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Daily News Blog

24
Oct

Pediatricians Say Organic Foods Reduce Kids’ Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, October 24, 2012) The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) has weighed in on the organic food debate recognizing that lower pesticide residues in organic foods may be significant for children. The Academy also notes that choosing organic is based on larger environmental issues, as well as human health impacts like pollution and global climate change. This is the first time the AAP has made a statement on organic foods, concluding that the most important thing for children is to eat a wide variety of produce, and that pediatricians should talk to their patients about the potential health and environmental benefits of choosing organic.

There have been conflicting media reports of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recent report on organic foods, published online in Pediatrics. However, the academy is clear that organic foods do provide health advantages by way of reducing exposure to pesticides, especially for children, even reporting “sound evidence” that organic foods contain more vitamin C and phosphorus. According to the report, “in terms of health advantages, organic diets have been convincingly demonstrated to expose consumers to fewer pesticides associated with human disease. Organic farming has been demonstrated to have less environmental impact than conventional approaches.” It also goes on to note that organic farming can be competitive and yields comparable to those of conventional farming techniques. AAP recommends that “pediatricians should incorporate this evidence when discussing the health and environmental impact of organic foods and organic farming while continuing to encourage all patients and their families to attain optimal nutrition and dietary variety.”

The report is described as a clinical report reviewing the health and environmental issues related to organic food production and consumption. It defines the term “organic,” reviews organic food-labeling standards, describes organic and conventional farming practices, and explores the cost and environmental implications of organic production techniques. It also examines the evidence available on nutritional quality and production contaminants in conventionally produced and organic foods.

“At this point, we simply do not have the scientific evidence to know whether the difference in pesticide levels will impact a person’s health over a lifetime, though we do know that children – especially young children whose brains are developing – are uniquely vulnerable to chemical exposures,” said Joel Forman, MD, FAAP, a member of the AAP Council on Environmental Health and one of the lead authors of the AAP clinical report. “Pediatricians want families to have the information they need to make wise food choices,” said Dr. Forman. “We hope that additional research will improve our understanding of these issues, including large studies that measure environmental exposures and neurodevelopment.”

On Nutritional Content
In its analysis, the AAP notes that research comparing the nutritional value of conventionally grown produce and organic produce is “not definitive,” citing that nutritional content is affected by various factors including geographic locations, soil characteristics and climatic conditions. The report finds that better quality research that accounts for these many variables is needed to make accurate comparisons, and concludes that at this time, there is no convincing evidence of a substantial difference between the nutritional content of organic and conventional foods.

On Milk and Meat
The AAP also notes here that due to variability in cattle breeds and genetics, comparisons of milk composition must be “interpreted with caution.” In reviewing the scientific literature, AAP finds little significant differences in compositions, but organic milk does have slightly more protein than conventional milk, and milk derived from organic and non-organic low input systems yield milk higher in conjugated linoleic acid. AAP also notes that hormone supplementation, which is prohibited in organic, does not adversely impact nutritional composition of conventional milk, but the “biological effects in humans, if any, are unknown.” Furthermore, AAP states that studies are needed to investigate the risks to women who eat hormone-treated animals and the development of breast cancer. The AAP calls for large, well-designed, prospective cohort studies that directly measure environmental exposures, such as estrogen at low levels, to understand the impact of hormonal exposure of children through milk and meat.

On Antibiotics
On the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock, AAP notes that the evidence is clear that the use of these agents can promote the development in drug-resistant organisms, which can then spread through the food chain. Organic farming, which prohibits the use of nontherapeutic antibiotics, therefore reduces this threat and, by extension, lowers the risk of human disease caused by drug-resistant organisms.

On Environmental Impacts
Organic farms use less energy and produce less waste, have soils with higher organic quality and water retention. A review of studies found that organic systems can have comparable productivity to conventional fields, while using less pesticides and reducing environmental pollutions.

A recent survey reveals that organic is, in fact, growing. Organic growers in the U.S. sold more than $3.5 billion organically grown agricultural commodities in 2011. Contrary to reporting on the recent Stanford University study that mischaracterized the value of purchasing expensive organic food, the study found that consumers are exposed to elevated levels of pesticides from conventionally grown food. The reporting ignored the study’s reference to pesticide residues on chemically grown food, as well as the broader benefits of organic practices that protect farmers and farmworkers, air and water quality, wildlife and biodiversity. Organic foods have been shown to reduce dietary pesticide exposure and children who eat a conventional diet of food produced with chemical-intensive practices carry residues of organophosphate pesticides that are reduced or eliminated when they switch to an organic diet. Studies have found additional health benefits to eating organic. A ten-year University of California study, which compares organic tomatoes with chemically grown produce, finds that they have almost double the quantity of disease-fighting antioxidants called flavonoids. A comprehensive review of 97 published studies comparing the nutritional quality of organic and conventional foods shows that organic plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains) contain higher levels of eight of 11 nutrients studied, including significantly greater concentrations of the health-promoting polyphenols and antioxidants. A study by Newcastle University, published in the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture, finds that organic farmers who let their cows graze as nature intended are producing better quality milk.

In addition, the adoption of organic methods, particularly no-till organic, is an opportunity for farming both to mitigate agriculture’s contributions to climate change and to cope with the effects that change has had and will have on agriculture. Good organic practices can both reduce fossil fuel use and provide carbon sequestration in the soil through increased soil organic carbon. Higher organic soil carbon levels then increase fertility and the soil’s ability to endure extreme weather years.

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

Source: American Academy of Pediatricians Press Room

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

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23
Oct

Latest Study Again Links Pesticides to Bee Die-Offs

(Beyond Pesticides, October 23, 2012) It’s a story we’ve heard for far too long. Research published yesterday in the journal Nature concludes that when bees are exposed to pesticides their colonies have a greater propensity to fail, again raising the urgent need for regulatory action to protect pollinators. This study adds to the body of science that shows toxic pesticide dependency in agriculture is undermining our food supply.

Concerned citizens Take Action! Join us this Thursday, October 25th at Noon outside EPA Headquarters (340 12th St NW (12th and Pennsylvania Ave)) for a rally to tell EPA that it must act to protect pollinators now.

The rally will feature speakers from various nonprofit and environmental organizations, commercial and urban beekeepers, film documentarians and more, including:

• David Hackenberg, Commercial Beekeeper, PA
• Jay Feldman, Executive Director, Beyond Pesticides
• Peter T. Jenkins, Attorney/Consultant, Center for Food Safety
• Jim Doan, Commercial Beekeeper, NY
• Maryam Henein, Director “Vanishing of the Bees”
• Meme Thomas, Baltimore City Beekeeper
• Kevin Hansen, Director of “Nicotine Bees” and Sierra Club Representative

The Nature study, “Combined pesticide exposure severely affects individual- and colony-level traits in bees,” followed 40 bumblebee colonies for four weeks.

While the study only focused on bumblebees, Prof. Douglas Kell of The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council notes, “Bumblebees play an important role in pollination, working earlier in the morning and later into the evening than many bees. Understanding the threats to all insect pollinators is vital if we are to ensure we mitigate the impact of their decline on the production of agricultural and horticultural crops. The results of this study contribute to a wider initiative to help inform strategies for securing the futures of all insect pollinators.”

The research reveals that chronic exposure to two commonly-used pesticides, the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, and the synthetic pyrethriod λ-cyhalothrin (LC), at field level concentrations impairs natural foraging behavior and increases worker morality. Neonicotinoids, such as imidacloprid, are taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through the pollen, nectar, and gutation droplets from which bees forage and drink. Synthetic pyrethriods such as LC are sprayed directly on crops, including their flowers, where bees can become topically exposed. The authors note, “Foraging bees are thus simultaneously exposed to both chemicals in the field, making them excellent candidates to investigate the potential for combinatorial effects of pesticide exposure.”

The study was designed to mimic real world conditions bees are exposed to in the field. Forty colonies were split into four groups: ten colonies not exposed to any pesticides were used as a control, ten were exposed to only imidacloprid, ten were exposed only to LC, and ten were exposed to a mixture of imidacloprid and LC. The pesticides were administered via a feeder box; however, the bees were not forced to visit the treated material and could forage freely in the fields nearby.

Of the colonies exposed to imidacloprid, there was a decrease in birth rates for worker bees, and a higher proportion of foragers failed to return to the nest. A decrease in foraging success means that bees will bring back less pollen. Less pollen means less food for bees, which would match up to the lower birth rates of worker bees seen in the study. These results correspond closely to two studies published earlier this year in the journal Science. The first, titled “A Common Pesticide Decreases Foraging Success and Survival in Honey Bees,” revealed that the honeybees exposed to the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam were less likely to return to the hive after foraging. The second, titled “Neonicotinoid Pesticide Reduces Bumble Bee Colony Growth and Queen Production,” shows that bumble bee colonies exposed to imidacloprid suffer an 85% reduction in the production of new queens compared to unexposed colonies.

