24c), to allow this unregistered pesticide use to meet an “existing or imminent pest problem.” While reports suggest that EPA’s rejection is likely politically motivated based on the current administrator’s opposition to cannabis legalization in general, the agency’s determination is consistent with Beyond Pesticides’ letters to states and EPA, which encourage the burgeoning industry to root itself in organic production, without the use of toxic pesticides. “The cannabis industry has the opportunity to develop with organic soil management and fertility practices that prevent pest problems and the need for pesticides,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

Under review by EPA were four pesticide products submitted by the California Department of Pesticide regulation for planned use on cannabis. The manufacturer of the products, General Hydroponics, was seeking guidance from the agency on specific use directions for pests and diseases of cannabis. Although the products in question contain active ingredients that are of lower toxicity than conventional pesticides, federal approval of these pesticides would provide a pathway for the registration of more toxic products on cannabis.

Over the past several years, cannabis production has been marred by consistent reports of contamination with illegal pesticides. States where the substance is legal have experienced large recalls over contamination. In 2015, the Governor of Colorado issued an executive order declaring pesticide-tainted pot “A threat to public safety.” The pesticide most often cited for illegal use on cannabis is a fungicide called Eagle 20, which contains the active ingredient myclobutanil. Myclobutanil is an endocrine (hormone) disruptor that can turn into cyanide gas when ignited. It is also listed as a reproductive toxicant under California’s Proposition 65: Chemicals Known to the State to Cause Cancer or Reproductive Toxicity.

Federal approval of registered pesticides under state SLN regulations could quickly lead to approval of products containing myclobutanil, in addition to other toxic pesticides, including insecticides like neonicotinoids and synthetic pyrethroids. Rather than approve the use of toxic chemicals, advocates urge states to step up enforcement to ensure that consumers, and particularly medical patients with underlying conditions, are not subject to toxic exposure.

EPA’s denial of these four registrations provides an opportunity for the industry to flourish based on organic principles. As Cary Giguere of the Vermot Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets told Bloomberg BNA, “It’s a minor hindrance. It isn’t slowing the industry down, it’s not slowing states working with the industry down.” Beyond Pesticides has long encouraged limiting the allowance of pesticides on cannabis to products that are allowed under organic production and exempt from federal pesticide registration (25b minimum risk).

This regulatory approach has only been completely realized in the state of New Hampshire. Given EPA’s position on SLNs for cannabis, other states may follow New Hampshire’s lead on allowed pesticides, and go further to foster organic practices by requiring growers submit a system plan. By mandating the submission of a systems plan, states ensure: a detailed description of the practices and procedures that will be undertaken by the certified producer,  substances to be used as production inputs will be listed, a narrative description of how practices will be monitored, and recordkeeping requirements to confirm the plan is followed. This process will assist in orienting producers towards a pest prevention strategy, rather than a reactive approach that may result in toxic or illegal pesticide use when pest or fungal outbreaks occur.

For more information on safety issues and sustainable solutions to the use of toxic pesticides on cannabis, see Beyond Pesticides’ report.

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

Source: Bloomberg BNA

 

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24
Jul

National Academy of Sciences Urges EPA to Study Low Dose Endocrine Disruption

(Beyond Pesticides, July 24, 2017) A new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) is recommending to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a strategy to evaluate the evidence of adverse human health effects from low doses of exposure to chemicals that can disrupt the endocrine system. NAS believes that EPA’s current process, which utilizes traditional toxicity testing, would miss some effects that occur at doses lower then what EPA evaluates. EPA’s Endocrine Disruption Screening Program (EDSP) is currently screening chemicals for their potential to interact with the endocrine system, but the program is years behind schedule and has been criticized for using outdated methods.

Endocrine disruptors are substances that can cause a variation in normal hormone function. Even small alterations in hormone concentrations, particularly during embryonic development and developmental phases of life, can have lasting and significant effects. Mounting science is showing that disruptions to the hormone system can occur at very low doses that according to NAS, are lower than those used in traditional toxicity testing by EPA. This means that some effects may be missed. EPA’s methodologies have been criticized over the years for failing to adequately capture impacts at low doses.

