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Daily News Blog

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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20
Mar

Got Antibiotics Straight from Your “100% Pure” Orange Juice? EPA Allows Them in Florida Citrus, Contributing to Bacterial Resistance Crisis

(Beyond Pesticides, March 20, 2017) Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is allowing residues of antibiotics in Florida orange juice, after approving an emergency exemption for the antibiotics streptomycin and oxytetracycline –allowing their use for a bacterial disease, citrus greening (Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) bacterium that causes Huanglongbing), in Florida citrus crops through December of 2019, and further exacerbating bacterial resistance. The World Health Organization has called bacterial resistance “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.” The agency announced March 15, “EPA is issuing these tolerances without notice and opportunity for public comment as provided in FFDCA section 408(l)(6).” EPA states “time-limited tolerances are established for residues of streptomycin in or on fruit, citrus, group 10-10, at 2 ppm, and the dried pulp of these commodities at 6 ppm.” For oxytetracycline, EPA is allowing residues ” in or on all commodities of fruit, citrus, group 10-10, at 0.4 ppm.” [See below; organic standards do not allow antibiotic use.]

In its review, EPA has determined that the toxicological endpoints of dietary exposure under the allowed tolerances meet the safety standard of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, but does not consider the public health impact of bacterial resistance to consumers, including sensitive populations such as children.

Responding to a request from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to use its authority under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), EPA granted the exemption despite evidence that antibiotic use in agriculture increases bacterial resistance to life-saving medicines. This move by EPA is not uncharacteristic, however, as the agency has oft abused the emergency exemption clause in response to predictable insect, weed, and fungal resistance in chemical-intensive pest management.

Under Section 18 of FIFRA, otherwise known as the emergency exemption program, EPA allows the use of pesticides that are not registered for a particular crop, or in some cases not registered for use at all. Once approved, EPA then sets tolerances for affected crops that are time-limited, usually for the season in which they are allowed. The use of Section 18 exemptions exemplifies EPA’s practice of allowing increasing dependency on highly toxic pesticides in agricultural systems that are predictably unsustainable, harmful to people and the environment, and for which there are safe alternatives. According to pest managers, this situation is the same toxic treadmill and thinking that is ushering in new 2,4-D-tolerant corn to replace Roundup Ready corn. Beyond Pesticides is of firm resolve that emergency exemptions and the use of increasingly toxic herbicides must not be the norm for communities and the environment.

Typically registered for apples, peaches and pears, streptomycin is an antibiotic that is used by humans to treat bacterial infections, making its use in food troublesome for those concerned with antimicrobial resistance. The decision by EPA to allow streptomycin to be used on oranges in Florida, which applies to both fresh fruit and dried pulp, increases the likelihood of human exposure to antibiotics, as Florida oranges are consumed throughout the U.S. and, beyond food residues, resistant bacteria move through the environment and create resistance in human pathogens.

EPA’s approval is based on USDA predictions that Florida’s orange harvest will be extremely low this year, about only half of what the crop was five years ago due to citrus greening. Under Section 18, state applications must prove unpredictable economic harm due to a pest problem. Instead of looking at the root causes of the low harvest and focusing on improving soil and organic systems, thus eliminating unnecessary pesticides, growers turned to EPA to issue the emergency exemption and allow the use of streptomycin in an attempt to find a short-term fix.

Concerns over the use of antibiotics in food production and its impact on antibiotic resistance in humans grown exponentially in recent years. Last year the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, comprised of delegates from 193 countries, gathered to address the alarming rise of antibiotic resistance. Prior to this historic meeting, the international body had only convened health-related meetings on three other issues: Ebola, HIV, and noncommunicable diseases. According to the World Health Organization, which collaborates with the UN on health-related priorities, “Antimicrobial resistance has become one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.” At this high-profile meeting, Heads of State and Heads of Delegations addressed the urgency of the situation and discussed multisectoral approaches to addressing antimicrobial resistance.

Beyond Pesticides most recently addressed this issue in its quarterly Pesticides and You journal with the report Agricultural uses of Antibiotics Escalate Bacterial Resistance. The report looks at the structure of antibiotic regulation between EPA, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Within those three agencies, FDA regulates antibiotics used as animal drugs, EPA regulates those used as pesticides, and USDA is responsible for conducting residue testing on animal products and other food products with established residue tolerance levels. EPA’s assessment of pesticide risks generally addresses risks associated with direct exposure of humans to the pesticide. For streptomycin, “The assessment concluded that the possibility of antibiotic resistance resulting in adverse human health consequences was of medium concern following occupational application and was of high concern following application by residential users.” However, the agency does not consider concerns raised by the Infectious Disease Society of America and researchers of bacterial resistance about the mechanism of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) through the environment as a critical means of developing human pathogens that are resistant to bacteria.

It may not be widely appreciated that use of antibiotics on fruit trees can contribute to resistance to the antibiotic in human pathogens. The human pathogenic organisms themselves do not need to be sprayed by the antibiotic because movement of genes in bacteria is not solely “vertical,” that is from parent to progeny—but can be “horizontal”— from one bacterial species to another. The basic mechanism is as follows. If bacteria on the plants and in the soil are sprayed with an antibiotic, those with genes for resistance to the chemical increase compared to those susceptible to the antibiotic. Resistance genes currently exist for streptomycin, and spraying with these chemicals increases the frequency of resistant genotypes by killing those susceptible to the antibiotic and leaving the others. Those genes may be taken up by other bacteria through a number of mechanisms, collectively known as HGT.

Certified organic citrus may not be grown with antibiotics. Overall the report calls for (i) stringent regulations to eliminate use of antibiotics in food production, which leads to antibiotic resistance, residues in manure, and contamination of waterways, and (ii) a widespread shift to certified organic food production, which prohibits all antibiotics. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) moved to eliminate the last allowed use in organic crop production, on apples and pears, in 2013.

A fully cited version of this report, featured in Pesticides and You, is available at bit.ly/PAYantibiotics.

Source: Politico

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

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17
Mar

Protect Organic Integrity; Comments Due March 30!

(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2017) Make your voice heard and submit comments NOW on allowed materials in organic production! The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting dates for spring 2017 have been announced and public comments are due by March 30, 2017. As usual, there are many important issues that are under NOSB consideration, which you can view by clicking here. Your comments and participation are critical to the integrity of the organic label.

The NOSB is not immune to delays experienced by agencies throughout the federal government. NOSB proposals were scheduled to be made available to the public on March 1, allowing 30 days for the public to formulate responses before the comment period closes. As of this writing, the proposals have still not been published, but much can be inferred from Subcommittee notes, petition materials, and past experience. Many of the issues before the NOSB are materials due to sunset off the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List) in 2017. Some others are perennial issues of special concern for us –such as “inerts” (undisclosed ingredients) and chlorine-based sanitizers. So, we have written what we can, and we encourage you to make use of our efforts –and we will let you know if and when the proposals are published.

Our positions, which we hope you will use as the basis for your comments, can be found here. We will provide positions on additional topics in the near future. Please feel free to develop your own comments or cut and paste ours. If you cut and paste our comments into regulations.gov, please first put a personal note of concern in order to reflect the importance if these issues to you as an organic consumer, farmer, or other concerned party.

As mentioned above, some of the major issues before the spring 2017 National Organic Standards Board include:

“Inerts”

There continues to be an unconscionable delay in implementing NOSB recommendations for replacing the obsolete references to EPA List 3 and List 4 “inert” ingredients on the National List with listings of actual approved ingredients in pesticide products that are not labeled active (those that target the pest). These ingredients frequently compose as much as 99% of pesticide products, and due to NOSB scrutiny of active ingredients, they may be the most hazardous ingredients in pesticide products used in organic production. The NOSB must insist that NOP move forward with implementing the NOSB recommendations on “inert” ingredients, beginning with the Memorandum of Understanding between USDA and EPA that establishes the responsibilities of the National Organic Program (NOP), EPA, and the NOSB.

Sanitizers

This includes calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, and sodium hypochlorite for crops; acidified sodium chlorite, calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, and sodium hypochlorite for handling; and calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, and sodium hypchlorite for livestock.

To the extent possible, organic should be chlorine-free. Chlorine is hazardous in its production, transportation, storage, use, and disposal. EPA’s Design for the Environment has identified safer viable alternatives for some or all uses, including other materials on the National List. It is time for the NOSB to update its thinking and approach to cleaners and disinfectants. Several steps need to be taken:

  1. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) requires that materials on the National List are itemized “by specific use or application.” Justification for the listing of chlorine materials requires that the NOSB identify the uses for which they are needed. Needs for cleaners, sanitizers, disinfectants, and sterilants must be distinguished.
  2. Freedom from microbes is not always good. Not only is sterility often unnecessary, but it is also sometimes counterproductive because eliminating benign microbes can make room for spoilage organisms or pathogens.
  3. Establishing the need for a “sanitizer” requires a demonstration that a certain degree of freedom from microbes is required. The NOSB must establish when microbes should be removed from what and the degree to which they must be removed.
  4. Alternative practices and materials must be considered, such as those identified by technical reviews and EPA’s Safer Choice Program.
  5. NOSB must examine the need for these materials in light of alternatives and hazards.
  6. Chlorine compounds have long been identified as hazardous to humans and the environment. The NOSB, in reviewing the listings of these materials, must delve into the needs, alternatives, and hazards.

Contaminated Inputs

The plan to address contaminated inputs in organic production –last addressed by the NOSB two years ago– is needed more urgently than ever. The problem of contaminated water resources only adds to the problems already identified, including antibiotics in manure, pesticides in lawn wastes, and others. We urge the NOSB to devote resources to furthering the plan and its implementation, including the development of a discussion document on water contaminated by oil and gas production.

NOSB Meeting  Details:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 – 8:30am to Friday, April 21, 2017 – 5:00pm
Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, 1550 Court Place, Denver, CO 80202

If you plan on attending the meeting and want to provide oral comments, you must reserve an oral comment slot. Oral public comments are scheduled in two blocks:

  • Thursday, April 13, 2017, 1:00pm-4:00pm ET via webinar; 3 minute comment slot
  • Wednesday/Thursday, April 19 and 20, 2017 during the face-to-face meeting; 3 minute comment slot

Oral commenters may only sign up for one comment slot, and the sign-up deadline is March 30, 2017 at 11:59pm. Again, you can reserve an oral comment slot by clicking here.

