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Daily News Blog

17
Feb

Two Months until Healthy Hives, Healthy Lives, Healthy Land Conference!

(Beyond Pesticides, February 17, 2017) We’re only two months away from our 35th National Pesticide Forum! Join us for Healthy Hives, Healthy Lives, Healthy Land: Ecological and Organic Strategies for Regeneration, held at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 28-29, 2017.

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.

Background

The Forum offers a unique opportunity during a critical time in our nation’s history to chart a course that upholds principles, values, policies and practices that protect health and the environment. 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. The Forum includes a broad range of speakers and collaborators, and will provide an opportunity for grassroots advocates, scientists, policy makers, and land managers to discuss effective strategies and practices that work collectively for a sustainable future.

Program Highlights

Forum attendees have the opportunity to join us for a tour on Friday, April 28 from 12:00pm to 4:00pm. Tentative tour options include an immersive beehive tour and an educational walkthrough of a student-driven 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 (including lawns, agricultural landscapes, and structures), seed sovereignty and organic seed availability, soil health, local organizing, and litigation successes to protect human health and the environment.

Speaker Highlights

  • Vera Krischik, PhD is faculty in the Entomology Department in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota. Since 1998, Dr. Krischik has been director of CUES: Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability, which promotes sustainable landscapes and conservation of beneficial insects. In 2010 and 2014, Dr. Krischik received an LCCMR grant on mitigating pollinator decline.
  • Jeff Moyer is a world renowned authority in organic agriculture. His expertise includes organic crop production systems with a focus on weed management, cover crops, crop rotations, equipment modification and use, and facilities design. In September 2015, Jeff was appointed as Executive Director of Rodale Institute after spending the last four decades at the Institute, helping countless farmers make the transition from conventional, chemical-based farming to organic methods.
  • David Oien is a co-founder and the President of Timeless Seeds, Inc., a certified organic pulse crop and heritage grain company that is featured in the book Lentil Underground by Liz Carlisle (who will also be speaking at the forum)! Timeless Seeds contracts with dozens of organic farmers in Montana and markets its products across America to customers like Blue Apron, Eden Foods, Stanford University Dining Services, high end and farm-to-table restaurants, and hundreds of natural food stores including the Wedge and the Lake Winds Coop stores in the Twin Cities.
  • Amy Van Saun is an attorney in Center for Food Safety (CFS)’s Portland, Oregon office. As part of CFS’s legal team, Amy works on CFS’s active docket of impact litigation and high-profile cases on issues related to pollinators and pesticides, organics, genetic engineering, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs or factory farms), aquaculture, and food labeling.

Stay Tuned

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

If your group is interested in co-sponsoring the 35th National Pesticide Forum, please email us.

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

Videos from Last Year’s Conference
See Beyond Pesticides’ YouTube page for videos of all the speakers, panels, and workshop discussions from the 34th National Pesticide Forum! Check out Beyond Pesticides’ past conferences here.

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

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16
Feb

Trump Administration Sued on Reversal of Endangered Species Designation for Rusty Patched Bumblebee

(Beyond Pesticides, February 16, 2017) On Tuesday, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued the Trump administration for reversing a February 10 rule, published in the Federal Register, that designated the Rusty Patched Bumblebee an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The reversal  of the endangered species listing establishes a new review period until March 21. As to their reasoning for such a sudden change, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) cited the White House memo instructing federal agencies to postpone the effective date of any regulations that had been published in the Federal Register, but not yet in effect. As discussed several days ago, the order by the Trump administration means that despite FWS’ determination that without federal action the species will likely become endangered, the Trump administration has 60 days to evaluate the decision for the purpose of “reviewing questions of fact, law, and policy.”

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, argues that FWS violated the notice and comment requirements of public rulemaking for the delay on the bumblebee listing. In the lawsuit, NRDC states that, “Without valid explanation, opportunity for public input, or other legally required process, FWS delayed the effective date of the listing, denying the bee the essential protections of the law.” And, according to Rebecca Riley, a senior attorney for NRDC, in an interview with Mother Jones, “We don’t think this is just a freeze – it’s an opportunity for the administration to reconsider and perhaps revoke the rule entirely.”

The Rusty Patched Bumblebee became the first bumblebee federally designated as endangered under ESA, when the final rule was published in the Federal Register on January 11 and had been scheduled to take effect this past Friday. Although the Rusty Patched Bumblebee was once widespread throughout the United States and parts of Canada, it declined dramatically in the 1990’s, and now their populations are estimated to be less than 10% of what they once were. Threats to the rusty patched bumble bee include diseases introduced by commercial bumble bees that are not free of pathogens and are released near wild populations. Climate change plays a part, along with habitat loss, from industrial agriculture and development that decreases wild lands. There is also an overwhelming amount of research demonstrating that neonicotinoid insecticides, working either individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of bees and other pollinators.

According to FWS’s website on the Rusty Patched Bumblebee, “Neonicotinoids have been strongly implicated as the cause of the decline of bees, in general, and for rusty patched bumble bees, specifically. The introduction of neonicotinoid use and the precipitous decline of this bumble bee occurred during the same time.” Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. These chemicals are used extensively in chemical-intensive agriculture, especially as seed treatments for corn and soybeans. The case of the neonicotinoid use exemplifies two critical problems with current registration procedures and risk assessment methods for pesticides: the reliance on industry-funded science that contradicts peer-reviewed studies and the insufficiency of current risk assessment procedures to account for sublethal effects of pesticides.

While the endangered species listing by FWS was an important environmental action, other agencies continue to lag behind in addressing the threat of pesticides to pollinators. In March 2016, a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concluded that U.S. regulatory agencies are falling short in addressing the multiple threats contributing to declining pollinators. The GAO report recommends that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) increase the monitoring of wild, native bees, while U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) efforts thus far on pesticide restrictions (label amendments and restrictions) have been limited and accomplished little to change pesticide exposure patterns to pollinators. GAO identified the need for EPA to develop a plan to assess pesticide risks to a range of bee species beyond honey bees, as current EPA evaluations only use honey bees as a surrogate for wild bee species. Further, the report finds that the impact from exposure to chemical mixtures also needs to be investigated.

For these reasons and many others, Beyond Pesticides works to promote the widespread transition of conventional farmland to organic production. Organic law requires farmers to foster soil health, effecting a strategy that enhances ecological balance and prevents pest problems. Because of these factors, organic systems plan practices increase plant health, diversity of pest predators, and resiliency to withstand pests and diseases.

Without federal protection, the Rusty Patched Bumblebee needs concerned communities throughout the country to step in and pass policies that will protect these imperiled pollinators. 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.

Sources: Reuters, Christian Science Monitor

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

 

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15
Feb

Lawsuit Charges that Monsanto and EPA Colluded to Stop Agency from Reaching Cancer Finding for Glyphosate (Roundup)

(Beyond Pesticides, February 15, 2017) Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Monsanto, charging that its product Roundup caused their non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL), have cited the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) collusion with the company to block the agency from concluding that the manufacturer’s product Roundup causes cancer, according to investigative reporter Carey Gilliam, writing in the Huffington Post. The filing states that EPA made an effort “to protect Monsanto’s interests and unfairly aid the agrichemical industry.”Glyphosate has been linked to cancer  in the independent scientific literature and is listed as a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Issues of suppression have also been uncovered, as Monsanto’s lawyers have filed claims to prevent information  turned over to plaintiffs’ lawyers during discovery from inclusion on the public record.

This is just the latest development in a variety of lawsuits aimed at Monsanto, including a challenge by a peach farmer over the illegal spraying of the herbicide Dicamba and the recent victory by the state of California to list glyphosate products as cancer causing. In the current case, a multitude of personal injury claims made by those suffering from, or that have lost loved ones to, NHL have been condensed into a class action suit that will be tried in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. This allows discovery to move forward as one large class.

The filing, made last week by plaintiffs’ attorneys, asks the court to compel the deposition of Jess Rowland, who served as deputy division director in EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) and directly managed the work of scientists charged with assessing the human health effects of exposure to pesticides, including glyphosate. The motion accuses Mr. Rowland of playing “political conniving games with science” in favor of Monsanto’s interests, and argues the agency’s willingness to promote industry interests over protecting public health. According to the motion, “The Plaintiffs have a pressing need for Mr. Rowland’s testimony to confirm his relationship with Monsanto and EPA’s substantial role in protecting the Defendant’s business.” It goes on to claim that, “Mr. Rowland operated under Monsanto’s influence to cause EPA’s position and publications to support Monsanto’s business…” During Mr. Rowland’s tenure at EPA, the agency issued its finding that glyphosate meets its acceptable risk standards, despite IARC’s position to the contrary based on the scientific literature. Up until last year, Mr. Rowland  also chaired the EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC), which determined glyphosate was “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

Based on Monsanto’s previous efforts to keep documents in this case from being released publicly, it is likely that the agrichemical company will file a motion in opposition to Mr. Rowland’s deposition. Monsanto has already sought to keep documents associated with this case secret, having asked the federal judge presiding over the case to block plaintiffs’ attorneys from including documents they receive during the discovery process from being used as exhibits in court filings, so as to keep them out of the hands of the public and the media. Monsanto claims that releasing these documents may be an effort to “try this case in the court of public opinion,” an act the company claims “is not in the public interest.” This, despite the fact that millions of people around the world are exposed to glyphosate on a daily basis, and advocates maintain that they have a right to know what kind of relationship the company has with the government agency that is supposed to look out for its health and safety.

The chemical at issue in this case, 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. IARC’s classification of glyphosate as a Group 2A “probable” carcinogen indicates that glyphosate is anything but safe, as the ranking represents the highest order carcinogen when no human data is available —and since chemicals are not tested on humans, a higher ranking  is rare. According to IARC, Group 2A means that the chemical is probably carcinogenic to humans based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. In its report, the agency did note that glyphosate has been linked DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells. Further, epidemiologic studies have found that exposure to glyphosate is significantly associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, 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.”

Ms. Gillam, Research Director for U.S. Right to Know, uncovers more to the story, pointing out that, as the evidence against Monsanto continues to mount, Congress may be stepping in to curtail class action lawsuits. Just last week, legislation was introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) to limit the ability of individuals to challenge powerful corporations in court with the stated goal of “diminish[ing] abuses in class action and mass tort litigation.” Entitled the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017,” the bill will apply to pending as well as future class action lawsuits. Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, believes that the bill will have terrible ramifications when it comes to protecting individual interests, as it “is designed to ensure that no class action could ever be brought or litigated for anyone.” She continues, claiming that the legislation “would obliterate civil rights, antitrust, consumer, essentially every class action in America.”

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.

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

Source: Huffington Post

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

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14
Feb

Trump Administration Reverses Endangered Species Designation for Bumblebee Pending Review

(Beyond Pesticides, February 14, 2017) Less than one month after the Rusty Patched Bumblebee’s listing as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Trump Administration has reversed the order. On his first day in office, President Trump issued a memo instructing federal agencies to postpone the effective date of any regulations that had been published in the Federal Register, but not yet in effect. This order means that despite FWS’ determination that without federal action the species will likely become endangered, the Trump administration has 60 days to evaluate the decision for the purpose of “reviewing questions of fact, law, and policy.”