EPA requested NAS develop at strategy to evaluate evidence of low-dose effects. A systematic review of human and animal data on select chemicals was conducted by a committee of scientists and medical researchers to demonstrate how low dose results can be integrated and assessed. The resulting report proposes a strategy to evaluate evidence of adverse human health effects from endocrine disrupting chemicals at low doses that is arranged in three broad steps:

  • Surveillance– Surveillance can detect signals of possible health effects by actively monitoring new data, scientific literature, nontraditional information sources, and stakeholder input to ensure health effects are being identified and analyzed on a regular basis.
  • Investigation and Analysis– To further investigate the signals, the agency should analyze existing data, generate new data to fill gaps, conduct a systematic review of evidence, or integrate evidence from human and animal studies.  One or more of these options might be needed to answer questions about potential signals.
  • Action– Possible actions the agency could take include updating chemical assessments, regularly monitoring for new data, requiring new data or models to reduce uncertainties, or updating toxicity-testing designs and practices. Additional considerations, such as the public health significance and available resources, would also factor into the decision making

According to the report, EPA is already conducting many activities consistent with the strategy proposed, but its efforts may not be aimed specifically at evaluating low-dose toxicity testing. EPA had previously defended its testing procedures saying its current system is adequate for evaluating low dose effects, but that low dose effects were not common. NAS notes that the conclusions of previous toxicity assessments done by EPA may need to be updated to reflect the new results from the recommended strategy, as well as toxicity-testing practices that may need to be updated as new data are generated.

“The systematic review examples demonstrate how these approaches could be used in a strategy to evaluate low-dose toxicity of [endocrine disrupting chemcials] and also to identify lessons learned that could help EPA employ these methods successfully,” said David Dorman, PhD, professor of toxicology at North Carolina State University and chair of the committee.

As recommended in the proposed strategy, systematic reviews can be an important component in investigating evidence on low-dose adverse effects, and NAS notes EPA can build on existing systematic reviews that are published in peer-reviewed literature, and  recommends  performing meta-analyses of the animal and human evidence when appropriate. This allows data from several studies to be combined and used to evaluate confidence in the body of evidence, and to characterize the relationship between exposure and effect.

Endocrine disruptors can be found in common household products such as detergents, disinfectants, furniture, plastics, and pesticides, interfere with the body’s hormone system either by mimicking naturally produced hormones, blocking hormone receptors in cells, or effecting the transport, synthesis, metabolism or excretion of hormones. These impacts can result in devastating effects on one’s health, including behavioral and learning disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), birth defects, obesity, early puberty, infertility, cardiovascular disease, and childhood and adult cancers. In 2013, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals a global health threat. A 2016 report concluded that exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals costs the U.S. more than $340 billion annually in  health care costs and lost wages.

For more information on the effects of pesticides on human health, including endocrine disruption, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database.

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

 Source: NAS News Release

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21
Jul

Sustained Glyphosate Use Reveals Risks to Soil and Environmental Health

(Beyond Pesticides, July 21, 2017) A March 2017 review of studies on the agricultural use of glyphosate (the active ingredient in “Roundup” and other formulated herbicides) points to widespread persistence in soils subject to long-term, intensive glyphosate use, and myriad resulting concerns about impacts on soil and environmental health. The review, by Robert J. Kremer, PhD, of the University of Missouri School of Natural Resources, cites concerns that include: reduction of nutrient availability for plants and organisms; disruption to organism diversity, especially in the areas around plant roots; reductions of beneficial soil bacteria; increases in plant root pathogens; disturbed earthworm activity; reduced nitrogen fixing at plant roots; and compromised growth and reproduction in some soil and aquatic organisms.

Globally, glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide compound: in 2017, worldwide use is estimated to be approximately 1.35 million metric tons. Use in the U.S. has risen dramatically — from 2.72–3.62 million kg in 1987 to approximately 108 million kg in 2014, and 15-fold since 1996, when genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-tolerant crops were introduced. Use has grown for a number of reasons, including more-intensive use as resistance to the herbicide grows.

Researchers have found that, after years of consistent application to agricultural crops, the chemical accumulates and persists in area soil, particularly at the root zone and in the top few millimeters. In part, the accumulation is due to the fact that only 5% of any applied dose tends to reach the weed it is intended to kill, while the rest lands on the soil. In addition, the chemical is likely released in soil from the roots of plants that have absorbed the compound, as well as from decomposing plants that have been exposed to it. This finding of persistence belies the common assumption that the chemical rapidly degrades in soil.