We ask that you submit comments on as many issues and materials as you can by the 11:59pm, March 30, 2017 deadline. For help crafting your comments, view Beyond Pesticides’ commenting guide. For all other questions, please go to Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage to learn more about these and other substantive issues and provide a unique public comment.

Thank you for helping to protect and uphold organic integrity!

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

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16
Mar

Monsanto and EPA Collude to Fight Cancer Classification of Roundup (Glyphosate), according to Court Released Documents

(Beyond Pesticides, March 16, 2017) In a lawsuit filed by cancer victims, a federal judge on Tuesday unsealed documents that raise questions of collusion between officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Monsanto to fight a cancer classification for the company’s flagship product, Roundup (glyphosate). The judge’s ruling comes in a lawsuit against Monsanto, charging that the company’s herbicide caused the plaintiffs’ non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

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.” The California lawsuit was brought on following the determination and listing of glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015.

The released files show that Monsanto was “tipped off to the [IARC] determination by a deputy division director at the EPA, Jess Rowland, months beforehand. That led the company to prepare a public relations assault on the finding well in advance of its publication,” according to the released documents. According to Monsanto’s internal emails, Mr. Rowland had promised to fend off efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a separate review of the chemical, which never ended up occurring. The documents show a refusal by both EPA and HHS to protect public health over industry interests and advance the science on issues such as carcinogenicity of chemicals. This revelation comes as the Trump administration adopts positions that undermine scientific reviews and funding of regulatory oversight.

On Wednesday, Congressman Ted Lieu issued the following statement regarding the released files and questions on glyphosate safety.

“New questions about the safety of Monsanto weed killer Roundup are deeply troubling. I worked on the glyphosate issue last term and I believe consumers should immediately stop using Roundup, whose core ingredient glyphosate has been labeled a likely carcinogen and has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. We need to find out if Monsanto or the Environmental Protection Agency misled the public.”

“Reports suggest that a senior official at the EPA worked to suppress a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review of glyphosate, and may have leaked information to Monsanto. I believe that a Department of Justice investigation is warranted to look into any potential misconduct by employees of the EPA. I also believe a congressional hearing is immediately warranted.”

In addition to these released documents, a judge in another case in California has ruled that California can require Monsanto to label any products containing glyphosate as cancer causing. The final ruling came on Friday, a year after Monsanto initially sued California’s Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment over its notice of intent to add glyphosate to the state’s Proposition 65 list of cancer-causing chemicals. Monsanto will now be required to place cancer warning label on its Roundup (glyphosate) products.

The chemical at issue in both of these cases, glyphosate, has historically been touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by EPA and industry and is widely used in food production and on lawns, gardens, parks, and children’s playing fields. Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S., with more than 276 million pounds applied in 2014. Glyphosate has been linked to cancer in the independent scientific literature and epidemiologic studies have found that exposure to glyphosate is significantly associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is the same type of cancer that plaintiffs in the current lawsuit are suffering, or have lost someone who suffered, from.

Since the release of the IARC determination, Monsanto has made several efforts to discredit the scientific findings of this well respected, international body, as detailed in the documents associated with this case. In a February 8 filing, Monsanto 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 unfounded, to say the least. In a separate document filed on February 10, Monsanto went a step further, claiming that there is no evidence that the products at issue are “defective or unreasonably dangerous,” and “no evidence of carcinogenicity in glyphosate or Roundup.”

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.

Sources: New York Times, Los Angeles Times

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

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15
Mar

Report Affirms Organic Food is the Healthiest Choice to Protect Consumers, Farmworkers, and the Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, March 15, 2016) An annual report using U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program residue data finds again this year that the crop grown in chemical-intensive agriculture with the most pesticide residues detected is strawberries. Spinach is number two, jumping from eighth place last year.

The “Dirty Dozen” report, released annually by Environmental Working Group (EWG) since 2004, ranks produce grown with pesticides and confirms that organically grown food is the safer choice. While the report focuses on food residues, beyond raising consumer health concerns, it also raises social and environmental concerns associated with the purchase of conventionally  grown food, including farmer poisoning, water contamination and adverse effects to ecosystems and biodiversity, including pollinators.

EWG’s EWG Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ finds that nearly 70 percent of samples of 48 types of conventional produce is contaminated with residues of one or more pesticides. USDA researchers find a total of 178 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products on the thousands of produce samples analyzed. The pesticide residues remain on fruits and vegetables even after they are washed and, in some cases, peeled.

“Even low levels of pesticide exposure can be harmful to infants, babies and young children, so when possible, parents and caregivers should take steps to lower children’s exposures to pesticides while still feeding them diets rich in healthy fruits and vegetables,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.

The “Dirty Dozen” list is helpful in alerting consumers to hazardous residues on food, but food residues are only part of the story. Along with a host of adverse health effects associated with their use, pesticides used in chemical-intensive agriculture can get into waterways and groundwater, contaminate nearby communities, poison farmworkers, and kill wildlife. However, some of these pesticides may not be found at detectable levels on food. Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience guide goes beyond pesticide contamination of food and considers all the externalities, both upstream and downstream, associated with the production of chemical-intensive fruits and vegetables. Choosing organic food is therefore more than choosing to reduce one’s pesticide exposure but it is also a choice to protect farmworkers, farming communities, water supplies, pollinators, and other wildlife.

For the “Dirty Dozen” list, EWG singled out produce with the highest loads of pesticide residues. In addition to strawberries and spinach, this year’s list includes nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes. Each of these foods test positive for a number of different pesticide residues and contain higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce. Pears and potatoes are new additions to the “Dirty Dozen,” displacing cherry tomatoes and cucumbers from last year’s list.

Key findings:

  • Nearly all samples (98%) of strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries and apples test positive for residue of at least one pesticide.
  • The most contaminated sample of strawberries have 20 different pesticides.
  • Spinach samples have an average of twice as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop. Three-fourths of spinach samples have residues of permethrin -a pyrethroid insecticide that is also a possible carcinogen.

Our food choices have a direct effect on the health of our environment and those who grow and harvest what we eat. That’s why food labeled organic is the right choice. For more information on how organic agriculture accomplishes the goal of safe, healthy and nutritious food without sacrificing sustainability, see Beyond Pesticides organic program page.

Source: EWG Release

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14
Mar

EPA to Investigate Civil Rights Abuses Over Pesticide Use in Hawaii

(Beyond Pesticides, March 14, 2017)  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is opening an investigation into whether the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) and the state Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) are discriminating against Native Hawaiians in their administration of the state’s pesticide program. The investigation comes after a number of local community groups, represented by the nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice, filed a complaint in September 2016 asking EPA to take action against systemic abuses of Native Hawaiian peoples. Local efforts to protect pesticide-exposed communities have been repeatedly stymied by giant pesticide corporations operating on the island, which filed lawsuits that ultimately struck down local laws.

EPA’s investigation will focus on the state’s activity on the islands of Kauai and Moloka’i. “The External Civil Rights Compliance Office will investigate whether in administering the pesticides program and the leasing and licensing of the state land program the HDOA and/or ADC discriminated on the basis of race and/or national origin against farm workers and residents of West Kauai and Molokai, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and EPA’s implementing regulation,” wrote Lilian Dorka, director of EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office(ERCO), in a letter to Earthjustice.

Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, any recipient of federal funds is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin. In their original letter to EPA, community groups and Earthjustice assert that despite the fact that agrichemical companies have concentrated their pesticide-intensive seed production operations in western Kauai and Molokai, where more than four times the statewide percentage of Native Hawaiians live, the state has failed to limit the registration of harmful pesticides, and failed to require protective buffer zones between pesticide use and local communities. EPA will also be investigating the fact that, as revealed in letters sent to Earthjustice in spring 2016, neither HDOA nor ADC have a Title VI compliance program, which is also part of federal funding requirements.

“I am a Native Hawaiian mother of two children who have had to be tested for pesticide exposure,” said Malia Chun, member of community group Moms on a Mission (MOM) Hui in an Earthjustice press release. “Both my children tested positive for 32 different pesticides. I come from a community with one of the highest populations of Native Hawaiian and native speakers in the state of Hawaiʻi. We are surrounded by test fields for genetically modified crops that have restricted-use pesticides sprayed on them daily. We need action to protect my community’s health and wellbeing.”

After a nearly decade long battle against multinational pesticide corporations on the islands, Native Hawaiian communities subject to excessive and incessant pesticide spray have seen little recourse. The passage of historic local legislation in the face of intense industry pressure did little to change the way state departments deal with pesticide use on the islands. Data released in 2014 reveal that high levels of restricted use pesticides, in some cases almost double the pounds per acre average of other states, are being used in Kauai County. According to the Center for Food Safety, in 2014 alone, there were 1,381 field test sites in Hawaii, compared to only 178 sites in California, a large agricultural state. Most of these field test sites are used for crops genetically engineered to be herbicide-tolerant. Testing these crops means repeated spraying of dangerous chemicals in Native Hawaiian communities.

HDOA has been criticized for its embrace of a voluntary “Good Neighbor” reporting program pushed by Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Dow AgroSciences, and other agrichemical companies on the islands. Despite recent expansions to that program, advocates say it is simply not enough to ensure real protections for people that live, work, and go to school near these toxic sites. Ashley Lukens, PhD, program director at the Hawaii Center for Food Safety, noted in a recent Civil Beat article, “Voluntary programs have an abysmal history of regulatory failure, particularly when it comes to environmental protection. I think more transparency is always an improvement, but this is in no way a replacement for mandatory disclosure.”

Despite a renewed focus on state-level action after local protections were struck down, state legislators have yet to take any significant action to address this issue. Late last week, a measure to implement mandatory public disclosure was struck down through surreptitious legislative maneuvering. Chemical companies continue to advocate for the status quo, which allows them to maintain current levels of pesticide use with little oversight.