For colonies exposed solely to LC, and those exposed to both pesticides, there is a much higher rate of dead worker bees, with 43% of the workers living less than 4 days after birth. This means that colonies are putting a significant amount of effort into nursing bees that were not able to contribute to the future growth of the hive. Colonies exposed to both pesticides fare the worst in the study. Authors note, “Indeed, M colonies in our study were consistently negatively affected in all our measures of worker behavior, suffered the highest overall worker losses (worker mortality and forager losses), which were twice as great as for control colonies, and two colonies did in fact fail.”

The authors of the study go on to note that traditional risk assessments only preform tests on one pesticide at a time. This fact is true in the U.S.; EPA does not require registrants to study the possible synergistic effects of pesticide combinations, even though bees in the field are exposed to multiple pesticides through a number of different routes.

Moreover, EPA does not require studies on the chronic toxicity of pesticides for non-target insects such as pollinators. While this study spanned four weeks, with many effects only taking place after several days of exposure, EPA only requires a 96-hour test to be performed. While the agency is supposed to require a field study before a chemical is approved, in terms of neonicotinoids no acceptable field studies on pollinators have been performed to date.

EPA failed to follow its own regulations when it granted a conditional, or temporary, registration to the neonicotinoid clothianidin in 2003 without required data establishing that the pesticide would have no “unreasonable adverse effects” on pollinators. EPA continues to allow the use of clothianidin nine years after acknowledging that it had an insufficient legal basis for initially allowing its use. In July, France banned the use of the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam in order to protect pollinators, but EPA has effectively told pollinators to buzz off. Several U.S. policymakers, including Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), Senators Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have expressed their concern to EPA, but EPA has refused to budge, denying a petition by millions of concerned citizens that would recognize that bees face an “imminent hazard.”

So we’re bringing the fight to EPA’s front door. With one in three bites of food dependent upon pollination, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Join us this Thursday, October 25th at Noon and let EPA know it’s not okay to put our pollinators, our food supply – our future at risk.

If you’re interested in learning more about the research involving the recent global decline of pollinators, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinator Protection page to learn what the science shows.

Source: PhysOrg

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

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22
Oct

Court Rules GMOs OK On Wildlife Refuges

(Beyond Pesticides, October 22, 2012) A lawsuit challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) practice of permitting genetically engineered (GE) crops on wildlife refuges was dismissed by a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the Center for Food Safety (CFS), and Beyond Pesticides, charged that FWS unlawfully entered into cooperative farming agreements and approved planting of GE crops in 54 national wildlife refuges in various states without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and in violation of FWS policy.

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U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C. rejected the plaintiff’s arguments, ruling that the “agency’s actions were not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which oversees 150 million acres of refuges, allowed farmers to plant GE corn and soybeans on a limited basis in eight Midwestern states. The plaintiffs — Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Cornucopia Institute — claimed the decision violated environmental law. Farming has long been used on national wildlife refuges for multiple purposes like habitat restoration, which involves destroying invasive species to make room for native plants. However, in recent years, refuge farming has been converted to GE crops because the agency claims GE seed is the only seed farmers can obtain today. These GE crops are mostly engineered for a single purpose: to be resistant to herbicides, mainly Monsanto’s ubiquitous Roundup. Because the crops are tolerant to herbicides, their plantings lead to more frequent applications and increased amounts of toxic herbicides. This overreliance on herbicides used in GE cropping systems has fostered an epidemic of herbicide-resistant “superweeds” in the past decade as weeds have mutated. A study by University of Notre Dame, scientists found that streams throughout the Midwest are contaminated with GE materials from corn crop byproducts, even six months after harvest. While the long-term health effects of consuming GE food are still unknown, GE crops are known to contaminate conventional non-GE and organic crops through “genetic drift” and take a toll on the environment by increasing resistant insects and weeds, contaminating water and affecting pollinators and other non-target organisms.

Earlier this month, a study published by Washington State University’s research professor Charles Benbrook, PhD, reported that the use of herbicides in the production of GE herbicide-tolerant crops -cotton, soybeans and corn- has actually increased, producing resistant weeds, contrary to industry claims that the technology would reduce pesticide applications. This year, Beyond Pesticides wrote to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that the introduction of new varieties of GE crops was “severely misguided and lacking forethought.” Plans are in the works to introduce 2,4-D GE corn into the environment thereby creating a new generation of resistant weeds, leaving a legacy of resistant “superweeds” and a retrogression to even more toxic herbicides to control these weeds. 2,4-D, which constituted half of the ingredients in “Agent Orange,” used to defoliate forests and croplands in the Vietnam War, is a chlorophenoxy herbicide. Scientists around the world have reported increased cancer risks in association with its use, especially for soft tissue sarcoma and malignant lymphoma.
FWS officials in the Midwest were aware that refuges in eastern states had been sued over allowing GE crops on these protected lands, and developed an environmental assessment of the practice. This was the third in a series of lawsuits filed by PEER and CFSchallenging FWS’s practice of permitting GE crops on wildlife refuges. In 2009 and 2010, the groups successfully challenged approval of GE plantings on two wildlife refuges in Delaware – Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge – which forced FWS to end GE planting in the entire 12-state Northeastern region. In settling the suit, FWS promised to revoke any authorization for further GE agriculture at Bombay Hook and the four other refuges with GE crops: the Rappahannock River Valley Refuge and the Eastern Shore of Virginia Refuge, Montezuma Refuge in New York and Blackwater Refuge of Maryland, unless and until an appropriate NEPA analysis is completed – a condition that has yet to be met for GE agriculture on a National Wildlife Refuge. The federal government would not agree to end GE agriculture in refuges nationally, which prompted new litigation in other regions where as many as 75 other national wildlife refuges now growing GE crops are vulnerable to similar suits.

The agency originally preferred taking no action, which would have allowed GE crops to continue being grown in refuges for multiple purposes. In the final version of its environmental analysis, FWS instead chose to only allow transgenic crops to be grown for five years per tract, and only for habitat restoration objectives. This lawsuit challenged that the agency’s analysis did not adequately consider the impact of increased herbicide usage on water and endangered species. It also argued the analysis should have more closely looked at possible development of weeds resistant to glyphosate herbicides and cross pollination between transgenic and conventional crops. This suit hoped to enjoin the cultivation of GE crops in the Southeast Region until and unless a new approval decision is made based on a rigorous review of all potential impacts in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), as required by NEPA. Meanwhile, unless practices and FWS policy on the refuges change, the plaintiffs will continue to challenge the cultivation of GE crops on refuges across the country.

Judge Boasberg found that the FWS sufficiently studied these concerns and countered the arguments with scientific studies and mitigation measures. “FWS’s conclusions may not be what plaintiffs wish, but it cannot be gainsaid that they took a hard look at the issues,” the judge said.

Currently, there are commercially available Roundup-tolerant seed varieties for corn, soybeans, canola, sorghum, and cotton, in addition to sugar beets, and recently USDA-allowed Roundup-tolerant alfalfa. Due to serious questions regarding the integrity of USDA’s environmental evaluations, public interest groups, led by the Center for Food Safety and including Beyond Pesticides, have filed suit against the agency to stop its full deregulation of GE alfalfa.

For more on genetically engineered agriculture read Beyond Pesticides’ article “Ready or Not, Genetically Engineered Crops Explode on Market” on our Genetic Engineering program page.

Source: Capital Press
Photo Credit: Food Safety News

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

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19
Oct

Delaware Students Outraged at Negligent Pesticide Policies

(Beyond Pesticides, October 19, 2012) School is a place where children need a healthy body and a clear head in order to learn. Despite a successful trend toward nonchemical strategies, pesticides remain prevalent and are widely used today in universities, schools, and daycare facilities. Kelsey Crain, an undergraduate student at University of Delaware, first became aware of the issue when, “I noticed there was this weird rash on my legs which wasn’t there before I was on The Green.” Kayla Iuliano, Crain’s friend and reporter at the student-run University of Delaware Review, probed the University about why there was no notification, and in return was given standard bureaucratic prose: “University Spokesman John Brennan stated in an email message that workers are not required to post signs when areas are sprayed because the chemicals are not harmful when used properly, and personnel are trained in how to apply them,” she wrote in the University of Delaware Review. “He said the sprays are commonly used commercial products and are registered for use with the Environmental Protection Agency. ‘They are recognized in the industry as safe when applied as directed’.”

The pesticide widely applied to the Green is called “PowerZone,” which is composed of 41.98 percent MCPA 2-ethylhexyl ester, or Mecoprop, according to its product label. This so-called “safe” chemical is considered a “possible” carcinogen, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a division of the Center for Disease Control. Mecoprop labels indicated that grass treated with the chemical should be allowed to set for a period of 48 hours and that immediate exposure to mecoprop can cause symptoms like burning skin and eyes, nausea, dizziness, and headaches.

Unfortunately, neither the university nor the state of Delaware require pesticide applicators to post signs that notify of spraying, which means that even after pesticides have just been sprayed, students may be walking, sitting, and lying in toxic pesticides that should be allowed at least a few hours to properly dry. Students that use the common area are completely unaware of the risks; the university and state have failed to protect them from these toxic pesticides.