A 2016 study examined whether soils exposed to frequent and high doses of glyphosate might yield negative effects on non-GE crops grown in the same soils. The study reaches the conclusion that, although the probability of plant injury was not high, increased monitoring should be deployed in areas where glyphosate use is intensive. Dr. Kremer concurs, suggesting that possible effects this compound may have not only on soil and water, but on any future crops — particularly, non-GE plants — planted in the same soil should be the subject of further research.

Glyphosate and/or its primary metabolite now commonly show up in groundwater and surface water testing, as well as in some marine environments. Yet monitoring for glyphosate in soils is practiced neither consistently nor with sufficient attention to exacerbating factors. (Research over the past decade has shown that soil characteristics and crop management protocols influence the behaviors of glyphosate.)

Dr. Kremer speculates that strategies such as use of crop rotation (to non-GE crops), shifts to non-glyphosate herbicides, and use of cover crops might ameliorate long-term negative impacts of glyphosate residues. He suggests that such protocols could restore microbe diversity in soil, which can boost degradation of the compound, and which is important to nutrient cycling, plant growth, pathogen suppression, and improved soil and environmental health.

Such tactics could help mitigate accumulation of glyphosate in soils and marine environments, but would not sufficiently address the mounting, and legion, concerns about this compound’s use in agriculture and its resultant impacts on public health. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded in 2015 that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” California recently listed it as a human carcinogen. It has been implicated in endocrine disruption. Animal studies demonstrate neurotoxic, endocrine, reproductive, tumorigenic, growth-disrupting, and other impacts. Because glyphosate is patented for its antibiotic properties, its use results in bacterial resistance to antibiotics commonly used to fight human pathogens. It also exhibits antimicrobial effects that could impact the human gut biome — the community of biota that mediates much of human health, including immune function. Imbalances in composition and/or function of these gut biome organisms have been associated with neurologic, respiratory, gastrointestinal, metabolic, cardiovascular, and hepatic diseases. Further, glyphosate poses risks to pregnant women, including shorter gestation and lowered neonatal birth weight.

In addition, adjuvants and other components of glyphosate herbicide formulations may amplify toxicological impacts or be even more toxic than the active ingredient (glyphosate) alone, suggesting that other ingredients work synergistically with glyphosate, and pointing to a problem with current chemical regulatory frameworks. Beyond Pesticides urges municipalities to ban or restrict the use of this chemical to protect public health, and encourages people to avoid it in food by purchasing and eating as organically as possible.

In the context of glyphosate’s growing pervasiveness, studies have looked at its presence in the post-harvest food supply. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) published results of glyphosate testing that found traces of the chemical in approximately one-third of food products, and residue levels above the acceptable limits in nearly 4% of grain products; bean, pea, and lentil products were particularly likely to show residue. Yet in March of 2017, the USDA canceled scheduled plans to test for glyphosate in the U.S. food supply.

Unsurprisingly, the best ways to avoid glyphosate and other harmful pesticides are (1) to support organic practices for lawns and landscapes, (2) purchase and eat organic food, which is not permitted to be treated with glyphosate compounds, and (3) support organic agriculture through your food dollars, contributions to nonprofits working in the sector, and/or your advocacy.

Source: MedCrave: Advances in Plants & Agriculture Research

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

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20
Jul

Urgent/by Monday: Help Stop Bee-Toxic Neonicotinoid Pesticides from Killing Bees and Contaminating Waterways!

(Beyond Pesticides, July 20, 2017) In its recently released 2017 Preliminary Aquatic Risk Assessment for Imidacloprid, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that this neonicotinoid insecticide is not only toxic to bees but also, is destroying life in the nation’s streams, rivers, and lakes. This assessment finds that aquatic invertebrates, especially aquatic insects basic to aquatic food chains, are sensitive to imidacloprid, and that current imidacloprid levels detected in streams, rivers, lakes, and drainage canals exceed acute and chronic toxicity endpoints. Impacts occur at low concentrations, and can result in decreased species abundance, altered predator-prey relationships, and reduced nutrient cycling. Impacts to other wildlife that depend on these species raise serious cause for concern.