Advocates hope this new EPA investigation will result in a mechanism to enact long-sought protections in Hawaii for Native peoples. “We are pleased the EPA has agreed to investigate these practices,” said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff in a press release. “The spraying of toxic chemicals on and near Hawaii’s affluent neighborhoods would not be tolerated. It’s not acceptable in these neighborhoods, either. Native Hawaiians deserve much more than the State’s vague assurances and voluntary gestures from pesticide users.”

For more information on the history and background of the fight for sensible pesticide protections in Hawaii, see Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News Blog entries on the state.

Source: Earthjustice PR, Civil Beat

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

 

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13
Mar

Native Bees Heading for Extinction

(Beyond Pesticides, March 13, 2017) Nearly 1 in 4 species of native bee is imperiled and at increasing risk of extinction. This, according to a new report from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), released earlier this month. The report is the first comprehensive review of the more than 4,000 native bee species in North America and Hawaii, and finds that more than half the species assessed are declining. With native bee decline increasing, advocates say it is imperative that action be taken to reduce toxic pesticide use and restore native habitats lost to chemical-intensive agriculture, urbanization, and climate change.

The new analysis, Pollinators in Peril: A systematic status review of North American and Hawaiian native bees, reveals that more than 700 species are in trouble from a range of serious threats, including severe habitat loss and escalating  pesticide use. Key findings include: (1) among native bee species with sufficient data to assess (1,437), more than half (749) are declining; (2) nearly 1 in 4 (347 native bee species) is imperiled and at increasing risk of extinction; (3) many of the bee species lacking sufficient data are also likely declining or at risk of extinction, highlighting the urgent need for additional research; and, (4) the declines are caused primarily by habitat loss, heavy pesticide use, climate change and urbanization.

These findings come as a growing body of research has revealed that more than 40 percent of insect pollinators are highly threatened globally, including many of the native bees critical to crop and wildflower pollination across the U.S. Many studies link pesticide use to these declines. Pesticides, like the neonicotinoid insecticides, have been shown to impair bee foraging and learning behavior, reproduction, and suppress bee immune systems making them more susceptible to disease and parasites. See ‘What the Science Shows.’

“The evidence is overwhelming that hundreds of the native bees we depend on for ecosystem stability, as well as pollination services worth billions of dollars, are spiraling toward extinction,” said Kelsey Kopec, a native pollinator researcher and author of the study. “It’s a quiet but staggering crisis unfolding right under our noses that illuminates the unacceptably high cost of our careless addiction to pesticides and monoculture farming.”

Honey bee decline has been much discussed in recent years. Last winter (2015/2016), beekeepers lost 44 percent of their honey bee colonies. But, until now, much less has been revealed about the 4,337 native bee species in North America and Hawaii. These mostly solitary, ground-nesting bees play a crucial ecological role by pollinating wild plants, and provide more than $3 billion in fruit-pollination services each year in the U.S. To assess current populationstopped trends and threats as comprehensibly as possible for the 4,337 described species of North American and Hawaiian bees, the CBD report reviewed the current conservation status of 316 species as established by state, federal, or independent research.

The report highlights five imperiled native bees that offer a snapshot of the threats driving declines in many native bee species:

  1. Yellow carpet solitary bee: This dark, olive-green bee, whose fate is intertwined with its floral host and California’s dwindling vernal pools, is severely threatened with extinction.
  2. Sunflower leafcutting bee: This spectacularly large bee used to be seen patrolling sunflower stands throughout the Great Plains; it is now in steep decline and rarely seen.
  3. Wild sweet potato bee: Known for its unique three-lobed snout, this bee, once commonly seen foraging across much of the East, is now dangerously imperiled.
  4. Gulf Coast solitary bee: Completely dependent on the disappearing coastal plain honeycombhead plant and the barrier-island sand dunes where it nests, this bee is now found only within a shrinking portion of its range along the Gulf Coast.
  5. Macropis cuckoo bee: This nest invader, which takes over the nests of other bee species to lay its eggs, was once common across much of central and eastern North America but is now considered that region’s most endangered bee.

Earlier this year, the Rusty Patched Bumblebee became the first bumblebee federally designated as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The Rusty Patched Bumblebee was once widespread throughout the U.S. and parts of Canada, but declined dramatically over the last couple decades. Now their populations are estimated to be less than 10% of what they once were. But, the Trump administration in February reversed the final decision, pending further review, for this listing. In response, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit charging the administration violated the notice and comment requirements of public rulemaking for the delay on the bumblebee listing. 

With the decline of both native and managed bees, Beyond Pesticides is working to promote the widespread transition of conventional farmland to organic production. Organic law requires farmers to foster soil health, and create a strategy to prevent pest populations before they become a problem. Because of these factors, many certified organic farms do not need to use toxic pesticides because their required organic systems plan practices increase soil and plant health and pest and disease resiliency through an increased diversity of pest predators.

With one in three bites of food reliant on bees, other insects, and birds for pollination, the decline in pollinators due to pesticides, and other human-made causes, demands immediate action. For more on this and what you can do to protect pollinators, visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage.

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

Source: CBD press release and report

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10
Mar

Study Finds Pesticide Use Does Not Increase Profits for Farmers

(Beyond Pesticides, March 10, 2017) A French study published last week has found that higher pesticide use does not mean larger profits, demonstrating that farmers can reduce their usage of pesticides without worrying about their profits being affected, in most cases. Similar studies have shown that organic and conventional yields are comparable, supporting the case for farmers to transition from high pesticide use to healthier, safer, and more profitable alternatives.

The study, led by Martin Lechenet, a PhD student with the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, looked at data from 946 French farms, including yields, pesticide application rates, soil characteristics, and local climate conditions. The researchers then used a model to focus on the relationship between pesticide application rates and productivity or profitability. They found that, in 77% of the farms, higher pesticide use was not linked to a higher profit. The researchers then estimated that pesticide use could be reduced by 42% without any negative effects on current profit levels in 59% of farms in their national network. According to the researchers, their results demonstrate the ability to reduce pesticide usage for most farmers in current production situations.

In addition, other studies support the finding that farmers do not have to worry about their profits when considering alternatives to highly intensive pesticide regimes. A 2015 study found that organic agriculture produces higher profits for farmers while doing a better job at protecting the environment and biodiversity. When factoring in the price premium organic farmers receive for their products, researchers discovered that organic farming is 22-35% more profitable than conventional growing methods.

Conventional farming, which involves heavy pesticide usage, has important public health and environmental implications. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that the herbicide glyphosate is a human carcinogen based on laboratory animal studies. Other recent research finds glyphosate interferes with proper DNA functioning, correlating with the onset of numerous common diseases. Other pesticides, such as organophosphates, have been linked with lower IQ in children. In addition to impacts on human health, pesticides have been linked to adverse effects in a wide variety of species. Herbicides have been linked to damage in earthworms and other soil biota and can threaten aquatic life. Certain fungicides have been found to damage the muscles that honey bees use to fly, and some insecticides can have sublethal effects on amphibians, such as the wood frog.

A large shift in agricultural practices is necessary to ensure protection of human health and the environment over the long-term, according to a 2016 report authored by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES). While this report specifically calls for a shift to agroecological farming systems, Beyond Pesticides points out that there is neither a legal nor standardized definition of agroecology or sustainable agriculture. Certified organic systems are accountable to a public rulemaking process and defined by law, the Organic Foods Production Act, which requires an “organic systems plan” that incorporates many of the prongs of agroecology, with efforts underway to add a social justice component.

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. A 2016 study deemed organic agriculture as a necessary tool for feeding the global population sustainably.

Support for organic agricultural systems is especially timely, following the release of a report by the United Nations that concluded that industrialized agriculture has not succeeded in eliminating world hunger, and has only hurt human health and the environment in its wake. With a growing understanding about the false promises that chemical-intensive, industrial agricultural systems have provided, policy makers and citizens around the world must push for fair food systems that place biologically regenerative, organic agriculture at the center.

Source: Ars Technica

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

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09
Mar

Organic Agriculture Offers Clear Human Health Benefits, According to European Report

(Beyond Pesticides, March 9, 2017) A recent European Parliament (EP) report concludes that organic agriculture and food offer clear human health benefits over chemical-intensive agriculture. The report, Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture, which was written by scientists from universities across Europe, used existing scientific literature to assess the human health effects from organic agricultural systems. The authors determined that organic agriculture has considerable benefits, including reduction in antibiotic resistance, lowered levels of cadmium in organic crops, and decreased dietary pesticide exposure levels.

According to the EP report, “Overall, consumption of organic food substantially decreases the consumer’s dietary pesticide exposure, as well as acute and chronic risks from such exposure.” Organic farming is a systems approach that values healthy, biologically active soils to support plant life and provide critical environmental benefits, such as improved water infiltration, pest suppression, and carbon storage. It is through this preventive, systems approach that organic agriculture eliminates the necessity for pesticides, and instead relies upon soil health to prevent the problems that chemical-intensive agriculture cannot.

This report adds to the growing body of evidence on impaired learning and lowered IQs in children prenatally exposed to low levels of certain pesticides, such as organophosphates. The combined evidence in the report suggests that human exposure to pesticides in the European Union (EU) “may cost at least €125 billion per year, as calculated from the loss of lifetime income due to the lower IQs associated with prenatal exposures.” The authors also note that this number is almost certainly an underestimation, as it does not account for the “possible contribution made by pesticides to the development of other prevalent diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.”

In terms of antibiotic use and the proliferation of antibiotic resistance, organic agriculture offers a clear solution according to the European Parliament report. Globally and domestically, more antibiotics are used in conventional animal agriculture than for treating sick humans. The development of antibiotic resistance is a major threat to human health, and according to the report, “Organic production may offer a way of restricting and even decreasing the prevalence of antibiotic resistance. Organic broilers and pigs, but not dairy cows, are less likely to develop diseases related to intensive production compared to animals in conventional production.” It is also important to note that until 2014, antibiotics were allowed in domestic organic apple and pear production, but are now prohibited. To learn more about agriculture’s uses of antibiotics in the U.S., refer to Beyond Pesticides’ report, Agricultural Uses of Antibiotics Escalate Bacterial Resistance.

