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Daily News Blog

19
Apr

Illinois Judge Stops Construction to Protect Endangered Rusty Patch Bumblebee

(Beyond Pesticides, April 19, 2017) Local activists in Illinois were handed a victory on Monday when a judge granted a temporary restraining order to shut down a construction project due to the presence of the rusty patch bumblebee, a recently listed endangered species. The group Stop Longmeadow, in reference to the Longmeadow Parkway Bridge Corridor project, filed the lawsuit, Case: 1:16-cv-05435, based on the fact that the rusty patch bumblebee has been found in the Brunner Forest Preserve, which borders 5.6 miles of the corridor project.

Defendants, including the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, argue that the scheduled construction will not affect bumblebee habitat. The court rejected their position, however, siding in the plaintiffs by finding “the balance of harms weighs in favor of the plaintiffs and against the public’s interest in reduced traffic congestions.”

The restraining order was issued by Judge Sharon Coleman in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division. Based on the evidence presented by the plaintiff’s motion, Judge Coleman reasoned that “a brief stay to the project is warranted.” She went on to point out that, contrary to the defendant’s argument, the plaintiffs did not delay in seeking relief, given the quick turnaround between the decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list the bumblebee on March 21, 2017, and the notice by the county released on April 11, 2017, stating that work would begin on the construction project six days later on April 17. The restraining order is in place until April 28, 2017, when plaintiffs are expected to have submitted a motion for preliminary injunction with additional support for their position as well as notified the federal defendants under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to the judge’s order.

“We understand there are no guarantees but those of us fighting it believe it is the right thing to do and we are not giving up hope,” said Jo Ann Fritz, a supporter of the Stop Longmeadow movement. “We are being vigilant and we are determined,” she continued, showcasing the resolve of local protestors to demand the government protect endangered species and their habitat.

According to the motion, plaintiffs argue that, “The Longmeadow Project has significant and permanent ramifications to not only the local population of the bee, but on the nationwide survival of the species itself.” This is likely true as, according to FWS, the rusty patched bumble bee was once widespread across the U.S. and parts of Canada, but declined dramatically in the 1990s. An article published in the Washington Post states that, “The rusty patched bumblebee was so prevalent 20 years ago that pedestrians in Midwestern cities had to shoo them away.” Since then, their populations have dwindled and their overall decline is estimated at 91 percent.

The listing of the rusty patch bumblebee as an endangered species is significant, marking the first bumblebee species, and first bee overall in the continental U.S., to officially be declared endangered by FWS. This is important to groups like Beyond Pesticides because it requires that this bumblebee and the ecosystem in which it lives must be taken into consideration in all EPA allowances of pesticide use.

In October 2016, FWS listed seven species of bees as endangered in Hawaii. In its news release outlining the decision to list, FWS stated, “Causes of the decline in rusty patched bumble bee populations are believed to be loss of habitat; disease and parasites; use of pesticides that directly or indirectly kill the bees; climate change, which can affect the availability of the flowers they depend on; and extremely small population size. Most likely, a combination of these factors has caused the decline in rusty patched bumble bees.” There is substantial research demonstrating that neonicotinoid insecticides, working either individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of bees and other pollinators.

A victory in Illinois would not be the first time a large-scale construction project has come to a halt under the provisions of the ESA. In the 1978 landmark Supreme Court decision Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill, the court sided with environmentalists and upheld an injunction under the ESA that prevented the Tennessee Valley Authority from finishing the Tellico Dam, based on findings the operation of the dam would wipe out snail darter habitat. The snail darter was listed as an endangered species after the Tellico Dam project had begun, and even though the U.S. government continued to provide funding for the project after the listing, according to the court it did not render the project exempt from the ESA. This case set the precedent for the court’s willingness to enforce the ESA, a tradition that is mirrored by Judge Coleman’s decision in this case to grant a temporary injunction in order to protect the rusty patch bumblebee.

While attacks against ESA listings are likely to become more frequent over the next several years, it is critical that the public is educated on the importance of wild pollinators, both to agricultural productivity and for their intrinsic value. Indeed, there is a strong argument that it would cost more to not protect species like the rusty patch than to allow them to go extinct. A 2016 UN report warning of shortages in global food supplies should pollinator numbers decline any further estimates that pollinators worldwide contribute between $235 and $577 billion in agricultural productivity annually.

Help Beyond Pesticides show appreciation for both wild and managed pollinators by taking local action. Get involved at the community level to pass policies that protect imperiled pollinators. Right now, without federal protection, the Rusty Patched Bumblebee needs concerned communities throughout the country to step in and makes changes that give it a fighting chance. Use our resources and educational materials, including our BEE Protective doorknob hangers to get the word out. And be sure follow Beyond Pesticides’ ongoing series celebrating unsung wild pollinator heroes through the Polli-NATION campaign.

Source: Chicago Tribune, Northwest Herald, US DOJ

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

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18
Apr

Anchorage, Alaska Passes Law Restricting Toxic Pesticide Use in Public Spaces

(Beyond Pesticides, April 18, 2017) Last week, the Assembly of Anchorage, Alaska voted 10-1 to pass AO2017-59, an ordinance instituting a pesticide-free program on public parks, lands, and properties. The measure codifies and strengthens important protections for public health, particularly children’s health, water quality and the wider environment from the hazards of toxic pesticide use. “Parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles should not have to worry whether their child will be exposed to a harmful pesticide that could have long-term health consequences when they visit public parks to enjoy the great Alaska outdoors,” stated Pamela Miller, executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), which helped galvanize community support for the measure.

The new law, introduced by Assembly chair Elvi Gray-Jackson and vice chair Dick Traini, was the product of months of community stakeholder meetings and input. “That’s the way I like to do business in this community,” Ms. Gray-Jackson said to KTUU on the night the bill was passed. “Bring all the stakeholders together and have them work it out so we don’t waste a lot of time at this level.”

Like recent policies passed in Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, MD and South Portland, ME, the law establishes a list of “allowed” and “non-allowed” pesticides, ensuring that toxic synthetic pesticides will only be used as a last resort in the event of a significant threat to public or ecological health. To accomplish this goal, the ordinance emphasizes and requires preventive measures as the best defense against pest problems. This includes guiding landscape practices based on a soil test, planting native vegetation, and cultural practices, such as lawn aeration and dethatching, selective pruning, and appropriate watering. Cultural, mechanical, and biological means are considered first, even before the use of least-toxic products. However, the “allowed” list does not leave land managers without effective tools, as the list of products compatible with organic landscape management shows.

Given that the city currently uses few pesticides on turf and many other public lands due to the area’s short growing season, stakeholder discussions focused pointedly on the impact of invasive species, an issue of mounting concern. Despite the threat, the ordinance does not provide a blanket exemption for toxic pesticide use on invasives. Land managers must attempt to control these species without pesticides, and then only after these practices have been deemed inadequate make a written appeal for more toxic products to local the Department of Health, which may approve or deny the request.

In addition to codifying safer practices, in the event that more toxic pesticides are used, the ordinance requires the posting of notification signs 48 hours before an application, and remain in place 72 hours after. The law also requires that a list of approved applications of toxic pesticides is made available through the municipality’s website each year.

Anchorage is the latest locality to take action to protect children and other vulnerable residents from the harmful effects of pesticides. Despite assurances of safety “when used as directed,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s process for registering toxic synthetic pesticides leaves data gaps and liabilities that are simply not in line with the values and goals of a growing number of communities.

“This is an important victory for the health of our community and our children,” stated Samantha Englishoe, a board member of ACAT, a lifelong Anchorage resident, nursing school student, and aunt to an active two-year old said in a press release. “Pesticides disrupt our endocrine systems, harm the developing brain and immune system of children, and affect human development and reproduction, and are associated with certain cancers, including pediatric cancers.”

If you’re interested in getting active in your community to fight for an organic or pesticide-free policy, click here to sign the petition today. We’ll send you resources and strategies that you can use to win protections for children, pets, pollinators, wildlife, and water quality. Without action from local residents, states and localities will continue to rely on an increasingly politicized and underfunded EPA for their safeguards from toxic chemicals. For more on how to get involved in your community, contact Beyond Pesticides at info@beyondpesticides.org or 202-543-5450.

Source: ACAT Press Release, KTUU

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

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17
Apr

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Finds Residues of Glyphosate in One-Third of Food Products Tested

(Beyond Pesticides, April 17, 2017) The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) published a report on glyphosate testing last week, finding traces of the chemical in about one-third of food products and residue levels above the acceptable limits in almost four percent of grain products. These findings come on the heels of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to abandon plans for testing the U.S. food supply for glyphosate residues. In light of this, Beyond Pesticides is again urging USDA to test for glyphosate residues in U.S. food.

According to the CFIA report: “In 2015-2016, 3188 samples of domestic and imported food products were collected and tested for glyphosate residues in three programs:

  • Testing of 482 samples of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables as part of the National Chemical Residue Monitoring Program (NCRMP);
  • Retail survey of 2497 samples of grains (barley, buckwheat, and quinoa), beverages, bean, pea, lentil, chickpea and soy products;
  • A survey of over 209 retail samples of infant foods as part of the 2015-2016 Children’s Food Project.”

Out of the 3,188 products tested, glyphosate residues are detected in 29.7% of samples. The highest number of samples with residues detected occur in bean, pea and lentil products, at 47.4%. Of those bean, pea, and lentil samples, 0.6% have residues higher than allowed by Health Canada’s Maximum Residue Limit (MRL). The second highest number of samples found to have glyphosate residues occur in grain products, at 36.6%. Out of those grain samples, 3.9% have residues higher than allowed by the MRL. Even though samples are found that exceed the MRL, Health Canada has determined that none pose a health or safety risk. Many scientists, environmentalists, and concerned citizens disagree, pointing to the extensive science demonstrating the harm of glyphosate exposure, even at low levels.

Glyphosate became a focus of media attention following the 2015 World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classification of glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen.” In addition to IARC’s findings, previous studies have linked the toxicant to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. One study finds that chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate  leads to adverse effects to liver and kidney health. Roundup formulations can also induce a dose-dependent formation of DNA adducts (altered forms of DNA linked to chemical exposure, playing a key role in chemical carcinogenesis) in the kidneys and liver of mice. Human cell endocrine disruption on the androgen receptor, inhibition of transcriptional activities on estrogen receptors on HepG2, DNA damage and cytotoxic effects occurring at concentrations well below “acceptable” residues have all been observed.

Even more concerning is the fact that Monsanto, the producer of Roundup (glyphosate), may have colluded with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fight the IARC cancer classification for glyphosate. According to the New York Times, unsealed court documents “include Monsanto’s internal emails and email traffic between the company and federal regulators [and] suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics.” Monsanto has made several other efforts to muddle the science showing glyphosate causes harm.

While federal oversight and regulation lags behind, environmental groups, like Beyond Pesticides, are urging localities to restrict or ban the use of glyphosate and other unnecessary toxic pesticides. Beyond Pesticides promotes these actions and many more through the Tools for Change webpage. This page is designed to help activists and other concerned citizens organize around a variety of pesticide issues on the local, state, and national level. Learn how to organize a campaign and talk to your neighbors about pesticides with our factsheets.

Consumers can also avoid glyphosate exposure by buying and supporting organic food and agriculture. Beyond Pesticides has long promoted the importance of organic in a sustainable food system, and works to promote the widespread transition of conventional farmland to organic production. Utilizing ecological pest management strategies, organic practices, and solutions that are not chemical-intensive is the most appropriate and long-term solution to managing unwanted plants, or weeds. To find out more about the work Beyond Pesticides is doing on organic integrity and actions you can take, check out Keeping Organic Strong, or to see all the reasons to go organic, visit Eating with a Conscience.

Source: Safeguarding with Science: Glyphosate Testing in 2015-2016; CBC News

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

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16
Apr

Court Grants Temporary Injunction to Endangered Protect Rusty Patch Bumblebee Habitat

(Beyond Pesticides, April 19, 2017) Local activists in Illinois were handed an exciting victory on Monday when a judge granted a temporary restraining order to shut down a construction project due to the presence of the rusty patch bumblebee, a recently listed endangered species. The group Stop Longmeadow, in reference to the Longmeadow Parkway Bridge Corridor project, filed the lawsuit, Case: 1:16-cv-05435, based on the fact that the rusty patch bumblebee has been found in the Brunner Forest Preserve, which borders 5.6 miles of the corridor project.

The defendants, including the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, argue that the scheduled construction will not affect bumblebee habitat. The court rejected their position, however, siding in the plaintiffs by finding “the balance of harms weighs in favor of the plaintiffs and against the public’s interest in reduced traffic congestions.”