Comment by July 24 and tell EPA to cancel these neonicotinoids to protect sensitive species and ecosystems. See sample comment language, below.

Clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran are too toxic for honey bees and native bees

EPA also finds that the other neonicotinoids –clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran– pose risks to bees both on and around treated fields, but the agency has not evaluated risks from soil, surface water, or contaminated seed dust, which underestimates exposure risks and continues to put our native bees at risk. Clothianidin and thiamethoxam are widely used as seed coatings on corn and soybeans, and their residues persist in soil for years, exposing soil-dwelling native bees to harmful levels of these pesticides. Dinotefuran, used mostly on vegetables and fruits, is just as toxic to bees as the other neonics, and has already been responsible for the deaths of thousands of bees in recent years.

Still overlooked by EPA are the additive and synergistic effects to non-target communities from exposure to neonics, other pesticides, and so-called “inert” ingredients. Multiple pesticide combinations are used in formulations and tank mixes, and are found in waterways; possible synergistic effects among these chemicals in the environment must be evaluated.

Following the public comment period on this aquatic risk assessment, EPA intends to release additional assessments throughout the remainder of 2017, and make registration review decisions for imidacloprid and three other neonicotinoids in 2018.

The 60-day public comment period in response to the publication of the risk assessments for these neonicotinoids closes Monday, July 24. EPA needs to hear from you!

Comment by July 24 and tell EPA to cancel these neonicotinoids to protect sensitive species and ecosystems. 

[See sample comment language below, or, if possible, start with a personal concern.]

Sample comment:
As a concerned citizen, I am alarmed by the frequency of detection of neonicotinoids like imidacloprid in U.S. waterways and the documented risks they pose to aquatic organisms and other species dependent on them. I have long been concerned about EPA’s inaction to protect bees from neonicotinoids. This recently released risk assessment finds that aquatic invertebrates, especially aquatic insects basic to aquatic food webs, are sensitive to imidacloprid, and that current imidacloprid levels detected in waterways exceed acute and chronic toxicity endpoints. Canada has proposed to phase out imidacloprid to protect waterways, and the U.S. must do the same!

Additionally, the other neonicotinoids — clothianidin, thiamethoxam and dinotefuran — are shown to be hazardous to both honeybees and native bees. EPA, however, has not fully evaluated all potential exposure routes, such as contaminated soil and surface water, meaning these creatures will continue to be at risk.

Given the toxicity of imidacloprid to invertebrates crucial to aquatic food webs, synergistic effects, and its movement into surface waters — along with current data deficiencies plaguing the other neonicotinoids — it is imperative that the registration of these chemicals be cancelled until it can be demonstrated that they can be used in a way that does not put bees or aquatic organisms at risk. EPA must initiate cancellation of imidacloprid, clothianidin, and other neonicotinoids.

Thank you for your consideration of these important issues.

Thank you for taking action to protect sensitive species and ecosystems from the harmful effects of neonicotinoids!

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19
Jul

Pesticide Caused Disruption of Ecological Balance Increases Parasitic Disease`

(Beyond Pesticides, July 19, 2017) Research connects a healthy environment to overall public health, linking diseases to pesticide caused disruption of ecological balance. A new study, published by University of South Florida scientist Jason Rohr, PhD and colleagues, finds that the use of agricultural chemicals, predominantly in developing countries, is associated with increases in transmission risk for schistosomiasis, a disease caused by infection from a parasitic flatworm that lives in freshwater snails. The findings point to the need for an increased focus on alternative pest management approaches that promote, rather than degrade natural ecological services.

Previous research published by Dr. Rohr and colleagues found that amphibians exposed to pesticides had higher rates of parasitic infection, and increased fertilizer use resulted in an increase in algae that snail parasite hosts feed on. For the current study, researchers investigated the human epidemiologic risks associated with common farm chemicals.

To investigate pesticide effects on the ecosystem, scientists used mesocosms, an experiment designed in a controlled outdoor environment that replicates natural conditions. Algae, parasite-carrying snails, and snail predators (crayfish and water bugs) were added to a series of 60 tanks set up by researchers. The ecological effects of introducing chemical fertilizer, the herbicide atrazine, and insecticide chlorpyrifos were tested in separate mesocosms.