Another notable difference that the report found are the significantly lower levels of cadmium, a toxic heavy metal, in organically grown foods compared to conventionally grown foods. According to the authors, the “long-term use of mineral phosphorus fertilizer has contributed to increased cadmium concentrations in agricultural soils” when compared to crops fertilized with animal manure, as is allowed in organic systems. In the short-term, ingesting high levels of cadmium residues can cause vomiting and stomach irritation, and prolonged exposure to low levels can cause kidney damage and bone fragility. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry cites research showing that cadmium tends to accumulate in plant leaves, and therefore is more risky, especially for leafy vegetables grown on contaminated soils.

The document also includes policy recommendations for the EU and offers five choices based on the science that was reviewed and the existing EU policies. The five options are:

  1. No action;
  2. Pursue and intensify EU policies for food safety;
  3. Support organic agriculture by investing in research, development, innovation and implementation;
  4. Improve the business environment of organic agriculture through fiscal instruments; and/or
  5. Support sustainable food consumption patterns.

Without a clear investment in organic agriculture across all sectors in Europe, as well as in the U.S., it is less likely that supply will match the growing demand for these products. Organic production and demand for organic products has been rapidly expanding in the U.S. and the EU. In 2016, U.S. organic farmland reached its highest level yet, at 5.4 million acres. However, this is dwarfed by the 27 million acres, or 11.1 million hectares, of organic farmland in the EU as of 2015.

Support for organic agricultural systems is especially timely, following the release of a report by the United Nations that concluded that industrialized agriculture has not succeeded in eliminating world hunger, and has only hurt human health and the environment in its wake. With a growing understanding about the false promises that chemical-intensive, industrial agricultural systems have provided, policy makers and citizens around the world must push for fair food systems that place biologically regenerative, organic agriculture at the center.

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. Organic law requires that farmers adopt an organic systems plan to support soil biology, ecological balance, and pest prevention. Beyond Pesticides provides many opportunities to get involved in protecting and advancing the integrity of the organic label, and encourages public action to ensure organic’s strong standards remain intact. 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.

Sources: Civil Eats, European Parliament

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

 

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08
Mar

UN Report Finds that Pesticide Use Negatively Impacts Human Rights

(Beyond Pesticides, March 8, 2017) A report released by the United Nations finds that human rights are adversely affected by pesticide use. With chemicals, like pesticides, long advanced by the synthetic pesticide and fertilizer industry as the answer to feeding the world, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food report concludes that industrialized agriculture has not succeeded in eliminating world hunger, and has only hurt human health and the environment in its wake. The report will be presented before the Human Rights Council today, and aims to give the international governing body an in-depth understanding of the state of global pesticide use in agriculture and its impact on human rights, specifically as it relates to food security. It also looks at the impact of pesticides on the environment, highlighting the need for a transition to more sustainable agricultural practices on a global scale.

Authors of the report, Hilal Elver, Ph.D., the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, and Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on toxics, highlight the overarching problem with their observation that “reliance on hazardous pesticides is a short-term solution that undermines the rights to adequate food and health for present and future generations.” They begin the report by dismantling industry claims that industrialized agriculture, characterized by high use of chemical inputs, like pesticides, is necessary to feed the world.

“It is a myth,” says Dr. Elver. “Using more pesticides has nothing to do with getting rid of hunger. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), we are able to feed 9 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.”

The authors find that the right to food “obligates States to implement protective measures and food safety requirements to ensure that food is safe, free from pesticides and qualitatively adequate.” The breadth of human rights violation extend to hurting farm workers, agricultural communities, children, and pregnant women in the process.

One of the main challenges in addressing the impacts of pesticide use on human health, accordidng to the report, is that “establishing a direct causal link between exposure to pesticides and their effects can be a challenge for accountability and for victims seeking access to an effective remedy,” especially in developing countries. The report points out that “while scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge. This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fueled by the pesticide and agro-industry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics.” The links between pesticide use and a variety of diseases is well documented, and can be explored by visiting Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Disease Database.

The report also focuses on the impact that pesticides have on the environment, outlining an array of harms caused by their pervasive use. Pesticide runoff from crop treatments pollutes the ecosystem and can lead to imbalances in biodiversity. For example, “reductions in pest populations upset the complex balance between predator and prey species in the food chain, thereby destabilizing the ecosystem.” The report also acknowledges the role of pesticides in impairing soil health through the reduction of biodiversity within the soil. An issue long acknowledged by Beyond Pesticides, the authors point out how decreased soil health leads to lower crop yields, an issue of growing concern for countries and individuals still trying to achieve food security. Their findings reveal that “without or with minimal use of toxic chemicals, it is possible to produce healthier, nutrient-rich food, with higher yields in the longer term, without polluting and exhausting environmental resources.” However, that solution requires a holistic approach to agriculture, one that eliminates toxic pesticide use, protects human rights, and implements practices that promote long-term sustainability.

Despite the comprehensive and eye-opening nature of the report, addressing its findings offers a challenge for the international governing body. As the authors point out, “Although certain multinational treaties and non-binding initiatives offer some limited protections, a comprehensive treaty that regulates highly hazardous pesticides does not exist, leaving a critical gap in the human rights protection framework.” This gap in protections is addressed at varying degrees by individual countries, with developing countries typically having little to no protections against pesticide misuse. The International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management, established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and FAO, offers a framework to guide governments, the private sector, civil society, and other stakeholders on best practices for managing pesticides, and is meant to be used particularly in countries where there is no, or inadequate, national legislation to regulate pesticide management in order to help fill the regulatory gap and protect human health and the environment.

The findings of this report are in line with other studies that show organic agriculture is essential to a sustainable future. Good organic practices work to build the soil and maintain an ecological balance that makes chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides unnecessary. Claims that organic agriculture cannot feed the world because of lower yields are contested by scientific studies showing that organic yields are comparable to conventional yields  and require significantly lower inputs. Therefore, organic agriculture is not only necessary in order to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals, it is necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of food production, the environment, and the economy.

For further information, check out Beyond Pesticides’ webpages on Organic Agriculture.

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

 

Source: United Nations Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food

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07
Mar

Common Household Pesticides Again Linked to Behavioral Problems in Children

(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2017) Another study, published by a team of French scientists in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, links childhood behavioral problems to pyrethroid insecticide exposure. Synthetic pyrethroids are a class of insecticides that have increased in use over the past decade due to assumptions that they pose fewer risks to human health than older pesticide chemistries, such as organophosphates. However, this latest study is part of a growing body of research showing that pyrethroids share similar neurocognitive health concerns as these older pesticides.

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In this research, scientists investigate the interplay between pyrethroid exposure and behavioral problems through a longitudinal cohort study, which tracks levels of pyrethroid metabolites, or breakdown products, in the urine of mothers beginning between six and 19 gestational weeks and then in their children up through six years of age. Children’s behavior is measured through a screening questionnaire known as the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). SDQ measures how social a child is (altruism), whether the child has difficulty sharing problems or asking for help (internalizing disorders), as well as how defiant or disruptive a child is (externalizing disorders).

The study controls for a number of confounding factors, such as weight, education, location (rural or urban), fish consumption, breastfeeding, home tobacco use, number of siblings, average sleep duration, as well as time spent on television and video game play, participation in extra-curricular sports, and exposure to lead. Most of the children studied attend nursery school, live in a non-spoking environment, sleep at least 10.5 hours per day, and participate in extra-curricular sports.

Pyrethroid metabolites are regularly detected in both mothers and children participating in the study. Internalizing disorders are associated with high levels of a certain pyrethroid metabolite (cis-DCCA, a breakdown product of permethrin, cypermethrin, and clyfluthrin) in pregnant mothers’ urine. Externalizing disorders are associated with pyrethriod metabolites in general (3-PBA, a breakdown product not specific to one particular pyrethroid) in children’s urine samples.

Researchers hypothesize that the behavioral disorders are rooted in changes to a child’s brain. Because pyrethroids act on sodium channels, increased sodium influx may result in impacts to synaptic plasticity, which is important in the development of learning and memory. Scientists infer that pyrethroid exposure may also alter the transport of dopamine throughout the brain. The authors note in conclusion, “The current study suggests that exposure to certain pyrethroids at the low environmental doses encountered by the general public may be associated with behavioural disorders in children.”

The results of this research reinforce another study published in 2015 by doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, which finds an association between pyrethroid exposure and ADHD hyperactivity and impulsivity in adolescent boys. Further, another 2015 study by a consortium of scientists led by a Rutgers University research team finds associations between the synthetic pyrethroid deltamethrin and ADHD. Other recent research on pyrethroids and children have found significant neutoxicity concerns. University of California Davis’ long-running CHARGE study investigating childhood autism risks determined that living near a farm field where pyrethroids are applied during a mother’s third trimester corresponds with an 87% increased risk of having a child with autism.

As more and more synthetic pyrethroids are sold to consumers with claims that they are lower toxicity or as safe as chrysanthemum flowers, the chemicals are showing up in increasing concentrations in children’s urine, as reported by recent research at University California, Davis. In addition to their use in home pest control in products like RAID®, they are commonly found in head lice shampoos marketed for children, despite studies indicating that 99.6% of lice are resistant to treatment by the commonly used synthetic pyrethroid permethrin.

Notwithstanding these concerns, there are fortunately some simple steps parents can take to eliminate their child’s exposure to pyrethroids and toxic pesticides in general. First is to employ least-toxic methods of controlling pests in and around the home. For nearly every pest problem one encounters in the modern world, there are viable alternatives to the use of synthetic insecticides like pyrethroids. Beyond Pesticides ManageSafe tool provides a step-by-step guide to help individuals manage pests, from cockroaches, to bed bugs, head lice, and ants.

In considering a range of exposure pathways, parents should strongly consider ways to increase consumption of organic foods in their child’s diet. A number of studies have found that children who switch from a conventional-based to an organic diet see significant drops in levels of pesticides measured in their urine. In addition to implementing safer measures around one’s home, Beyond Pesticides strongly encourages concerned parents to become active in their community against toxic pesticides. By advocating for community change that eliminates regular use of toxic pesticide use in schools, playgrounds, and other public places where children learn and play, communities can achieve significant advances in protecting public health. If you would like to Start Your Own Local Movement, reach out to Beyond Pesticides at info@beyondpesticides.org or 202-543-5450.