Advocates for the imperiled species are urging the administration to allow the Rusty Patched Bumblebee to officially become the first bumblebee federally recognized under ESA. Although the Rusty Patched was once widespread throughout the United States and parts of Canada, it declined dramatically in the 1990’s, and now their populations are estimated to be less than 10% of what they once were.  On its website, FWS lists a number of threats to the Rusty Patched, including pesticides, habitat loss, disease, climate change, and intensive farming practices.

Insecticides known as neonicotinoids, introduced into chemical-intensive agricultural practices in the late 1990s, have seen use increase significantly over the last several decades, to the detriment of both managed and wild pollinator populations. These chemicals been implicated as a key contributor to the recent global decline in pollinator diversity. Neonicotinoids affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and eventual death. When they do not result in acute toxicity and immediate death, sublethal exposure causes changes in bee reproductive, navigation, and foraging ability. Neonicotinoid exposure impairs both detoxification mechanisms and immune responses, rendering bees more susceptible to viruses, parasites, and other diseases, and leading to devastating bee losses.

When asked by NBC News, the U.S. Department of Interior did not immediately respond whether the Rusty Patched Bumblebee’s status under the new administration would change. Despite the Obama Administration’s lackluster efforts to address the root cause of pollinator decline, and opt for a strategy that includes additional research and a focus on habitat, the administration did give a platform for pollinator protection efforts at the Presidential level. A revocation will be met with intense criticism by environmental groups, as it would be seen as a gift to special interests like the American Farm Bureau Federation, which promotes pesticide use. The Farm Bureau told NBC news that it opposed the Rusty Patch listing and that ESA “imposes far-reaching regulatory burdens.”

While attacks against ESA listings are likely to become more frequent over the next several years, it is critical that consumers are educated on the importance of wild pollinators, both to agricultural productivity and for their intrinsic value. Indeed, there is a strong argument that it would cost more to not protect species like the Rusty Patch than to allow them to go extinct. A 2016 UN report warning of shortages in global food supplies should pollinator numbers decline any further estimates that  pollinators worldwide contribute between $235 and $577 billion in agricultural productivity annually. In addition to their value in dollars, every species is like a book in the library of life, and losing a species is like burning that book. It means we will forever miss out, and never truly understand how its story connects with the chronicles of life on Earth.

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

Source: NBC News

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

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13
Feb

Herbicide Use Contributes to Declines in Monarch Populations

(Beyond Pesticides, February 13, 2017)  A study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and others  attributes the reduced number of overwintering monarch butterflies –a reduction of 27% from last year—to herbicide use and other factors. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in conjunction with U.S. and Mexican environmental groups, has been leading the effort in tracking monarch butterflies.  Their recently released 2016-2017 study concluded that the population of monarch butterflies decreased 27 percent from last year’s population, which had marked an increase from dangerously low levels over the previous three years.  Overall, this marks an 80 percent decline in monarch population from the 1990’s.  Researchers have estimated that within 20 years the monarch butterfly migration could collapse altogether.

The study was conducted in December of 2016 when the colonies of monarchs are expected to be at their peak population in Mexico.  Monarch populations are gauged by the area of land they inhabit, rather than counts of butterflies.   Thirteen butterfly colonies were observed, recorded and tracked using geographic information systems software.  The researchers found that the butterflies occupied 2.91 hectares of forest, which re

presents a 27.43 percent decrease in population compared to the 4.01 hectares of forest they inhabited during the 2015-2016 migration season.

A combination of factors have led to the declining populations of monarch butterflies.  A series of extreme weather events in Mexico last fall are partly to blame for this seasons decline.  Unusually cold and wet weather last March of 2016 limited the success of the butterflies return migration back to the United States and Canada.  Habitat loss and illegal logging operations in Mexico’s Oyamel forest are also being looked at as a possible driver for monarch population decline.

Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed that grows wild, and reduced sources of milkweed pose a threat to monarch populations.  The use of genetically engineered crops allows the use of glyphosate in cropland, which is an important factor in the decline of the monarch.

In a press release from the Mexico’s WWF branch, Omar Vidal stated, “The monarch migration is a phenomenon like no other. But now, it’s imperiled by forces the monarchs themselves cannot control. The reduction in the area of forest they occupied this year –most probably due to the high mortality caused by storms and cold weather last year— is a clear reminder for the three countries that they must step up actions to protect breeding, feeding and migratory habitat.” Mr. Vidal continued, “We cannot control the climate, but we can do much better in eradicating illegal logging in the reserve and tackling habitat loss in the U.S. and Canada. But, even if Mexico’s overwintering sites never lose another tree, without food and habitat along the migration routes the forests will soon bid farewell to their final orange and black-winged tenant.”

Monarch butterflies are one of many important pollinator species that have experienced drastic declines in recent years. Along with threats from glyphosate use and habitat loss, the use of neonoicotinoid pesticides has also been linked to monarch declines. In addition to monarch butterflies, honey bees and wild bees have also been experiencing a drastic decline in numbers  that has been linked to the prevalent use of neonicotinoids. A recent report issued by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) states that certain neonicotinoid insecticides pose an unacceptable hazard to honey bees. The EFSA report concludes that systemic contamination of neonicotinoid-treated crops, neonicotinoid dust exposure, and contaminated nectar and pollen contributes to declines in honey bees and weakens their hives. With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other insects for pollination, the decline of honey bees and other pollinators due to pesticides and other man-made causes demands immediate action. Beyond Pesticides has petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend the use of bee toxic chemicals pending a full review of their effects on pollinators.

Critical to the survival of monarchs, other pollinators, and organisms essential to ecological balance is the large-scale adoption of organic farming practices. Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture  as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat.

On a personal level, several steps may be taken to attract beneficial insects like monarchs and protect backyard habitats. Like any other living organisms, pollinators need food, water, and shelter in order to thrive. For more information, see Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind  and Hedgerows for Biodiversity: Habitat is needed to protect pollinators, other beneficial organisms, and healthy ecosystems.  More information is available in the BEE Protective Habitat Guide and Do-It-Yourself Biodiversity.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity, World Wildlife Fund

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

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10
Feb

NRDC and Others Sue Over Two-for-One Executive Order

(Beyond Pesticides, February 10, 2017) On Wednesday, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), along with Public Citizen and the Communications Workers of America, sued the Trump administration in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in an attempt to block an executive order (EO) mandating that federal agencies zero out costs to regulated entities, while ignoring benefits to the public, environment, and natural resources. The so-called “Two for One” order requires agencies to propose the repeal of two regulations for every new regulation that is proposed.

The Executive Order in question mandates that new rules have a net zero cost to regulated entities in fiscal year 2017, with no mechanism for taking into account the value of benefits they provide in the form of public protection. According to the complaint, “the Executive Order directs agencies to disregard the benefits of new and existing rules—including benefits to consumers, to workers, to people exposed to pollution, and to the economy—even when the benefits far exceed costs. The Executive Order’s direction to federal agencies to zero out costs to regulated industries, while entirely ignoring benefits to the Americans whom Congress enacted these statutes to protect, will force agencies to take regulatory actions that harm the people of this nation.”

The suit names as defendants President Trump and Mark Sandy, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The OMB is charged with implementing the executive order and has already issued interim guidance to enforce its terms. The suit also names the current or acting secretaries and directors of numerous executive departments and agencies. The plaintiffs ask that the court find the order unconstitutional and bar agencies from implementing the order. Plaintiffs claim that agencies cannot lawfully comply with the EO, as doing so would violate several laws under which the agencies operate, including the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

The complaint also shows how programs implementing many major federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substance Control Act, and the Clean Air Act, could be negatively affected by the EO. For example, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which was enacted to halt and reverse species loss in the United States, was written with little emphasis on cost. The law currently mandates that the cost of designating critical habitat should be considered only in tandem with the benefits of creating that habitat, placing the priority on species preservation. The new EO would change the spirit and intent of that law, however, by mandating that the cost of designating critical habitat be considered in isolation from the requirements of the ESA. This would force agencies to make determinations that are inconsistent with the underlying statutes, resulting in violations of existing federal law. Additionally, as stated in the complaint, the EO may force agencies to “make an impermissible and arbitrary choice –whether to issue a new standard at the cost of the loss of benefits of two existing standards.” Plaintiffs feel that abiding by the EO could constitute an arbitrary and capricious abuse of discretion under the APA and other governing statutes. The complaint states, quoting the decision in Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass’n v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co., “In the APA, Congress directed federal agencies to undertake reasoned and evidence-based decision-making when exercising their delegated authority to promulgate rules. An agency must consider the factors that Congress has directed it to consider and cannot ‘rel[y] on factors which Congress has not intended it to consider.’”

It is important to note that regulations are typically issued as required by law –laws that were passed in response to existing needs. All regulations undergo a process of public notice and comment, and reflect the agency’s position based on consideration of public input. According to a joint press release written by the plaintiffs, “A draft 2016 report to Congress from the White House OMB estimates that the annual benefits from all major regulations over the past 10 years for which agencies monetized both benefits and costs were between $269 billion and $872 billion, while the costs were between $74 billion and $110 billion, in 2014 dollars. OMB’s 2005 report to Congress estimated that major rules from the previous 10 years provided annual benefits of $69.6 billion to $276.8 billion, while costing between $34.8 billion and $39.4 billion.” Thus, the benefits of major regulations already outweigh the costs associated.

This case is just the latest development in efforts to combat the Trump Administration’s assault on the environment. Earlier this week, a nonpartisan group of 447 former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees united to write a strongly-worded letter urging the Senate to block Scott Pruitt’s confirmation as EPA Administrator. Citing EPA’s “fundamental obligation to act in the public’s interest based on current law and the best available science,” the group, whose members served under both Democratic and Republican presidents, calls into question Pruitt’s qualifications, given his longstanding record of opposing “longstanding tenets of U.S. environmental law.”

Action Items

Beyond Pesticides urges citizens to call or email elected representatives in Congress to voice concerns about the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine environmental protections and public health. Beyond Pesticides advocates acting by calling or emailing elected representatives in Congress to let them know that the Trump administration’s silencing of EPA will not be tolerated and demanding transparency and science-based standards going forward. Environmentalists also encourage following the lead of the 447 former EPA employees by calling Senators to tell them to vote against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt to Administrator of EPA.

Source(s): NRDC, Public Citizen, The Washington Post

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

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09
Feb

Health Canada Will Begin Pesticide Testing of Cannabis After Recalls and Consumer Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, February 9, 2017) The failure of the U.S. pesticide regulatory system to protect marijuana users was highlighted as Health Canada announced Tuesday that it would begin conducting random pesticide residue testing of marijuana products to ensure that only registered products are being used in medical marijuana production. This comes on the heels of voluntary recalls in 2016 by two licensed Canadian cannabis producers due to the presence of the prohibited pesticides bifenazate, myclobutanil, and pyrethrins in or on marijuana products. Especially concerning is the detection of myclobutanil, a powerful fungicide that, when heated, converts to the hazardous gas hydrogen cyanide. The detection of these toxic chemicals in medical marijuana products is distressing since many users have compromised immune systems or health conditions that make them more susceptible to toxic chemicals.