The restraining order was issued by Judge Sharon Coleman in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division. Based on the evidence presented by the plaintiff’s motion, Judge Coleman reasoned that “a brief stay to the project is warranted.” She went on to point out that, contrary to the defendant’s argument, the plaintiffs did not delay in seeking relief, given the quick turnaround between the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list the bumblebee on March 21, 2017, and the notice by the county released on April 11, 2017, stating that work would begin on the construction project six days later on April 17. The restraining order is in place until April 28, 2017, when plaintiffs are expected to have submitted a motion for preliminary injunction with additional support for their position as well as notified the federal defendants under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to the judge’s order.

“We understand there are no guarantees but those of us fighting it believe it is the right thing to do and we are not giving up hope,” said Jo Ann Fritz, a supporter of the Stop Longmeadow movement. “We are being vigilant and we are determined,” she continued, showcasing the resolve of local protestors to demand the government protect endangered species and their habitat.

According to the motion, plaintiffs allege that, “The Longmeadow Project has significant and permanent ramifications to not only the local population of the bee, but on the nationwide survival of the species itself.” This is likely true as, according to FWS, the rusty patched bumble bee was once widespread across the U.S. and parts of Canada, but declined dramatically in the 1990s. An article published in the Washington Post states that, “The rusty patched bumblebee was so prevalent 20 years ago that pedestrians in Midwestern cities had to shoo them away.” Since then, their populations have dwindled and their overall decline is estimated at 91 percent.

The listing of the rusty patch bumblebee as an endangered species is significant, marking the first bumblebee species, and first bee overall in the continental U.S., to officially be declared endangered by FWS. In October 2016, FWS listed seven species of bees as endangered in Hawaii. In its news release outlining the decision to list, FWS stated “Causes of the decline in rusty patched bumble bee populations are believed to be loss of habitat; disease and parasites; use of pesticides that directly or indirectly kill the bees; climate change, which can affect the availability of the flowers they depend on; and extremely small population size. Most likely, a combination of these factors has caused the decline in rusty patched bumble bees.” There is substantial research demonstrating that neonicotinoid insecticides, working either individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of bees and other pollinators.

A victory in Illinois would not be the first time a large-scale construction project has come to a halt under the provisions of ESA. In the 1978 landmark Supreme Court decision Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill, the court sided with environmentalists and upheld an injunction under the ESA that prevented the Tennessee Valley Authority from finishing the Tellico Dam, based on findings the operation of the dam would wipe out snail darter habitat. The snail darter was listed as an endangered species after the Tellico Dam project had begun, and even though the U.S. government continued to provide funding for the project after the listing, according to the court it did not render the project exempt from the ESA. This case set the precedent for the court’s willingness to enforce the ESA, a tradition that is mirrored by Judge Coleman’s decision in this case to grant a temporary injunction in order to protect the rusty patch bumblebee.

While attacks against ESA listings are likely to become more frequent over the next several years, it is critical that the public is educated on the importance of wild pollinators, both to agricultural productivity and for their intrinsic value. Indeed, there is a strong argument that it would cost more to not protect species like the rusty patch than to allow them to go extinct. A 2016 UN report warning of shortages in global food supplies should pollinator numbers decline any further estimates that pollinators worldwide contribute between $235 and $577 billion in agricultural productivity annually.

Show appreciation for both wild and managed pollinators by taking local action. Get involved at the community level to pass policies that protect imperiled pollinators. Right now, without federal protection, the Rusty Patched Bumblebee needs concerned communities throughout the country to step in and makes changes that give it a fighting chance. Use our resources and educational materials, including our BEE Protective doorknob hangers to get the word out. And be sure follow Beyond Pesticides’ ongoing series celebrating unsung wild pollinator heroes through the Polli-NATION campaign.

Source: Chicago Tribune, Northwest Herald, US DOJ

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

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14
Apr

Report Documents Threats to Aquatic Life, Calls for Phase-Out of Neonicotinoid Use

(Beyond Pesticides, April 14, 2017) – As pollinators nationwide suffer severe declines tied to widespread exposure to pesticides, particularly a family of insecticides known as neonicotinoids, a new report details the chemicals’ dramatic impacts on aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity. This report coincides with findings of neonicotinoids in drinking water.

The new report, Poisoned Waterways, documents the persistence of neonicotinoids in U.S. waterbodies and the danger they cause to aquatic organisms, resulting in complex cascading impacts on aquatic food web. The report supports previous calls for the restriction of neonicotinoid pesticides, given their high toxicity to bees, and now aquatic life.

In an early 2017 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) risk assessment on one of the most widely used neonicotinoids, the agency reported levels in streams, rivers, lakes and drainage canals that routinely exceed acute and chronic toxicity endpoints derived for freshwater invertebrates.

Poisoned Waterways reviews the current scientific literature on the effects of neonicotinoids in waterways and the life they support. Not only are these insecticides, which include, imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam, regularly detected in waterbodies in the U.S., they are found at levels that harm sensitive aquatic organisms. Aquatic insects and crustaceans are highly vulnerable, with the mayfly identified as the most sensitive. The report finds that impacts on certain aquatic species can have cascading effects on food webs and healthy ecosystem function. These impacts occur at low levels, and can result in decreased species abundance, altered predator-prey relationships, and reduced nutrient cycling. Impacts to other wildlife that depend on these species raises serious cause for concern.

“The pervasive presence of neonicotinoids in waterways can have such profound and long-lasting impact on our aquatic ecology that has so far been overlooked,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “the science shows that these pesticides are highly toxic to a range of aquatic species, even at low levels,” he continued.

“With new findings of neonicotinoids in drinking water, it is imperative that action be taken to restrict the contamination of our waters by these persistent chemicals,” said one of the study’s authors, Nichelle Harriott, science and regulatory director of Beyond Pesticides.

The report also highlights current regulatory failures of EPA aquatic standards, which continue to underestimate risks to sensitive species due to a reliance on test protocols that do not reflect real-world exposures or susceptibilities. Further, the impacts of chemical mixtures and synergistic interactions are not considered. Aquatic standards, which continue to underestimate risks to sensitive species due to a reliance on test protocols that do not reflect real-world exposures or susceptibilities. Further, the impacts of chemical mixtures and synergistic interactions are not considered.

The report also highlights current regulatory failures of EPA aquatic standards, which continue to underestimate risks to sensitive species due to a reliance on test protocols that do not reflect real-world exposures or susceptibilities. Further, the impacts of chemical mixtures and synergistic interactions are not considered.

In light of the report’s findings and regulatory shortcomings, Beyond Pesticides is calling for the suspension of neonicotinoids. Recently, Canada proposed to phase-out uses of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, citing risks to aquatic life.

Neonicotinoids are one of the most widely used pesticides in the world. They are systemic pesticides that have the ability move through the plants vascular system and are expressed through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets.  These pesticides, which include imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran, acetamiprid, and clothianidin have been found by a growing body of scientific literature to be linked to pollinator decline in general.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action in the U.S. to protect these beneficial organisms, it is left up to us to act. You can pledge to stop using neonicotinoids and other toxic pesticides. Sign the pollinator protection pledge today. Beyond Pesticides also advocates the adoption of organic land management practices and policies by local communities that eliminate the use of toxic pesticides in our environment.

The report can be found at http://bit.ly/2pba2mL

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

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13
Apr

Study Shows Women and Education Reduce Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, April 13, 2017) With pesticide use rising in Southeast Asia, a new study is highlighting the importance of education and social dynamics in driving farmers’ decisions to spray. When women oversee agricultural pesticide use, according to the study, these farms use approximately 42% less pesticide than other farms. The research, published in Science of the Total Environment this month, aims to provide insight on methods that may be used to intervene and reduce pesticide dependence. The investigation comes at a critical time, as international bodies like the United Nations indicate that rampant pesticide use has the potential to negatively impact human rights, especially in developing countries.

In Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, pesticide imports are growing at an annual rate of 61%, 55%, and 10%, respectively. These trends have international implications, as food imported from these countries is subsequently found contaminated with pesticides, with for example, 33% of crops imported to the European Union from Vietnam containing pesticide residue above maximum acceptable limits.

To uncover the factors driving increased pesticide use in the region, researchers queried 900 vegetable farming households on their knowledge, attitude, and practices. Knowledge included understanding about best practices in agriculture, such as the difference between pest and beneficial insects. Attitudes were related to views regarding the effectiveness of pesticides and their potential health impacts. Practices are related to farmers’ agricultural use of pesticides, including how much product was purchased, the type of pesticide, and how much and how often products were sprayed.

When shown pictures of common insects, farmers were better able to identify pests, at a rate of 69%, than beneficial bugs, which were only identified correctly 23% of the time, on average. Under 50% of farmers were aware that honey bees, earthworms, and spiders were beneficial for their crops. Less than 5% of farmers on average knew that lacewings and ladybird larvae were beneficial. Analysis showed that farmers with a good ability to identify insects sprayed 48% less pesticides.

While 59% of farmers were aware that pesticides could have a dangerous impact on health, researchers found a number of prevalent mistaken beliefs. Though on average 86% of farmers worried about getting cancer from applying pesticides, 68% thought a pesticides’ toxicity could be determined through smell, 31% believed herbicides are not risky for humans, and 17% believed drinking alcohol after applying pesticides eliminated any side effects.

An average of 79% of farmers also thought that mixing multiple pesticides together would increase their effectiveness, and 66% thought that “good pesticides” were those that killed all insects immediately. Interestingly, researchers did not find a strong association between knowledge of pesticide health hazards and a decrease in their use. However, farmers that believed pesticides were necessary and effective used 66% more than their peers.

Social factors also provided insightful results. Despite a general belief that pesticide spraying was a man’s job, 49% of women in Vietnam oversaw pesticide use, as well as 38% in Laos and Cambodia. When this was the case, these farmers sprayed roughly 42% less pesticide than other farms. Furthermore, when farmers pursued advice from neighbors they used 48% less pesticides. Researchers determined that pesticide retailers had one of the more significant impacts on pesticide use. When farmers looked mainly to pesticide shopkeepers for advice on controlling pests, their use was 251% higher than the average farm surveyed.

This research provides a number of routes through which government and civil society can make an impact and slow pesticide use. By building awareness and the ability to identify insect pests, more farmers will be likely to take advantage of natural pest control, rather than work to indiscriminately kill all the insects in their fields. By further empowering women to engage in pest management decisions, farms will likely apply less chemicals. And by building local knowledge-sharing capacity, farmers will be more likely to turn to their neighbors than to pesticide applicators.

Despite a general belief by farmers than pesticides were necessary, an average of 82% reported that organic agriculture is a good alternative to conventional agriculture. As researchers explain, slow adoption of non-toxic alternative pest management practices, biopesticides, and ecological management was likely a result of availability of products and government support for these programs. By encouraging broader adoption of ecological and organic pest management practices, there is the potential for significant progress in reducing hazardous pesticide use.

It is important to note that these trends are not confined to developing countries. A major point of concern among authors in a recent French study which found that pesticides do not increase farmer profits, indicated that much of the advice farmers received regarding pest control came from pesticide companies. Farmers had little access to alternative information, the researchers noted.

Despite the structural barriers, organic agriculture continues to represent a viable, scalable path forward for both the developing and developed world. Consumers can play an important role in facilitating this needed change by voting with their wallet. Purchase organic products whenever possible to support a system that restricts toxic pesticide use, and encourages alternative pest management practices that aim to foster rather than eliminate ecological and natural pest services.

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

Sources: ScienceDirect, PhnomPenhPost

 

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12
Apr

Maryland Passes Ban of Bee Toxic Pesticides on State Managed Pollinator Habitat

(Beyond Pesticides, April 12, 2017) Earlier this week, the Maryland General Assembly took action to protect pollinators found in designated state pollinator habitat by passing SB 386/HB 830, Pollinator Habitat Plans- Plan Contents- Requirements and Prohibition, with bipartisan support. With this bill, the legislature will require pollinator habitat plans developed by any state agency to be as protective of pollinators as the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s managed pollinator protection plan requires. This translates to prohibiting, with some exceptions, the use of neonicotinoid pesticides or neonicotinoid-treated seeds or plants on state land designated as pollinator habitat. The bill’s passage represents the third major legislative victory to protect bees and other pollinators coming out of Maryland in the past year.