Source: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

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

 

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06
Mar

Study Shows Impact of Neonicotinoids in Amphibians

(Beyond Pesticides, March 6, 2017) A study published last month by Canadian researchers finds that exposure to the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid at environmentally relevant levels results in slight delays in metamorphosis in the tadpoles of the wood frog. While the authors find that this slight delay is not necessarily a cause for concern from an ecological perspective, sublethal effects of pesticide mixtures and a variety of stressors in the environment play a role in extending juvenile periods in frogs, which can increase mortality and population decline. Because neonicotinoids are so widely use, the authors recommend further research on their impact on declining frog populations.

The study, published in Environmental Toxicology and entitled, “Sublethal effects on wood frogs chronically exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of two neonicotinoid insecticides,” looks at the chronic exposure effects of the neonicotinoids imidacloprid and thiamethoxam on the wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus). The wood frog was chosen because it is native to North America and has a wide distribution across the continent. The researchers exposed tadpoles to environmentally relevant concentrations (1ug/L, 10ug/L and 100ug/L) of the commercial formulation of the neonicotinoids (Admire and Actara). The study finds a significant difference in time for tadpoles to metamorphose. Tadpoles exposed to the medium and high concentrations of imidacloprid were delayed in completing metamorphosis, compared to the controls. There was no treatment related effects with thiamethoxam. Interestingly, the study reports that imidacloprid seemed to decrease tadpole mortality, which the authors theorize may be influenced by altered behavior in exposed frogs, and warrants further study.

“The slight delay in development may not be cause for concern on its own; however, in the natural environment, additional stressors, such as mixtures of pesticides, predators, or parasites, can contribute to further delays,” said Stacey Robinson, PhD, lead author of the study. “Such cumulative stressors are important to consider in understanding the potential impact on amphibian populations.”

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. However, studies are also reporting that these pesticides also impact aquatic communities. Neonicotinoids are pervasive in U.S. waterways, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and have been shown to be toxic to aquatic invertebrates. Aquatic invertebrates play an important role in ecological diversity, and neonicotinoids can exert adverse effects on survival, growth, emergence, mobility, and behavior of many sensitive aquatic invertebrate taxa. One Dutch study, Van Dijk et al. (2013), reports decreased species abundance in aquatic macrofauna, and others show that aquatic insects are impacted at levels ranging from 3-13 ppb. These impacts can devastate aquatic communities and higher trophic organisms which depend on these organisms, like birds.

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 found elevated risks to aquatic organisms. This follows earlier publication of imidacloprid’s pollinator assessment and release of the pollinator assessments of three other neonicotinoids (clothianidin, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran). See Daily News Blog. However, imidacloprid’s aquatic assessment and the assessments of the three other neonicotinoids have not been published in the Federal Register to solicit public comments. Public comments are necessary to ensure transparency and independent vetting of EPA’s science and risk assessment conclusions.

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.

Source: Phys.org

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

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03
Mar

U.S. Agriculture Still Using Antibiotics that Cause Bacterial Resistance to Life-Saving Medicines, Problem Eliminated in Organic Production

(Beyond Pesticides, March 3, 2017) A new report identifies antibiotic use in conventional plant and animal agriculture as contributing to bacterial resistance to critical life-saving human medicines and the importance of organic agriculture in eliminating antibiotic use. The report, Agricultural Uses of Antibiotics Escalate Bacterial Resistance, published in the latest issue of Pesticides and You, finds that while antibiotic use in animal agriculture is widely acknowledged as harmful, the use of antibiotics in chemical-intensive crop production also pose unnecessary and significant risks. The World Health Organization in 2016 identified bacterial resistance to antibiotics as “one of the biggest threats to global health.”

The report notes that the herbicide glyphosate, one of the most widely used pesticides in the U.S., is patented by its manufacturer, Monsanto, for its antibacterial properties. As a result, glyphosate leads as the most   widely used antibiotic in agriculture and around homes, gardens, schools, and communities in the U.S. Other antibiotics used widely in apple and pear production are oxytetracycline and streptomycin, which is also used in the production of peaches, beans, celery, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. These uses at environmentally relevant levels increase bacterial resistance to important antibiotics in medicine.

“Resistant bacteria move from farms to families, through the environment to the human population, said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. Adding to the problem, he said, “The ability of antibiotics to disturb or kill the gut micro-biota in humans can lead to autoimmune and other 21st century diseases, including diabetes, obesity, food allergies, heart disease, antibiotic-resistant infections, cancer, asthma, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and more.”

Regulation of antibiotic use in agriculture is divided between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Widespread criticism over the use of antibiotics in animal production led to FDA’s 2016 Veterinary Feed Directive, which limits livestock use of medically important antibiotics for humans to therapeutic use only with the oversight of a veterinarian –a restriction with significant loopholes for continued antibiotic use.

The report calls for (i) stringent regulations to eliminate use of antibiotics in food production, which leads to antibiotic resistance, residues in manure, and contamination of waterways, and (ii) a widespread shift to certified organic food production, which prohibits all antibiotics. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) moved to eliminate the last allowed use in organic crop production, on apples and pears, in 2013.

A fully cited version of this Pesticides and You report is available at bit.ly/PAYantibiotics.

This year’s National Pesticide Forum, Healthy Hives, Healthy Lives, Healthy Land, will feature a variety of speakers. You can register today by clicking here, and see below for a sneak peak of some key speakers that will touch on this subject:

David Montgomery is a MacArthur Fellow and professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington. He is an internationally recognized geologist who studies landscape evolution and the effects of geological processes on ecological systems and human societies. He is the author of several books, including The Hidden Half of Nature, an exploration of how microbes are transforming the way we see nature and ourselves―and could revolutionize agriculture and medicine.

William Arnold is a Distinguished McKnight University 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. Arnold’s research was influential in helping lawmakers, other researchers, and regulators understand the levels of triclosan and triclosan related dioxins in Minnesota lakes.

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

Visit our National Pesticide Forum webpage for further information.

 

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02
Mar

European Commission Postpones Vote to Define and Regulate Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

(Beyond Pesticides, March 2, 2017) On Tuesday, the European Commission (EC) refrained from voting on proposed scientific criteria that would have identified endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) and led to regulation on their use in EU countries. This sends the Commission back to the drawing board on the proposal, on which they hope to eventually take a formal vote. The failure to move forward with defined criteria on these hazardous chemicals, which are present in pesticides, biocides, and self-care products, is still largely due to the disagreements of voting member states over the rules reflecting hazard or risk-based criteria. There have been several other meetings of the member states on this proposal, including a meeting in December which highlighted the inadequacies of the criteria. After this meeting, according to Bas Eickhout, of the Greens-European Free Alliance, “Under the Commission’s criteria, it is likely that not a single substance would be identified as an endocrine disrupter, and they would effectively escape specific regulation.”

This all follows on the weak regulations issued by the EC in June 2016 to regulate endocrine disruptors in pesticide products, which ultimately undermine the precautionary legal standard that governs pesticide usage in Europe. Many scientists and advocacy organizations criticized the proposed regulations for creating an impossibly high burden of proof for defining harm from endocrine disrupting pesticides and other products.

According to Commission documents, the “adoption of criteria to identify endocrine-disrupting substances will fulfill the legal obligations under the plant protection products and biocides legislation. Once adopted, the EU regulatory system will be the first regulatory system worldwide to define scientific criteria for endocrine disruptors in legislation.” The stalling of this process to define and adopt criteria is resulting in unnecessary and harmful exposures to all citizens in Europe, but will hopefully result in criteria that are adequately protective of public health and the environment.

The regulations created by the EC endorse the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of EDCs. WHO defines an endocrine disruptor as “an exogenous substance or mixture that alters function(s) of the endocrine system and consequently causes adverse health effects in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub)populations.” However, the regulations go little beyond defining the term, and do not include clear criteria, which is what the EC has been trying to sort out for the past few months. In speaking with The Guardian, Andreas Kortenkamp, PhD, stated, “In effect, the commission has decided to place the burden of deciding how to regulate endocrine disrupting chemicals onto the assessors on a case-by-case basis.”

Mirroring the EC’s failure to complete its process to regulate endocrine disruptors, the U.S. has taken little action despite a mandate in the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) that requires EPA to screen pesticides for their endocrine disrupting potential. To date, EPA has only partially screened some chemicals.

Under EPA’s endocrine disruption screening protocol (EDSP), the agency uses a two-tiered approach to screen pesticide chemicals and environmental contaminants for their potential effect on estrogen, androgen and thyroid hormone systems. EPA’s last publicly released report for tier 1 screening of only 52 chemicals found no evidence of endocrine pathways for 20 chemicals. For 14 chemicals that the agency said did show potential interaction, EPA stated that it “already has enough information to conclude that they do not pose risks.” Of the remaining 18 chemicals which went through tier 2 screening, EPA found that all showed potential interaction with the thyroid pathway, 17 of them with the androgen (male hormones) pathway, and 14 also potentially interacted with the estrogen (female hormones) pathway.

It will take several more years for EPA to completely screen any endocrine disrupting chemicals. Not surprisingly, EPA’s EDSP has been heavily criticized for decade-long delays and not placing the chemicals through more rigorous testing that includes low dose responses in the interest of protecting human health and the environment. The failure to incorporate modern toxicological science has led researchers to criticize EPA’s testing protocol as outdated, and not keeping pace with advancing science. The agency does not evaluate the potential for chemicals to exhibit non-monotonic dose response curves, where a material shows the potential for a harmful response at low, even minute levels of exposure. This effect, confirmed through independent research, challenges the traditional toxicological maxim that “the dose makes the poison.”

Beyond Pesticides supports strong protections from pesticides, including endocrine disruptors, by advocating for regulatory action that supports and encourages alternative systems that do not require these chemicals. Through the Eating with a Conscience tool, those concerned about pesticides on their produce and can find out the chemicals that are allowed in their production. Beyond Pesticides’ Lawn and Landscapes webpage helps property owners manage healthy, weed-free lawns without the use of pesticides linked to endocrine disruption and other ill health effects. Ultimately, by supporting organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of harmful synthetic pesticides, the health and economic burden that endocrine disruptors and other pesticides put on our society can be drastically reduced.