Results show that each agricultural input resulted in its own unique, ecologically disruptive effect. Increased fertilizer into the system showed similar results in previous research, with extra nutrients into the system causing a subsequent increase in all types of algae, including both species that become suspended in the water column and those that attach to smooth surfaces. Introducing atrazine in the system killed much of the suspended algae, however, this permitted increased light penetration to attached algae, the parasite carrying snail’s primary food source. Use of chlorpyrifos resulted in the death and decline of crayfish and water bug predators, which then allowed for an increase in snail populations.

Taking these data, Dr. Rohr and his team plugged their information into epidemiologic models used to assess parasite disease transmission risk in western Africa. While atrazine and fertilizer resulted in a 28% increased risk of transmission as a result of higher snail populations, chlorpyrifos’ effect on snail predators represented the greatest effect. Declines in crayfish and water bug populations increased the risk of human schistosomiasis infection 10-fold, underlining the importance of natural predators in reducing disease risk in vulnerable ecosystems. Indeed, in one test, mesocosm without any outside inputs resulted in increased predator populations that brought transmission risks below minimum thresholds.

This research has important implications for understanding the interaction between food production practices, environmental effects and public health. This study adds to growing evidence that the introduction of outside chemical inputs, like fertilizers and pesticides, result in unexpected trophic (food web) effects. Research published in 2015 by Margaret Douglas, PhD and John Tooker, PhD of Penn State University found that the use of neonicotinoid insecticides undermined overall crop protection efforts in a similar manner. While neonicotinoids are applied in attempts to combat slugs that feed on seedlings, scientists discovered that the insecticides were not affecting the slugs, yet the chemical was bioaccumulating in their bodies. However, ground beetles, the slug’s major insect predator, were actually found to decline in agricultural fields as a consequence of eating the insecticide-contaminated slugs. This process resulted in massive slug outbreaks, perpetuating additional pesticide use to control their population.

Chemical-intensive agricultural production models are highly dependent on chemical fertilizer and pesticide inputs. However, under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, testing of these chemicals focuses primarily on their direct effects on humans, wildlife, or water quality. Indirect effects that take into account the complex interactions that occur in real-world ecological models are generally not prioritized. This results in technical research and innovation that moves in the wrong direction, according to independent scientists. Money is spent on new chemical formulations, application methods, and genetically engineered crops that can withstand these products.

A comprehensive approach acknowledges ecological complexity, fosters biodiversity, and promotes non- and least-toxic pest management approaches that eliminate the need for outside inputs. These practices are regularly employed as part of organic agricultural production, which represents the safest way forward for food production that consumers can support. Protect complex ecological interactions and the broader food web by purchasing organic whenever possible. The authors of the current research indicate that as a result of predictions of increased agricultural activity in areas where schistosomiasis is present, the disease is likely to continue to increase in developing countries. By supporting organic agriculture, you can help put pressure on both domestic and foreign markets to move away from the regular use of toxic chemicals.

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

Source: Science

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18
Jul

Take Action: Comment to Stop U.S. Senate from Undermining Value of USDA Organic Food Label

(Beyond Pesticides, July 18, 2018) The value of the organic label is under attack in the U.S. Congress. If proposed changes are adopted, the public will not be able to rely on the label to identify the stark differences between current organic and chemical-intensive food production practices. Beyond Pesticides has long advanced organic agriculture as a means of protecting  farmers, farmworkers, consumers, biodiversity, and the environment.

The U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee is accepting comments now on Farm Bill proposals that will erode the meaning of organic. Although there are about 400 days to go before 2012 Farm Bill funding ends, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R, KS) is taking the opportunity of Senate hearings to attack those institutions that make organic agriculture standards clear, transparent, and subject to Congressionally mandated public oversight. In particular, Sen. Roberts and others are attacking the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which is an impediment to organic factory farms. Organic production is subject to rigorous oversight through a certification and inspection process, not found in conventional agriculture, but needing continual improvement to keep pace with the tremendous growth of the organic sector. We want to protect and strengthen these standards, not reduce and weaken them.

Part One to this Action:
Send your support for strong organic standards and oversight to the Senate Agriculture Committee now! [See below for suggested language.]