Last spring, in a historic move, the Maryland legislature voted to become the first state in the nation to ban consumers from using products containing neonicotinoid pesticides, a class of bee-toxic chemicals that has been linked to the startling decline in bees and other pollinators around the world. The Maryland Pollinator Protection Act (Senate Bill 198/House Bill 211), which also received bipartisan support, stipulates that consumers will not be allowed to buy pesticide products containing neonicotinoids starting in 2018. However, the legislation’s reach does not extend to farmers, veterinarians, and certified pesticide applicators, who will still be permitted to apply the chemicals. The Maryland Pollinator Protection Act became law without Governor Larry Hogan’s signature.

“We are thrilled that Maryland is doing even more to protect our bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinators, which are so crucial to our food supply and environment,” said Bonnie Raindrop, legislative chair of the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, when asked about the most recent bill passing. “Having just lost all of my bee hives over the winter, I can say firsthand that the threat is real, and we need to do all we can to protect these essential creatures.”

The bill that passed this week serves as an amendment to the Pollinator Habitat Plans law, passed in 2016, and requires the State Highway Administration and Maryland’s Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Services to establish a pollinator habitat plan for any lands they own or manage. Because habitat loss is one factor, along with pesticide use and disease, contributing to pollinator declines, providing comprehensive guidance and oversight to the state agencies charged with protecting pollinators is an important step in improving pollinator health. The amendment seeks to ensure that designated state pollinator habitats are not maintained using pesticides labeled as toxic to pollinators, a requirement that was not outlined in the original bill. The bill allows exceptions for public health emergencies and gives state agencies freedom to designate which of their lands are protected pollinator habitat and which are not. Environmental activists who worked on getting the amendment passed felt it was a necessary technical clarification to uphold the intent of the original law.

“Keeping state pollinator habitats free of certain toxic pesticides will help bees and other pollinators survive and thrive in our state,” said Ruth Berlin, executive director of the Maryland Pesticide Education Network. “We had to make sure that state pollinator habitats would not end up harming the very species we were trying to protect. We are so thankful to all our legislative champions, and we look forward to Governor Hogan signing the bill into law.”

The bill now moves to Governor Larry Hogan’s desk to be signed in to law, a necessity that is not without challenge. Last year after lawmakers approved the Pollinator Protection Act, there was still some fear by activists that the bill could be killed with a veto from the state’s republican governor, who remained skeptical of the connection between neonicotinoid pesticides and pollinators despite an overwhelming amount of research demonstrating that neonicotinoids play a critical role in the ongoing decline of bees and other pollinators. However, instead of vetoing the legislation the governor left the bill unsigned, allowing it to become law without his outright support.

Maryland bees continue to die at alarming rates. Maryland beekeepers lost 56 percent of their hives last year, which follows a 61 percent loss in 2015. Experts say annual losses beyond 15 percent are unsustainable for beekeepers. The federal government has taken similar precautions against toxic pesticides. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service phased out neonic use, and it is now prohibited on national wildlife lands. The National Pollinator Health Strategy, which provides guidance for designed landscapes, advises that “chemical controls that can adversely affect pollinators should not be applied in pollinator habitats” and federal facilities use seeds and plants that do not contain systemic insecticides.

To ensure that the most recent pollinator legislation becomes law, if you are a Maryland resident click here to email Governor Larry Hogan and ask him to support the Pollinator Habitat Plans- Plan Contents- Requirements and Prohibition bill.

Proactive state and local steps to address the issue of pollinator decline is critical in the absence of federal action. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits toxic pesticide use and requires alternative assessments. Farm, beekeeper, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have urged the Environmental Protection Agency to follow the European Union’s lead and suspend the huge numbers of other bee-harming pesticides already on the market. We suggest an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, and instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of neonicotinoids. See Bee Protective  to learn how you can help.

Source: Smart on Pesticides Maryland Press Release

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

 

 

 

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11
Apr

Glyphosate Use Could be Linked to Pregnancy Problems

(Beyond Pesticides, April 11, 2017) New data presented last week at a children’s health conference show that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular Roundup weed killer, is detected in pregnant women and could lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes, including shorter gestation times and lower birth weights. The researchers here are calling for more biomonitoring of the presence of glyphosate in the public, in spite of industry and government efforts to undermine the science surrounding the human health impacts of the herbicide.

Researchers tested and tracked 69 expectant mothers and found that the presence of glyphosate levels in their bodily fluids correlated with unfavorable birth outcomes. The research is still in preliminary stages and is a project of the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN), which is studying the reproductive and children’s health impacts of rising herbicide use in the Midwest. The preliminary results were presented at CEHN’s conference last Thursday in Washington DC. Learn more about the project here.

This is a huge issue,” said Paul Winchester, M.D., member of the research team involved with this study, medical director of the neonatal intensive care unit at the Franciscan St. Francis Health system and professor of clinical pediatrics at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana. Dr. Winchester said this is the first U.S. study to demonstrate glyphosate is present in pregnant women. “Everyone should be concerned about this.”

Preliminary work detected glyphosate in the urine of 63 of 69 (91 percent) pregnant women receiving prenatal care through an Indiana obstetric practice. Researchers collected the data over two years, from 2015-2016, and found that women with high levels of glyphosate in their bodies has significantly shorter pregnancies, with lower adjusted birth weights. Low birth weights and shortened gestation are seen as risk factors for many health and/or neurodevelopmental problems over the course of an individual’s life. Additionally, women living in rural areas had higher mean glyphosate levels than women in urban/suburban regions. This suggests that proximity to corn and soybean fields that are heavily treated with glyphosate is a route of exposure for these women. For more about the pesticides and human health impacts, visit the Pesticide-Induced Disease Database.

According to Dr. Winchester, much more research on glyphosate’s impacts is needed, and more data is needed on levels of exposure through food. His team is calling on the Centers for Disease Control to include glyphosate and its primary metabolite, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) in biomonitoring work it does to track levels of pesticides and other chemicals in urine and blood.

Debate has been raging about the continued use of glyphosate in light of the 2015 classification by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen.” In addition to IARC’s findings, previous studies have linked the toxicant to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. One study found that chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate  led to adverse effects on liver and kidney health. Roundup formulations can also induce a dose-dependent formation of DNA adducts (altered forms of DNA linked to chemical exposure, playing a key role in chemical carcinogenesis) in the kidneys and liver of mice. Human cell endocrine disruption on the androgen receptor, inhibition of transcriptional activities on estrogen receptors on HepG2, DNA damage and cytotoxic effects occurring at concentrations well below “acceptable” residues have all been observed.

Since the release of the IARC determination, Monsanto has made several efforts to discredit the scientific findings of the international body. The company even submitted a court brief arguing that, “The IARC classification of glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen is not relevant to the question of whether or not Roundup caused the plaintiffs’ cancers.” It goes on to claim that, “IARC’s approach is ‘less rigorous’ than EPA’s in evaluating scientific evidence, and IARC’s conclusions are ‘scientifically unreliable,’” a conclusion that is not based on scientific fact.

However, a New York Times report revealed collusion between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Monsanto to suppress cancer findings in EPA’s carcinogenic review of glyphosate. According to the report, court documents from another case “include Monsanto’s internal emails and email traffic between the company and federal regulators [and] suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics.” The documents go on to state that EPA made an effort “to protect Monsanto’s interests and unfairly aid the agrichemical industry.” Just last month the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cancelled plans to test the U.S. food supply for the presence of glyphosate residues, even though the monitoring program was criticized by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2014 for its failure to test for the widely used herbicide.

The mounting evidence of glyphosate’s hazards is piling up and environmental groups, like Beyond Pesticides, are urging localities to restrict or ban the use of the chemical. Beyond Pesticides promotes these actions and many more through the Tools for Change webpage. This page is designed to help activists and other concerned citizens organize around a variety of pesticide issues on the local, state, and national level. Learn how to organize a campaign and talk to your neighbors about pesticides with our factsheets.
Consumers can also avoid glyphosate exposure by buying and supporting organic food and agriculture. Beyond Pesticides has long promoted the importance of organic in a sustainable food system, and works to promote the widespread transition of conventional farmland to organic production. By utilizing ecological pest management strategies, organic practices, and solutions that are not chemical-intensive are the most appropriate and long-term solution to managing unwanted plants, or weeds. To find out more about the work Beyond Pesticides is doing on organic integrity, check out Keeping Organic Strong, or to see all the reasons to go organic, visit Eating with a Conscience.

Yesterday, Beyond Pesticides and Organic Consumers Association sued Monsanto for misleading and deceptive labeling, claiming no effect on people and pets, despite scientific evidence that glyphosate impairs the functioning of the human gut bacteria, essential human health.

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

Source: Huffington Post, CEHN

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10
Apr

Monsanto Sued for Misleading Labeling of Popular Herbicide Roundup

(Beyond Pesticides, April 10, 2017) Two nonprofit organizations on Friday filed a lawsuit against Monsanto for misleading the public by labeling its popular weedkiller Roundup as “target[ing] an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets.” This lawsuit charges that this statement is false, deceptive, and misleading, because the enzyme targeted by glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is, in fact, found in people and pets. [For additional information on glyphosate, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Gateway on Pesticide Hazards and Safe Pest Management].

Beyond Pesticides and Organic Consumers Association (OCA), through their attorneys, Richman Law Group, filed jointly on behalf of the general public in Washington D.C. under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

“The unequivocal nature of Monsanto’s label claim on Roundup belies the complexity of human biology and the impact this highly toxic chemical has on the functioning of the human gut bacteria, essential our health,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “With this claim, Monsanto is falsely telling the public that its product cannot hurt them,” he said.

“Corporations must be held to a high standard when it comes to the information they include on product labels, especially when it comes to the issue of safety,” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director. “For decades, Monsanto has used false labeling claims to dupe consumers into believing that they can spray Roundup on their yards and in their gardens, without risk to themselves, their children or their pets. It’s time for the courts to step in.”

Monsanto aggressively markets Roundup as safe for humans and animals, despite newer studies indicating that glyphosate may be carcinogenic and affect human and animal cardiovascular, endocrine, nervous, and reproductive systems. No reasonable consumer seeing these representations would expect that Roundup targets a bacterial enzyme that is found in humans and animals and that affects the health of their immune system.

Plaintiffs claim that Monsanto benefited monetarily from this false advertising campaign, as the company knew and intended that consumers would pay more for weed killer products claiming not to target people or pets, furthering Monsanto’s private interest of increasing sales of Roundup and decreasing the sales of competing weed killer products that are truthfully marketed.

Accordingly, Plaintiffs seek equitable relief on behalf of the general public, with all profits earned by Monsanto for sales of Roundup in D.C. to be deposited into a charitable fund for the raising of consumer awareness of the effects of glyphosate.

Beyond Pesticides is a national grassroots non-profit organization headquartered in the District of Columbia that works with allies in protecting public health and the environment to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides. For more information, visit www.beyondpesticides.org.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of OCA, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action. For more information, visit: www.organicconsumers.org.

Richman Law Group (RLG) is a boutique law firm specializing in consumer protection and civil rights. RLG is dedicated to serving the greater good by holding large corporations accountable for actions that harm consumers, the environment, and the general public. For more information, visit: www.richmanlawgroup.com.

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

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07
Apr

Environmental Groups Turn Back to the Courts to Ban Chlorpyrifos

(Beyond Pesticides, April 7, 2017) On Wednesday, Earthjustice, representing the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) turned to the courts to order the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban chlorpyrifos. Their action comes on the heels of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision last week to reject the conclusions of EPA scientists and reverse a proposed agency decision to revoke food residue tolerances of chlorpyrifos. In the new petition, the environmental groups assert that, “Because EPA has sidestepped this Court’s orders and failed to act on the substance of the petition, PAN/NRDC respectfully ask the Court to [give] EPA 30 days to act on its findings that chlorpyrifos exposures are unsafe and to establish deadlines for the next steps in the revocation and cancellation process.”

In an interview with The Intercept, Patti Goldman, managing attorney of Earthjustice’s Northwest regional office in Seattle, WA, stated that, “It’s outrageous that the new EPA administrator would reject the scientific findings of its own agency and defy the law and court orders to keep this nasty pesticide on the market.”

In its most recent analysis of chlorpyrifos, EPA determined that children between one and two years of age are the most vulnerable population group. These children are exposed to chlorpyrifos up to 140 times what EPA deems safe through food alone. However, according to the EPA press release regarding the decision to reject the petition to ban chlorpyrifos, Mr. Pruitt cited the “…need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos, while still protecting human health and the environment.” Chlorpyrifos is currently used on more than 50 crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat, tree nuts, and citrus. There are alternatives available for farmers and producers that present less risk and ensure that there is no disruption in food production, such as organic agricultural systems.