Of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 can cause cancer, 13 are linked to birth defects, 21 can affect reproduction and 15 are nervous system toxicants. The most popular and widely used lawn chemical, 2,4-D, which kills broad leaf weeds like dandelions, is an endocrine disruptor with predicted human health hazards ranging from changes in estrogen and testosterone levels, thyroid problems, prostate cancer, and reproductive abnormalities. 2,4-D has also been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Other lawn chemicals like glyphosate (Roundup), have also been linked to serious adverse chronic effects in humans. Many pesticides affect the immune system, which can result in increased problems with allergies, asthma, hypersensitivity to chemicals and a reduced ability to combat infections and cancer. A study found organophosphate pesticides cause genetic damage linked to neurological disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Parkinson’s disease.

Chemical-intensive pest control tends to ignore the causes of pest infestations and instead relies on scheduled pesticide applications or unnecessary toxic chemical use. Pesticides typically provide a temporary fix and are ineffective over the long-term. In addition, the most common insects are now resistant to many insecticides. Because certain insects and toxic pesticides pose a health risk to children, schools need to implement a comprehensive school IPM program to prevent and manage pest problems. A comprehensive IPM program utilizes pest prevention and management strategies that exclude pests from the school facility through habitat modification, entry way closures, structural repairs, sanitation practices, natural organic management of playing fields and landscapes, other non-chemical, mechanical and biological methods, and the use of the least-toxic pesticides only as a last resort.

In 2002, Beyond Pesticides identified 10,108 school districts, or 59 percent of the school districts in the U.S., in 37 states that have a policy with one or more of the following four criteria: (i) establish an integrated pest management (IPM) program; (ii) provide prior written notification of a pesticide application; (iii) post pesticide use notification signs; and, (iv) prohibit certain toxic pesticide applications. While this report does not evaluate whether all these schools are implementing these policies effectively, it does show the number of schools that have adopted some requirements, either through a state law or local school district policy, toward the protection of children from school pesticide use. Of the approximately 17,000 school districts around the country:
• 26.6% are required to have an IPM policy;
• 43.1% are required to provide prior written notification
• of pesticide use
• 56.7% are required to post pesticide use notification signs
• for either indoor or outdoor applications; and,
• 18.9% have restrictions on certain pesticides.

As of 2010, 21 states address IPM in their laws, but only 15 of these require schools to adopt an IPM program. Of the 21 states, California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota, have comprehensive definitions of IPM, and allow only the least-toxic pesticide to be used as a last resort. Four states, Massachusetts, Oregon, Texas and West Virginia, approach the issue of defining least-toxic pesticides. Only two states, Massachusetts and Oregon, prohibit certain toxic pesticides from being used in an IPM program. For example, Oregon IPM law only allows a “low impact pesticide” to be used, which is defined as a pesticide that is not an EPA toxicity category I and II pesticide product (bares the words “Warning” or “Danger” on its label), or contains an ingredient listed by EPA as a known, probable or likely carcinogen. (There is an exemption for a public health emergency.) In addition, pesticides may not be used for routine, preventive purposes. Massachusetts and Maine prohibits the use of aerosol/liquid spray pesticides inside school buildings, with an exception for approved public health emergency situations. Their laws also prohibit the use of known, probably or likely carcinogens as well as products that contain EPA List 1, Inerts of Toxicological Concern. Although its law does not prohibit toxic chemical use, Texas defines “green category pesticides” and West Virginia defines “least hazardous pesticides” as products that EPA considers less acutely toxic. These are listed as toxicity category III and IV pesticide products (bares the word “Caution” on its label), excluding the more toxic categories I and II pesticides. Oregon and Texas also require the school districts’ IPM coordinator to approve the use of higher hazard pesticide applications Maine only allows an indoor pesticide spray application for public health pest problems.

Raising the level of protection across the nation to meet the highest possible standard of protection for children is essential. Schools should be environmentally safe places for children to learn. It often takes a pesticide poisoning, repeated illnesses, or a strong advocate to alert a school district to the acute and chronic adverse health effects of pesticides and the viability of safer pest management strategies. IPM strategies are practical, feasible, and cost-effective tools to reducing student and school staff’s exposure to hazardous pesticides.

We applaud recent efforts by State Senator Gene Davis (D-Utah), who has announced plans to sponsor legislation that requires notification when nearby homes are being treated with toxic pesticides. Pre-notification is a critical step in the right direction to allow people to avoid unwanted chemical exposures. Utah’s current pesticide notification system is voluntary. While pesticide applicators are required to alert their customers of the dangers associated with certain pesticides they apply, residents are not required currently to notify their neighbors when they apply pesticides around their home. Property owners should be informed about the possible contamination of their property and of threats to their family and pets from the application of pesticides.

Take Action: To see what pesticide laws are enacted in your state see Beyond Pesticides’ state pages. Know of a policy that’s not listed, or do you know of efforts to change policy in your state or community? Send an email to [email protected].

Source: University of Delaware Review

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

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18
Oct

Kidney Disease in Sri Lanka Linked to Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, October 18, 2012) A new study pinpoints agricultural pesticides and fertilizers as the likely culprit for an incurable and deadly kidney disease that has afflicted thousands of Sri Lankans. As many as 400,000 people in the north-central region of Sri Lanka may be affected by the chronic kidney disease (CKD), and as many as 22,000 people may have died over the last two decades as a result.

“The reason for the spread is heavy metals in the water caused by the unregulated use of fertiliser and pesticides,” Dr. Channa Jayasumana, from the Faculty of Medicine at the Rajarata University in Anuradhapura, told Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS).

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Sri Lankan government launched an investigation four years ago, testing the local environment and taking blood, urine and tissue samples. The results, which were released this summer in a one-page press release, pointed to cadmium and arsenic. Though cadmium is found in fertilizers, it is illegal to use arsenic-based pesticides in Sri Lanka. Dr. Jayamasumana is one of the doctors that has been engaging in research activities in the epidemic of CKD, and told Beyond Pesticides that they strongly believe that the main cause for CKD is poor quality agrochemicals.

According to a joint investigation by Public Radio International’s The World and the Center for Public Integrity, in the government’s press release, it states that farmers can protect their kidneys by stopping the “indiscriminate use of fertilizers and certain pesticides.” However, little has been done to spread the message to people who need to hear it. The doctors are frustrated with the WHO and the Sri Lankan government for not releasing these findings to the public and not taking action yet.

Dr. Palitha Bandara, the top health official in the North Central Province, told PRI that it is critical that the public’s exposure to the contaminants be reduced immediately “because day by day (they) will accumulate (in) the skin, blood and other peripheral organs, including kidneys.”

Source: PRI’s The World, Inter Press Service News Agency

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

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17
Oct

Parents Cancel Soccer Game Due to Hazardous Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, October 17, 2012) Concerned parents in Durango, Colorado created uproar last week when they discovered a synthetic weed killer containing at least two possible carcinogens would be applied to the athletic fields before Saturday’s games. Though the city enacted the Organically Managed Lands Program last month, the current season’s contracts with pest control companies have not yet been canceled. However, it seems that the efforts of local organizers and the city council have still left an impression on parents, and the city decided to at least postpone all youth soccer games that were scheduled after the spray.

“I believe these chemicals are harmful, and it’s best for my son not to be exposed to them,” said Sheryl McGourty, one of the mothers who, according to The Huffington Post, wrote to Durango Parks and Recreation with her concerns.

The parents in Durango are right to be concerned about potentially exposing their children to chemicals. The herbicide that was slated to be used on the Durango soccer fields, Vessel, has three active chemical ingredients, 2,4-D, dicamba, and mecoprop-p (MCCP). A dog recently died in Utah after inhaling the pesticide Trupower which has the same three active ingredients. 2,4-D and MCPP both have increased cancer risks in association with their use. 2,4-D is especially associated with soft tissue sarcoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Dicamba is also associated with developmental and reproductive health problems.

These chemicals on their own are all toxic and can have negative health effects but combined they have even greater synergistic effects. What is more alarming is the combination of these chemicals makes them more harmful to human health. Synergistic effects between multiple pesticides and/or other chemicals represent one of the greatest gaps in EPA’s ability to protect the public from the adverse health effects associated with pesticide use and exposure. Given that there are over 875 active ingredients currently registered for use, it is difficult to test all possible combinations.

Pesticides are especially detrimental to the health of children than they are to adults. Children take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults in the food they eat and air they breathe. Their developing organ systems make them more sensitive to toxic exposure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Academy of Sciences, and American Public Health Association, among others, have voiced concerns about the danger that pesticides pose to children. A growing body of evidence in scientific literature shows that pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system, even at low levels.

Many communities across the country have taken a stand against the use of toxic pesticides on their lawns and landscapes. Durango’s organic land management policy is based on Beyond Pesticides’ model policy and focuses on developing healthy soil, resorting to minimum risk pesticides only after all other methods of control have been exhausted. This summer, Richmond, CA approved a pesticide reform ordinance targeting the use of toxic chemical pesticides within city boundaries. Washington D.C. also recently passed legislation which restricts the use of pesticides on District property, near waterways, and in schools and day care centers. While stopping short of an all-out ban, Connecticut currently has a statewide prohibition on the use of toxic pesticides on school grounds. The state of New York also acted to protect children by passing the “Child Safe Playing Field Act” in 2010, which requires that all schools, preschools, and day care centers stop using pesticides on any playgrounds or playing field.