Part Two to this Action:
Click here to tell your U.S. Senators that you want them to protect the value of the organic food label by not allowing the Senate Agriculture Committee to weaken the independence and authority of the National Organic Standards Board.

When the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) was written, the authors understood that the program would be housed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has been a big proponent of chemical and genetically engineered agriculture. In order to ensure that regulations implementing the law remained true to organic principles and values, the authors incorporated into OFPA a requirement that USDA consult with an independent National Organic Standards Board in developing the National Organic Program (NOP) and the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. It requires that the National List be “based on” recommendations of the NOSB and prohibits USDA from adding to the National List synthetic materials that are not recommended by the NOSB.

The NOSB is composed of representatives of the organic community: producers, handlers, retailers, certifiers, consumers, environmentalists, and scientists. It was carefully balanced to ensure that the two-thirds majority required to pass a substantive motion could only be attained if the different interest groups work together to build consensus.

Those who would like factory farms to be able to profit from organic certification are frustrated by animal welfare rules and the NOSB opposition to certification of hydroponics operations that are not soil-based and inherently dependent on synthetic chemical inputs. Among the suggestions made by supporters of organic factory farms is changing the composition of the NOSB.

NOSB “reform” is clearly intended to remove the requirement of continual improvement from the National Organic Program. Continual improvement means that new knowledge incentivizes new practices and materials, making old materials and practices obsolete as organic methods constantly evolve. Organic producers have always been on the forefront of changing agriculture to make it more sustainable and regenerative. “Continual improvement” is a threat to those who have a lot invested in an industrial model.

This opportunity for commenting ends at 5:00 pm (EDT) Thursday, July 20. Use the suggested language below, or, better, write your own heartfelt or science-based statement. (If you don’t have a farm or organization name, feel free to insert “organic consumer.”)

Part One to this Action:
Send your support for strong organic standards and oversight to the Senate Agriculture Committee now! [See below for suggested language.]

Suggested comment language:
As a member of the organic community, it is important to me that I am represented in decisions regarding organic production by members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The authors of the Organic Foods Production Act created the NOSB to provide balanced guidance to the National Organic Program. Decisions by the NOSB require a two-thirds majority, and hence force consensus among producers, consumers, and others in the organic community. This process protects the value and trust that the public gives to the organic label in the market. Without the independence and authority of the Board, the $50 billion organic market is threatened.

Continual improvement is a basic tenet of organic production. Organic producers have always been on the forefront of changing agriculture to make it more sustainable and regenerative. The NOSB, through a transparent public process, informs USDA of possibilities for improvement and protects the meaning of the word “organic.”

Please support organic production and the NOSB process for ensuring that organic oversight and certification protects and enhance the value of the organic label for farmers and consumers.

Part Two to this Action:
Click here to tell your U.S. Senators that you want them to protect the value of the organic food label by not allowing the Senate Agriculture Committee to weaken the independence and authority of the National Organic Standards Board.

For more information on organic and why it is important for the protection of farmers, farmworkers, consumers, biodiversity, and the environment, see Beyond Pesticides’ organic agriculture page.

See Action of the Week

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17
Jul

Petition Filed to Compel EPA to Review All Pesticide Product Ingredients

(Beyond Pesticides, July 17, 2017) Last week, Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a legal petition demanding major updates and improvements to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current review of pesticides. The petition specifically seeks to compel EPA to require that pesticide companies provide safety data on all ingredients of a pesticide products, or formulations, both active and inert. The agency generally only requires data on a pesticide product’s active ingredient, despite evidence of potential hazards associated with synergism between ingredients, including inert (undisclosed) ingredients, and other pesticides applied in combination.

According to Amy van Saun, attorney with CFS, “EPA’s job is to ensure pesticides are safe for children, families, and the environment, but numerous pesticides have other ingredients or combined effects that are causing significant risks and harm. EPA’s outdated and insufficient safety assessment endangers the public welfare and must be brought into the 21st century.”