The path is clear for EPA to revoke tolerances for chlorpyrifos and ultimately ban this toxic pesticide. Chlorpyrifos is part of the organophosphate (OPs) class of pesticides, which were used in World War II as nerve agents. As potent neurotoxicants, organophosphates are extremely harmful to the nervous system, given that they are cholinesterase inhibitors and bind irreversibly to the active site of an enzyme essential for normal nerve impulse transmission. The scientific evidence of neurotoxic dangers associated with chlorpyrifos exposure is extensive and consistent.

Chlorpyrifos exposures result in developmental delays, low birth weights, and other serious neurological health effects. Chlorpyrifos is an incredibly neurotoxic organophosphate that has no place in modern agriculture as it poses dangers to farmworkers, farm families, especially vulnerable children,  and others living near agricultural areas.

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 issue that the agency must not continue to ignore. A 2016 study found lower IQ in children born to mothers who, during their pregnancy, were living in close proximity to chemical-intensive agricultural lands where OPs were used. A 2015 study found that a decrease in lung function in children was linked to exposure to organophosphates early in life. Another 2015 study found that prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos is linked to tremors in children. Although organophosphate use was on the decline in the U.S., EPA has allowed the continued registration of many of these products, and Mr. Pruitt’s recent decision sets a precedent for continued allowance.

Because of the neurotoxic effects to children, in 2000, EPA was able to orchestrate a voluntary cancellation of residential uses of chloyprifos by Dow AgroSciences, with the exception of public health mosquito and golf course uses.

In order to truly effect change, Beyond Pesticides has long sought a broad-scale marketplace transition that disallows the use of toxic synthetic pesticides by law and encourages a systems-based approach that is protective of health and the environment. That is why organic, with its requirement of a detailed organic system plan, and methods to foster and improve soil health represent the future of agricultural production in the U.S. and abroad.  This approach never allows the use of highly toxic synthetic pesticides, let alone organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos, and advances a viable, scalable path forward for growing food. For more information on why organic agriculture is the right alternative, see our organic program webpage.

Take Action
If you are concerned about the decision made by Scott Pruitt on chlorpyrifos, you can send an email to OPPChlorpyrifosInquiries@epa.gov, call 703-347-0206, or send a letter using our form here.

Sources: The New York Times, The Intercept

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

 

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06
Apr

Study Finds Neonicotinoids in Water Straight from the Tap

(Beyond Pesticides, April 5, 2017) A new study, Occurrence of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in Finished Drinking Water and Fate during Drinking Water Treatment, has detected neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides known for their detrimental effects on bees, in treated drinking water. This marks the first time that these insecticides have been found in water sourced straight from the tap. Federal regulators have not yet addressed safe levels of neonicotinoids in drinking water, so at this point, any detection of these chemicals is cause for concern.

The study authors “report for the first time the presence of three neonicotinoids in finished drinking water and demonstrate their general persistence during conventional water treatment.” Drinking water samples “collected along the University of Iowa treatment train” over a seven week period, May through July, 2016 directly after corn and soy planting, find three neonicotinoids, clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam at levels ranging from 0.24 to 57.3 ng/L (nanogams per liter). The University of Iowa tap water is run through a water treatment plant that uses conventional treatment methods.  In contrast, the Iowa City water treatment methods (granular activated carbon filtration) result in substantially lower levels of the neonicotinoids. Additionally, the researchers found that extensive transformation of clothianidin occurs (>80% in 1.5 hrs) during chlorination, which is a disinfectant process frequently used in many water treatment facilities. This transformation potentially causes toxic transformation products.

Neonicotinoids are water soluble and persist in the environment. As a result, they are likely to end up in runoff from agricultural fields where they are applied and contaminate surface water and groundwater. The source water for both the University of Iowa and Iowa City comes from the Iowa River. Since levels of neonicotinoids are detected in tap water that has undergone water treatment, it can be deduced that there are neonicotinoids in the source water, the Iowa River, at higher levels. The fact that neonicotinoids are being detected in rivers is not a new phenomenon. In 2014, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) published study results that found neonics persistent and prevalent in streams throughout the midwest. The USGS findings identify a serious threat to keystone species in the aquatic food web, putting ecosytems at risk.

A 2015 report found that, “[T]here is more and more evidence that widespread use of neonicotinoids has severe effects on a range of organisms that provide ecosystem services like pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity.” A February 2017 study finds that exposure to imidacloprid at environmentally relevant levels results in slight delays in metamorphosis in the tadpoles of the wood frog, which can increase mortality and population decline. Another study finds that neonics indirectly hurt larger organisms, such as birds, by reducing insect populations such as mosquitos and beetles. Imidacloprid is toxic to aquatic organisms at 10 to 100 ng/L if the organisms are exposed or long periods of time. In early January of this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in regulating the sale and use of pesticides in the U.S., released the ecological (aquatic) assessment for imidacloprid, which finds elevated risks to aquatic organisms. This preliminary risk assessment of imidacloprid finds that, “[C]oncentrations of imidacloprid detected in streams, rivers, lakes and drainage canals routinely exceed acute and chronic toxicity endpoints derived for freshwater invertebrates.” However, imidacloprid’s aquatic assessment has not been published in the Federal Register to solicit public comments, which are necessary to ensure transparency and independent vetting of EPA’s science and risk assessment conclusions. It is not clear whether EPA, under the leadership of Administrator Scott Pruitt, will follow through on the regulatory review, and, if it does, may reverse earlier scientific findings of the agency, as it did recently with a dramatic reversal on a proposal to remove the the highly neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos, which is widely used in food production.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action in the U.S. to protect organisms critical to ecosystem health, it is left up to us to act. You can pledge to stop using neonicotinoids and other toxic pesticides. Sign the pollinator protection pledge today. Beyond Pesticides also advocates the adoption of organic land management practices and policies by local communities that eliminate the use of toxic pesticides in our environment. If you would like to get involved in other ways, such as interacting with the scientists who work on studies like these, come to our National Pesticide Forum! This year’s forum is being held in Minneapolis, MN on April 28-29. Michelle Hladik, PhD, is one of the researchers and authors of this study, and will be presenting. Click here to learn more and register.

Source: ACS Publications, The Washington Post

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

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04
Apr

Polli-NATION Pollinator of the Month: Tumbling Flower Beetle

(Beyond Pesticides, April 5, 2017) The tumbling flower beetle is the pollinator of the month for April. The tumbling flower beetle is the common name for Mordellidae, a family of beetles comprising over 1,500 species, 200 of which are found in North America according to the Field Guide to Beetles of California. Their common name is derived from the movement pattern they exhibit when disturbed. The beetles use their large rear legs to kick, jump, and tumble in an erratic pattern to the confusion of predators and the amusement of human observers.

Range

The differentiation in this large family lends itself to near ubiquity. According to the Encyclopedia of Life, the tumbling flower beetle can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Texas A&M notes the individual species are not overly adapted to specific environments and a number of species frequently overlap within a single ecosystem.

Diet and Pollination

Beetles are frequently overlooked in the world of pollinators. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, the tumbling flower beetle’s ancestors were some of the earliest insects to utilize flowers for food and habitat. In doing so, these ancient pollinators began an important collaboration between flowers and beetles which continues today. Mature tumbling flower beetles feed on the pollen of flowering plants. They pollinate as they feed, transporting pollen on their body from a previous flower to successive locations. Idaho State University notes that beetles play a more important role in the pollination of tropical regions than in temperate ones. Even so, there are approximately 50 native plant species in the U.S. and Canada which depend upon beetle pollination.

Physiology

The large number of tumbling flower beetle species are unified by general appearance. Texas A&M describes the beetles as small, narrow, and wedge-shaped at just 1/4 inches long. Most species are black or dark brown but some are yellow or reddish and can exhibit thick bands, small stripes, and even spots. Their bodies are covered in fine hair which, in some species, becomes iridescent in sunlight. The tumbling action, for which the beetle is named, is caused by their jumping technique. They are equipped with large and strong rear legs for powerful jumping. Interestingly, they use a single leg of the rear pair to apply an uneven force to the ground and cause their body to both roll and somersault. According to the Encyclopedia of Life, the beetle uses this action to reposition its body for takeoff and may make successive tumbles until the correct position is achieved. Tumbling flower beetles are strong fliers but also frequently elect to tumble to the safety of ground from their perch.

Ecological Role

The guidebook Attracting Native Pollinators notes that the life cycle of the tumbling flower beetle revolves around the flowers it pollinates. With the onset of spring, the beetles reach maturity and begin to mate. In most species, the females lay their eggs in the stalk and stems of those same flowers. There, the larvae will develop and feed until the following spring when they emerge and repeat the process.  Some other species prefer to lay their eggs in decomposing wood where larvae play a limited role in recycling dead plant material. The tumbling flower beetle also plays an important ecological role as prey to other creatures. The article Bird predation and the host-plant shift by the goldenrod stem galler notes that downy woodpeckers and other birds eat tumbling flower beetle larvae. Adults are hypothesized to be prey to birds as well in A mordellid-meloid mimicry. Further, crab spiders are known ambush predators of a wide range of insects which frequent flowers.

Threats to Existence

The tumbling flower beetle family of species is currently thriving and is not listed on the International Union for Conservation’s Red List of Threatened Species. This means there is no evidence that the existence of the family is currently at risk. Even though the tumbling flower beetle is not in immediate danger, conservation efforts to protect its future should not be ignored. According to Kansas State University and Texas A&M, the tumbling flower beetle does little to no damage to crops and is not considered an agricultural pest. However, its larvae do bore into stalks and may be grouped with other stalk-boring insects which collectively cause crop damage. The crops which house the tumbling flower beetle larvae may be treated with pesticides targeting more destructive insects to the detriment of tumbling flower beetle populations. However, the stem-boring habit of the larvae generally protects it from non-systemic pesticides.

How to Protect the Species

There are steps that can be taken to ensure that the tumbling flower beetle continues to thrive. Noted favorite plants in the Field Guide to Beetles of California are buckwheat and sunflowers. Texas A&M suggests the composite and umbelliferous flower families are also popular. Planting these preferred varieties of flowers is a great way you can support the tumbling flower beetle. They will use the plants’ stems to host their larvae and their pollen as a food source. The females will insert their eggs beneath the skin on stems. According to Kansas State University, as many as 40 larvae may be distributed throughout the plant in this way. Avoiding the use of pesticides is paramount in protecting beneficial pollinators in your area. Tumbling flower beetles can be exposed by interacting with plants, soil, or air that have been subjected to pesticides. You should be aware of the chemicals used in your gardening solutions and avoid buying products that that contain neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals linked to pollinator declines. For more information on the impact pesticides have on non-target organisms read Beyond Pesticides’ report on Bees, Birds, and Beneficials, which can be found here. Switching to organic means of pest control around your home and garden is the best way to protect the health of pollinator populations in your community. For more information on how you can get involved in pollinator conservation throughout the nation, see Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective webpage.

 Sources:

Deyrup, M. and Eisner, T., 1987. A mordellid-meloid mimicry. Psyche (Cambridge, Massachusetts), 94(3), pp.215-218.

Encyclopedia Britannica

Encyclopedia of Life

Evans, Arthur V. and Hogue, James M., Field Guide to Beetles of California 

Idaho State University

Kansas State University, Department of Entomology

Morse, D.H., 1986. Predatory risk to insects foraging at flowers. Oikos, pp.223-228

Poff, A.C., Haynes, K.J., Szymanski, M., Back, D., Williams, M.A. and Cronin, J.T., 2002. Bird predation and the host-plant shift by the goldenrod stem galler. 

Shepherd, Matthew and Vaughn, Mace, Attracting Native Pollinators

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension

USDA Forest Service

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

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04
Apr

Pyrethroid Insecticides Cause Premature Puberty in Boys

(Beyond Pesticides, April 4, 2017) Exposure to commonly used pyrethroid insecticides results in the early onset of puberty in boys, according to a study presented at the 99th meeting of the Endocrine Society in Orlando, Florida this week. Pyrethroids, which exhibit endocrine disrupting properties, have the ability to interfere with the proper regulation of the human body’s hormonal system. This research is the first to investigate not only the association between pyrethroids and accelerated puberty, but also the causal mechanisms involved in the physiological changes taking place within the human body.