Moves by several states in the U.S. to curb illegal pesticide use in marijuana contain significant pitfalls and loopholes that allow contaminated cannabis to enter the market, where it threatens public health. Without examination of residues in inhaled, ingested, or absorbed cannabis, the user’s health is not protected by pesticide registration addressing other uses. In addition, environmental impacts associated with growing practices are generally ignored.

On January 9th, following the voluntary recalls in 2016 by the cannabis producers Organigram and Mettrum, Health Canada issued a statement saying the “voluntary recall had been expanded to include dried marijuana and cannabis oil produced between Feb. 1, 2016, and Dec. 16, 2016.” At the time of this statement, the department stated that it had “not received any adverse reaction reports for products sold by Organigram Inc.” However, after an inquiry by CBC News, Health Canada acknowledged that it had in fact received an adverse reaction report by this date and “regrets this error.” Additionally, by the end of January, Health Canada had received three adverse reaction reports from Organigram customers and 15 adverse reaction reports from Mettrum customers affected by the recalls. Reported symptoms included nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and respiratory track infection.

According to Health Canada, as of February 1, 2017, there are “13 registered pesticides approved by Pest Management Regulatory Agency for use on cannabis (marijuana) that is produced commercially indoors.” These include multiple insecticidal soaps, biological fungicides, and mycoinsecticides, or insecticides containing live fungi.

The issue of cannabis contamination is extremely timely considering that in November 2016, medical marijuana initiatives were approved in a. As states continue to legalize the production of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, regulations governing its cultivation may allow the application of pesticides untested for use in the plant’s production, raising safety issues for patients and consumers. In the absence of federal regulations governing pesticides in cannabis production, the use of pesticides not registered by EPA and not designated as “minimum risk” is understood to be illegal. However, some states interpret the absence of specific labels to allow toxic pesticides like those found by Health Canada.

Several states, including New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, have adopted policies that prohibit all federally registered pesticides –that is, those not considered “minimum risk”— in the absence of federal oversight. Other states have taken the position that state policy is unnecessary, since EPA, due to cannabis’s narcotic status by the federal government, has not registered any pesticides for marijuana production, and unregistered pesticide use is illegal. As more states legalize marijuana use, it is crucial that any new growing standards reflect a systems-based organic approach.

report on the prevalence of pesticide contamination in the medical cannabis supply chain in California was released this past fall by the company, Steep Hill, a global leader in cannabis testing and analytics. Their results reveal that 84% of samples tested positive for pesticide residues, a number significantly higher than experts had previously expected. The risks from myclobutanil residues on products include exposure to the decomposition products carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and nitrogen oxides, which form when heated.

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

Implementing safety measures for cannabis production will ensure the sustainable growth of a new agricultural industry, and lead to the protection of public health. The federal government cannot conduct its normal registration review of pesticides used on cannabis, given the crop’s illegal federal status.

Beyond Pesticides continues to encourage states to take a stronger approach to regulating this industry, so that it blazes an agricultural path protecting its most sensitive at-risk users. Three elements must be passed and enforced in order to do so. They are:
1. A prohibition on the use of federally registered pesticides on cannabis;
2. Allowance of pesticides exempt from federal registration, but not those that are only exempt from tolerances and;
3. Requirements for an organic system plan that focuses on sustainable practices and only minimum risk products as a last resort.

For more information on what states are doing in the face of a hands-off federal policy to assess the dangers of pesticides used in the production of cannabis, read Beyond Pesticides’ report, Pesticide Use in Marijuana Production: Safety Issues and Sustainable Options.

Sources: CBC News, Health Canada

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

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08
Feb

Hundreds of Former EPA Employees Ask Senate to Block Pruitt Nomination

(Beyond Pesticides, February 8, 2017) As the controversy surrounding the Trump Administration and GOP Congress’s plan for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to grow, a nonpartisan group of 447 former EPA employees united to write a strongly-worded letter urging the Senate to block Scott Pruitt’s confirmation as EPA Administrator. Citing EPA’s “fundamental obligation to act in the public’s interest based on current law and the best available science,” the group, whose members served under both Democratic and Republican presidents, calls into question Pruitt’s qualifications, given his longstanding record of opposing “longstanding tenets of U.S. environmental law.” This letter is just the latest in the constantly evolving debate over the need for environmental protection.

In the past two weeks, the EPA has been under attack by the Trump Administration and Republican lawmakers who would continue to undermine the environmental protections required for clean water, clean air, and healthy natural resources. Myron Ebell, head of Trump’s EPA transition team, suggested last week that the agency’s already understaffed workforce be cut from about 15,000 employees to 5,000, with potentially more cuts to follow. Trump himself then issued an executive order proposing that for every new regulation promulgated, two must be repealed, an initiative that could have a dramatic and devastating effect on environmental protections. Perhaps inspired by the blatant attacks by party leadership on the EPA, this week saw freshman Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduce a bill aimed at dissolving the EPA completely, demonstrating GOP willingness to discard more nearly 50 years of environmental progress in the United States.

While, as documented by Beyond Pesticides, EPA’s regulation of pesticides is flawed, EPA plays a critical role in reviewing science and implementing laws protecting human health and the environment. Science itself has been under attack by the Trump Administration, as evidenced by its issuance of scientific grant and hiring freezes at EPA and other agencies nationwide, along with a ban on science communications through social media platforms. The grant freezes affected scientists working on a multitude of important issues, including those set to perform critical research on pollinator declines. The grant freezes have since been retracted –likely due, at least in part, to public outcry. The agency, under Trump’s transition team, also made a statement in January that scientists will now face an unspecified vetting process before sharing their work outside the agency. However, this kind of review is at odds with EPA’s own scientific integrity policy, which “prohibits all EPA employees, including scientists, managers, and other Agency leadership, from suppressing, altering, or otherwise impeding the timely release of scientific findings or conclusions.”

With the confirmation of Scott Pruitt still pending, many, including the authors of the letter, are calling on the Senate to slow down Trump’s assault on the environment by blocking his pick to lead the EPA. Highlighting the “tremendous progress” the agency has made to ensure that “every American has clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and uncontaminated land on which to live, work and play” the authors conjure up images of cities such as Beijing, where citizens often wear face masks to protect themselves from the air pollution, to drive home their point that EPA’s gains over the past fifty years should not be taken for granted. They also point to preparation for “emerging new threats” like climate change and the need to address current gaps in protections, such as those that led to the Flint, MI water crisis, as key functions of the agency that might be lost under Pruitt. In fact, Pruitt’s “reluctance to accept and act on the strong scientific consensus on climate change” is the former EPA employees’ greatest concern about his potential appointment.

Opposition to Pruitt is not unfounded. In his role as Oklahoma Attorney General, the letter points out, Pruitt went to “disturbing lengths to advance the views and interests of business,” often siding with the fossil fuel industry in actions against the EPA. Their concern is that Pruitt “does not share the vision or agree with the underlying principles of environmental law,” poses a huge threat to the future of environmental progress in the United States, and would take us further away from, not closer to, achieving the environmental protections we need and deserve in order to ensure public health and safety. While Beyond Pesticides and others have resorted to suing EPA to force the agency to do its job, Pruitt did the opposite, suing EPA to prevent the agency from enforcing the law.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a federal agency with an annual budget of just over $8 billion with 15,376 employees as of 2016. Among its responsibilities is implementing the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), a regulatory and licensing law that oversees the registration of pesticides and their use. The Trump Administration plans to cut more than $800 million from the EPA’s budget, an alarming 10% for those who value the implementation of environmental laws. According to Ken Kimmell, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists, “the inevitable consequence of budget cuts of that magnitude would be a reversal of about the last 50 years of improvements in air quality, improvements in water quality, and greater safety from chemicals that cause diseases in people.” Additionally, the director of the European Union’s (EU) Environmental Agency, Hans Bruyninckx, recently spoke out about Trump’s climate skeptic policies, saying that there’s “not a snowball’s chance in hell” of containing global warming without US cooperation.

Environmentalists advise remembering the environmental tragedies of decades past and taking preemptive action to stop the Trump Administration and Scott Pruitt. Beyond Pesticides urges citizens to act now by calling or emailing elected representatives in Congress to let them know that the Trump administration’s silencing of EPA will not be tolerated and demanding transparency and science-based standards going forward. Environmentalists advocate following the lead of the 447 former EPA employees by calling Senators to tell them to vote against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt to Administrator of EPA.

Source: Washington Post, Huffington Post, Bill Moyers

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

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07
Feb

Ruling Affirmed in Colorado Pesticide Trespass Case

(Beyond Pesticides, February 7, 2017) After years of legal battle, the Colorado Court of Appeals last week affirmed a ruling that Colorado rancher, James Hopper, must serve two days in jail and pay a $7,500 fine for spraying pesticides that drifted unto his neighbor’s farm in violation of a 2012 court order protecting his neighbors. In 2012, organic farmers Rosemary Bilchak and her husband Gordon MacAlpine, were granted a permanent injunction prohibiting pesticide applications within 150 feet of the property line in order to reduce pesticide drift. Last week’s decision bolsters a legal precedent that wafting pesticides can constitute a trespass against which adjacent landowners and people with health sensitivities are protected.

The legal battle began in 2011 when Mr. Hopper obtained his Colorado pesticide applicator’s license and applied the adulticide Fyfanon, which contains the organophosphate insecticide malathion, to kill mosquitoes on his property. However, the pesticide drifted onto Ms. Bilchak and Mr. MacAlpine’s organic vegetable farm. In 2012, a District Court Judge ruled that they have a right not to have their property invaded by other people or things, and prohibited Mr. Hopper from fogging for mosquitoes within 150 feet of his neighbor’s property or allowing the pesticides to drift, considering this to be a form of trespass. Nevertheless, Mr. Hopper ignored the ruling and continued fogging. Court records show he persisted through August 2015. Last year, a state judge sentenced him to jail and imposed a $7,500 fine for violating the court order. After months of appealing the ruling, Mr. Hopper will face his sentence.

“This is very important to us,” Ms. Bilchak said. Mr. MacAlpine, diagnosed with leukemia before moving to Colorado, had been told by his doctor to avoid pesticide exposure and was registered with the Colorado Department of Agriculture as a sensitive resident. “It is important for us personally, for his health condition, and because we also set a precedent that pesticide drift is a trespass,” she said.

Pesticide drift is an inevitable result of pesticide application. Adulticides that are spraying into the air, like the one used by Mr. Hopper, remain suspended in the air and can be carried great distances by the wind. Pesticides can also volatilize from surfaces into the air and be transported. Documented exposure patterns resulting from drift cause particular concerns for children and other sensitive population groups, as adverse health effects such as nausea, dizziness, respiratory problems, headaches, rashes, and mental disorientation may appear even when a pesticide is applied according to label directions. Sensitive sites like schools, playground and organic farms are especially vulnerable to drifting pesticides. Contaminated organic farms can lose their organic certification if pesticide residues on their crops exceed organic standards.

“This case sets a level of protection for Coloradans who care about their private property and for organic farmers who need to keep their property safe from pesticide exposure,” said Boulder-based attorney Randall Weiner, who handled the case. “No one is exempt from the responsibility to comply with court orders. This spraying had gone on for seven years, and an individual was caught red-handed,” Mr. Weiner said. “The underlying decision, which the courts forcefully have affirmed, is that pesticide spraying can constitute a trespass on private property, organic farmers, and people whose health is precarious.”