The CFS petition requests the following actions from EPA:

  1. Revise pesticide registration regulations to take into account all pesticide ingredients (active, inert and adjuvant) and their effects on the environment.
  2. Revise pesticide registration regulations to require whole pesticide formulation and tank mixture testing to take into account synergistic effects.
  3. Revise pesticide registration regulations to require inert ingredients and whole pesticide formulations testing for chronic toxicological effects and degradation.
  4. Revise pesticide registration regulations to require Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation on the effects of whole pesticide formulations and tank mixtures on threatened and endangered species.
  5. Comply with the above requirements in conducting statutorily mandated registration reviews of pesticides.

An inert ingredient is defined as any ingredient that is “not active,” or specifically targeted to kill a pest. According to a 2000 report produced by the New York State Attorney General, The Secret Ingredients in Pesticides: Reducing the Risk, 72 percent of pesticide products available to consumers contain over 95 percent inert ingredients and fewer than 10 percent of pesticide products list any inert ingredients on their labels. The report also found that more than 200 chemicals used as inert ingredients are hazardous pollutants in federal environmental statutes governing air and water quality, and, from a 1995 list of inert ingredients, 394 chemicals were listed as active ingredients in other pesticide products. For example, naphthalene is an inert ingredient in some products and listed as an active ingredient in others.

Despite these uncertainties and potential hazards, pesticide manufacturers are only required by EPA to list the active ingredients in a pesticide, based on the agency’s interpretation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). This leaves consumers and applicators unaware of the possible toxicity present in a vast majority of the pesticide formulations they are using unless the EPA Administrator determines that the chemical poses a public health threat.

The failure of EPA to require the disclosure of inert ingredients poses many problems for those trying to protect human health. Failure to disclose the ingredients prevents consumers and decision makers from making informed decisions and comparing hazards. Local and state governments also run into roadblocks in their efforts to protect citizens, as they cannot readily evaluate what is in the pesticides products (formulations) that they are spraying in their communities and make independent safety judgments, putting their residents at risk. Under the law, it is EPA’s duty to assess the harm of pesticide product ingredients and disclose this information on product labels.

Environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have consistently urged EPA to follow in the steps of countries like Canada and the European Union by following the precautionary principle, which generally approves products after they have been assessed for harm, not before. Given the lack of complete information and uncertainties, Beyond Pesticides advocates that communities and individuals reject legally allowed uses and exposures deemed acceptable under EPA risk assessment calculations. Instead, the organization asked that decision makers focus on safer alternative practices and product that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of toxic chemicals.

Sources: Center for Food Safety

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

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14
Jul

What Should Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Look Like? USDA Seeks Your Input

(Beyond Pesticides, July 14, 2017) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking input into draft regulations that will determine whether genetically engineered (GE) ingredients [or genetically modified organisms (GMO)] are identified on products labels, or hidden behind high tech codes. Let USDA know by Monday, July 17 what you think and how important clear and meaningful labeling is.

A “compromise” bill on labeling genetically engineered food was passed last year by the U.S. Congress, leaving it to USDA to decide which foods would be labeled, and how they would be labeled. In preparation for drafting regulations, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has posed 30 questions regarding the implementation of the law. AMS is accepting input until Monday, July 17. Commenting provides a chance to help shape USDA’s proposal.

The law includes labeling options other than on-package labeling, such as QR codes and websites, which would only serve to hide the information this law was passed to provide. It also allows USDA to decide which GE ingredients must be disclosed. Beyond Pesticides is telling USDA the following:

  • The definition of “bioengineering” must include all forms of genetic engineering including newer forms like CRISPR and RNA interference (RNAi). Definitions should be compatible with those recommended by the National Organic Standards Board.
  • Each GE ingredient must be identified, including highly refined GE sugars and oils and processed corn and soy ingredients. Even if they are so highly processed that the GE ingredients are present only at undetectable levels in the final product, they are still GE foods.
  • GE ingredients must be identified on product labels, or product shelves in the case of raw foods. All products required to have labels should included identification of GE ingredients on the label.
  • There must be no delays in making regulations effective. Manufacturers have already had years’ worth of notice and preparation to provide this information, at the state and federal level. Indeed, many major food companies have been labeling for some time.

Genetically engineered foods pose risks that are not considered by regulators. The most dependable way to avoid GE ingredients is to buy organic, but all consumers have a right to know what is in their food.

See Action of the Week  —Urgent: Comment on GE Labeling by Monday!

 

 

 

 

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