In addition to creating local policies, community members across the country have rallied to stop pesticides from being sprayed. Members of the grassroots group Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) successfully stopped pesticide use on local parks by attending town meetings and discussing their concerns. In Boulder, CO, children lead a rally to protest the approval of two pesticides on city parks.

The actions of the parents and community members in Durango sends a great message to get involved in your local government and voice your concerns to effect change! For more information on what you can do to eliminate unnecessary pesticide use in your community, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Lawn and Landscapes program page.

Sources: Huffington Post, SafeLawns.org

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

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16
Oct

Oregon’s Department of Agriculture Looks to Protect Waterways from Pesticide Runoff

(Beyond Pesticides, October 16, 2012) The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is looking to revamp the way it enforces the 1993 Agricultural Water Quality Management Act in order to decrease the amount of pesticides that end up in the state’s waterways from agricultural nonpoint source pollution. The new plan, which was unveiled last December, will work by taking a firmer approach than the current plan, which on sporadic complaints for enforcement and cooperative action by residents through soil and water conservation districts. While a new plan could benefit the health of Oregon residents and its waterways, it is in danger because politicians and some farmers believe it will be overly burdensome and increase costs.

Oregon is no stranger to problems with pesticide contamination of its water. The state of Oregon has a complex and diverse agricultural economy which ranges from forestry products to seed crops. Oregon also has thousands of miles of waterways. Roughly 15,000 miles of these waterways are listed as impaired, and nearly half of the 11,000-plus miles of waterways in Willamette River basin need more streamside plants, according to a 2009 state report. These plants help reduce the amount of run off by reducing the amount of pesticides that can reach water-ways. Zollner creek, which runs through the flatlands below Mt. Angel Abbey in the Willamette Valley, was found to be contaminated with pesticides, including the chemical diuron, which is harmful to fish and aquatic organisms. The stream has registered high levels of pesticides and fertilizers since the mid-1990s, and contamination levels detected in the Zollner and around Oregon are high enough to cause harm to aquatic life, including native salmon and steelhead.

ODA Director Katy Coba and her staff floated the new, firmer approach to water quality late last year: The state would target limited resources to the most polluted streams, ramp up education of landowners and accelerate restoration projects, tapping state and federal subsidies. Over time, trees, shrubs and grasses would shade and cool rivers and filter pesticide and fertilizer runoff, benefiting threatened salmon runs. Before-and-after water monitoring would confirm long-term results. As a last resort, ODA would pursue uncooperative landowners, starting with warnings, instead of relying on outside complaints for enforcement. The department unveiled the proposal in December before the state’s water quality committee, including an aerial photo of the threatened Zollner watershed.

This new plan is seen as an improvement from the old system, which relied on outside complaints and cooperative landowners for improvements, leaving gaps which threatened water quality. An example of the problems this faced was last year Marion County’s soil and water conservation district decided to upgrade water quality along Zollner Creek. Conservation districts are government entities that work with landowners and operators who are willing to help them manage and protect land and water resources on all public and private land. While notices went to 75 farmers and land owners only five responded. Two eventually agreed to soil testing, and “Because of a lack of access on private land and interest by landowners,” the district reported to the state in July, “Efforts would be better spent on other projects.” The patchwork of voluntary projects, and a dearth of river data from years past, make it tough to demonstrate the results that environmentalists, federal regulators – and judges – increasingly demand.

The movement to this new system will be politically challenging for ODA because some farmers and conservation districts see the new proposal as a sign of a more active and intrusive governmental agency. In a January letter, the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts warned that farmers and ranchers might believe districts “are conspiring with ODA to set them up” for water quality violations. ODA, with just six field staff in its water quality program for 38,000 farms needs the conservation districts, which it leans on heavily for information and ground work in order to be successful.

Farmers are also concerned. John Annen, whose family has grown hops for more than a century along Zollner Creek, stated “I’m all for the clean rivers and the fish and all that — they were here before we were…But I don’t want somebody out here telling us what to do.” Farmers were also worried about the cost of creating stronger buffer zones. Federal and state subsidies only cover three-quarters of buffer installation, and while rent payments are supposed to address lost land value, land can range up to $12,000 an acre in the area. However, without proper action, and no matter the cost, pesticide pollution in these streams will affect the health and environment of Oregon residents.
Legislators from both parties are watching ODA closely as the proposal moves forward. If they don’t like what they see, bills to restrict or expand ODA’s authority could pop up in the Legislature next year and the future of this program may be in jeopardy after the November 6th elections.

To eradicate pesticides runoff in our waterways and our environment Beyond Pesticides supports farms that work to transition to organic methods of production. Organic food contributes to better health through reduced pesticide exposure for all and increased nutritional quality. In order to understand the importance of eating organic food from the perspective of toxic pesticide contamination, we need to look at the whole picture —from the farmworkers who do the valuable work of growing food, to the waterways from which we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. Organic food can feed us and keep us healthy without producing the toxic effects of chemical agriculture.

It is important to make your voice heard on organic standards. See Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage for more information on the issues going on right now at the fall NOSB meeting. We will be updating this webpage with our perspectives,, so be sure to check back as new information is added.

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

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15
Oct

Corporate Assault Targets California Voters in Attempt to Stop GE Labeling Proposition

(Beyond Pesticides, October 15, 2012) California’s Proposition 37, which would require mandatory labeling on genetically engineered (GE) foods, is facing a strong challenge as tens of millions of conventional food industry dollars have poured into television advertisements before the November 6th election. Poll results released Thursday by the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and the California Business Roundtable show that 48.3% of respondents would vote yes for the measure on Nov. 6, while 40.2% would vote no.

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Prop 37 was authored by James Wheaton, president of the Environmental Law Foundation. Earlier this year, the California Right to Know campaign gathered 971,126 petition signatures for Prop 37, nearly double the 555,236 signatures required to qualify for inclusion on the ballot. As it currently stands, over 40 countries around the world, including all of Europe, Japan, and China have the right to know whether they are eating GE food. While opponents of the initiative are attempting to mislead the public about the costs of the proposition, an economic assessment from Joanna M. Shepherd-Bailey, Ph.D. of Emory University School of Law reveals that the initiative would not result in any additional expense to the taxpayers of California; Prop 37 is self-enforced and requires no new bureaucracy.

However, money from corporate opponents of Prop 37 is fueling a media blitz, with “10 days of incessant pounding lies,” according to Stacy Malkan, media director for California Right to Know. Opponents of Prop 37 are portraying the labeling measure as a needless burden and waste of money. An image on its website shows a farmer with his mouth taped shut and his body crisscrossed by red tape -even though the proposal imposes no requirements on farmers.

Industry opponents of Prop 37 have now raised over $35 million in comparison to the $4 million raised by its supporters. This is a dramatic shift from earlier in the summer when both campaigns had raised nearly the same amount of money. A majority of the oppositional contributions have come from Monsanto, Bayer, Dupont, Dow, Pepsico, and other major conventional food and chemical companies.

But why are they fighting so hard to prevent a disclaimer on GE products? Because these large corporations know that Prop 37 will not just affect California. Historically, California initiatives have been harbingers of national environmental regulations. If Prop 37 passes it will likely force food processors to label GE products nationwide, since it would be costly and cumbersome to have one set of labels for California and another for the other 49 states. In a recent New York Times article, Michael Pollan notes that Prop 37 could help shift the food movement from focusing on the soft politics of changing consumer choice to engaging in the hard politics of Washington.

While not many studies have investigated the impacts of GE foods on mammals or even humans, the few studies that have looked at the toxicity of GE proteins identify human health concerns. Studies have found that GE foods may cause common toxic effects such as hepatic, pancreatic, renal, or reproductive issues and may alter hematological, biochemical parameters. World renowned geneticist and biophysicist, and co-founder of the International Science Panel on Genetic Modification, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, has cited numerous observations on the adverse impacts of GE foods, including severe inflammation in the lungs in mice, liver and kidney toxicity, damage to the organ system of young rats fed GE potatoes, and severely stunted pups. Another recent study by Gilles-Eric Séralini, PhD, at the University of Caen in France reports that rats fed a diet of Roundup-tolerant GE corn have an increased risk of developing tumors, suffering organ damage and dying prematurely.

GE crops are also harmful to the environment. A recent study published by Washington State University’s research professor Charles Benbrook, PhD, finds that the use of herbicides in the production of three genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops -cotton, soybeans and corn- has actually increased, contrary to industry claims that the technology would reduce pesticide applications. Additionally, multiple studies show that the use of GE crops is leading to the rapid evolution of glyphosate-resistant weed populations.

Beyond Pesticides is a member of the Just Label It campaign and strongly supports voting yes on Prop 37 in California. Given national polls showing 93% of Americans in support of mandatory labeling, Beyond Pesticides believes it is possible to have the same impact here as in Europe, where consumers have known what is in their food since 1997.

As it currently stands, the only way to be certain you are not consuming GE foods is by purchasing products that are certified under the USDA organic certification program. Organic standards prohibit the use of genetic modification in the production and handling of organic food. For more information on the hazards of GE food, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering program page.