For the study, Jing Liu, PhD, and colleagues from Zhejuang University in China, analyzed the urine in 463 Chinese boys aged 9 to 16 for the presence of metabolites from the pyrethroid insecticide cypermethrin. Results show that a 10% increase in the metabolite 3-PBA is associated with a roughly 4% increase in luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones, which facilitate puberty and sperm production. The author’s note that, “Boys with increased urinary levels of 3-PBA have a significantly increased risk of earlier pubertal onset, in which the odds of being in an advanced pubertal stage are increase by 73% to 110%.”

The study, acknowledging the limitation in determining causality, further investigates the mechanism which gives rise to this development in laboratory studies using test tubes and rodents. Dr. Liu and his team found that the same process held up in rodent models, with cypermethrin accelerating puberty through hormonal release. Rather than a response from the hyperthalamus, which controls the release of pituitary luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones, scientists found that cypermethrin acts directly on cells within the testis and pituitary glands.

“This is the first study to provide evidence that environmental exposure to pyrethroids. . .is associated with measurable effects on male pubertal development. Given the growing use of pyrethroid insecticides, we must prudently assess these chemicals for their risks to children’s health,” Dr. Liu indicated in a statement to Medscape.

Given recent data on the rise in use of these chemicals for household pest control, both researchers and advocates are concerned about the range of implications these chemicals could be having on young children in the U.S. and abroad. Previous research finds these chemicals are associated with behavioral problems in children, including externalizing and internalizing disorders, ADHD, and delayed cognitive and motor development.  Proximity to heavy use of these chemicals in agriculture is associated with an 87% increased risk of a child developing autism when applied during pregnant mother’s third trimester.

Pyrethroids have also been linked to cancer in young children. Exposure to permethrin in utero is linked to increased risk of infant leukemia diagnosed before age two. In an interview with Medscape, Julie Ann Sosa, MD, a surgical oncologist and endocrine surgeon at Duke University Medical Center, said, “We need to understand that ‘progress’ potentially comes with a cost. If we understand the cons, we can start to work on alternatives [that are safer].”

Beyond Pesticides continues to encourage alternatives to the use of toxic, endocrine disrupting pyrethroid chemicals for use in pest management. To manage home and garden pests, refer to the ManageSafe tool, where you’ll find strategies to fight the causes of a pest outbreak, rather than focus on the symptoms. For alternatives in controlling nuisance and public health mosquito outbreaks, see the Mosquito Management and Insect-Borne Diseases webpage. And for agriculture, learn about why organic, which prohibits synthetic pyrethroids, is the right choice for you and your family when you shop. Lastly, to facilitate a community level conversion to safer practices, Beyond Pesticides has the Tools for Change needed to institute lasting protections.

Source: ENDO 2017, Medscape

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

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02
Apr

Dow-Dupont Mega-Merger Moving Forward In the EU, Raising Food Security Concerns

(Beyond Pesticides, April 3, 2017) The European Union (EU) has approved a $130 billion mega-merger between two agrochemical giants, Dow Chemical Company and DuPont Company, heralding a new round of takeovers that environmental and farm groups fear will reduce farmer choice, seed diversity, and endanger the future of sustainable food production. The consent to the merger was given with the requirement that Dow sells off its pesticide business, which it plans to do as part of a $1.6 billion asset swap with the FMC Corporation, a pesticide manufacturer.

The Dow Chemical-DuPont deal is one in a series of mergers in the agriculture-chemicals sector being considered in the EU and also the U.S. The Dow-DuPont merger is happening alongside proposed mergers of Bayer and Monsanto, and Syngenta and ChemChina. On March 27th, a letter signed by 200 organizations across Europe was delivered to European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestage. The letter says that about 60% of commercial seed supplies will be centralized in the hands of just three multinational corporations if the mergers are all approved, and calls on EU regulators to step in and stop the deals and protect European farmers, and the European food system. The letter, organized by Friends of the Earth Europe, notes that the mergers of Dow and Dupont, and others, will“exacerbate the problems caused by industrial farming –with negative consequences for the public, farmers and farm workers, consumers, the environment, and food security.” Additionally, reduced diversity of farming, and greater dominance of monoculture farming highly reliant on chemical inputs, including hazardous pesticides, brought on by consolidation and concentration in the agricultural sector, will further harm the environment, biodiversity, and human health –including that of farmers and workers, the letter also states.

As a condition for the deal, DuPont is selling off large parts of its global pesticides business, including almost all of its global research and development group. But the U.S. agrichemical giant is the second biggest global seed supplier after Monsanto, and there is concern that just three mega-corporations could soon be left exercising a monopoly over the world’s food and countryside, leading to higher food and production costs, since Dupont’s assets will be bought by another agrochemical giant.

In response to the latest European developments, the National Farmers Union (NFU) sent a letter to President Trump urging him to oppose the merger, citing a reduction in competition that will result in less innovation, higher prices, and less choice for family farmers. “We are currently in the midst of a third wave of consolidation, as the Dow-DuPont merger is happening alongside proposed mergers of Bayer and Monsanto and Syngenta and ChemChina. In 2007, the four largest agricultural biotechnology, seed, and chemical firms controlled approximately 72% of U.S. markets for corn and soybean seed,” NFU writes. The group also notes that the merger will limit farmer choice, as there will be a reduction in seed diversity and availability that will impact farmers differently on a geographic basis.

Seven U.S. state attorneys general (AG) have expressed concern and joined together to investigate federal antitrust concerns related to the merger of Dow Chemical and DuPont. This investigation by the state AGs will increase scrutiny of these mega deals, as they were previously only being reviewed at the federal level by antitrust experts at the Department of Justice (DOJ). Since DOJ has yet to file a lawsuit opposing the mergers, groups and individuals who want to see the mergers blocked are thrilled to see the states get involved and urge DOJ to act.

The discussion on these mergers began back in December 2015 when DuPont and Dow Chemical Companies announced that their boards of directors unanimously approved a merger of their companies  through an all-stock deal, valuing the combined market capitalization at $130 billion. Then, in May of 2016, Bayer AG made its first bid for Monsanto, worth $42 billion, in an attempt to swallow the global seed and chemical producer and become the world’s biggest farm chemical supplier. Though that initial bid was initially rejected, Bayer and Monsanto eventually reached an agreement in September 2016 to the tune of $66 billion. A third industry merger between China National Chemical Corp and Syngenta AG is also in the works, having received the go-ahead from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS). However, the ChemChina-Syngenta merger is unlikely to be investigated by state AGs, as it does not involve a U.S. company.

Europe is widely expected to clear another union between Syngenta and ChemChina in the next two weeks, with notification of a marriage between Monsanto and Bayer expected later in the year. Regulators in the U.S. and China will still have to approve the Dow-DuPont deal, but last week’s EU decision is being seen by some analysts as a marker for future deals.

Wondering how to get involved in opposing the agrochemical industry mergers? Reaching out to your U.S. Senators and Representative  to ask them to reject the approval of a merger that consolidates seed availability, and encourage them to instead focus on increasing the availability of organic seeds, which do not negatively affect soil, water, or human health is a good way to start. Additionally, reaching out to your state AG office  and encouraging them to join the merger investigations is another way to ensure the DOJ takes action to block the mergers. Finally, you can educate yourself on organic practices, which work to build the soil and maintain an ecological balance that makes chemical fertilizers and toxic synthetic pesticides obsolete.

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

Source: The Guardian, Friends of the Earth Europe

Photo: FOE Europe

 

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31
Mar

EPA Reverses Course and Allows Continued Use of Highly Neurotoxic Pesticide, Chlorpyrifos

(Beyond Pesticides, March 31, 2017) On Wednesday, Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), rejected the conclusions of EPA scientists, and independent scientific literature, and 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 chlorpyrifos from 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. Mr. Pruitt’s decision leaves the door open for continued neurotoxic dangers for humans, especially children, who have been shown to be especially vulnerable to chlorpyrifos.

Chlorpyrifos is part of the organophosphate (OPs) class of pesticides, which were used in World War II as nerve agents. As potent neurotoxicants, organophosphates are extremely harmful to the nervous system, given that they are cholinesterase inhibitors and bind irreversibly to the active site of an enzyme essential for normal nerve impulse transmission. The scientific evidence of neurotoxic dangers associated with chlorpyrifos exposure is extensive and consistent. 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 issue that the agency must not continue to ignore. A 2016 study found lower IQ in children born to mothers who, during their pregnancy, were living in close proximity to chemical-intensive agricultural lands where OPs were used. A 2015 study found that a decrease in lung function in children was linked to exposure to organophosphates early in life. Another 2015 study found that prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos is linked to tremors in children. Although organophosphate use was on the decline in the U.S., EPA has allowed the continued registration of many of these products, and Mr. Pruitt’s recent decision sets a precedent for continued allowance.

EPA’s own assessment, which incorporates recommendations from a 2016 Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP), finds that children exposed to high levels of chlorpyrifos have mental development 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. After the 2016 review, EPA concluded that there is “sufficient evidence” that there are neurodevelopmental effects even at levels below the agency’s level of concern, and that current approaches for evaluating chlorpyrifos’ neurological impact is “not sufficiently health protective.”

According to the EPA press release regarding the decision to reject the NRDC and PANNA petition, Mr. Pruitt cited the “…need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos, while still protecting human health and the environment.” Sheryl Kunickis, the director of the Office of Pesticide Management Policy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) supported the decision, stating that, “This is a welcome decision grounded in evidence and science.” Ms. Kunickis went on to say that the decision would benefit both farmers and consumers. Unfortunately, EPA’s own science and other independent science outlined above contradicts these statements.

Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, responded to the decision. “EPA’s action exemplifies a politicized decision that puts chemical industry interests ahead of the public’s health.” He continued, “EPA’s decision is a warning to consumers that we live in a buyer beware country, where consumers and those who may use or work around pesticides must be on the lookout to protect themselves and their families, given that lack of protection from EPA.”

Organophosphates like chlorpyrifos are a widely used agricultural pesticides, with millions of pounds applied yearly across the country and are acutely toxic to bees, birds, mammals, aquatic organisms and certain species of algae at low doses. OPs method of entry into the environment can vary from pesticide drift, volatilization, and runoff from soil erosion.  Once present in the environment, organisms that come into contact with the pesticides will have difficulty performing basic survival and reproductive functions. A 2014 study by the U.S. Geological Service determined that an estimated six million pounds of chlorpyrifos is sprayed for agricultural use. In early 2016, a study found that honey bees experience a learning and memory deficit after ingesting small doses of the chlorpyrifos, potentially threatening their success and survival. In January 2017, EPA released its final Biological Evaluations of Three Chemicals’ Impacts on Endangered Species, which found that chlorpyrifos likely has detrimental effect on 97 percent of all species listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Ultimately, the widespread adoption of organic management is necessary to protect consumers and the environment in the long-term. Beyond Pesticides has long sought a broad-scale marketplace transition to organic practices that, as a default, prohibits the use of toxic synthetic pesticides by law (unless subject to rigorous health and environmental standards and recommended by the National Organic Standards Board) and requires a systems-based approach that is protective of health and the environment. This approach never allows the use of highly toxic synthetic pesticides, such as the toxic organophosphates, and advances a viable, scalable path forward for growing food. Find out more about why organic is the right path forward for the future of farming by going to Beyond Pesticides’ organic agriculture webpage.

Take Action
If you are concerned about the decision made by Mr. Pruitt on chlorpyrifos, you can send an email to OPPChlorpyrifosInquiries@epa.gov or call 703-347-0206.

Source: The New York Times, EPA

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

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30
Mar

Environmental Groups Call on Amazon to Remove Pollinator-Toxic Products from Website

(Beyond Pesticides, March 30, 2017) Over 30 environmental and public health groups, joined by several environmentally responsible businesses, sent a letter today to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, urging him to remove products linked to pollinator declines from the retailer’s website. Citing federal inertia that has allowed pollinator declines to continue at alarming rates, the groups pointed to the need for action from private companies to combat known threats to pollinators, in this case a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are found in many home and garden products, and have been determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be highly toxic to bees. According to the letter, “independent scientific literature associates the use of bee-toxic pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, with impaired pollinator health and decline, including reduced populations of native bees, butterflies and other beneficial organisms.”

The groups call on Amazon “to use its influence as the largest online retailer in the U.S. to lead marketplace change and protect pollinators by prohibiting the sale of pollinator-toxic neonicotinoid pesticide products, educating consumers on the availability of safer, “pollinator friendly” alternatives.”

This ask comes on the heels of last week’s decision by the federal government to officially list the rusty patch bumblebee – the first ever bumblebee, and first bee overall in the continental U.S. – as an endangered species. Without swift and meaningful action by companies like Amazon, these environmental groups allege that the rusty patch bumblebee may be the “canary in the coalmine” for larger and further reaching pollinator losses.