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

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

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

Source: Denver Post

 

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06
Feb

California Regulators Sued for Allowing Increased Use of Toxic Fumigant without Public Input

(Beyond Pesticides, February 6, 2017) California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) rules that allow greater use of the highly toxic fumigant Telone, while decreasing protections for the public, have been challenged in California court. On January 31, attorneys representing Juana Vasquez, a farmworker in Ventura County, along with Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR) and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), filed suit in the Superior Court of California against the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR). The suit claims that CDPR failed to follow required public procedures in developing new rules for 1,3-Dicholopropene (1,3-D), which is an active ingredient in the product Telone and has many documented health risks, including cancer and kidney and liver damage.

In October 2016, CDPR released new rules that allow the continued use of Telone and decrease protections for public health by permitting increased usage. CDPR and many news outlets reported the rule change as a tightening of the restrictions, but in reality, the new rules increase the previous annual cap from 90,250 pounds to 136,000 pounds per township, a defined area of 6×6 miles. These new rules went into effect on January 1, 2017, allowing for 1,3-D’s continued use in strawberry fields, vineyards, almond orchards, and other crops around California.

According to a press release from PANNA, the lawsuit charges that CDPR approved the new rules for Telone without allowing for public notice, giving an opportunity for public comment, and providing a response to comments. It also claims that CDPR violated a state law that requires collaboration with scientists from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) to develop health-protective rules. OEHHA expressed concerns regarding the sufficiency of the new rules, “including revised application limits and air concentration standards to protect nearby residents and workers from cancer risks.” The plaintiffs call for a new process that complies with state law, including revised regulations that are based on the recommendations of OEHHA.

“State officials ignored science and shirked public oversight as they ensured the continued and potentially expanded use of this cancer-causing pesticide,” said Natalia Ospina in a statement to PANNA, an Oxnard-based attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance representing the farmworker plaintiff. “This blatant regulatory failure continues to put rural and farmworker communities in harm’s way.”

1,3-D is a federally restricted-use soil fumigant used to kill nematodes, insects, and weeds. The use of the chemical in the production of strawberries came into prominence with the forced reduction of another fumigant, methyl bromide. Scientists became concerned about methyl bromide in the 1970’s, when it was linked to ozone depletion. Methyl bromide is still widely used in California to grow strawberries, despite its ban under the Montreal Protocol, but it will no longer be eligible for a critical use exemption after 2016. This phasing out of methyl bromide stimulated another class of toxic fumigants, which includes Telone.

In time, 1,3-D was revealed to be no better than its predecessor, raising concerns about the public health and environmental risks associated with its use. A 2014 publication by the Center for Investigative Reporting, Dark Side of the Strawberry, revealed that increased use of 1,3-D results in unsafe levels of the chemical in the air and that decisions behind 1,3-D monitoring and application rates are fraught with industry manipulation and risk reduction work-arounds. A 2016 case study out of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) looked at three fumigants– Telone, chloropicrin, and metam salts— and found that:

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

Additionally, in late September 2016, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) filed a lawsuit against Dow Agrosciences LLC, Telone’s manufacturer, charging that the “chemical manufacturing giant” fails to warn communities across California about the dangers associated with wide use of the chemical Telone. The case focuses on the air pollution caused by the pesticide, which has been found to linger in the air for multiple days after application, disproportionately impacting the rural communities, often with large minority populations, that live in the immediate vicinity.

In a statement to PANNA, Ohlone Elementary teacher Melissa Dennis said: “DPR came last October to tell us the ‘good news’ that they measured cancer-causing Telone at 0.12 parts per billion in the air our schoolchildren breathe. How is that ‘good’? OEHHA scientists say we should be concerned at 0.1 parts per billion.

As teachers and parents, we’re worried and angry!” These documented hazards associated with fumigants and strawberry production emphasize the need to shift away from dependency on toxic chemicals and seek sustainable, organic solutions to crop production and feeding families. Toxic soil fumigants also destroy soil biota, which provides the basis for healthy soils, plants, and people. There are less toxic ways to grow strawberries and other crops than relying on these toxic fumigants. Growing strawberries organically has been shown to create healthier soils, higher quality fruit, and improve pollination success. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ website to learn more about supporting organic agriculture and making sustainable choices in the foods we eat.

Source: PANNA

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

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03
Feb

Polli-Nation Pollinator of the Month: Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

(Beyond Pesticides, February 3, 2017) The Ruby Throated Hummingbird is the pollinator of the month for February. Hummingbirds are nature’s most nimble of birds. They are so quick and agile that most of the time all you’ll see is a flash of red and green before realizing you just encountered a Ruby Throated Hummingbird. This month’s pollinator is the most abundant species of hummingbird on the eastern half of North America. They are named after the coloration of ruby red feathers around their throat.

Range
The Ruby Throated Hummingbird is the most populous hummingbird found east of the Mississippi. They enjoy mild habitats such as pine and deciduous forests, and can also be found zipping around urban and suburban gardens and orchards.  Ruby Throated Hummingbirds “winter,” meaning they migrate to warmer parts of the globe during the colder winter months. They typically spend that time in parts of Central America and southern Mexico, but have been known to travel as far south as Costa Rica and the West Indies, according to Animal Diversity Web. They will often migrate without stopping, traveling distances as great as 1,600 km in one trip.  According to the Encyclopedia of Life, the hummingbird’s mating grounds are typically east of the 100th meridian in the United States and parts of southern Canada. Their ability to inhabit such a diverse range of habitats make them an important pollinator to many ecosystems across eastern North America.

Diet and Pollination
Nectar from flowering plants comprises the majority of the Ruby Throated Hummingbird’s diet, but fat and protein are supplied by small insects, including mosquitoes, spiders, gnats, fruit flies, and small species of bees. They have also been observed eating tree sap, and their northern limit is probably determined by the availability of sap provided by the drilling of sapsuckers.

According to the Encyclopedia of Life, Ruby Throated Hummingbirds have adapted to be able to see the UV spectrum of light in addition to the visible light spectrum, which helps them locate and differentiate between a variety flowers. Their favorites include:  Red Buckeye, Jewel Weed, Trumpet Creeper, Red Morning Glory, Coral Honeysuckle and the Cardinal Flower, just to name a few.

Physiology
Most hummingbirds are small statured compared to their other avian counterparts, and the Ruby Throated Hummingbird is no exception. Ranging in length from 7 to 9 cm and weighing only a few grams, the bird can easily fit in the palm of your hand.  Their incredible flying abilities are attributed to their lightweight and stream line bodies. Spectacular as those abilities are, however, they can be taxing on the bird and require a lot of energy. Because of this, the Ruby Throated Hummingbird will consume twice their body weight in food each day.

Ruby Throated Hummingbird’s coloration is striking, featuring beautiful shades of green, white and red. Males can be distinguished from females by their tail feathers, as males have a forked feather configuration while females boast a square feather configuration with white tips. Males additionally have the characteristic red, ruby throat while females will have a duller, grayish-red colored throat. Females are larger than their male counterparts.

Ruby Throated Hummingbirds are migratory birds, returning to their breeding grounds in eastern North America each spring. Males generally return to the breeding grounds ahead of females to stake out their territory for mating. Once a female enters a male’s territory, the male bird will court the female with a dive display meant to impress the female. As part of this display, the male will do a variety of loops and acrobatic flying maneuvers, beating its wings up to 200 times per second. After successful breeding, the female constructs a nest for her eggs out of bud scales and lichen, held together with spider’s silk and lined with plant down. There the female will lay one to three eggs, which are incubated for 10-14 days before they hatch, a cycle that is repeated two or three times per breeding season. The average lifespan of the Ruby Throated Hummingbird is about nine years.

Ecological Role
Ruby Throated Hummingbirds live on a diet of nectar from a variety of flowering plants and, as previously stated, consume up to twice their bodyweight in nectar each day. This requires constant foraging for sources of nectar and the birds spend most of their day flying flower to flower in search of this food source. They are equipped with a long, skinny modified beak that allows them to access nectar, as well as a long tongue that can further be extended into the flower.

While foraging for nectar the hummingbird simultaneously contaminates itself with pollen particles from the flower. The pollen sticks to the birds’ feathers and beak, allowing the bird to transport it to the next flower it visits. Once that pollen comes in to contact with a new flower, the plant is inadvertently cross-pollinated, allowing the plant to reproduce. The abundance of Ruby Throated Hummingbirds make them an integral pollinator to ecosystems across the eastern United States and parts of Canada. Partners for flight, an organization that tracks land birds for conservation purposes, estimates the Ruby Throated Hummingbird population in North America and Canada is as great as 34 million.

Threats to Existence
The Ruby Throated Hummingbird is currently a thriving species, labeled as a species with “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation. This simply means their existence is not currently at risk. The United States Geological Service Patuxent Wildlife research center, which has been tracking land bird species since the 1960’s, has found that Ruby Throated Hummingbird populations have been on the rise since their studies began. Even though the species is not currently at risk, however, conservation efforts to protect the birds’ future success should not be ignored. Destruction of natural habitat is a primary risk that can affect the hummingbird’s ability to prepare for migration, as well as diminish the bird’s breeding grounds and disrupt its reproductive success. The bird’s exposure to systemic pesticides that move through a plant’s vascular and is expressed in nectar is of particular concern.

How to Protect the Species
There are steps that can be taken to protect Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, one of the most popular being to install a hummingbird feeder in your yard or garden. Simple actions, like placing hummingbird feeders away from windows to prevent collisions, or situating feeders in places where cats and other neighborhood predators will have a difficult time reaching the birds, are important ways to help hummingbirds thrive. Routine cleaning of hummingbird feeders is also important, as rancid feeders can be detrimental to hummingbird health. Supplying your hummingbird feeder with the right nectar solution is also important. You can find a trusted nectar recipe recommended by the Smithsonian National Zoo by clicking here!  Be sure to use organic sugar in the mix. It will ensure that the nectar solution is free of pesticides and additives.

Planting the aforementioned flowers preferred by the Ruby Throated Hummingbird is another way to preserve hummingbird populations, as they require nectar for survival. Make sure that the plants are not treated with systemic, including neonicotinoid, and other pesticides. Maintaining biodiversity in your garden will nurture the pollinators, including the hummingbirds.

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: Animal Diversity Web, Encyclopedia of Life, The Birder’s Handbook.

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

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02
Feb

Common Pesticide Ingredient Labeled “Inert” Increases Honey Bee Susceptibility to Virus

(Beyond Pesticides, February 2, 2017) A commonly used inert pesticide ingredient negatively affects the health of honey bees by making larvae more susceptible to a virus, according to a recently published study in the journal, Nature. One of the authors of the study, Julia Fine, PhD candidate, stated that the findings, “Mirror the symptoms observed in hives following almond pollination, when bees are exposed to organosilicone adjuvant residues in pollen, and viral pathogen prevalence is known to increase. In recent years, beekeepers have reported missing, dead and dying brood in their hives following almond pollination, and exposure to agrochemicals, like adjuvants, applied during bloom, has been suggested as a cause.”