Image Credit: The Cornucopia Institute

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

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12
Oct

Pesticide Poisonings Spur Legislation Proposal in Utah

(Beyond Pesticides, October 12, 2012) After reading several cases of pesticide poisonings throughout the state of Utah, State Senator Gene Davis (D-Utah), has announced plans to sponsor legislation that requires notification when nearby homes are being treated with toxic pesticides. Pre-notification is a critical step in the right direction to allow people to avoid unwanted chemical exposures. Utah’s current pesticide notification system is voluntary. While pesticide applicators are required to alert their customers of the dangers associated with certain pesticides they apply, residents are not required currently to notify their neighbors when they apply pesticides around their home.

One recent case to come to light is the Pammi family’s loss of their golden retriever “Rusty” (see image) that they attribute to the toxic herbicides he inhaled after they were applied on their neighbor’s lawn this August. Rusty ingested the product TruPower3, a potent mixture of 2,4-D, mecoprop-p (MCPP-p), and dicamba. Beyond Pesticides was in contact with Mrs. Pammi after the incident, and although there is no way to confirm that Rusty’s death was the result of pesticide exposure, Ms. Pammi provided Beyond Pesticides with this statement from Rusty’s vet:

“The herbicide Trupower, which contains a mixture of 2,4-D, mecoprop-p and dicamba and a class of phenoxy chemicals, has the potential to cause mild to severe signs in dogs depending [on] amount and concentration of the compound ingested. Some of the first signs include Dyspnea, increased salivation, hypermotility of the GI Tract, vomiting, miosis and urinary incontinence. The signs can progress to a nicotinic phase of toxicity if high amounts have been ingested including muscular twitching, ataxia and paralysis including respiratory arrest. Skin contact does not appear to cause these signs only ingestion of the compound.”

This incident prompted Mrs. Pammi to write a heartfelt letter to the Standard-Examiner, questioning the current state of pesticide regulations.

Image Courtesy Salt Lake City Tribune

Image Courtesy Salt Lake City Tribune

“If alerted, we would have kept our dog inside. This could have been our young daughter. Our neighbor has the right to use a lawn care service. Do we have the right not to have chemicals drift into our yard and cause injury or death? Who monitors and enforces proper use of such deadly chemicals?”

With the support of Sen. Davis, Utahans may see a change. A new proposal could mean more stringent requirements. In order to adequately protect against pesticide drift, Beyond Pesticides recommends that there should be an established buffer zone surrounding residential buildings; one that is at least 300 ft. Citizens should also have the right to be notified 48 hours before application along with the posting of clearly visible signs that must remain posted 72 hours after application. Some may advocate for a requirement that a sign be posed only after the pesticide has been sprayed. However, because exposure can occur within minutes after applying a chemical, this sort of restriction would not be adequate to protect individuals, their children, or their pets. With any future legislation, local Utah communities should be granted the ability to adopt stricter regulations than those passed by the state.

During a typical year in neighborhoods across the country, over 102 million pounds of toxic pesticides are applied in pursuit of a perfect lawn and garden. This figure, up from 90 million pounds in the year 2000, continues to grow despite the growing body of scientific evidence of the public health and environmental consequences. Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 are linked with cancer or carcinogenicity, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity, and 11 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system. In Utah alone, 11,000 pesticide products are in use, making the need for legislation ever more urgent.

While some focus has turned to the potential costs that new legislation would have for companies and their consumers, as well as enforcement difficulties —there are only four full-time inspectors state-wide— proponents have rallied around harrowing stories of pesticide survivors to highlight their need. For example, in 2010 two Utah sisters, 4-year-old Rebecca Toone and 15-month-old Rachel, died after an exterminator dropped fumitoxin aluminum phosphide pellets in burrow holes a mere seven feet from their house. The children’s parents were hospitalized and had difficulty breathing but were later released. While the U.S Environmental Protection Agency has since banned residential uses and restricted non-residential use of the chemical, existing stocks of the product are still allowed to be sold without the updated label restrictions.

Unfortunately, stories like these are widespread. Elva Jenson, neighbor to Sen. Davis, filed a complaint after a lawn care company had sprayed possible carcinogenic pesticides that drifted onto her property during windy conditions. Three months later, the company and applicator were fined a mere $100.

Ultimately, Beyond Pesticides supports the passage of sound IPM and organic policy in communities throughout the country which do not include the spraying of harmful chemicals. States and communities across the country have successfully adopted organic land care ordinances which restrict the use of pesticides both on private properties and in public spaces. Most recently, Richmond, CA approved a pesticide reform ordinance targeting the use of toxic chemical pesticides within city boundaries. Washington D.C. also recently passed legislation which restricts the use of pesticides on District property, near waterways, and in schools and day care centers. While stopping short of an all-out ban, Connecticut currently has a statewide prohibition on the use of toxic pesticides on school grounds. The state of New York also acted to protect children by passing the “Child Safe Playing Field Act” in 2010, which requires that all schools, preschools, and day care centers stop using pesticides on any playgrounds or playing field.

Property owners should be informed about the possible contamination of their property and of threats to their family and pets from the application of pesticides. As Mrs. Pammi eloquently remarks, “We can be lulled into complacency about things that occur around us until another death sparks outrage and interest in the inappropriate use of herbicides and pesticides.” Beyond Pesticides encourages all residents of Utah to contact their elected representatives and urge them to support more stringent pesticide regulations. The time to act against pesticide use in Utah is now!

Take Action: To see what pesticide laws are enacted in your state see Beyond Pesticides’ state pages. Know of a policy that’s not listed, or do you know of efforts to change policy in your state or community? Send and email to [email protected].

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

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11
Oct

Pesticides Key Contributor in Childhood Diseases, Highlights Need for Policy Change

(Beyond Pesticides, October 11, 2012) A new report highlights the growing body of research that links pesticides to the rampant rise of learning disabilities, childhood cancer and asthma in the United States, and calls for swift policy change to protect future generations. In particular, the report points out that children are more sick today than they were a generation ago, confronting serious health challenges from pesticides and other chemical exposures that their parents and grandparents were unlikely to face. This report underscores the importance of changing the individual chemical assessment approach to regulating pesticides, and integrating a systems approach that incorporates organic principles that strive to eliminate unnecessary pesticide use.

The report entitled, A Generation in Jeopardy: How pesticides are undermining our children’s health and intelligence was released by Pesticide Action Network North America (PAN). It draws from academic and government research, focusing on studies published within the past five years, to chronicle the emerging threat of –with over 1 billion pounds applied on farms and homes annually– to children’s health. Children and other sensitive sub-populations are exposed to a “toxic soup” of chemicals whose health impacts are not properly understood and clouded in uncertainties which are not captured in current risk assessments. Knowing this, the take home message from this report is the need to shift from systems that depend of toxic pesticides to systems that incorporate organic principles of pest management.

The studies detailed in this report are just the tip of the iceberg. Beyond Pesticides began tracking similar studies with the launch of the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database (PIDD) in summer 2010, which captures the range of diseases linked to pesticides through epidemiologic studies. The studies in this database supports an urgent need to shift to toxic‐free practices and policies. The constantly updated database is a tool to support efforts to eliminate the continued use of hazardous pesticides in favor of green strategies that emphasize non-toxic and least-toxic alternative practices and products.

Beyond Pesticides has long called for alternatives assessment in environmental rulemaking that creates a regulatory trigger to adopt alternatives and drive the market to go green. The alternatives assessment approach differs most dramatically from the current approach of risk assessment in rejecting uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, but unnecessary because of the availability of safer alternatives. For example, in agriculture, where the PIDD database shows clear links to pesticide use and multiple types of cancer, it would no longer be possible to use hazardous pesticides, as it is with risk assessment‐based policy, when there are clearly effective organic systems with competitive yields that, in fact, outperform chemical‐intensive agriculture in drought years. This same analysis can be applied to home and garden use of pesticides where households using pesticides suffer elevated rates of cancer.

“Protecting our children from harm is the fundamental duty of parenthood, but how can we do this when developmental toxicants are allowed to freely circulate in our economy?” says Sandra Steingraber, ecologist and acclaimed author. “PAN’s report shines a light on a completely preventable tragedy – that an entire generation of children will not reach its full potential. As such, it describes a violation of human rights and a crisis of family life both. For the healthy development of children to become a national priority, we parents must walk ourselves into the political arena and, waving this good report, speak truth to power.”

The report shines a light on the growing links between exposure to pesticides where children, live, learn and play and an array of impacts on the mind and body –including diminished IQ, ADHD & autism, childhood cancers and asthma. In particular, the report points to the following trends across studies:

• The brains and nervous systems of boys are significantly more affected than girls.

• Timing of exposure is critically important. If a child is exposed to even very small amounts of a harmful pesticide during a particular moment of development, the impacts can be severe – and often irreversible.

• Studies link exposure to pesticides during pregnancy to increased risk of childhood leukemia and brain cancer. And children who live in intensively agricultural areas are more likely to have childhood cancer.