Sources: The Connexion, Chemical Watch

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

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01
Mar

Polli-Nation Pollinator of the Month: Fig Wasp

(Beyond Pesticides, March 1, 2017) The Fig wasp is the pollinator of the month for March. A highly evolved pollinator crucial to the life cycle of the fig tree, the fig wasp is part of the chalcidoid family. Within this classification, it is a member of the agaonidae sub family, which consists of both mutualistic pollinating, and parasitic, non-pollinating, fig wasps.

Fig wasps have a mutually beneficially relationship with fig trees, as both the tree and the wasp rely on each other for reproduction. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, there are about 900 species of pollinating fig wasps that are responsible for pollinating 900 different fig tree species. The relationship between fig trees and fig wasps is so evolved that each type of fig wasp pollinates only one specific type of fig tree, creating a beautiful and interdependent evolutionary partnership.

Range
The range of the fig wasp is dependent on the range of fig trees, which, according to the Encyclopedia of Life, are mainly found in the tropical and subtropical areas of the southern hemisphere. The most widely known fig tree, the common fig tree, or Ficus carica, is native to southwest Asia and the Mediterranean, and range anywhere from Afghanistan to Portugal. The strong demand and high commercial value of the fig fruit has led to the naturalization of the common fig tree in additional parts of the world that have the requisite mild and semi-arid climate required for the species to grow. California, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington all commercially produce the common fig tree.

Western consumers predominately eat figs from the common fig tree. This is due largely to the fact that this variety does not require pollination to the same extent as other fig species, making them easy to grow at home or in climates without naturally occurring fig wasp populations. However, there are two species of fig wasps that have been introduced in North America, which are typically used to pollinate the commercially valuable Smyrna fig.

Diet, Pollination, and Life Cycle
The fig wasp exclusively coexists with fig trees, which makes the fig fruit their primary source of nutrition. In order to understand the diet and method of pollination of the fig wasp it is important to understand their life cycle, which is heavily intertwined with the fig fruit. Fig wasps can be separated into two different groups, pollinating and non-pollinating, each of which plays an important role in the life cycle of a fig. Pollinating wasps provide a mutually beneficial service to the trees in the form of pollination, while non-pollinating wasps use the plant as a source of food, and often act as a parasites to either the fig plant or the pollinating wasps.

The first stage in the fig wasp’s life cycle occurs when a female fig wasp first enters an unripe fig fruit through a small opening known as the ostiole, and travels to the synconium, or inner part of the fig fruit, which contains both male and female flowers. Once inside, she will lay her eggs in the shorter flower structures. The longer flower structures remain unfertilized and eventually develop into the seeds you see inside of a fig. While laying her eggs, the female fig wasp inadvertently pollinates the female flowers found inside the fig fruit by transferring traces of pollen particles from the fig fruit in which she originally hatched. Once their eggs are laid, female fig wasps die within the fig.

As the fig fruit and the eggs mature, male wasps hatch and emerge from their eggs, known as galls, traveling within the fruit towards the synconium in search of females to fertilize. After doing his part to fertilize the female, a male fig wasp will begin digging escape tunnels for the females once they hatch, though he will never get to benefit from them himself, as males die within the fig fruit during this process. Because they never leave the fruit in which they were born, male fig wasps do not have wings.

As all of this is happening, the male flowers are maturing and creating pollen for the new batch of female fig wasps to transfer to the next fig fruit. Once the female hatches she makes her way through one of the escape tunnels dug by the males, picking up pollen from the male flowers in the process. With pollen now in tow via her body, the female emerges in search of a new fruit to lay her eggs in, pollinating another fig in the process and starting the cycle all over again. It is through this process that the highly specialized and enclosed flowers within the figs are pollinated, further demonstrating the interdependence between the life cycle of the fig wasp and the fig tree.

Physiology
Physical differences from one species to the next due to coevolution with their host fig tree species. Despite this highly evolved individuality, fig wasps do share some general some characteristics across the species.

Female fig wasps are larger in size than male fig wasps and, as mentioned above, females have wings while males do not, as they do not leave the fig within their life cycle. However, because one of their primary roles is to create tunnels for female wasps to exit the fig, male fig wasps have strong, specialized mandibles built to chew through the fig’s tough outer flesh. Females, on the other hand, are equipped with wings to travel to another fig tree or fig fruit to lay eggs.

According to the Encyclopedia of Life the female fig wasp’s body has evolved over time to fit into the ostiole of the fig.  There are special appendages on her head that help her body inch through the tight opening on the fig.  Additionally, some species of female fig wasps have evolved to have an extremely long ovipositor, the body part responsible for laying eggs.  This allows the female to lay her eggs from the outside of the fig without entering and trapping herself within the fruit.  Fig wasps have very short life spans, living only between 1-2 days once hatched from their eggs.

Ecological Role
Fig wasps may seem like a menial pollinator given that they only pollinate one type of plant, but that is far from the case!  The fig wasp is an integral species, as the fig tree has been identified as a keystone species in tropical rainforests where they help maintain the population and diversity of a variety of species. The Encyclopedia of Life defines a keystone species as “a species within the ecosystem that exerts a major influence on the composition and dynamics of the ecosystem of which it lives.” This means that the fig tree is a species that has a disproportionately large effect on its environment, relative to its abundance within the ecosystem.

Many species rely on the fig fruit and its leaves as their main source of nutrients.  The Encyclopedia of Life lists the fig as a key resource for many fruit eating animals including fruit bats, several species of monkeys, and a plethora of birds.  Insects like caterpillars, moths and beetles all feed on the leaves of the fig tree. In fact, over 1,200 different species of birds and mammals have been recorded to eat fig fruits.

Threats to Existence and How to Protect Species
Currently, the fig wasp and the fig tree are not in immediate danger, however some scientists are concerned that climate change and global warming could have a negative impact on fig wasp populations. In a study done in Singapore in 2013, researchers studying fig wasps discovered that fig wasp survivability drastically reduced in climates that were warmer than their desired habitats. More extreme climates could threaten the productivity of fig wasps, possibly causing a decline in fig tree populations. Fig wasps are considered by researches to be resilient insects, having lived through planetary temperature changes over the past 60-80 million years. They hypothesize that as climate change continues to intensify, the insects will alter their behavior in order to adapt to warmer climates. However, if the changes in temperature take place too quickly for these adaptations to occur, it could conceivably threaten the existence of the fig wasp.

Tropical rainforest deforestation also poses a threat to fig wasps. As human development and agricultural activity continues to expand, forests around the world are being cleared at alarming rates, especially in developing countries where most of the world’s tropical rainforests are located. Fig trees and their companion pollinators are incredibly important to rainforest ecosystems, as they provide a popular source of food and attract seed dispersing animals.

There are a few things that can be done within your community to protect and foster fig wasps and fig tree populations. For starters, if you live in an area with an appropriate climate, consider planting a fig tree in your yard, garden, or community! The next vital step in protecting fig wasps and fig trees is to avoid the use of pesticides in your community. 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. Neonicotinoids are systemic by nature, and if sprayed near a fig tree could be transported through the roots into the flower of the plant, threatening the fig wasps who live inside. 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 approaches to prevent and control pests 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.

What is Polli-NATION?
When it comes to pollination, bees tend to get all of the buzz. While they are crucial to pollinating many crops, bees are not the only pollinators working hard to provide the ecosystem services critical to the food system. In fact, one out of every three bites of food is made possible by pollinators. In order to raise awareness for the unsung pollinator heroes, Beyond Pesticides created the Polli-NATION Campaign, which highlights the important work of a relatively unknown pollinator each month, including butterflies, wasps, flies, beetles, birds, bats, and more. The campaign raises public awareness about these pollinators, their contribution to plant health and productivity and the preservation of natural resources, and the threats they face in their daily lives, including toxic pesticides and habitat loss. Learn what you can do in your community to help ensure their survival of all the pollinators.

Sources: Encyclopedia of LifeEncyclopedia Britannica

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

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28
Feb

Common Fungicide Damages Muscles that Bees Use to Fly

(Beyond Pesticides, February 27, 2017) Myclobutanil, a systemic fungicide commonly used in agriculture and home gardens, can cause significant damage to the muscles that honey bees use to fly and keep warm during the winter. The results of a study, published this month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by a group of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, underscore the importance of wide-scale education and movement away from the regular use of toxic pesticides. After nearly a decade of unsustainable losses, honey bees and other pollinators continue to suffer declines resulting from the use of toxic pesticides, particularly systemic insecticides called neonicotinoids.

Although a substantial body of science implicates neonicotinoids as the most serious chemical threat to pollinators currently, the effects of fungicides and other pesticides on these important animals should not be dismissed as inconsequential. In fact, a 2016 study published by researchers at the University of Maryland found that bee colonies may die off as the number of different pesticide exposures increase.

In this recent study, researchers discovered complex interactions between myclobutanil, natural compounds found in flowers, and honey bees’ detoxification system, known as cytochrome 450 enzymes. When foraging on flowers sprayed with myclobutanil, honey bees also consume small amounts of a flavonol called quercetin. In order to metabolize quercetin, bees use their cytochrome 450 enzymes. However, researchers find that myclobutanil inhibits the cytochrome 450 system, which in turn inhibits the ability to metabolize quercetin. Exposure to unmetabolized quercetin leads to a decrease in production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in bees’ thorax, meaning that bees produced less energy for the muscles they use to fly.

Needless to say, it is precisely this type of complex interaction that environmental groups harshly criticize government regulators for not considering in risk assessments used to register toxic pesticides. These type of interrelated processes in turn effect the complex behavior of honey bees. Weaker flight muscles can interfere with pollinators’ ability to make it to or from sources of food and forage. It may even be a clue to colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon that has occurred with a subset of honey bee declines that is characterized by a dead hive absent of large numbers of dead bees.

In addition to flying, honey bees cluster in a ball over winter and use their wings to generate heat within the hive. It is not difficult to see how weaker wing muscles could affect the ability of honey bee colonies to maintain a warm enough internal hive temperature.

Although the effects of fungicides on pollinators have not been studied extensively, the research raises serious concerns for another chemical tool integral to conventional chemical-intensive agricultural and garden practices. A series of studies published in 2015 discovered what lead researcher Mia Park, PhD characterized as “deleterious properties of a class of pesticides that was, until recently, considered benign to bees.”