The study assessed honey bee larval development after exposure to a continuous low dose of Sylgard 309, a surfactant, in their diet. This organosilicone surfactant is commonly used on agricultural crops, including tree fruits, nuts, and grapes. Their results reveal that honey bee exposure to chemical surfactants such as Sylgard 309 led to higher levels of Black Queen Cell Virus and when the bee larvae were exposed to the surfactant and virus simultaneously, “the effect on their mortality was synergistic rather than additive.” This research comes at a time when hundreds of thousands of pounds of these products are being applied annually in California almond orchards alone. Honey bees are trucked in from all around the country to provide this vital pollination service for high value crops, therefore elevating the possibility of damaging additive effects.

Surfactants are added to pesticide formulations to increase their efficacy by reducing surface tension and aiding in overall absorption of the product in the target plant. These inert ingredients often make up the majority, by weight, of the pesticide mixtures that are sold. Despite the uncertainties and potential hazards from inerts, pesticide manufacturers are only required to list the active ingredients in a pesticide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). This leaves consumers and applicators unaware of the possible toxicity present in a vast majority of the pesticide formulations they are using, unless the EPA Administrator determines that the chemical poses a public health threat.

Many inert ingredients are even more toxic than the active ingredients. One of the most hazardous ingredients in the commonly used herbicide Roundup, POEA, is a surfactant that is classified as an inert and therefore not listed on the label. Researchers have found that POEA can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental, and umbilical cord cells.

These “inert” ingredients in pesticide formulations are continuing to draw the attention of scientists, and play a part in bee toxicity in conjunction with ongoing investigations into the role of neonicotinoid insecticides in bee health. A 2016 review, titled Toxicological Risks of Agrochemical Spray Adjuvants, links spray adjuvant use with declining honey bee health, based on annual trends in applications of adjuvants and associated pesticide formulations during almond pollination in California. The authors stated, “Among adjuvant classes, the organosilicone surfactants pose the greatest toxicity risks for honey bees.” A separate study released by Pennsylvania State University researchers in 2012 observes that bee learning behavior is impaired by exposure to low doses of surfactants –other ingredients commonly found in pesticide formulations. These researchers measured the olfactory learning ability of honey bees treated orally with sublethal doses of the ,most widely used spray adjuvants on almonds in the Central Valley of California.

In addition to the detrimental effect that inert ingredients have been found to have on honey bees, the body of evidence pointing to the role of neonicotinoids in declining honey bee numbers is consistently growing. Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affects the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. While the issue of pollinator declines is diverse and complex, with many factors potentially contributing to the cause, pesticides have consistently been implicated as a key factor, not only through immediate bee deaths, but also through sublethal exposure. Neonics are associated with decreased learningforaging, and navigational ability, as well as increased vulnerability to pathogens and parasites as a result of suppressed bee immune systems. In addition to toxicity to bees, pesticides like neonicotinoids have been shown to also adversely affect birdsaquatic organisms, and contaminate soil and waterways, and overall biodiversity.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action in the U.S. to protect these beneficial organisms, it is left up to us to ensure that we provide safe havens for pollinators by creating pesticide-free habitat and educating others to do the same. You can pledge your green space as pesticide-free and pollinator-friendly, no matter the size. Sign the pledge today. See our BEE Protective page to find out how you can help this effort and how to get your community, schools, and local government to take action to protect pollinators. Beyond Pesticides also advocates for the adoption of organic land management practices and policies by local communities.

Sources: Nature, Science Daily, Scientific American

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

 

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01
Feb

North Miami Passes IPM Plan in Response to Local Activism

(Beyond Pesticides, February 1, 2017) Last week in North Miami, the City Council took a significant step that could reduce pesticide use in the community. The Council adopted an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) policy modeled after a plan developed by San Francisco in the mid-90’s. The plan does not ban pesticides and herbicides, but instead aims to reeducate citizens and county workers on least-toxic pest management strategies with the goal of eliminating toxic pesticide use on city property.  The IPM plan does not address pesticide use on private property, due to state preemption of local authority.

With the passage of the North Miami’s resolution, city operatives will now be asked to give preference to available, safe and effective non-pesticide alternatives and cultural practices. As stated in the resolution’s Integrated Pesticide Management Program Guidelines, the goal of the policy is “to eliminate the application of all Toxicity Category I and Category II pesticide products by January 2018.” On top of eliminating certain pesticide categories, the resolution also calls for staff training and expert consultants, both of which have the potential to help ease the transition in pursuit of the 2018 goal, and priority will be given to efforts to reduce or eliminate pesticide use near watercourses or riparian areas. However, as with most IPM plan, the success of the program will likely rely on strict oversight of executive implementation, as this is often a downfall of ordinances that do not incorporate complete bans or stringent guidelines for allowed products.

Supporters of the resolution have responded to critics concerned over the additional cost and manpower it might require by pointing out the benefits of cutting down on overall pesticide use. According to the Miami Herald, supporters believe that the change will be worthwhile if it can prevent harmful effects often caused by pesticides, including reducing the impact of pesticides on the city’s waterways and canals and limiting human exposure. According to the Herald, “Staff members in every department will be trained on pesticides and alternatives, and the city will hire a consultant to evaluate and execute the plan. Signage will also be placed in areas where the city is currently spraying pesticides and herbicides.”

Passage of the resolution may just be the start for Florida communities, however, as residents from the nearby municipality Biscayne Park have already expressed hopes that their village will consider a similar plan. This news excited Councilwoman Carol Keys, who said, “I hope that the other cities will look to us as an example. This is a small step, but I think it’s really, really important.”

The resolution passed by North Miami is just the second IPM plan to come out of Florida, a state notorious for its lack of pesticide protections. The only other community to pass an IPM program in Florida is Sarasota, whose 2015 resolution has significantly less depth and scope than the one passed by North Miami. As part of a joint project with Organic Consumers Association, Beyond Pesticides developed a Map of U.S. Pesticide Reform Policies to track state and local efforts to eliminate hazardous pesticides from public and private spaces, which can be viewed to determine whether pesticide reforms are taking place in your area.

The map provides the public and local leaders with the names and locations of localities that have passed policies, the type of policy passed, a short description of the scope of the policy, and a link to view the entire text. The current edition of the map includes 18 communities with pesticide-free parks programs, 29 with restrictions to protect pollinators, 66 communities with policies that restrict pesticide use on all publicly owned property, and 24 that extend restrictions to private land. Beyond Pesticides encourages people to review the accuracy of the information on the map, and email to info@beyondpesticides.org with policies that have not been captured on the map. Citizens interested in initiating a pesticide policy in their own community can sign up here for more information.

Local jurisdictions in many states, Florida included, are limited in their ability to regulate pesticides on private property due to state preemption laws. In the wake of a landmark Supreme Court decision in 1991, Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, which ruled that federal pesticide law (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, but also said that states retain the ability to take away local control, the pesticide industry lead an effort to pass state preemption laws that restrict local action on private property. The industry group called the Coalition for Sensible Pesticide Policy, developed boilerplate legislative language that was adopted in all but seven states, severely limiting the ability of local jurisdictions to protect the health and safety of their citizens from the harms of toxic pesticides.

Because of these restrictions, the North Miami IPM plan only covers efforts to “eliminate or reduce pesticide applications on city property.” This is a significant difference in the effect of policies implemented by municipalities like South Portland, Maine or Montgomery County, Maryland, where the absence of state preemption allowed local government to address the use of pesticides on private property within their jurisdiction. Both ordinances ban the use of toxic lawn pesticides on private and public land and are exemplary public health measures. While the scope of North Miami’s policy extends beyond lawns, the city is restricted under current state law from passing a measure that restricts pesticide use on private property, like Montgomery County and South Portland.

In the wake of a rollback in federal protections under the Trump administration, it is critical that local governments have the authority to protect residents within their jurisdiction from pesticides that move through the community, contaminating air, water, and land. If you want to get active in your community to stop unnecessary toxic pesticide use, sign this petition and Beyond Pesticides will send you a blueprint for local change!

Source: Miami Herald

All unattributed positions are that of Beyond Pesticides.

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31
Jan

Judge Rules Against Monsanto, Allows California to List Glyphosate Products as Cancer Causing

(Beyond Pesticides, January 31, 2017) A tentative ruling last week by Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan moves California closer to listing glyphosate (Roundup) as a carcinogen under the state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65). Monsanto, a leading manufacturer of glyphosate under its Roundup brand, sued California to stop the listing, as it would require cancer warning labels be placed on its end-use product. The company indicates it will challenge the tentative ruling.

California’s proposed to list glyphosate as a carcinogen after a 2015 determination of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a United Nations body under the World Health Organization, that the chemical is a cancer-causing agent for humans based on laboratory studies. Monsanto refutes these claims, and since the determination has worked directly, and through proxy organizations, to discredit and attack IARC, as well as individual scientists that have participated in its decision-making process. Shortly after IARC’s Monograph on glyphosate, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), a Monsanto-supported group, released a report dismissing glyphosate’s link to cancer. In October of last year, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), questioned the National Institutes of Health on taxpayer contributions to IARC. Croplife America, a trade association for chemical companies, worked last year to undermine the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s public review process of glyphosate’s carcinogenic properties.  Just last week, the American Chemistry Council, another consortium of agrichemical giants, including Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, and Dupont, attacked IARC for its monograph program.

Outside observers see Monsanto’s efforts as attempts to scuttle the science of independent researchers in order to protect its bottom line. California, in its court filing, called IARC’s monographs the “gold standard” for determining the carcinogenicity of chemicals in our environment. Many farmers who believe their exposure to glyphosate resulted in their cancer diagnosis are applauding the court ruling. “I don’t want anyone to go through what I have gone through,” said John Barton, a Bakersfield farmer with non-Hodgkin lymphoma he asserts was caused by Roundup exposure, to the Fresno Bee. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Teri McCall said she thinks a warning on Roundup products would have saved her late husband. “I just don’t think my husband would have taken that risk if he had known,” McCall said to the Los Angeles Times.  Monsanto is facing a large number of personal injury lawsuits, and a potential mass tort action, over the link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

As evidence of the hazardous effects of glyphosate continue to mount, environmental groups like Beyond Pesticides are urging localities to ban or restrict the use of the chemical and other toxic synthetic pesticides. These groups maintain that California’s glyphosate listing is certainly a step in the right direction; however, further steps toward a restriction or ban will be needed to protect the public’s health. Being  the number one agricultural producing state, California’s action may help to move glyphosate off the market, which would serve as a victory for the low-income communities in the southern part of the Central Valley that are exposed to glyphosate at higher levels than the general population.

For those who would be unaffected by California’s listing, the best way to avoid glyphosate and other harmful pesticides is to support organic practices in landscapes and agriculture and purchase organic food. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for organic management practices as a means to foster biodiversity, and research shows that organic land management does a better job of protecting biodiversity than its chemical-intensive counterparts. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and crops bioengineered with insecticides, responsible organic practices focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and ecological balance, and only resort to judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective.