“America’s beekeepers continue to experience hive losses of up to 50%, losses that are unsustainable and are driving many beekeepers out of the industry,” said Bonnie Raindrop, Legislative Chair of the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association. “We need healthy pollinators for one in three bites of food we eat, however many produce farmers are reporting compromised crop yields due to lack of pollination. The Big Ag and pesticide lobbies are too influential for us to count on the government to take appropriate action, so we are counting companies like Amazon to step up and lead.”

“With the Trump Administration set on dismantling the EPA, environmental groups and their supporters are turning to the private sector to lead the way on protecting pollinators and the countless ecosystem services they provide,” asserted Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, the organization that led the sign-on letter.

According to Dan Raichel, Staff Attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “Putting an end to the bee crisis is going to take everyone’s help.  Amazon can be a big part of the solution by ensuring that when their shoppers want to beautify their homes and gardens, they aren’t buying products that harm bees.”

“The marketplace is shifting. More than 65 garden retailers have made commitments to restrict the use of bee-killing pesticides on products and plants,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “It’s time for Amazon to step-up to the plate and follow other industry leaders by making a commitment to stop selling bee-killing pesticides.”

The groups say that removing neonicotinoid pesticide products from Amazon’s website is imperative to protecting natural resources, specifically bees, butterflies and birds, as well as promoting water quality and soil health. By taking action, Amazon would be joining with other retail leaders, such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, that have committed to stop selling neonicotinoid products and treated plants at their stores.

The letter was accompanied by a product list identifying over 100 products sold on Amazon’s website that contain bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides.

Beyond Pesticides maintains that private section action is necessary in light of the shortcomings of federal action in the U.S. to protect pollinators. People can pledge to stop using neonicotinoids and other toxic pesticides by signing the pollinator protection pledge today. Beyond Pesticides advocates the adoption of organic land management practices and policies by local communities that eliminate the use of toxic pesticides.

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

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29
Mar

U.S. House Passes Bill that Supports EPA’s Pesticide Regulatory Program

(Beyond Pesticides, March 29, 2017) The U.S.  House of Representatives voted last week to pass H.R. 1029, the Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act of 2017 (PREA), reauthorizing the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act of 2003 (PRIA) under the nation’s pesticide law, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). When passed in 2003, PRIA established the legal authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to collect fees from pesticide makers for safety reviews and market approval. Over time, PRIA has been supported by pesticide manufacturers that are seeking approval for pesticide products, and public health and environmental groups seeking rigorous review and restriction of pesticides to protect human health and the environment. In a time of great uncertainty for the future of EPA, given proposed large-scale budget cuts, swift passage of H.R. 1029 with bipartisan support may signal acknowledgement by Congress that EPA performs a regulatory function that all sides agree is necessary, even though there is rarely agreement on the positions that the agency may take.

Proposed reductions in EPA staff speak to the idiosyncrasies inherent in the Trump administration’s promise to reduce regulatory burdens while simultaneously making sweeping cuts to agency staff. E&E News points out that Trump’s plan to cut 1 in 5 EPA employees and to cut the agency’s budget by up to 25% may complicate pesticide reviews. Without adequate staff, not only will pesticide companies have to wait much longer for approval, but thorough vetting of the chemicals and their impact on human health and the environment is likely to suffer in the process.

“We’re very concerned.” said Ethan Mathews, director of public policy for the National Corn Growers Association, speaking about the proposed cuts to EPA. “[The Agency does] serve a very important role

“This is a very narrow thing that we can all agree on,” Mae Wu, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council and member of the PRIA Coalition, told Bloomberg BNA.

Under current law, FIFRA dictates that any new chemical a company wants to put on the market undergo an extensive review by EPA before it can be registered. Additionally, all registered pesticides must undergo an EPA review every 15 years, a process that has been the subject of numerous critical reports.

While public health and environmental advocates work to improve pesticide restrictions associated with the registration process, there are concerns that a dismantled program will exacerbate problems of weak regulation. For instance, a weakened EPA program may see a spike in conditional registrations of pesticides, which has already been the subject of criticism. Under this program EPA conditionally registers pesticides without having received all the necessary data required to fully register it. Essentially the agency assumes that while it waits for additional data, the product will not cause adverse impacts that would prevent an eventual full registration. This raises major safety concerns, however, as chemicals or pesticides without all the data required for a full understanding of human and environmental toxicity are allowed on the market. A recent report (2013) from the Government Accountability Office, entitled EPA Should Take Steps to improve Its Oversight of Conditional Registrations, strongly criticizes this process, citing poor internal management of data requirements, constituting an “internal control weakness.”

Beyond Pesticides has been a critic of EPA’s pesticide program and its reliance on risk assessment and risk mitigation measures that have proved limited in their protection of public health and the environment. However, under a dismantled EPA, even the limited advances may be undermined. For instance, after an EPA review, Dow AgroSciences withdrew from the market in 2001 the residential uses of its organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos, which is associated with numerous adverse health effects, including reproductive and neurotoxic effects. Others, like propoxur, diazinon, carbaryl, aldicarb, carbofuran, and endosulfan have seen their uses restricted or canceled after years on the market due to unreasonable human and environmental effects, as EPA reviews led to cancellations. A product manufactured by DuPont, Imprelis, with the active ingredient aminocyclopyrachlor, was removed from the market only two years after EPA approval under conditional registration.

Originally passed by Congress as an amendment to FIFRA, PRIA created a registration service fee system for registering new pesticides, with the goal of creating a more predictable evaluation process. The fee system has been reauthorized twice before, once in 2007, and again in 2012. If the current bill (PREA) fails to pass the Senate and be signed in to law, the fees are set to expire September 30, 2017, removing funds necessary to EPA’s pesticide programs.

Bloomberg reports that the future of the bill is unclear, as the Senate Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry Committee did not immediately say whether it would give the legislation a hearing or vote. In addition to calling on Congress to pass the bill, an unlikely alliance of chemical manufacturers, industrial agriculture proponents, and environmental groups have come together to urge adoption of the legislation to authorize funding for EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP). This may be difficult, however, as OPP has already seen a 25% decrease in full time employees over the last three years, and the Trump administration and its newly confirmed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt have vowed to make more cuts to EPA funding.

Traditionally, in order for EPA to assess fees under PREA, Congress must meet a funding threshold for OPP.  Supporters of the update to PRIA are asking both chambers to fund OPP at $128.3 million per year, the trigger amount for assessment fees. However, even if the funding threshold is not met, it is unlikely that the shortage would equate to a stop in the collection of fees, as Congress has successfully issued waivers in the past that allow EPA to continue collecting fees, despite Congress’ lower spending. In fact, funding for the program has steadily decreased since 2010, dropping from $143 million per year to about $120 million.

In addition to continuing the registration program and the health and safety reviews that accompany it, PRIA also continues to provide funds for farmworker safety and training by setting aside a percentage of maintenance fees, up to $1 million. The bill also sets aside money to support products that claim efficacy against pests of significant public health or economic importance, including bed bugs and other crawling or flying insects, which could include those that transmit diseases, like mosquitoes. While there are many ways to control bed bugs and mosquito populations without using pesticides, Beyond Pesticides does recognize the importance of providing adequate funding to combat potential threats to public health and safety. PREA will also require EPA to track any changes to product labels pesticide companies are asked to make after a product has been reviewed for safety. All things being said, the bill will allow EPA to raise nearly 12% more in fees than that allowed under the last PRIA authorization, in hopes of maintaining the registration and, more importantly, safety review levels of existing pesticides.

While EPA is not without flaws in the way it regulates pesticides, the clear attacks on public health and the environment through proposed budget cuts by the Trump administration and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt demands urgent action. We must ensure that the public health and environmental protections that we depend upon for clean water, clean air, and healthy natural resources are not slashed, as we seek to ensure that the agency do its job..

Click here to contact your member of congress and tell them to oppose proposed cuts to EPA funding.

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

Source: Bloomberg BNA, GreenWire, EPA, H.R. 1029

 

 

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28
Mar

USDA Cancels Plans to Test for Glyphosate Residues in U.S. Food this Year

(Beyond Pesticides, March 28, 2017) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has abandoned its plans to test the U.S. food supply for the presence of glyphosate residues, according to a story from veteran reporter Carrey Gillam in The Huffington Post. The decision comes amid heated controversy over the carcinogenicity of glyphosate, which was cleared by a California judge for listing under California’s Prop 65 earlier this year. The federal government’s pesticide monitoring program, which is run jointly by USDA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was criticized by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2014 for its failure to test for the widely used herbicide.

In early 2016, Beyond Pesticides met with EPA regulators to discuss testing for glyphosate residues in the U.S. food supply. At the time, officials said that FDA was testing honey, and USDA would be conducting more extensive food testing beginning in 2017. USDA had tested soybeans for glyphosate residue in 2011, finding that 90% of samples contained residues between .26 ppm and 18.5 ppm, barely under the allowed food tolerance level of 20ppm. A 2014 Boston University study had indicated that both organic and conventional honey contained glyphosate concentrations despite there being no food tolerance levels set for their presence in the product. As a result of a Freedom of Information Act Request, Ms. Gilliam reported in The Huffington Post that, during FDA’s investigations into tainted honey, the agency found it “difficult to find blank honey that does not contain residue.” In November 2016, FDA suspended its glyphosate testing program, citing the need to “ensure that methods are validated” before resuming, according to Ms. Gillam.

Shortly before FDA announced it was suspending its testing program, Beyond Pesticides and the Organic Consumers Association filed a lawsuit against the Sioux Honey Association for deceptive and misleading labeling of its honey products. The lawsuit specifically cites products that the company labels “Pure,” “100% Pure,” and “Natural” despite FDA testing showing the presence of glyphosate residues.

The Huffington Post indicates that USDA had planned to begin testing glyphosate and its major, toxicologically relevant metabolite AMPA (aminomethylphosphonic acid) in corn syrup on April 1. In its response to Ms. Gilliam about changes in its testing program, a USDA spokesman indicated, “The final decision for this year’s program plan, as a more efficient use of resources, is to sample and test honey which covers over 100 different pesticides.” Glyphosate, it was indicated, would not be one of those 100s of pesticides.  The agency’s response is eerily similar to what was written in a blog published in 2015 by Monsanto’s Senior Toxicologist Kimberly Hodge-Bell, where she wrote, “[E]xpending resources to measure levels that are not of concern and will not trigger regulatory action is a misuse of valuable resources.”

The change is concerning, given evidence from unsealed court documents earlier this month, which raise questions of collusion between Monsanto and government officials at the EPA. The files were part of the discovery process in a lawsuit against Monsanto by plaintiffs who link their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnoses to glyphosate exposure. According to The New York Times, the court documents “include Monsanto’s internal emails and email traffic between the company and federal regulators [and] suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics.”

In response to the controversy, U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) issued a statement calling for the Department of Justice to investigate potential misconduct by EPA employees. Monsanto and the chemical industry have been active in attempts to suppress evidence that its flagship product causes cancer. Much of the industry’s ire is directed at the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which, since its formation in 1965, has evaluated the carcinogenic potential of a range of materials and consumer products. In 2015, it determined that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, with sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity based on laboratory studies. Earlier this year, the American Chemistry Council, an umbrella group that represents Bayer, Dow, DuPont, and Monsanto, called on WHO to rein in IARC, asserting the agency conducts “dubious and misleading work” when classifying potential carcinogens. However, IARC’s rigorous approach has been lauded by independent researchers throughout the world. Beyond Pesticides’ reviewed the agencies process for evaluating carcinogens in its summer 2015 issue of Pesticides and You. Independent scientists continue to sound the alarm on glyphosate, with a recent essay in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health titled, “It is time to reassess current safety standards for glyphosate-based herbicides?”

Beyond Pesticides encourages local advocacy efforts that reduce and eliminate the need for glyphosate and a range of toxic herbicides. Whether on lawns, landscapes, or in agriculture, there are viable alternative practices and products that can replace synthetic herbicide use. Get started in stopping glyphosate and other harmful pesticide use in your community by visiting Beyond Pessticides’ Tools for Change webpage, and signing the Pesticide-Free Community pledge. In the supermarket, vote with your wallet and purchase organic, which never allows glyphosate or other toxic synthetic pesticides in their production.

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

Source: The Huffington Post

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27
Mar

European Commission Urges Full Ban of Neonicotinoids

(Beyond Pesticides, March 27, 2017) The European Commission (EC) has proposed a complete ban of agricultural uses of the widely used bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides across Europe under draft regulations. The EC cites neonicotinoids’ “high acute risks to bees.” In 2013, three neonicotinoids were temporarily banned because of concerns about their high toxicity to bees. A vote by member states can happen as early as May 2017.