“Pesticides can have unique and profound impacts on the developing child, even in very small amounts. The research shows that prenatal exposure to pesticides, in combination with other environmental and genetic factors, can contribute to increased risk of adverse health consequences, such as effects on the developing brain,” said Dr. Tracey Woodruff, Director, Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, University of California San Francisco. “We must take swift action to reduce exposure to harmful environmental chemicals to ensure healthier generations.”

PAN’s report outlines a series of urgent recommendations for state and federal policymakers to better protect children’s health and intelligence, recommendations emphasized by organizations on Tuesday.

“Enough scientific evidence is in – we can’t fail our children. While individual household choices can help, protecting kids from the health harms of pesticides requires real and swift policy change,” said Dr. Marquez, report co-author and staff scientist at PAN. “Dramatically reducing pesticide use, starting with those most hazardous to children, is the best way to protect current and future generations.”

The report points to the need for the following reforms to reduce pesticide use:

• Create stronger policy tools so enforcement agencies can take swift action to pull existing pesticides off the market and block new pesticides when independent studies suggest they are harmful to children.

• Increase investment and support for innovative farmers as they transition away from pesticide use.

• Set and track national pesticide use reduction goals, focusing first on those pesticides that studies show are harmful to children.

• Withdraw harmful pesticide products from use in homes, daycare centers and schools.

• Establish pesticide-free zones around schools, daycare centers and neighborhoods in agricultural areas to protect children from harmful exposures, especially pesticide drift.

On the positive side, the report does highlight states and communities across the country where innovative policies have been put in place to protect children from pesticides where they live, learn and play. From pesticide-free playing fields in Connecticut to protective buffer zones for schools and neighborhoods in California’s central valley and organic school lunch programs in Minnesota, policies designed to keep children out of harm’s way are gaining momentum.

Additionally, a free, open-access webinar 50 Years After Silent Spring: Pesticides, Children’s Health and the State of the Science will explore these latest findings. Emily Marquez, PhD, co-author of A Generation in Jeopardy, will discuss the highlights and findings of the new report, along with Dr. Bruce Lanphear, MD, MPH, senior scientist at the Child and Family Research Institute at Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, BC. The webinar takes place today, Thursday October 11th at 10am PST, 1pm EST and requires an RSVP.

Source: Pesticide Action Network

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

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10
Oct

Organic Food Market Continues to Gain Ground

(Beyond Pesticides, October 10, 2012) U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-certified organic growers in the United States sold more than $3.5 billion organically grown agricultural commodities in 2011, according to the results of the 2011 Certified Organic Production Survey, released by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The data shows a general upward trajectory for certified organic production and produce in the U.S. NASS conducted the survey for USDA’s Risk Management Agency to help refine federal crop insurance products for organic producers.

Organic sales totaled more than $3.53 billion last year, about 0.9 percent of total U.S. farm receipts, and an increase from 2008 reports. The 2011 Certified Organic Production Survey provides acreage, production, and sales data for a variety of certified organic crops and inventory and sales data for selected certified organic livestock commodities. In addition, data on land in farms, participation in federal farm programs, and marketing practices on certified organic farms are included.

The 2008 Certified Organic Production Survey, the first organic production survey conducted by NASS, reported certified and exempt organic farms had $3.16 billion in total sales –$1.94 billion in crop sales and $1.22 billion in sales of livestock, poultry and their products. In 2008, organic farms had average annual sales of $217,675, compared to the $134,807 average for U.S. farms overall. However, the 2008 survey included farms that were not certified as organic, but produce commodities classified as organic. This 2010 survey collected data only from certified organic operations. Similarly, according to a 2011 report from the Organic Trade Association, U.S. sales of organic food and beverages grew from $1 billion in 1990 to $26.7 billion in 2010. According to this report, sales in 2010 represented 7.7 percent growth over 2009 sales. Total U.S. organic sales, including food and non-food products, were $28.682 billion in 2010, up 9.7 percent from 2009.

“This is the first time we have conducted a survey focused solely on the USDA-certified organic producers,” said Hubert Hamer, Chairperson of NASS’s Agricultural Statistics Board. “With this survey’s results, policymakers will be able to better assess the Federal Crop Insurance program and its impact on the organic industry.”

At least 3.65 million acres were used to raise certified organic crops and livestock, approximately 0.4 percent of the 917 million acres of farm and ranchland in the U.S. Crops accounted for $2.22 billion, or 63 percent, of total organic sales, followed by livestock, poultry and their products at $1.31 billion. Mirroring its conventional counterpart, corn leads organic field crops in sales and accounted for more than $101.5 million in 2011. The only other field crops to have more than $50 million in sales were alfalfa dry hay and winter wheat, accounting for $69.5 million and $54 million in sales respectively. When it comes to organic field crops acreage, Wisconsin leads the nation with more than 110,000 acres harvested in 2011. Wisconsin is followed by New York, with organic growers harvesting more than 97,000 acres. California closely follows the Empire state growers with more than 91,000 acres of organic field crops harvested in 2011. These top three states illustrate just how geographically diverse organic crop production is in the U.S.

In addition to looking at organically produced crops, the survey also gathered information on the organically raised livestock, which accounted for $1.31 billion in sales in 2011. Organic milk was the top livestock commodity last year, accounting for $765 million in sales. The other key organic livestock commodities were chicken eggs and broiler chickens, earning $276 million and $115 million in sales respectively.

Despite tough economic times, consumers continue to buy organic products. Most venues now offer organic products so more consumers now have the option of including organic products into their shopping carts. Increased use of coupons, the proliferation of private label brands, and value-positioned products offered by major organic brands all have contributed to increased sales.

Organic foods have been shown to provide numerous benefits to human and environmental health. A recent review conducted at Stanford University sparked headlines nationwide questioning the value of purchasing expensive organic food, despite its findings that consumers are exposed to higher levels of pesticides from conventionally grown food, while also ignoring the benefits of organic food and the hazards of pesticide residues on food, and the broader benefits of organic practices that protect farmers and farmerworkers, air and water quality, wildlife and biodiversity. Organic foods have been shown to reduce dietary pesticide exposure and children who eat a conventional diet of food produced with chemical-intensive practices carry residues of organophosphate pesticides that are reduced or eliminated when they switch to an organic diet.

There are numerous health benefits to eating organic, besides a reduction in pesticide exposure. Unlike the findings of the Stanford study, research from the University of California, a ten-year study comparing organic tomatoes with standard produce finds that they have almost double the quantity of disease-fighting antioxidants called flavonoids. A study out of the University of Texas finds organically grown fruits and vegetables have higher levels of antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals than their conventionally grown counterparts. A comprehensive review of 97 published studies comparing the nutritional quality of organic and conventional foods shows that organic plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains) contain higher levels of eight of 11 nutrients studied, including significantly greater concentrations of the health-promoting polyphenols and antioxidants. The team of scientists from the University of Florida and Washington State University concludes that organically grown plant-based foods are 25 percent more nutrient dense, on average, and hence deliver more essential nutrients per serving or calorie consumed. A study by Newcastle University, published in the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture, finds that organic farmers who let their cows graze as nature intended are producing better quality milk.

In addition, the adoption of organic methods, particularly no-till organic, is an opportunity for farming both to mitigate agriculture’s contributions to climate change and to cope with the effects climate change has had and will have on agriculture. Good organic practices can both reduce fossil fuel use and provide carbon sequestration in the soil through increased soil organic carbon. Higher soil organic carbon levels then increase fertility and the soil’s ability to endure extreme weather years.

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

Source: USDA Newsroom

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09
Oct

Local Incidents Raise National Concerns Over Safety of Sewage Sludge as Fertilizer

(Beyond Pesticides, October 9, 2012) Sewage sludge is big business in Channahon, IL, but many residents who live near fields treated with the fertilizer believe they’re the ones paying the price. Farms in the area began applying the “biosolids” in 2010, and residents say that’s when their health issues began, according to Morris Daily Herald.

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Biosolids, otherwise known as sewage sludge, are composed of dried microbes previously used to process wastewater in treatment plants. The material is increasingly being used in conventional agriculture, but its application is explicitly forbidden in organic production. This is because the sludge can contain high concentrations of toxic contaminants, such as pesticides, detergents, estrogenic hormones, antibiotics, dioxins, PCBs, flame retardants, and heavy metals.

Past research gives credence to Channahon residents’ claims of adverse health effects as a result of living near sludge coated fields. A 2002 study revealed the material to be associated with an increased prevalence of Staphylococcus aureus infections, a condition known to cause skin rashes and respiratory problems, for people located in close proximity to biosolid application sites.

“What they are doing is making a toxic dump of our area. It’s disgusting,” said Channahon resident Pat Budd in an interview with Kris Stadalsky of Morris Daily Herald. Residents are particularly concerned about run-off reaching local streams and polluting their well water, although studies from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found no evidence of this occurring. Additionally, students at nearby schools routinely jog on the road near the farms, and have been seen running through the treated fields.

Channahon resident Mary Lou Bozich was diagnosed with a duodenum tumor this year after having no signs of the tumor the year before. “I just find it very weird that two years ago I had no problem,” Ms. Bozich said to the Herald. “Is it from that (biosolids)? I don’t honestly know. How would they prove it one way or another?”