Source: Los Angeles Times, Fresno Bee

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

 

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30
Jan

American Chemistry Council Attacks Independent Science Conducted by International Agency

(Beyond Pesticides, January 30, 2016) The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer research branch, is again under attack. The most recent assault comes from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which represents major U.S. chemical companies such as Bayer, Dow, Dupont and Monsanto and is calling on WHO to rein in IARC, claiming the agency of “dubious and misleading work” when classifying potential carcinogens. According to the ACC’s website, the Council launched the Campaign for Accuracy in Public Health Research this past Wednesday and it is unclear what steps it will take try to undercut the agency. The ACC is specifically criticizing IARC’s monograph program, claiming that the program “suffers from persistent scientific and process deficiencies.”

IARC is a France based self-governing branch of WHO, which is an independent agency working with over 150 countries to “build a better, healthier future for people all over the world,” as stated in the mission statement on their website. Monographs published by IARC are evaluations on a variety of products and lifestyle choices that have ranged from the consumption of processed meats and coffee to the usage of mobile phones and the controversial use of glyphosate in agriculture. In March of 2015, IARC released its findings on glyphosate, which concluded that there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity based on laboratory studies.

This attack on IARC follows one in the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in October 2016. The Committee summoned the National Institutes of Health to answer questions about taxpayer contributions to WHO’s cancer agency. The committee had problems with IARC scientists’ findings that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen. The move was led by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chairman of the committee, and was a clear attempt to challenge IARC’s March 2015 findings on glyphosate. In defending IARC’s previous findings, IARC director Christopher Wild, Ph.D. rejected Rep. Chaffetz’ criticisms and defended IARC’s findings, known as “monographs,” as “widely respected for their scientific rigor, standardized and transparent process and. . .freedom from conflicts of interest.”

ACC represents the vested economic interest of large U.S. chemical companies. which determine its positions. Cal Dooley CEO and president of the ACC has said in a statement about their call to strip IARC’s program, saying that “IARC monographs program has been responsible for countless misleading headlines about the safety of the food we eat, the jobs we do and the products we use in our daily lives.”  IARC director Christopher Wild, Ph.D. has made it clear that IARC is solely concerned with uncovering the truth through sound science, not pushing any sort of hidden agenda.

Glyphosate, produced and sold as Roundup by Monsanto, is 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. However, IARC’s classification of glyphosate as a Group 2A “probable” carcinogen finds that glyphosate is anything but safe. According to IARC, Group 2A means that the chemical is probably carcinogenic to humans based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. The agency is considering the findings of an EPA Scientific Advisory Panel report, along with several recent studies in making its conclusion. Advocates want the agency to also consider studies that show glyphosate causes DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, and epidemiologic studies that show elevated levels of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are associated with glyphosate exposure.

Independent peer-reviewed science both in and outside of the U.S., including IARC, points to a growing list of adverse effects from pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) crops, ranging from the  decline of bees to the carcinogenicity of the widely used herbicide glyphosate. It is critical that federal scientific agencies tasked with protecting human and environmental health are able to inform the public without repercussions from industry groups. Beyond Pesticides supports the independent science conducted by IARC, and urges that its work continues ungagged by industry groups.

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

Source: Business Insider and Reuters

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27
Jan

Groups File Federal Lawsuit Against Registration of Herbicide Dicamba, Used in Genetically Engineered Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 2016) Last week, farmers, environmentalists, and conservation groups filed a federal lawsuit that challenges the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval of a new formulation of the toxic herbicide dicamba. The new formulation is called Xtendimax with Vapor Grip Technology, which is claimed to have lower volatility. The petitioners claim that EPA violated its duties under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) in issuing a conditional registration, and that it did not adhere to duties under the Endangered Species Act that require EPA to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure registration would not harm any listed species. The organizations involved in the lawsuit are National Family Farm Coalition, Pesticide Action Network North America, Center for Food Safety, and Center for Biological Diversity, represented by legal counsel from Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety.

Dicamba has caused a lot of controversy in the past. In August 2016, farmers in Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee confronted widespread crop damage and braced for lower yields as a result of agrichemical giant Monsanto’s botched roll-out of GE soybean and cotton crops. The company, whose current line of glyphosate-tolerant crops are failing to control weeds throughout the U.S. and across the globe, developed a new line of soybean and cotton with traits that make it tolerate applications of dicamba. After numerous complaints, EPA launched a criminal investigation at several locations in Missouri into the illegal spraying of dicamba in October 2016. Many suspect that farmers who planted the new dicamba-tolerant genetically engineered (GE) seeds in the region, when faced with a proliferation of pigweed, illegally sprayed dicamba across their fields, leading to drift and off-site crop damage to other farmers. Monsanto is currently embroiled in a legal battle with a farmer who projected that he would lose $1.5 million in revenue from crop damage due to the formulation’s release.

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

Despite data showing resistance to at least 29 weed species worldwide, Monsanto and other agrichemical companies have insisted on doubling down on their failed technology, opting to create new GE cropping systems that incorporate older, more toxic herbicides. Dicamba has been linked to damage of the kidney and liver, neurotoxicity, and developmental impacts. Another GE cropping system, developed by Dow AgroSciences, relies on the herbicide 2,4-D, a chemical linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL), which is also neurotoxic, genotoxic, and an endocrine disruptor. Both of the herbicides associated with these GE crops remain formulated with glyphosate, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) identified as carcinogenic to humans, based upon laboratory animal studies. Another issue of concern is synergy, the potential for pesticide mixtures to increase the potency of the formulated product.

Weed resistance is an entirely predictable occurrence in fields where herbicides are sprayed throughout the growing season. Even the use of older, more toxic herbicides will only slow the predictable resistance. Research out of the University of Arkansas was able to create dicamba-resistant palmer amaranth in a greenhouse after only three generations.

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

Source: Center for Food Safety

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

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26
Jan

Trump Administration Stifles Science and Transparency within EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, January 26, 2017) In a startling move that puts independent science at odds with government, the Trump administration’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team stated on Wednesday that scientists will now face “an unspecified vetting process before sharing their work outside the agency.” However, this kind of review is at odds with EPA’s own scientific integrity policy, which “prohibits all EPA employees, including scientists, managers, and other Agency leadership, from suppressing, altering, or otherwise impeding the timely release of scientific findings or conclusions.”

This comes on the heels of an announcement by the administration several days ago issuing scientific grant and hiring freezes at EPA nationwide, along with effectively banning science communications through social media platforms. According to ProPublica, an EPA employee stated that, “Hiring freezes happen, but freezes on grants and contracts seemed extraordinary.” These grants are used for financial support to complete environmental testing, remediation and environmental improvement projects across the country. Additionally, on Friday, January 20, after Donald Trump was officially sworn in, he ordered a freeze on all pending regulations from the Obama administration. This included the listing of the rusty patched bumblebee as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which had been set to take effect February 10, 2017 and now has an uncertain future.

Independent science is critical to understanding the toxicology of chemicals that are allowed to be introduced into the environment and the food supply. This information is necessary to influence state and local decision makers to act over industry-dominated regulatory decisions that assume the necessity of toxic materials, driven by companies with a vested economic interest.

The ability of publicly-funded scientists to conduct and disseminate unbiased research is a key component to our democracy and to the ability of regulators to effectively protect public health and the environment. In addition to the attempts to attack independent science conducted by government researchers, university scientists have faced criticism and assaults on their work. In an effort to ensure that the essential independent scientific research on pesticides is not thwarted by the chemical industry, Beyond Pesticides launched The Fund for Independent Science. This fund, catalyzed by the 2013 announcement that Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D. lost university funding for his laboratory and research, is set up and run by Beyond Pesticides. Make a pledge today to enable the important research by independent scientists.

Beyond Pesticides serves as a watchdog of federal and state agencies, which institutionalize “acceptable” levels of public exposure to harmful pesticides known to cause chronic health effects, such as cancer, neurological and immune system disorders.

As a representative member of the Environmental/Public Interest stakeholder group of the Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC), Beyond Pesticides is able to provide independent advice to EPA that represents the views of Beyond Pesticides and our members. Through this committee, EPA and Beyond Pesticides foster meaningful communication in understanding a wide range of pesticide issues, many of which are scientifically and technically complex. Additionally, Beyond Pesticides continuously sends comments on pesticide policies to \EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as state and local agencies.

In light of the attacks on science and communications with the U.S. public under the new Trump administration, it is important to consider the role that EPA fulfills for the country. EPA began operating in 1970 after President Nixon signed it into law through an executive order, to maintain and enforce national standards for numerous environmental laws, including the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. However, EPA has a long history of registering pesticides without adequately analyzing human and environmental health data.

Beyond Pesticides has for years said that EPA’s general registration process is flawed because the agency does not evaluate whether hazards are “unreasonable” in light of the availability of safer practices or products. Additionally, Beyond Pesticides continues to urge EPA to take a more precautionary approach, given the history of incomplete data or assessments which can lead to mitigation measures decades after widespread pesticide use was approved. With some chronic endpoints, such as endocrine disruption, the agency has not adequately assessed chemicals for certain health risks.

Statements and actions of the Trump administration since taking office will make it increasingly difficult to keep health and environmental protections from backsliding. As implementation of federal environmental and public health law is weakened, the gap in protection grows and increased responsibility falls to local decision makers who can no longer rely on a regulatory system to protect their community’s health, water safety, and environment. We encourage concerned citizens to become part of this public process by contacting your representatives, writing comments to submit to the public docket, and becoming active in local efforts on pesticide reform. By elevating your voice in these ways, you put pressure on government officials to increase citizen safeguards and hold pesticide manufacturers accountable.

Sources: ProPublica, The Hill

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

 

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25
Jan

Study Links Carbamate Insecticides to Diabetes and other Metabolic Diseases

(Beyond Pesticides, January 25, 2017) A study conducted at the University of Buffalo recently revealed a connection between two common insecticides and an increased risk for certain metabolic diseases, including diabetes. Researchers found that by binding to and disrupting melatonin receptors that control numerous physiological functions, chemicals such as insecticides can affect melatonin levels, creating a higher risk for metabolic diseases to develop. The study, Carbamate Insecticides Target Human Melatonin Receptors, was published in Chemical Research in Toxicology and was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

The implicated chemicals in this research, carbaryl and carbofuran, are notoriously dangerous carbamate insecticides. Carbamates share structural characteristics and an ability to inhibit acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme important for the transmission of nerve impulses. When AChE is inhibited, acetylcholine accumulates leading to overstimulation of neurotransmitters, resulting in muscle weakness, confusion, and paralysis, among other symptoms. Carbaryl is said by EPA to be “one of the most widely applied insecticides in the U.S.,” since use began in 1959, with 10-15 million pounds used annually. It is a broad-spectrum insecticide used on a variety of crops, in forestry and on ornamentals, in home gardens, and on livestock and pets. It was recently the subject of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessment on the impact of common pesticides on endangered species, which found that they were “likely to adversely affect” nearly 97% of species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The other chemical the study focused on, carbofuran, a restricted use pesticide, is the most toxic of the carbamate insecticides. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all registered uses of carbofuran kill wildlife. Carbofuran is also extremely toxic to humans, and in 2009 EPA revoked all food tolerances for the chemical, eliminating allowed residues on domestic and imported foods.