Myclobutanil is mainly used to control diseases like powdery mildew, which can affect a plant’s ability to flower and fruit. However, there are a wide variety of non and least-toxic alternative means to control the disease. Essential oils, particularly rosemary and thyme, are effective, as is neem oil. Potassium-based soaps like MPEDE are registered to control powdery mildew and permitted for use in certified organic production. And for home gardeners, spraying baking soda and water on plants in the early morning has been successfully used to prevent mildew. Fungus thrives in wet, high humidity environments with low air circulation, and in the majority of cases eliminating those conditions will alleviate the effects of the disease.

By thinking holistically, and considering and respecting the complex interactions between humans and our environment, we can transition to a point where a toxic pesticide like myclobutanil is not necessary. Organic gardening and agriculture, which nurtures soil health and biodiversity, and a systems plan to prevent potential pest problems, provides a path forward. By acknowledging the complexity of ecological interactions, and limiting pesticide use to only situations when all other options have been exhausted, we can stop disrupting biological systems and the dramatic declines in pollinator populations and other wildlife that continue to define food production in the modern industrial age.

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

Source: PNAS, Daily Mail

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27
Feb

Poisoning Feral Hogs Raises Safety and Environmental Concerns

(Beyond Pesticides, February 27, 2017)  Texas has been dealing with a feral hog issue for many years, however recently Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller approved the use of a toxic rodenticide in an effort to control feral hog populations, a decision hunters and trappers oppose because the pesticide will poison prey and wreak havoc on ecosystems where the hogs live. The estimated population of the feral hog population is about 1.5 million in the state of Texas, where they can cause extensive damage to property, crops, and native wildlife.

Wild hogs have been considered to be one of the most destructive invasive species in the U.S. The feral hog population, close to six million, span 39 states and four Canadian provinces. Commissioner Miller, in announcing the widespread use of toxic pesticide referred to the problem as the “feral hog apocalypse.”

Damage caused by wild hogs has been estimated to reach well into the millions. Smithsonian Magazine has reported the annual damage caused by feral hog populations to be around $400 million. The Texas Parks and Wildlife website states that hogs are opportunistic omnivores.  Feral hogs enjoy eating domestic agricultural crops, such as corn, soybeans, peanuts, potatoes, watermelons and cantaloupe. They can cause damages to livestock by damaging habitat and grazing lands via rooting and trampling activities. They are notorious for damaging livestock feeders and destabilizing wetlands, springs, and creeks. Feral hogs do not actively hunt, though they have been known to be aggressive to smaller animals, such as fawns, young lambs, and kid goats.

For many years, Texas has relied on hunters and land owners to trap the feral hogs in order to control the populations and contain the damage they cause. Texas has given hunters a year round pass to hunt and capture these animals without limits. Some Texans even take to the skies in helicopters to shoot these pigs. Many hunters are not pleased with the Agriculture Commissioner’s decision to switch to a poison control method. In the past two days since Sid Miller’s decision hunters have petitioned the move and have gathered more than 1,200 signatures in opposition to the poison control.

“We don’t think poison is the way to go,” said Eydin Hansen, President of the Texas Hog Hunter Association, in an interview with north Texas’ local CBS news station. Mr. Hansen has been hunting hogs since he was 16, not only for sport, but to feed his family. He said, “It’s a way to feed your family. . .If this hog is poisoned, do I want to feed it to my family?  I can tell you, I don’t.”

Aside from the risk of eating a contaminated hog, hunters and conservationists are concerned that the rodenticide will inevitably contaminate non-target organisms. “If a hog dies, what eats it? Coyotes, buzzards. . .” said Mr. Hansen. “We’re gonna affect possibly the whole ecosystem.”  Once the animal dies from ingesting the toxic material, it could be eaten by other animals. The body will inevitably decompose, potentially releasing toxicants, those not metabolized as well as metabolites, into the environment.

The product approved by the Agricultural Commissioner is branded as Kaput Feral Hog Lure.  The active ingredient of the rodenticide formulation is the anticoagulant warfarin, a drug that is widely used to control rat and mice populations as well as prescribed by doctors to prevent blood clots. The rodenticide’s label explicitly states, “This product maybe toxic to fish, birds and other wildlife. Dogs and other predatory and scavenging mammals and birds might be poisoned if they feed upon animals that have eaten the bait.”

The secondary poisoning associated with the use of rodenticides in the outdoor environment will occur when unintended organisms consume the bait. Those advocating the use of the Kaput rodenticide focus on the manufacturer’s dispenser for the rodenticide that is specially designed to allow only hogs to feed on the bait. This, however, does not protect animals that feed on the poisoned hog. The bait also is designed to dye the flesh and muscle of the poisoned animal blue, notifying hunters that this animal has ingested the poison. Commissioner Miller makes a cost argument for pushing poison, saying it will save the state $900,000, which was earmarked for feral hog control research.

Beyond Pesticides stands behind the hunters on this matter. As in many other cases, there are safe sustainable alternatives that protect human and environmental health. Trapping and hunting present a sustainable option, incentivizing approaches that are a much safer option for population control without risks to the environment and human health.

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

Sources: CBS 11, Smithsonian, Texas Parks & Wildlife

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24
Feb

Oak Park and Evanston Act to Repeal Preemption, Assert Local Authority to Restrict Pesticides in Illinois

(Beyond Pesticides, February 24, 2017) Over the last two weeks, both Oak Park and Evanston, IL have taken steps to repeal preemption of local authority to restrict community-wide pesticide use in the state of Illinois. The Village of Oak Park has approved a Resolution in Support of the Repeal of the State Pesticide Preemption, and the City of Evanston has approved a Resolution Urging the State of Illinois to Repeal Preemption of Local Regulation of Pesticides. Both of these actions urge the state of Illinois to repeal the preemption of local government regulation of pesticides and re-establish the right of local home rule governments to adopt pesticide restrictions on public and private land within their jurisdiction, as they deem appropriate.

The push to pass these resolutions grew out of hard work from passionate residents and activists. For the Village of Oak Park, a local advocacy group, Go Green Oak Park, reached out to Beyond Pesticides (see PAY Mail section) for assistance in talking to itslocal board about these issues. Peggy Mcgrath, a member of Go Green Oak Park, said about the issue: “Big corporations are calling more and more of the shots. To protect our government ‘ Of The People,’  we need grassroots involvement to encourage and support our congressional representatives to do the right thing for our children and our one sacred earth.” Evanston also galvanized forces through its local activists. Leslie Shad, a board member of Citizens’ Greener Evanston, stated to The Daily Northwestern, “Our own community should be able to manage the health and welfare of our own citizens.”… “It should be possible for the community to make some decisions for itself on the use of pesticides.”

Currently, 43 states restrict local government’s authority to regulate pesticide use further than state law. Preemption, the ability of one level of government to override laws of a lower level, has an important legal, political, and legislative history regarding pesticide regulation that provides helpful context for current efforts by local advocates.

The prevailing federal precedent was decided in 1991 when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, ruled that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) does not preempt local jurisdictions from restricting the use of pesticides more stringently than the federal government. States do, however, retain the authority to take away control from the local political subdivisions within its boundaries. In response to the Supreme Court decision, the pesticide lobby immediately formed a coalition, called the Coalition for Sensible Pesticide Policy, and developed boilerplate legislative language that restricts local municipalities from passing ordinances on the use of pesticides on private property. The Coalition’s lobbyists descended on states across the country, seeking and passing, in most cases, preemption legislation that was often identical to the Coalition’s wording.

In the 43 states where the Coalition was successful, localities can only address pesticide use on public property, and cannot restrict toxic pesticides on private properties. And while only seven states retain this right for localities, those that do show there is a desire for local authority to address pesticide use in a way that best reflects the values of a community’s residents and a locality’s unique environment and ecosystems. Takoma Park and Montgomery County (population one million) in Maryland passed ordinances banning the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes on all property, in favor of organic practices. Nearly 20 communities in Maine have restricted pesticide use on private property in some way, including comprehensive cosmetic pesticide restrictions passed in Ogunquit and South Portland. Restoring local authority to regulate pesticides is one of the most challenging, but also most important battles in pesticide reform.

Wondering how you can create change similar to that taking place in these communities? Take action! Advocating for the repeal of preemption in your state can be difficult – make sure you arm yourself with the right information. The same type of language that was used in the resolutions passed by Oak Park and Evanston can be used to fight preemption in your state. It takes work and commitment, but it can be done with some perseverance. It’s important to find support —friends, neighbors, and other people who share your concerns about environmental health. It’s also essential to reach out to your local elected officials and government. Beyond Pesticides has resources and factsheets available to help you organize in your community. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email (info@beyondpesticides.org) Beyond Pesticides for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to effect change. You can also take a look at our Map of U.S. Pesticide Reform Policies and sign up to promote positive change in your community.

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

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22
Feb

Pesticide Spills and Accidents Put Pesticide Applicators at Increased Risk for Prostate Cancer

(Beyond Pesticides, February 23, 2017) Male pesticide applicators who experienced a pesticide spill or another related accident are more likely to harbor changes in their DNA associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer, according to a recent paper published in the journal, Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis. While the relationship between pesticide exposure and prostate cancer is not new, this study adds to the growing body of evidence that high exposure to specific pesticides may lead to the development of prostate and other cancers. The analysis finds that after experiencing one of these exposure events, men are more likely to have higher DNA methylation of a gene linked with an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. DNA methylation is a form of gene regulation that, if disturbed, can result in gene expression changes that can cause cancer.

The researchers used data from the ongoing Agricultural Health Study (AHS), which is a long-term cohort study evaluating cancer and other health outcomes of pesticides applicators and their spouses in North Carolina and Iowa. This paper, High pesticide exposure events and DNA methylation among pesticide applicators in the agricultural health study, analyzed a sample size of 596 male pesticide applicators who underwent three phases of data collection for behavioral outcomes and pesticide exposure metrics. The participants completed a self-administered questionnaire in which they reported any high pesticide exposure events (HPEE), or “self-reported incidents of unusually high, non-specific exposure to pesticides.”