Resident Pearl Addington makes particular note of the smell emanating from the sludge treated fields. “I have asthma and I can’t even leave my house,” she said to the Herald, “I am scared (because) I can’t breathe.” Although EPA requires sewage sludge to be immediately incorporated into the soil, in the words of Jeff Hutton of the Illinois EPA (IEPA), “[T]here’s still going to be an odor. Odors are hard to quantify.”

According to the Herald, of the 400 thousand tons of sewage sludge produced in Illinois, 75 percent of it is used in conventional farming, and a total of 280 acres of Channahon are now treated yearly with the material. Spreading companies are paid around $15 per cubic yard to haul away the treated sludge from Metro Chicago’s Water Reclamation District, and during an application up to 70 trucks will line up around a field to dump the material. The Herald indicates that a local company applies between five and ten dry tons of per acre of farmland. Some residents believe that the biosolid industry is more about making a profit than the health of local citizens. “There’s an enormous amount of money here,” said Pat Budd.

Studies are revealing disturbing trends associated with the use of sewage sludge. A 2009 study out of Sweden and a 2011 study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology indicate that sewage sludge may be contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria. A 2010 study shows that when biosolids containing the chemical triclosan are applied to agricultural fields there is a potential for the material to break down into dioxin, a highly carcinogenic substance linked to decreased fertility, weakened immune system functions, altered sex hormones, miscarriages, and birth defects.

Sewage sludge also has a detrimental impact on the environment. Beyond Pesticides recently reported on how nanoparticles in biosolids, present due to their use in sunscreen, lotions, and cosmetics, and certain diesel fuels, can effect plant growth and development. The nanoparticles in sewage sludge can block leguminous crops from forming a symbiotic relationship with the beneficial bacteria that allow it to fix nitrogen from the air. This could cause farmers to apply increasing amounts of synthetic fertilizers to make up the difference. Additionally, sludge nanoparticles were shown to be taken up by the plant and located in the edible pods of soybeans, with unknown human health effects.

You can show that you disagree with the use of sewage sludge in agriculture by eating certified organic food, which does not allow the use of dried municipal waste microbes in its production. Additionally, be wary of any lawn fertilizers which claim to be “organic” or “natural” but list ingredients such as “biosolids,” “dried microbes,”, or “activated sewage sludge,” To find out more about the benefits certified organic products and production systems, visit Beyond Pesticides’ organic food program page, and keep up to date on the upcoming October 15-18, 2012 National Organic Standards Board meeting at our Keeping Organic Strong action page.

Source: Morris Daily Herald

Photo Credit
: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

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

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05
Oct

Natural Oils Show Promise Against Beetles in Avocados

(Beyond Pesticides, October 5, 2012) Researcher Paul Kendra of the Agricultural Research Service’s Subtropical Horticulture Research Station and others are investigating natural essential oils as traps for Red Bay Ambrosia beetles, the primary vector of laurel wilt fungus, which attacks trees, including avocado trees in the southeastern U.S. Building on previous research, the researchers have identified two important oils, phoebe oil and manuka oil, as potent antifungal agents that can be applied to avocado trees. They have gone so far as to start shipping fungicide-treated avocado trees from the Miami avocado germplasm collection to disease-free sites.

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The invasive beetle from Asia has spread to the Carolinas, Florida and west to the Mississippi, killing 90 to 95 percent of infected trees and significantly altering forest ecosystems. Scientists are concerned that the beetles will soon reach Mexico and California, which are major avocado production areas. If only half of California’s commercial avocado trees died, estimates indicate it would mean a total economic impact of about $27 million. In response to growing concerns, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is researching alternative strategies to monitor and eventually control the spread of the ambrosia beetle.

Both manuka oil and phoebe oil are sourced from plant based materials, that are readily available and effective alternatives as a trap bait for monitoring distribution and population trends. Manuka oil is sourced from a shrub native to New Zealand. Research at the New Zealand Cawthron Institute indicates that its primary components, leptospermone and flavesone, are 5 to 10 times more effective at treating fungal infections than Australian tea tree oil.

But it’s the longevity of phoebe oils, sourced from the Brazilian walnut tree, that have researchers excited. Phoebe lures not only capture significantly more ambrosia beetle than manuka lures, it also is effective for up to 12 weeks while the manuka lures last only about three weeks. Knowing how long the manuka lures work will be useful for officials to set up early monitoring programs.

Essential oils are complex mixtures of different organic components, the most prominent single substance is triketone leptospermone in manuka oil. This combination gives a high level of antimicrobial activity. However, few studies have analyzed the toxicity of manuka oil outside the cosmetic and medicinal industry. Those that have indicate that it in comparison to other myrtaceous essential oils, manuka demonstrates moderate toxic behavior in cell cultures.

Phoebe oil on the other hand, is primarily composed of α-copaene, cadinene, and α-humulene which all attract beetles. Again, the chemical, physical, and toxicological properties of the active ingredient have not been thoroughly investigated.

Beyond Pesticides has long been an advocate for the use of non-toxic and least toxic pesticide alternatives. However, while essential oils are traditionally classified as a least-toxic method for pest management, products that are designed to kill living organisms should always be treated with caution. The concern with essential oils is its volatility and ability to vaporize into the air. It is important to remember that there is still a potential to cause harm to human and environmental health and consumers should read labels on all products to make sure it does not also include any toxic pesticides, synergists, or non-disclosed inert ingredients.

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Previous research shows that bark beetles, like the Redbay ambrosia beetle, “sniff out” particular compounds within manuka oil and phoebe oil. Field experiments were conducted at a Florida conservation area where the beetle has infested trees since 2007. By comparing the number of Redbay ambrosia beetles attracted to manuka oil lures, phoebe oil lures, and bolts of wood cut from lychee, researchers discovered not only that beetles prefer phoebe lures, but that they also prefer lychee trees. The results indicate that there are three compounds that particularly attract the beetle, and the lychee wood has large amounts of all three. Just as roses are planted by grape vines to warn of infestations, so lychee trees could be planted to signal the need for beetle management.

These mechanisms are a way forward in organic agricultural systems. Currently, conventional avocados are grown with a wide variety of toxic chemicals. Though avocados grown on conventional farms show low pesticide residues on the finish commodity, there are 32 pesticides with established tolerances (residue limits for pesticides used in the U.S. or by countries exporting to the U.S.). There are 13 pesticides registered for use that are considered acutely toxic, 29 are linked to chronic health problems, five contaminate streams or groundwater, and 29 are poisonous to wildlife. Clearly there is a need to move beyond conventional agricultural system that poison our food and sickens agricultural workers and nearby residents.

Beyond Pesticides works extensively to promote organic practices and policy throughout the country. With proper design and preventive practices, there is little to no need to use any pesticide product.

Source:Science Daily, Journal of Economic Entomology, Environmental Entomology
Photo Source: The Sentinel, University of California Riverside

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

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04
Oct

CDC Releases Updated Tables for National Report on Human Exposure to Chemicals

(Beyond Pesticides, October 4, 2012) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released updated tables for its Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, which was released in 2009. The new data includes updated tables for 119 chemicals and tables for 34 new chemicals, including updates for 2,4-D and triclosan and their metabolites. New metabolites of organophosphorous insecticides are added for the first time.

Notably, the report found that concentrations of four metabolites of organophosphates generally increased among nearly all groups CDC measured, while levels for two generally decreased. Organophosphate pesticides, such as chlorpyrifos, are highly toxic to humans and the environment. Chlorpyrifos is a frequent water contaminant and a long range toxicant, exposing communities and polluting pristine areas far from where it was applied. Volatilization drift —the evaporation of the pesticide after application— is also part of the problem for chlorpyrifos. A 2009 study found the pesticide to have significant impacts on the growth and development of amphibians miles away from the site where it was first applied. A USGS study in 2007 concludes that the breakdown products of chlorpyrifos are up to 100 times more toxic than the original.

The Updated Tables, September 2012, present data from the 2005-2006, 2007-2008, and 2009-2010 survey periods and data for a few chemicals from the 2003-2004 survey period. The Updated Tables are cumulative and include data reported in earlier updates. This publication is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the exposure of the U.S. population to chemicals in our environment. CDC measures chemicals in people’s blood and urine. The data analyzed in the Fourth Report are based on blood and urine samples that were collected from approximately 2400 people who participated in CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2003 through 2004. NHANES is an ongoing national health survey of the non-institutionalized U.S. population that includes collecting and analyzing blood and urine samples to help further research involving exposures and health effects.

The types of exposure information found in the report can help physicians and public health officials determine whether people have been exposed to higher environmental chemicals as well as help scientists plan and conduct research about health effects. Much of the information has been previously published, but this is the first publication of all the data in one place. The report does not provide new health effects information. Research separate from that compiled in the Fourth Report is needed to determine whether higher levels of environmental chemicals in blood or urine are related to health effects.