By combining computer modeling on millions of chemicals with standard wet laboratory experiments, researchers found that insecticides, specifically carbaryl and carbofuran, were “structurally similar to melatonin and that both showed affinity for the melatonin MT2 receptors that can potentially affect glucose homeostasis and insulin secretion,” according to Marina Popovska-Gorevski, co-author of the study. She continued, “That means that exposure to them could put people at higher risk for diabetes and also affect sleeping patterns.” Disrupting sleeping patterns, or what is often referred to as the human circadian rhythm, is a mechanism known to put people at higher risk for diabetes, though, according to the authors, the connection is not well understood.

Overall, researchers claim that their findings suggest “a need to assess environmental chemicals for their ability to disrupt circadian activity,” though federal regulators have not yet made this kind of research a priority. For the researchers, this is just one of the first steps in their long term goal to develop a Chem2Risk pipeline, which would assess the toxicity of the nearly 4 million chemicals in their database and allow researchers to gauge the risks each chemical presents for various disease.

“This is the first report demonstrating how environmental chemicals found in household products interact with human melatonin receptors,” says Margarita L. Dubocovich, Ph.D., senior author on the paper and State University of New York (SUNY) Distinguished Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. “No one was thinking that the melatonin system was affected by these compounds, but that’s what our research shows.”

The connection between common and chronic diseases and exposure to pesticides continues to strengthen, despite efforts to restrict individual chemical exposure or mitigate chemical risks using risk assessment-based policy. Common diseases affecting public health that have been linked to pesticides exposure include asthmaautism and learning disabilitiesbirth defects and reproductive dysfunctiondiabetesParkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and several types of cancer. In order to facilitate access to epidemiologic and laboratory studies based on real world exposure scenarios that link public health effects to pesticides, Beyond Pesticides maintains the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, commonly referred to as PIDD. The scientific literature documents elevated rates of chronic diseases among people exposed to pesticides, with an increasing numbers of studies associated with both specific illnesses and a range of illnesses. With some of these diseases at very high and, perhaps, epidemic proportions, there is an urgent need for public policy at all levels –local, state, and national– to end dependency on toxic pesticides, replacing them with carefully defined green strategies.

The current database, which contains hundreds of studies, is continuously updated. Readers are urged to send studies to info@beyondpesticides.org that you think should be added to the database.

Source: University at Buffalo

All unattributed positions are that of Beyond Pesticides.

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24
Jan

University Scientists Dispute Syngenta Study Conclusion that Pesticide Is Low Risk to Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, January 24, 2017) An analysis conducted by scientists at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland is calling into question the conclusions reached in a study conducted by multinational chemical company Syngenta, which indicated that honey bees were not at risk from the widely used neonicotinoid insecticide thiamethoxam. The challenge to the Pilling et al 2013 study is important because while many experiments have been performed in the lab or semi-lab environment, this study was a field experiment developed to test pollinator exposure under normal agricultural conditions. The conclusions of such real-world experiments are weighed more heavily by regulators when making safety and use determinations.

St. Andrews’ scientists focus in on the Pilling et al claim that because its study did not have high levels of replication, that it would have been misleading to perform formal statistical analysis. They respond that this would indeed be the case if Pilling et al had intended on finding statistical significance and concluded that there was no effect based on those tests. However, Syngenta’s scientists instead simply graphed average values over time based on their measurements (measurements such as number of bees in a hive, hive weight, number of brood, etc.), and compared these values between pesticide-treated and control (non-treated) colonies. It was this comparison, which Pilling et al viewed as “similar” between treated and control colonies, that was used to determine that thiamethoxam was a low risk to honey bees.

The authors of the St. Andrews’ study assert that Syngenta’s treatment of its data is “not just misleading in this case but also are unacceptable in principle, for if data are inadequate for a formal analysis (or only good enough to provide estimates with wide confidence intervals), then they are bound to be inadequate as a basis for reaching any sound conclusions.” The St. Andrews researchers make clear that Pilling et al could have performed statistical analysis to determine the power of the effects recorded by including confidence intervals in its comparative assessment. After performing this analysis themselves, researchers determined that the Pilling et al estimates were so imprecise that little could be derived from the data. The scientists stated in conclusion, “Given that the data in this case are largely uninformative with respect to the treatment effect, any conclusions reached from such informal approaches can do little more than reflect the prior beliefs of those involved.”

Other independent scientists have also criticized the Pilling et al study for its experimental design, including a 2015 piece in Environmental Sciences Europe, coauthored by a team of scientists including renowned researcher David Goulson, PhD. The authors of this piece find issue with a range of factors in Pilling et al, including the short period of exposure for pesticide-treated honey bees, the use of the pesticide at rates lower than recommended agricultural practice, the use of only one pesticide rather than a commercial product, and the failure to capture important data such as overwintering losses.

Poorly constructed studies and inaccurate or misleading conclusions put scientific integrity at risk for the broader scientific community. For this reason, it remains critical that regulators in both Europe and the U.S. consider both the data and critiques of independent scientists. The totality of the science on thiamethoxam and neonicotinoids in general paints a concerning picture for not only honey bees but a range of wild pollinators throughout the world. While Europe’s moratorium on neonicotinoid application to flowering crops remains in place, and Health Canada recently announced restrictions on the neonicotinoid imidacloprid to protect aquatic invertebrates, EPA recently announced that neonicotinoids present “no significant risks” to honey bees, despite finding a multiple instances where bees were at risk of toxic exposure.

It remains up to concerned residents to take action in response to EPA’s dismissal of the science. By getting active in your local community, fighting to enact BEE Protective policies, local residents can make changes that ripple up to the national level. For more information on taking action to protect pollinators, see Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage.

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

Source: Phys.org, University of St Andrews

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23
Jan

EPA Finds Widely Used Pesticides Could Harm 97 Percent of Endangered Species

(Beyond Pesticides, January 23, 2017) Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  released its final Biological Evaluations of Three Chemicals’ Impacts on Endangered Species, which finds that chlorpyrifos and malathion likely have detrimental effect on 97 percent of all species listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), while diazinon adversely affects 78 percent. According to EPA’s release on the subject, this is the “first-ever draft biological evaluations analyzing the nation-wide effects” of these registered chemicals on endangered species after decades of widespread use. The evaluations stem from a legal settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) in which CBD sued EPA in April 2014 for its failure to comply with ESA, which requires the agency to carry out consultations with federal wildlife agencies while registering pesticides.

According to Nathan Donley, Ph.D., a CBD senior scientist, “We’re now getting a much more complete picture of the risks that pesticides pose to wildlife at the brink of extinction, including birds, frogs, fish and plants. When it comes to pesticides, it’s always best to look before you leap, to understand the risks to people and wildlife before they’re put into use. The EPA is providing a reasonable assessment of those risks, many of which can be avoided by reducing our reliance on the most toxic, dangerous old pesticides in areas with sensitive wildlife.”

The next step in this settlement involves both the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Along with the evaluations from EPA, the two agencies must issue biological opinions and determine steps to protect these endangered species from agricultural pesticide use. In accordance with the legal settlement, these biological opinions must be finalized by December 2017. Additionally, chlorpyrifos, widely used in agriculture, is awaiting a decision by EPA that, it was thought prior to the new administration, could result in it being banned for use on food crops.

The implicated chemicals are all organophosphates (OPs), derived from World War II nerve poisons that are a common class of chemicals used as pesticides. This class of pesticides affect neurodevelopment, weaken the immune system, and impair respiratory function, among other severe health risks. OPs are a widely used agricultural pesticide, with millions of pounds applied yearly across the country and are acutely toxic to bees, birds, mammals, aquatic organisms and certain species of algae at low doses. OPs method of entry into the environment can vary from pesticide drift, volatilization, and runoff from soil erosion.  Once present in the environment, organisms that come into contact with the pesticides will have difficulty performing basic survival and reproductive functions. A 2014 study by the United States Geological Service determined that an estimated six million pounds of the three chemicals combined are sprayed for agricultural use.

Studies document that exposure to even low levels of OPs during pregnancy can impair learning, change brain function, and alter thyroid levels of offspring into adulthood. In 2012, researchers at the University College London found that long-term low level exposure to organophosphate pesticides cause lasting damage to neurological and cognitive functions. The study notes, “The majority of well-designed studies found a significant association between low-level exposure to [organophosphates] and impaired neurobehavioral function which is consistent, small to moderate in magnitude and concerned primarily with cognitive functions such as psychomotor speed, executive function, visuospatial ability, working and visual memory.” Children have an increased risk from OPs which has led the creation of “no-spray” buffer zone for sensitive areas such as schools and hospitals.

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

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

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

 

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19
Jan

Got Organic? USDA Proposes Organic Check-Off Program, Family Farmers Question Value

(Beyond Pesticides, January 19, 2017) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) opened a 60-public comment period January 17 on a controversial proposal to establish a federal research and promotion check-off program that has split the organic community, with many family farmers and small farm operators disagreeing with the larger organic industry groups, represented by the Organic Trade Association (OTA), on the benefits that they will derive from a mandatory payment requirement. The application to USDA for a check-off, originally submitted by OTA in 2015, has drawn sharp division on questions of benefits and cost to farmers. OTA believes that the check-off will generate resources to lift the organic market. This program is different from traditional check-off programs, which promote individual commodities. USDA oversees check-off programs under the Commodity, Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996.

According to OTA, the check-off creates an industry-funded promotion, research, and information program for certified organic products, whose overarching goal is to strengthen the position of certified organic products in the marketplace. OTA says this would be achieved by funding research to benefit the organic industry, improving access to information and data across the organic sector, and educating consumers about the benefits of organic, resulting in increased demand for organic products. Under the proposal, funds will be collected from certified organic farmers, handlers, and processors. The program will be led by a board of the same makeup from different geographic regions.

The concerns of opponents, which include a diverse mix of farm and consumer organizations, are represented by the group No Organic Check-Off. The group identifies six problems with the proposed check-off system:

  1. This will be just another tax on farmers either directly or indirectly when processors pass the cost down.
  2. Want to promote the benefits of organic? You can’t in a check-off. Even something as simple and accurate as “Organic is the Gold Standard,” will not be allowed by USDA.
  3. The Check-off system is fundamentally broken for farmers – the federally mandated check-off programs have restrictive guidelines, heavy bureaucracy, lack of accountability and cost of administration.
  4. Check-off programs have a history of using check-off funds inappropriately, with poor representation of farmer priorities in granting of research dollars.
  5. Commodity check-off programs that are successful see a decline of family farmers in business.
  6. Promoting organic sales now will not increase organic acreage in the US but will increase lower priced organic imports.

The proposal will be open for public comment until March 20, 2017. Submit a comment here.

According to the National Agriculture Law Center, checkoff programs “promote and provide research and information for a particular agricultural commodity without reference to specific producers or brands.” They are referred to as “check-off programs” because at their inception they were not mandatory and producers had to mark a check-off box to indicate that they wanted to contribute to the program. Some of the most prominent campaigns to come from these check-off programs include “Got Milk?” “Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner,” and “Behold, The Power of Cheese.”