There are various mechanisms that may alter gene expression after pesticide exposure, including oxidative stress induction and endocrine disruption. These alterations and their impacts on disease development are still not clear, but, according to this study, the DNA changes and “subsequent gene inactivation has been consistently associated with prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among men in the U.S., after skin cancer, and, according to the American Cancer Society, is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in American men. Previous research using AHS data has identified an association between exposures to organophosphate pesticides and elevated prostate cancer risk in applicators with a family history of this specific cancer. And according to a 2013 study, “Three organophosphate insecticides were significantly associated with aggressive prostate cancer: fonofos, malathion and terbufos. The organochlorine insecticide aldrin is also associated with increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer.” Additionally, the herbicide, atrazine, is associated with an 8.4-fold increase in prostate cancer in men who work in atrazine factories and bag this toxic chemical.

The scientific literature confirms that farmworkers, their families, and their communities face elevated hazards from pesticide exposures, and existing farmworker data finds that the incidence rate of pesticide poisoning is extremely high. As a result of cumulative long-term exposures, farmworkers and their children, who often also work on the farm, are at risk of developing serious chronic health problems, such as neurological impairments, autism, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Other research finds that those with long-term exposure to 2,4-D have poor semen quality, and higher rates of birth defects.

Farmworkers, as usual, are on the front line of these impacts. Despite a recent important update to Worker Protection Standards, there is a need to drastically limit farmworker exposure to a wide range of toxic pesticides. Despite federal regulations to reduce pesticide exposure among farmworkers through personal protective equipment (PPE) and other measures, research conducted in farmworker communities show that such regulations are only partially enforced. High levels of pesticides continue to be detected among farmworker communities across the country, providing evidence that PPE and other controls do not go far enough to protect this highly exposed population. Ultimately, the key to making changes in the lives of farmworkers and farmworker families will be adequate enforcement of new provisions, and a transition to safer practices.

Our food choices have a direct effect on those who grow and harvest what we eat around the world. This is why certified organic food is the best choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, and the protection of farmworkers and farm families. To learn about how buying organic food can help protect farmworkers, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience guide. For more information on the impact of pesticides to farmworkers and their families, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Agricultural Justice webpage.

Sources: Environmental Health News, Wiley Online Library

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

 

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22
Feb

Online Pesticide Sales Circumvent Pesticide Restrictions in Canada and U.S. States

(Beyond Pesticides, February 22, 2017) The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada, which regulates pesticides in the country, recently proposed changes to regulations under the Canada’s Pest Control Products Act (PCPA) that will curtail the ability of individuals living within the country to import pesticide products that do not meet Canada’s regulatory standards. Designed to address an existing loophole in the country’s law, the policy seeks to eliminate the practice of purchasing pesticide products from international online retailers that circumvent Canada’s more stringent pesticide regulations. While U.S. law does not contain a similar loophole, U.S. states that restrict pesticide sale and use more stringently than the federal government face a similar legal quagmre.

Current PCPA regulations establish a Personal Use Import Exemption that allows individuals to bring in small quantities of pest control products that are not registered for use in Canada, but do not pose an “unacceptable risk.” According to the Canadian government, the original intent of the exemption was to allow travelers to bring small quantities of pest control products, such as insect repellent, into Canada without “legally undermining the regulatory regime” under PCPA. However, with rise of online marketplaces, such as Amazon, the use of the exemption has been employed beyond its original intent, as Canadians routinely purchase illegal household pesticide products online and have them delivered through the mail. PMRA maintains that the abuse of “the current scope of the exemption poses risks to human health, the environment, and the integrity of the pest control products regulatory regime.” Given the widespread adoption of pesticide regulations that are more stringent than the federal Canadian standards throughout many provinces in Canada, it is also conceivable  that the new regulation may help stop the flow of pesticides not legal for use into local jurisdictions throughout the country. A similar concern exists in the U.S. when state standards are more stringent than federal U.S. regulations.

As state regulators consider standards more stringent than the federal government, the availability of pesticide products through online marketplaces continues to pose a challenge for state regulators. For example, the state pesticide law in California, as enforced by the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), restricts the use of several pesticides otherwise allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and available online. While the state has control over products physically sold within its borders, online retailers that offer pesticide products, like Amazon and Do It Yourself Pest Control, may create a way for consumers to circumvent state regulations and procure illegal pest control products with the state. Given the Trump Administration’s impending regulatory rollbacks, it is possible that more states will restrict pesticides more stringently than EPA. In the wake of an uptick in state regulation, new action will be required to ensure the public is not being exposed to illegal pesticide products obtained online in those states.

Canada is not the only country with a law that allows unregistered pesticides and their uses to legally be allowed into the country through a loophole. Beyond Pesticides has long criticized the U.S. practice of import tolerances, which essentially allow for pesticide residues on food or feed commodities coming in from other countries that are otherwise illegal, based on U.S. pesticide regulations. This allowance of hazardous pesticide residues banned, canceled, or not registered in the U.S. raises serious safety concerns. This scenario played itself out in 2012, when oranges imported from Brazil were found to have traces of the fungicide carbendazim, which is not registered for use on food within the U.S. At the time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wrote a letter to the Juice Products Association, saying that it did not intend to take action or remove from the market any orange juice containing carbendazim, despite EPA evaluations that the chemical causes liver and thyroid effects in animal studies and has been classified as a probable human carcinogen.

In the documentary Circle of Poison, which features Beyond Pesticides’ Executive Director Jay Feldman, filmmakers take an indepth look at the how dangerous chemicals that are produced, but banned for use, in the U.S. make their way into U.S. through imported food. This is largely due to the practice of U.S. chemical corporations, whose chemicals fail to maintain EPA approval and registration at home, continuing to produce the dangerous chemicals and sell them abroad. Many of these pesticides are exported to the global south, and then reenter the food stream when crops that are grown in those countries ship back to the U.S., threatening public health and safety both at home and abroad.

Congress in 1991 attempted to address this issue with the Circle of Poison Prevention Act. Introduced by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bill would have placed strict controls on exports of hazardous chemicals. The bill was ultimately unsuccessful, but represented a firm acknowledgement of the loopholes in U.S. laws that allow the public to be exposed to otherwise illegal chemicals through importation.

The use of banned or highly restricted chemicals in food production is still a common practice in much of the developing world from which food is routinely imported into the U.S. By purchasing food commodities with legal tolerances for pesticides no longer used or restricted in the U.S., consumers inadvertently support agricultural production practices in other countries that are associated with the range of adverse effects as noted in the Pesticide Induced-Disease Database, including poor labor practices and environmental degradation. The Eating with a Conscience database, based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), describes a food production system that enables toxic pesticide use both domestically in the U.S. and internationally, and provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use.

To avoid potentially dangerous chemical residues in food, whose origins may be domestic or international, choose organic. The most important organic food products to purchase, especially for children, are those that are consumed in great quantity, such as juice. Purchasing organic juice is particularly important to reduce their pesticide exposure. Research has shown that switching children to an organic diet drastically reduces their exposure. For more information, visit our Organic Food page.

Source: CBC News

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

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21
Feb

Take Action: Bill Will Eliminate Permit Requirement to Spray Pesticides into Waterways

(Beyond Pesticides, February 21, 2016) The Agriculture Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill last week that will eliminate protections from toxic pesticides for the nation’s waterways. The bill now moves on to the full House for a vote and the public has an opportunity to let Representatives hear the concerns about weakening local protection of waterways from toxic pesticides. HR 953The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act (code for the sponsors and supporters as legislation to eliminate environmental protection of water quality), is the committee’s latest effort in a multi-year string of attempts to rollback common sense protections for the public waterways all Americans use for swimming, fishing, and other forms of recreation. The bill would repeal the Clean Water Act requirement that those who apply pesticides to waterways, with an exemption for farm use pesticides not directly deposited into waterways, obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

Last May, at the height of fears over the Zika epidemic, the same Committee ushered through the same bill under another misleading name, The Zika Vector Control Act. Pensive lawmakers and the public saw through the ruse, and the bill was defeated. But, like previous iterations, including the 2015 Sensible Environmental Protection Act, lawmakers ostensibly grandstanding against over-regulation are, in fact, advancing the economic interests of toxic chemical producers and users.

A 2009 decision issued by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, in the case of National Cotton Council et al. v. EPA, held that pesticides applied to waterways should be considered pollutants under federal law and regulated under the Clean Water Act. Prior to the decision, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the Bush Administration, had allowed the weaker and more generalized standards under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to be followed. This allowed pesticides to be discharged into U.S. waterways without any federal oversight, as FIFRA does not require tracking such applications and assessing the adverse effects on local ecosystems.

In a statement, the House Agriculture Committee praised itself for working to eliminate “costly and duplicative burdens,” However, the facts do not bear this out. Under current law, pesticide applicators only have to fill out one permit, and the permit simply lets authorities know what is sprayed and when it is sprayed. This information is needed to understand whether there are potential dangers to sensitive aquatic ecosystems. It also informs the public on the chemicals being used in their waterways. Pesticide regulations under FIFRA do not achieve these protections, and despite the 2009 ruling, most agricultural pesticide applications are exempt from CWA permit requirements.

To be clear, HR 953 would:
(1) undermine federal authority to protect U.S. waters under the Clean Water Act,
(2) allow spraying of toxic chemicals into waterways without local and state oversight,
(3) not reduce claimed burdens to farmers since there is currently no burden as there is no real economic cost and agricultural activities are exempt, and
(4) contaminate drinking water sources and harm aquatic life.

Already, nearly 2,000 waterways are impaired by pesticide contamination and many more have simply not been tested. The potentially high cost of public health problems, environmental clean-up efforts, and irreversible ecological damage that can result from unchecked, indiscriminate pollution of waterways is being ignored by opponents of CWA regulations.

Beyond Pesticides continues to fight to prevent water pollution and harmful agricultural practices. Visit our Threatened Waters page, and learn how organic land management practices protect waterways in the article, Organic Land Management and the Protection of Water Quality. Do your part! Please send a letter to your Congressional Representative urging him/her to reject HR953, and then follow-up with a phone call to their office.

Source: House Ag Committee PR

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

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