According to Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe, the European Commission has presented to Member States its draft regulations to ban the neonicotinoids: imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Three draft regulations to ban the three bee-toxic neonicotinoids across the entire EU were submitted to the Standing Committee on Plant, Animal, Food and Feed. These will be open to comments from Member States and a first vote on the Commission’s proposal could take place in May 2017. The new proposals are for a complete ban on the three neonicotinoid uses in fields, with the only exception being for plants grown in greenhouses.  There would need to be a positive vote from 55% of the Member States representing 65% of EU citizens (qualified majority) to implement the proposal.

In 2013, the European Commission voted to suspend the use of the neonicotinoid pesticides for two years in order to protect severely declining and threatened bee populations. The moratorium came several months after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a report identifying “high acute risk” to honey bees from uses of the neonicotinoids. After the 2013 moratorium, the pesticide manufacturers Bayer and Syngenta were requested to provide the Commission with additional data. Subsequently, EFSA carried out updated risk assessments in 2015 and 2016, which again confirmed risks to bees. According to PAN Europe, the information provided by Syngenta was not sufficient to improve the risk assessment and the majority of the risks could not be characterized, and EFSA concluded ‘high risk cannot be excluded.’ The agency identified new high risks to bees concerning Bayer’s clothianidin and imidacloprid. Further assessment of neonicotinoid uses (granules and seed treatment uses) is currently in progress by EFSA and should be formally released sometime this year.

Neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees and a growing body of scientific literature has linked them to pollinator decline in general. Neonicotinoids are associated with decreased foraging  and navigational ability, as well as increased vulnerability to pathogens and parasites as a result of suppressed bee immune systems.  In addition to toxicity to bees, neonicotinoids have been shown to also adversely affect birdsaquatic organisms, and contaminate soil and waterways, and overall biodiversity. A recent review of the science, “The Environmental Risks of Neonicotinoid Pesticides: a review of the evidence post-2013,” authored by Dave Goulson, PhD, and Thomas James Wood, a PhD candidate, concludes that studies published since EFSA’s risk assessments in 2013 show even greater risks, and identify the range of lethal and sublethal effects of the chemicals on non-target organism.

The proposal to ban neonicotinoids in Europe comes as Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is finalizing its proposal to phase out imidacloprid after its reevaluation assessment finds that current levels of imidacloprid in aquatic environments pose risks to aquatic invertebrates. PMRA notes that, “Based on currently available information, the continued high volume use of imidacloprid in agricultural areas is not sustainable.” Uses proposed for phase out: trees (except when applied as a tree trunk injection), greenhouse uses, outdoor agricultural uses (including ornamentals), commercial seed treatment uses, turf (such as lawns, golf courses, and sod farms), and lawns.

Similarly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2017 assessment also finds that imidacloprid poses risks to aquatic organisms, and has concentrations in U.S. waters that threaten sensitive species. However, at the same time, EPA said that the other neonicotinoids (clothianidin, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran) present “no significant risks” to honey bees, despite finding multiple instances where bees are at risk of toxic exposure. EPA, however, has not made a final decision on the registration of imidacloprid or the other neonicotinoids, nor on whether restrictions to protect vulnerable species will be implemented. The agency is scheduled to make a final decision in 2018.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action in the U.S. to protect these beneficial organisms, it is left up to us to act. You can pledge to stop using neonicotinoids and other toxic pesticides. Sign the pollinator protection pledge today. Beyond Pesticides also advocates the adoption of organic land management practices and policies by local communities that eliminate the use of toxic pesticides in our environment.

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

Source: PAN Europe,  The Guardian

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24
Mar

Rusty Patched Bumblebee Listed as Endangered

(Beyond Pesticides, March 24, 2017) On March 21, the rusty patched bumblebee’s path to protection cleared political hurdles this week. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on March 21 officially listed the rusty patched bumblebee under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), after months of turmoil due to the Trump Administration’s temporary freeze on federal regulations adopted at the end of the Obama Administration. This listing stands as a landmark decision, marking the rusty patched bumblebee the first bumblebee species, and first bee overall in the continental U.S., to officially be declared endangered by FWS. In October 2016, FWS listed seven species of bees as endangered in Hawaii. The initial decision to list the rusty patched bumblebee as an endangered species came at the very end of President Obama’s term, on January 11, to take effect in February.

FWS said in its news release, “Causes of the decline in rusty patched bumble bee populations are believed to be loss of habitat; disease and parasites; use of pesticides that directly or indirectly kill the bees; climate change, which can affect the availability of the flowers they depend on; and extremely small population size. Most likely, a combination of these factors has caused the decline in rusty patched bumble bees.” There is substantial research demonstrating that neonicotinoid insecticides, working either individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of bees and other pollinators.

On President Trump’s first day in office, he issued an order instructing federal agencies to postpone the effective date of any regulations that had been published in the Federal Register, but were not yet in effect. This effectively reversed the decision and established a new review period up until March 21. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) responded by filing a lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s decision. Now that the decision to list the rusty patched bumblebee has been reinstated, NRDC has said that it has pulled the lawsuit, according to the Washington Post.

According to FWS, the rusty patched bumble bee was once widespread across the U.S. and parts of Canada, but declined dramatically in the 1990s. In its article, the Washington Post states that, “The rusty patched bumblebee was so prevalent 20 years ago that pedestrians in Midwestern cities had to shoo them away.” Since then, their populations have dwindled and their overall decline is estimated at 91 percent.

While this decision by FWS is something to celebrate, there are still certain issues that persist, and even some that the listing does not address. While acknowledging that pesticides are a leading cause of decline, especially in combination with other stressors, the FWS decision does not include any enforceable ban on pesticide uses in suspected habitat zones; however, it is now be EPA’s responsibility to protect the bee under the no adverse effects standard of ESA, rather than the weaker standard of acceptable risk under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The decision allows for an “incidental take permit” option, which essentially creates an exception to the law under certain circumstances where a project is likely to cause the incidental take (death) of the rusty patched bumblebee. This is quite problematic, as FWS has already acknowledged in its initial assessment that population status of the rusty patched bumblebee has not been reconfirmed since the early 2000s, meaning that currently there may be even less of the species left.

Although there may be weaknesses in the ultimate protection, environmental groups and other concerned parties can still unify around strenuously enforcing this decision. Groups will keep a lookout for new lawsuits coming from industry to challenge the decision. According to the Washington Post, a lawsuit could be filed by “a coalition of oil, housing developers, farm and energy lobbies that petitioned the Interior Department for a year-long delay in implementing the bee’s status.”

While attacks against ESA listings are likely to become more frequent over the next several years, the importance of wild pollinators, both to agricultural productivity and for their intrinsic value, has become more widely understood, as domesticated and native bees suffer dramatic declines in their population. There is a strong economic argument that it costs more to not protect species like the Rusty Patch than to allow them to go extinct. A 2016 UN report warns of shortages in global food supplies should pollinator numbers decline, and estimates that pollinators worldwide contribute between $235 and $577 billion in agricultural productivity annually.

Show appreciation for both wild and managed pollinators by taking local action. Get involved at the community level to pass policies that protect imperiled pollinators. Right now, without federal protection, the rusty patched bumblebee needs concerned communities throughout the country to step in and makes changes that give it a fighting chance. Use Beyond Pesticides’ resources and educational materials, including our BEE Protective doorknob hangers to get the word out. And be sure follow Beyond Pesticides’ ongoing series celebrating unsung wild pollinator heroes through the Polli-NATION campaign.

Source: The Washington Post, FWS

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

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23
Mar

Just Over a Month until Healthy Hives, Healthy Lives, Healthy Land Conference in Minneapolis!

(Beyond Pesticides, March 23, 2017) We’re just over a month away from Beyond Pesticides’ 35th National Pesticide Forum! Join us for Healthy Hives, Healthy Lives, Healthy LandEcological and Organic Strategies for Regeneration, at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 28-29, 2017. Click here to register now!

Register Today:

Get the Early Bird Discount (available until March 28)! As an Early Bird buyer, you can get a general rate for $40, a student rate for $20, or a business rate for $170. Scholarships are also available. All ticket price rates include organic meals: on Friday, organic beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvre; on Saturday, organic breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus organic beer and wine at the evening reception. For more details about registration, click here.

Forum Overview:

The national forum highlights nationally renowned scientists, including professor emeritus of plant pathology at Purdue University, Don Huber, Ph.D., whose agricultural research has focused on the  epidemiology and control of soil borne plant pathogens with emphasis on microbial ecology, cultural and biological controls, and physiology of host-parasite relationships; Vera Krischik, Ph.D., a tenured faculty in the Entomology Department at the University of Minnesota whose lab does research on insect exposure to various insecticides, most recently imidacloprid and clothianidin; and many other researchers, legal experts, and land management practitioners.

The forum brings together speakers on the latest science on pesticides, from bee-toxic neonicotinoids to glyphosate, contrasted with practitioners utilizing organic management practices in agriculture and parks, and on athletic fields and rangeland. In sum, the forum seeks to help hone public understanding of the hazards of pesticides and the emerging science on adverse effects, while delving into local policy changes that are driving pesticide bans and incentivizing ecological and regenerative practices.

Program Highlights:

On Saturday morning, Macarthur Fellow, David R. Montgomery, Ph.D., will speak about his new book, Growing a Revolution, which “introduces us to farmers around the world at the heart of a brewing soil health revolution that could bring humanity’s ailing soil back to life remarkably fast. Combining ancient wisdom with modern science, Growing a Revolution lays out a solid case for an inspiring vision where agriculture becomes the solution to environmental problems, helping feed us all, cool the planet, and restore life to the land.” Mr. Montgomery is an internationally recognized geologist who studies landscape evolution and the effects of geological processes on ecological systems and human societies. An author of award-winning popular-science books, he has been featured in documentary films, network and cable news, and on a wide variety of TV and radio programs.

Forum attendees have the opportunity to join us for a tour on Friday, April 28 from 11:30am to 4:30pm. Tentative tour options include an immersive beehive tour and an educational walkthrough of a student-run organic farm. Spots on the tour are limited, so register today to reserve your place.

We will be hosting workshops on the second day of the Forum that will touch on a variety of topics, including environmental health and pesticides, pollinator protection, protecting Midwest watersheds, organic management, seed sovereignty and organic seed availability, soil health, local organizing, and litigation successes to protect human health and the environment.

Workshop Speaker Highlights:

  • William Arnold, PhD is a Distinguished McKnight Professor and the Joseph T. and Rose S. Ling Professor and Associate Head of the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering at the University of Minnesota. His research focuses on the fate of organic chemicals in natural and engineered aquatic systems. He has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from MIT, an M.S. in Chemical Engineering from Yale University, and Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from The Johns Hopkins University.
  • Jack Kloppenburg, PhD is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research has involved study of the social impacts of biotechnology, the emergence of managed grazing networks in Wisconsin’s dairy industry, and the re-valuation of local and indigenous knowledge systems. In his work on the “foodshed,” he has envisioned the emergence of a sustainable food system founded on local/regional food production, regional reinvestment of capital, local job creation, the strength of community institutions, and direct democratic participation in the local food economy. An organizer as well as an academic, he is a founder of the REAP Food Group, a non-profit organization working for a just and sustainable food system.
  • Michelle Hladik, PhD is a research chemist at USGS California Water Science Center in Sacramento. Her research focuses on the fate and transport of current-use pesticides and other organic contaminants in aquatic and terrestrial environments. She leads an analytical laboratory that develops new methods to measure pesticides and their degradates in water, sediment, and biota. She has a B.A. in chemistry from Vassar College and a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from Johns Hopkins University.
  • Laurie Schneider is the Co-Executive Director, Pollinator Friendly Alliance, based in the St. Croix River Valley, Minnesota.  The Alliance protect pollinators through public education programs, awareness events, community engagement, habitat restoration and reducing pesticides. She is a devout environmentalist and bringer together of people. She’s been a volunteer for conservation and animal rescue efforts since she can remember, and most recently, founder of the Pollinator Friendly Alliance.

Stay Tuned:

Check back as we add information about speakers and sessions for the upcoming forum.

If you would like more information about the forum, please email [email protected], or call 202-543-5450.