USDA’s current rules exempt organic producers from participation in conventional check-off programs, since those promotional campaigns make no distinction concerning the quality of the product, health benefits, or methods of production that set organically produced products apart from competitors. USDA says, “Should this proposed rule become final, pursuant to section 10004 of the 2014 Farm Bill, the regulatory language currently exempting organic commodities from assessment by generic commodity promotion programs created under the various commodity promotion laws (7 U.S.C. 7401(e)) shall no longer be in effect. Such commodities would then become “dual-covered commodities”, and persons producing, handling and importing them would need to elect to pay assessments to the commodity-specific program, or the organic commodity promotion program.”

The proposed program will be funded by organic certified producers and handlers whose annual gross sales are in excess of $250,000 paying one-tenth of one percent of net organic sales, with importers paying the same percentage on the transaction value of their certified organic products reported to U.S. Customs and Border Protection upon import. Producers, handlers, and importers that fall below the $250,000 threshold could voluntarily choose to opt in to the program.

The program would also:

  • Carry out the bi-partisan directive to expand and make consistent exemptions from commodity promotion programs for all certified-organic producers. Currently only “100% certified organic” producers qualify.
  • Enable support of grassroots organic research and marketing.
  • Allocate at least 25 percent of the funding specifically for local and regional research.

Critics say that USDA could do more to make the paperwork requirements easier for small organic producers, who should only have to register their exemption once, not annually. The program, called the Generic Research and Promotion Order for Organic, would be run by a 17 member board of directors, independent of OTA. The board would be charged with pursuing educational initiatives and promotional campaigns to help boost demand for organic products by increasing consumer awareness of the benefits of organic food, which OTA believes will benefit everyone in the organic supply chain. OTA maintains that as the demand for organic increases, due to the check-off program, more farmers will be willing to make the switch to organic, which will be crucial to match organic demand in the U.S. Consumer demand for organic in the U.S. already outpaces production. The group, No Organic Check-Off, on the other hand, says that without a plan to support increased acreage moving into organic production, consumers will see more imported organic food in the marketplace.

Critics also say that check-off programs are plagued by a history of mismanagement and abuse. With so many players, there is also worry that the needs of processors and handlers could overshadow those of farmers, who John Bobbe, executive director of the Organic Famer’s Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM), says traditionally only receive a small portion of the profit from the ever growing $40 billion organic market. Others wonder about the efficiency of marketing as a way of growing food instead of a specific commodity. “You can be more flexible with your messaging and even more efficient with the dollars if you’re not tied to the government,” said Harriet Behar, senior organic specialist with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES).

To address the issue of meeting consumer demand for organic, OTA and USDA announced last week the National Certified Transitional Program, as a partnership. This program will provide “Certification and oversight to producers who are in transition to organic” and will include OTA working with certifiers, manufacturers, and retailers to create a “transitional” label on packaged products.

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 farmers adopt an organic systems plan to support soil biology, ecological balance, and pest prevention. Beyond Pesticides provides many opportunities to get involved inprotecting 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.

Source: Organic Research, Promotion, and Information Order

All unattributed positions are that of Beyond Pesticides.

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18
Jan

EPA Ignores Risks and Expands Uses of Toxic Herbicide Enlist Duo

(Beyond Pesticides, January 18, 2017) Despite science affirming its hazards, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has expanded the registration of the toxic herbicide mixture, Enlist Duo, which contains 2,4-D and glyphosate, for use on genetically engineered (GE) cotton and extended its use on GE corn, soybean, and cotton from 15 to 34 states. This approval late last week comes at a time when widespread chemical use is threatening public health and the environment and weed resistance continues to grow, threatening farmers’ productivity and profitability.

Over 600 public comments were submitted to EPA on this issue, with many comments vehemently opposing the current uses and the proposed expansion of uses. In its decision, EPA stated that Enlist Duo “meets the safety standard for the public, agricultural workers, and non-target plants and animal species.” However, as Beyond Pesticides stated in comments to the agency, EPA has not fully considered all the environmental costs, 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. Advocates predict weed resistance to Enlist Duo and have urged EPA to reject its continued use and incentive sustainable organic practices.

Additionally, EPA made a “’No effects’ determination for species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act [ESA].” While a new process for handling ESA consultations was outlined in 2013, EPA continues to bring pesticides to market without adequate data on a chemical’s adverse effects. EPA routinely disregards this requirement, and has been sued numerous times for failing to ensure adequate protections for endangered species.

EPA withdrew its registration approval for Enlist Duo’s use in genetically engineered (GE) crops in November 2015, following an EPA review triggered by manufacturer claims that Enlist Duo ingredients have synergistic effects, which EPA had not initially evaluated. According to EPA, its latest review of the data found no synergistic effects. However, it does not appear that assessments of exposure to both glyphosate and 2,4-D choline have been conducted to properly assess whether synergistic effects can occur in non-plant organisms.

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. This herbicide 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 superweeds. The proposed expansion of Enlist Duo presents unreasonable adverse risks to humans and the environment.

Enlist Duo was officially registered in October 2014, and shortly after a lawsuit was filed by Beyond Pesticides and other environmental groups, challenging the approval under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The groups argue that in its approval of Enlist Duo EPA disregarded negative impacts on sensitive species, including nearly two hundred species protected under ESA, from the increased use of the toxic cocktail on crops genetically engineered to withstand its application. In addition to environmental damage, these chemicals have been linked to a myriad of human health problems. 2,4-D has been linked to soft tissue 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.

In November 2015, EPA revoked the registration of Dow’s Enlist Duo based on new information on the toxic effects associated with the synergistic interactions of the chemical cocktail, including  2,4-D, glyphosate, and other undisclosed ingredients, to plants outside the treated area. In January 2016, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the revocation in a three-sentence order that gave no reasoning.

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.

Sources: US EPA, Agri-Pulse

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

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17
Jan

EPA Finds Risks to Bees from Neonicotinoid Insecticides, Fails to Act Accordingly

(Beyond Pesticides, January 17, 2017) On January 12, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released major risk assessment documents on  pollinator exposure to bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides finding no significant risks, despite the large and growing body of science identifying the pesticides’ hazards. In the documents, EPA identifies risks posed to bees by several neonicotinoid insecticides, but suggests that no restriction on uses are imminent. In another decision meant to protect bees from acutely toxic pesticides, the agency is scaling back its original proposal in deference chemical-intensive agricultural interests.

EPA’s long awaited pollinator assessments for the neonicotinoids: clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, much like the 2016 pollinator assessment release for imidacloprid, identifies risks to bees from the agricultural applications (foliar, soil and seed) of these chemicals, including from pesticide drift. Observed effects include decline in worker bees, and subsequent declines in brood and pollen stores in the colony. EPA‘s assessments continue to focus on honey bees, with cursory mention of wild, native bees. Once again, the assessments did not consider risks from exposures to contaminated water, guttation droplets, or soil, with EPA stating that, “The Agency lacks information to understand the relative importance of these other routes of exposures and/or to quantify potential risks from these other routes, and as such, they are not quantitatively assessed.” Similarly, contaminated dust, produced as a result of the planting of coated seeds, was acknowledged by the agency as a potential source of exposure and risk, as well as the cause of several bee kill incidents. However, once again the agency did not conduct an assessment for this exposure, citing stakeholder work on best management practices to reduce dust.

Pollen and nectar are identified as the major sources of exposure to bees from the neonicotinoids. EPA utilized a new modeling scheme to estimate environmental residues and produce its assessment. The agency also identified on-field risks for certain crops including: for clothianidin  —cucurbit vegetables, citrus and cotton oilseed; for thiamethoxam —fruits, cucurbit vegetables, citrus fruits, berry and small fruit, cotton oilseed; for dinotefuran —stone fruit, cucurbit vegetables, small vine fruit, berries. EPA also released the aquatic assessment for imidacloprid, which found elevated risks to aquatic organisms. This is not surprising as scientific studies show that neonicotinoids adversely affect birds,  aquatic organisms and contaminate soil  and  waterways, and  overall biodiversity.

EPA also released its final Policy to Mitigate the Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products, which follows its 2015 proposal to mitigate exposure to bees from acutely toxic pesticides products. In its 2015 document, EPA proposed to restrict foliar applications of pesticides acutely toxic to bees during crop bloom and when managed bees are present. Then, EPA identified over 60 pesticides that are highly toxic to bees for spray restrictions when managed bees were on site. Beekeepers and concerned activists said then that the proposal fell short in protecting bees, especially native bees.

EPA is now scaling back its modest proposal, focusing on reducing impacts on growers. To enable growers to continue using these toxic pesticides, EPA is providing numerous exceptions, including application timing (applications can now be made two hours before sunset and eight hours before sunrise). Further, instead of targeting restrictions on pesticides that are highly acutely toxic to bees based on bee hazard data, EPA is now planning to utilize risk mitigation criteria with a focus on pesticides that have field residual times (RT25) six hours or less. EPA believes this will provide growers with “greater flexibility” to apply pesticides to crops. The agency has recommended label language:

Foliar application of this product is prohibited to a crop from onset of flowering until flowering is complete when bees are under contract for pollination services to that crop unless:

(i) the application is being made to prevent or control a threat to public and/or animal health as determined by a state, tribal, authorized local health department or vector control agency; OR

(ii) the application is being made to from 2-hours prior to sunset until sunrise; OR,

(iii) the application is being made at a time when the temperature at the

application site is 50oF or less.

Further, at the request of industry-led groups, EPA intends to go back and amend previous neonicotinoid labels that restrict applications under certain conditions with these newly recommended label statements that seem even less protective. The agency states it will begin implementing this policy in 2017 by sending letters to registrants describing steps that must be taken to incorporate the new labeling.

In both the pollinator assessments and “Policy” document, EPA continues to ignore the systemic impacts posed by many of these chemicals, especially the neonicotinoids, which the science has shown are extremely persistent in plants and soil and result in chronic exposures in the environment, continually endangering all pollinators that forage in treated or contaminated areas months and even years after initial application. EPA’s focus on short-term acute impacts from neonicotinoids exemplifies EPA narrow-scope of mitigation and undermines successful pollinator protection.

Systemic neonicotinoid pesticides, as a class of chemicals, move through the plants vascular system and are expressed through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets.  These pesticides, which include imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin, have been found by  a growing body of scientific literature  to be linked to pollinator decline in general.  Neonics are associated with decreased foraging  and navigational ability, as well as increased vulnerability to pathogens and parasites as a result of suppressed bee immune systems.

There will be a 60-day public comment period for the new neonicotinoid assessments onece the EPA’s documents are published in the Federal Register. EPA invites public comment on all of these preliminary assessments, and is especially interested in getting input from stakeholders on the new method for assessing potential exposure and risk through pollen and nectar. EPA may revise the pollinator assessment based on comments received, as well as additional data that it anticipates receiving during 2017. The final neonicotinoid risk assessments will be released for public comment by mid-2018.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action to protect these beneficial organisms, it is left to advocates and consumers to ensure safe havens for pollinators by creating pesticide-free habitat and educating others to do the same. Take action by calling on EPA to suspend neonicotinoids now. You can also declare your garden, yard, park or other space as pesticide-free and pollinator friendly. It does not matter how large or small your pledge is, as long as you contribute to the creation of safe pollinator habitat. Sign the pledge today! Need ideas on creating the perfect pollinator habitat? The Bee Protective Habitat Guide  can tell you which native plants are right for your region. For more information on what you can do, visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protectiv  page.

Source EPA

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