Organizers:

The 35th National Pesticide Forum is convened by Beyond PesticidesUMN Institute on the Environment and Organic Consumers Association. Co-sponsors include Pollinator Friendly AllianceGiving Tree GardensHumming for BeesKids for Saving EarthBlue Fruit FarmStudents for Sustainability, Birchwood CafeSeward Community Co-op, The Beez Kneez, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES)Beyond Pesticides Minnesota, Clean Up the River Environment (CURE)Minnesota Food AssociationWhite Earth Land Recovery ProjectMidwest Pesticide Action Center, Pollinate Minnesota, and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA).

 

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22
Mar

Environmental and Farm Groups Challenge Toxic Pesticides Used in Genetically Engineered Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, March 22, 2017) Today, a coalition of farmers and environmental and public health organizations filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approving agrochemical giant Dow Chemical’s toxic pesticide combo, Enlist Duo, among the newer more highly toxic pesticide mixtures used in genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-tolerant crops. Comprised of glyphosate and 2,4-D (50% of the mixture in the warfare defoliant Agent Orange), Enlist Duo is typically marketed alongside commercial crops like corn, cotton and soybeans that are engineered to withstand pesticide exposure, leading to problems of resistance and driving the evolution of super weeds. This is the third lawsuit challenging EPA approval of Enlist Duo by petitioners, which include Beyond Pesticides, National Family Farm Coalition, Family Farm Defenders, Pesticide Action Network North America, Center for Food Safety, and Center for Biological Diversity, represented jointly by legal counsel from Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety.

The lawsuit charges that approval of Enlist Duo “will lead to sharply increased spraying of toxic pesticides, harming farmers, neighboring crops, and wildlife.” Specifically farmers’ health and financial positions stand to be heavily impacted by the approval of Enlist Duo, as increased use will result in increased pesticide drift, an alarming concern especially for organic farmers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects that the approval of Enlist Duo will lead to as much as a seven-fold increase in its use in agriculture, significantly increasing exposure to farmers.

Developed by Dow AgroSciences (Dow), Enlist Duo is an herbicide that incorporates a mix of glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D, intended for use on GE Enlist-Duo-tolerant corn and soybean crops. The product formulation also contains unlisted inert ingredients, which are any ingredients that are not specifically included to target a pest, but can be biologically and chemically active and hazardous.

Enlist Duo has been marketed as a “solution” for the control of glyphosate-resistant weeds brought on by the widespread use of the chemical on Roundup Ready crops over the last decade that has led to super weeds. These super weeds now infest tens of millions of acres of U.S. farmland. Dow Chemical originally presented 2,4-D-tolerant crops as a quick fix to the problem, but independent scientists, as well as USDA analysis, predict that the Enlist crop system will only foster more weed resistance. In addition to environmental damage, the chemicals that comprise Enlist Duo have been linked to a myriad of human health problems. 2,4-D has been linked to soft tissue sarcomanon-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, and harm to the reproductive system. Additionally, glyphosate has been classified as a human carcinogen based on laboratory studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2015.

The undisclosed inert ingredients are minimally tested despite state, federal and international agencies’ knowledge that they may be hazardous to human health. Pesticide labels only identify the weight percentage of inert ingredients, which often comprise 50 to 99 percent of a formulation, and mislead the public into thinking that these other “inert” ingredients are safe. In 2014, Beyond Pesticides, represented by Earthjustice and in coalition with other environmental organizations, sued EPA for not disclosing inert ingredients on pesticide product labels.

According to the filing, petitioners challenge that the conditional registration of Enlist Duo, announced by EPA on January 12, 2017, not only replaces the previously registered use of Enlist Duo in 15 states where the was registered unconditionally, but also approves new uses of Enlist Duo on GE corn and soybeans in 19 states as well as approves a new use on GE cotton in all thirty-four states. As a result, petitioners are asking the court to find, under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), that EPA violated its duties in issuing the conditional registration. They also ask the court to find that EPA violated its agency duty under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by failing to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Marine Fisheries as to whether the conditional registration of Enlist Duo would jeopardize any listed species or negatively impact their habitat.

“Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration are endangering farmers and the environment by caving to Big Ag and approving this highly toxic pesticide combo,” said Sylvia Wu, staff attorney for Center for Food Safety and legal counsel in the case. “Fortunately we have laws written to protect farmers and the environment, and we intend to have the Court enforce them.”

“EPA’s registration of Enlist Duo, which causes unreasonable adverse effects to health and the environment, is responsible for increased 2,4-D use –as much as a seven-fold increase to 176 million per year by 2020, without the economic return achieved by those who practice sustainable organic production,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

Jim Goodman, Family Farm Defenders board member and organic farmer from Wonewoc, Wisconsin, commented: “Roundup was initially touted as a replacement for older, more dangerous chemicals like 2,4-D. Now that Roundup, the widely used carcinogenic pesticide is failing to kill weeds, Dow is bringing back 2,4-D and teaming them up to create a more toxic mix than ever. Will the buffer strips on my organic farm be adequate protection from the more volatile drift-prone nature of 2,4-D? I should not be put in the position to find out.”

This case represents the third action in a string of lawsuits on Enlist Duo filed by petitioners. The first lawsuit was filed against EPA shortly after Enlist Duo was approved on October 15, 2014 for use on GE crops. In that case, a similar coalition of farmers and environmental groups sued EPA on behalf of six Midwest states, claiming that, under the requirements of FIFRA, EPA did not adequately analyze the impacts of 2,4-D on human health.

Shortly thereafter, a second lawsuit was filed, building on the original claim by arguing that in its approval of Enlist Duo, EPA also violated the ESA. Petitioners demonstrated that EPA disregarded negative impacts on sensitive species, including nearly two hundred species protected under ESA, from the increased use of Enlist Duo that would result from its registration. These predictions are in line with findings from a 2009 report that showed herbicide use increased by 383 million pounds in the first 13 years GE crops were used commercially. The case looked specifically at EPA’s failure to consult with FWS regarding the impact of the herbicide on two endangered species —the whooping crane and the Indiana bat.

In November 2015, EPA revoked the registration of Dow’s Enlist Duo based on new information on the toxic effects associated with the synergistic interactions of the chemical cocktail, including  2,4-D, glyphosate, and other undisclosed ingredients, to plants outside the treated area. However, in January 2016, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the revocation in a three-sentence order that gave no reasoning. EPA reported that it had revoked the registration due to claims of product ingredient synergy by the herbicide’s registrant, Dow. EPA then requested and received additional synergy data from Dow, and stated that after review of the additional data, it found a lack of synergistic effects, despite Dow’s claims.

In November, 2016, despite opposition from environmentalists and Dow’s own legal team, EPA  announced  that it was not only reapproving  the chemical combination, but proposed  to expand the number of crops and states in which it can be used. In support of its decision, EPA stated: “These data demonstrate that the combination of 2,4-D choline and glyphosate in Enlist Duo does not show any increased toxicity to plants and is therefore not of concern.” While EPA has stated that there is no reason to be concerned, research points to the fact that synergy between chemicals can be a real and serious problem. Currently, mixtures of multiple pesticide ingredients in products are not evaluated by EPA for elevated toxicity.

In January, 2017, EPA officially expanded the use of Enlist Duo despite science affirming its hazards, the action to which petitioners are currently responding. The action approved the use of Enlist Duo for GE crops, and expanded its allowed use from 15-34 states. In response to the decision over 600 public comments were submitted to EPA, many vehemently opposing the current uses and proposed expansion of Enlist Duo. Beyond Pesticides was one of many groups to submit comments that pointed out EPA’s failure to consider all the environmental costs associated with Enlist Duo, including the cost of tackling increased 2,4-D resistant weeds, crop and non-target damages from uncontrolled drift, as well as unanswered questions regarding synergistic chemical effects in non-plant species.

A large shift in agricultural practices is necessary to ensure protection of human health and the environment over the long-term. Beyond Pesticides has long supported organic land management as a systems approach that values healthy, biologically active soils to support plant life and provide critical environmental benefits. It is through this soil based systems approach that we will eliminate toxic chemicals in land management, which have been identified as a driver in soil contamination and loss of microbial and faunal diversity.

Ecological pest management strategies, organic practices, and solutions that are not chemical-intensive are the most appropriate and long-term solution to managing unwanted plants and insects. Beyond Pesticides is working to strengthen organic farming  systems by encouraging biodiversity and holistic management practices, and upholding the spirit and values on which the organic law was founded. Underpinning the success of organic in the U.S. are small-scale producers who focus on fostering biodiversity, limiting external inputs, improving soil health, sequestering carbon, and using integrated holistic approaches to managing pests, weeds, and disease.

Source: Center for Food Safety

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

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21
Mar

California Weakens Rules to Protect Children from Pesticide Drift, Comment Period Open until April 4

(Beyond Pesticides, March 21, 2017) Last week, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) released revised rules regarding notification of pesticide applications near schools, weakening standards despite opposition from community and public health groups. The new rules rescind a requirement that schools be granted 48 hours prior notification for a planned application of agricultural pesticides within ¼ mile of a school site. CDPR has re-opened public comments on the new rules, and concerned residents have until April 4 to submit a short statement urging increased protections to the Department at dpr16004@cdpr.ca.gov.

Public health, farmworker, and community groups had urged CDPR to strengthen, not weaken common-sense protections for children’s health. As the rules currently stand, applications of toxic, drift-prone pesticides will only be restricted within ¼ mile of a school site, and only during the hours of 6am to 6pm on weekdays. The original proposal required 48 hour prior notification for other agricultural pesticide applications occurring within ¼ mile of school sites during these times. However, CDPR’s revised rules now only require 48 hour notification if the pesticides applied are not on a list provided to school officials at the beginning of the year. Applicators will still be required to submit annual reports detailing pesticide applications over the past year.

Given the range of health effects linked to agricultural pesticides, and the history of pesticide use in agricultural areas of California, advocates say it is unacceptable for CDPR to continue to water down already insufficient protections. While the Department indicates its removal of the 48 hour notification requirement was in response to both growers and school officials, many school districts with voluntary 48 hour prior notification agreements with growers have a positive view of the arrangement.

“We have events in the evening,” said Ventura County School Superintendent Pelelope DeLeon to the Ventura County Star. “Our facilities are being used all the time.” Ventura County receives 48 hour notice for pesticide applications planned at night or on weekends. “I would hate not to be getting the notifications,” she said. When there are weekend or nighttime events, such as sports games, the 48 hour notification provides time for the school district to negotiate with growers on changing the timing of the application.

Campaigners for public health have asked CDPR to extend the buffer zone to one mile, and increase notification requirements to include after school and weekends. In comments to CDPR on its original proposal, Beyond Pesticides highlighted the impact of chronic pesticide exposure on behavior and learning disabilities in children, including their IQ. One study from the University of California, Berkeley, which looked at families in the intensive agricultural region of Salinas Valley, California, found that IQ levels for children with the most organophosphate (OP) exposure were a full seven IQ points lower than those with the lowest exposure levels. The Berkeley team also found that every tenfold increase in measures of OPs detected during a mother’s pregnancy corresponded to a 5.5 point drop in overall IQ scores in the seven-year-olds.

Beyond Pesticides also took issue with CDPR’s economic impact statement for the rules. While the Department meticulously quantified the costs borne by growers, it provided amorphous, qualitative estimations on the benefits of this regulation, despite widely available data quantifying impacts such as lost IQ points. A 2016 study published in The Lancet estimated that organophosphate pesticide exposure, insecticides often used for agricultural purposes, resulted in 1.8 million lost IQ points, and 7.5 thousand intellectual disability cases annually at an estimated cost of $44.7 billion each year. Of that $44.7 billion, roughly $350 million in costs can be attributed to California, proportionately. Even if the state considered this rule as reducing 10% of that economic burden on public health, the benefits of this regulation, at $35 million, would far outweigh the estimated $15 million in costs to growers estimated by CDPR. Moreover, these benefits are accrued annually, while CDPR estimated the costs to growers to be over the lifetime of the rule. Despite publicly available data to make these determinations, CDPR asserted it was “too speculative to estimate incidents of exposure to school sites that be by avoided by the prohibitions or notifications.” The agency did not respond to Beyond Pesticides’ cost-analysis in its revised rules.

“With only part-time protections in place, children and families attending sporting events and other extracurricular activities will still be exposed to pesticides used on nearby fields that scientists have linked to cancer, reproductive harm and brain damage,” said Californians for Pesticide Reform in a statement to the Ventura County Star.

Those concerned about agricultural pesticide use near places where children play can still make their voice heard. CDPR will be accepting comment on its proposed changes until April 4, when the Department will begin the process of finalizing the rule. Act today by submitting your comment to dpr16004@cdpr.ca.gov.

Source: CDPR, Ventura County Star

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

 

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