Sources: Bloomberg BNA, CDC

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03
Oct

Increased Pesticide Use and Resistant Weeds -The Troubling Legacy of GE Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, October 3, 2012) A study published this week by Washington State University’s research professor Charles Benbrook, PhD, finds that the use of herbicides in the production of three genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops -cotton, soybeans and corn- has actually increased, contrary to industry claims that the technology would reduce pesticide applications. While Dr. Benbrook’s analysis is the first peer-reviewed, published estimate of the impacts of genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-tolerant crops on pesticide use, scientists have been raising the alarm over the mounting numbers of herbicide resistant weeds.

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This herbicide resistance finding, which contradicts chemical industry claims, is based on an exhaustive analysis of publicly available data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service. In the study, “Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. — the first sixteen years,” which appears in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, Dr. Benbrook writes that the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds is strongly correlated with the upward trajectory in herbicide use. Marketed as Roundup and other trade names, glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds. Approximately 95 percent of soybean and cotton acres, and over 85 percent of corn, are planted to varieties genetically engineered to be herbicide tolerant. The annual increase in the herbicides required to deal with tougher-to-control “superweeds” on cropland planted to GE cultivars has grown from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to about 90 million pounds in 2011.

“Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent,” Dr. Benbrook said.

According to the study, the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds is by far the most important factor driving up herbicide use on land planted to herbicide-tolerant crops. Glyphosate-tolerant weeds were practically unknown before the introduction of Roundup-tolerant crops in 1996. But heavy reliance on the herbicide Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate, has placed weed populations under progressively intense and unprecedented selection pressure, triggering a perfect storm for the emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds. In general, in regions of the U.S. where Roundup-tolerant crops dominate, there are now evolved glyphosate-resistant populations of economically-damaging weed species. Resistant species like ryegrass and horseweed have been found in crop and non-crop areas, and now grow robustly even when sprayed with four times the recommended quantity of Roundup.

Scientists from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have noted that the relatively rapid evolution of glyphosate-resistant weed populations provides further evidence that no herbicide is invulnerable to resistance, and new weed management systems involving GE crops must be evaluated for the potential to create resistant species. Evidence suggests that GE corn plants can cross-pollinate non-GE corn plants beyond 200 meters. In order to limit gene flow between plant species several “best practice methods” are employed, such as maintaining isolation distances to prevent pollen movement from GE sources; planting border or barrier rows to intercept GE pollen; employing natural barriers to pollen, and field monitoring. However it can be concluded that these efforts are not effective, given the spate of genetic contamination and resistant weeds.

Herbicide-tolerant crops worked extremely well in the first few years of use, Dr. Benbrook’s analysis shows, but over-reliance have led to shifts in weed communities and the spread of resistant weeds that force farmers to increase herbicide application rates, spray more often, and add new herbicides that work through alternate modes of action into their spray programs. The study determined that herbicide-tolerant crop technology has led to a 527 million pound increase in herbicide use in the U.S. between 1996 and 2011, while Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) crops have reduced insecticide applications by 123 million pounds. Overall, pesticide use increased by an estimated 404 million pounds, about 7%. Meanwhile, insects are beginning to show resistance to Bt-incorporated plants, jeopardizing a biological control that is sparingly used in organic production.

Dr. Benbrook concludes that, contrary to often-repeated claims that today’s genetically-engineered crops have and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in GE weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied. Farmers have become increasingly critical of both GE seed (as it goes up in price) and herbicides like Roundup, as “superweeds” become prevalent in treated fields. The growth of pigweed, which can quickly reach widths of six inches at the stalk, and other glyphosate-resistant species increases farmers reliance on more high-risk herbicides, including 2,4-D, dicamba and paraquat, and has resulted in a return to hand harvesting and even the abandoning of fields. Dow AgroSciences and Bayer CropScience recently petitioned the USDA to deregulate 2,4-D GE corn and soybeans in order for 2,4-D and other herbicides to be used to tackle weeds resistant to glyphosate. However, according to Dr. Benbrook, if new GE forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50%.

Earlier this year, Beyond Pesticides wrote to USDA that the introduction of these new varieties of GE crops was “severely misguided and lacking forethought.” Arguably, by introducing 2,4-D GE corn into the environment, a new generation of resistant weeds will develop, leaving a legacy of “superweeds” resistant to both glyphosate, 2,4-D, and others, and a retrogression to even more toxic herbicides to control these weeds. 2,4-D, which constituted half of the ingredients in “Agent Orange,” used to defoliate forests and croplands in the Vietnam War, is a chlorophenoxy herbicide. Scientists around the world have reported increased cancer risks in association with its use, especially for soft tissue sarcoma and malignant lymphoma.

The prevalence of glyphosate-tolerant crops has also contributed to the high rates of glyphosate contamination in the environment. In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collected 154 water samples from 51 streams in nine Midwestern states and glyphosate was detected in 36% of the samples, and aminomethylphosphonic acid or AMPA (a degradation product of glyphosate) was detected in 69% of the samples. Glyphosate and its formulated end-use products have been proven to be toxic to aquatic organisms and can be “extremely lethal” to amphibians in concentrations found in the environment. A 2012 study found that Roundup, in sublethal and environmentally relevant concentrations, caused two species of amphibians to change their shape by interfering with the hormones of tadpoles, and potentially many other animals.

This is not the first time that Dr. Benbrook has reported on the increased use of pesticides in the wake of increasing GE crops. In 2009, he wrote, “Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Thirteen Years,” which first explored the impact of the adoption of GE corn, soybean, and cotton on pesticide use in the U.S. At the time, it was reported that GE crops were responsible for an increase of 383 million pounds of herbicide use in the U.S. over the first 13 years of commercial use of GE crops (1996-2008). The report identified, and discussed in detail, the primary cause of the increase–the emergence of herbicide-resistant weeds. Another 2009 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, A Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops, reached similar findings.

Noteworthy is that while herbicide use has climbed, insecticide use has dropped. The adoption of GE corn and cotton that carry traits resistant to insects has led to a reduction in insecticide use, even though resistant insects like the corn rootworm have increased in numbers. However, this may be about to change since farmers in the Midwest are seeing severe rootworm damage in fields planted in Monsanto’s Bt corn, which was engineered to thwart these very same voracious bugs, now resistant to Bt. And in 2010, Monsanto also acknowledged that in industrial-agriculture regions of India, where Monsanto’s Bt cotton is a dominant crop, the cotton-attacking bollworm had developed resistance. Earlier this year, a group of 22 prominent entomologists, including researchers from land grant institutions in the Corn Belt and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), submitted formal comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that cast doubt on the future viability of certain varieties of GE Bt corn.

Currently, there are commercially available Roundup-tolerant seed varieties for corn, soybeans, canola, sorghum, and cotton, in addition to sugar beets, and recently USDA-allowed Roundup-tolerant alfalfa. Due to serious questions regarding the integrity of USDA’s environmental evaluations, public interest groups, led by the Center for Food Safety and including Beyond Pesticides, have filed suit against the agency to stop its full deregulation of GE alfalfa. For more on genetically engineered agriculture read Beyond Pesticides’ article “Ready or Not, Genetically Engineered Crops Explode on Market.“

Source: Washington State University News Room

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

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02
Oct

Common Herbicide May Increase Risk of Rare Disorder in Infants

(Beyond Pesticides, October 2, 2012) The herbicide atrazine may be linked to an amplified risk of choanal atresia, a congenital abnormality of the nasal cavity, according to researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and other Texas institutions. Choanal atresia is recognized when tissue formed during fetal development blocks an infant’s nasal cavity. Though it is a rare condition, it is considered quite serious because it can affect an infant’s ability to breathe.

The study, scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, focused on atrazine because, although there are very few risk factors for choanal atresia, endocrine disrupting chemicals are suspected to be associated with the condition. “Endocrine disrupters aren’t fully understood, but it is believed they interfere with or mimic certain hormones, thereby blocking their proper function and potentially leading to adverse outcomes,” said Dr. Phillip Lupo, lead author of the study. Looking at mothers from Texas counties with the highest levels of estimated atrazine application, researchers discovered that they are 80 percent more likely to have children with choanal atresia or stenosis (a less severe form of the condition) than compared to mothers who live in counties with the lowest levels.

The herbicide atrazine and over 50 other active pesticide ingredients have been identified as endocrine disruptors by the European Union and endocrine disruptor expert Theo Colborn, PhD. The body’s hormone producing glands -the thyroid, gonads, adrenal and pituitary glands- produce hormones such as thyroxine, estrogen, testosterone, and adrenaline in order to guide human growth, development, reproduction, and behavior. These glands and the hormones they produce comprise our endocrine system. Endocrine disruptors are a serious cause for concern due to their potential for wide ranging effects on our health. These chemicals have the potential to mimic human estrogen, block the reception of certain hormones, and effect the concentration of natural hormones in our body. Endocrine disruption is implicated in numerous adverse health effects. Suspected endocrine disrupting chemicals have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Parkinsons, diabetes, Alzheimers, cardiovascular disease, obesity, early puberty, infertility, and childhood and adult cancers. A 2004 study links endocrine disrupting pesticides to birth defects and adverse impacts on neurological development in infants whose mothers have been exposed to the chemical.

A more recent 2012 study reveals that even minute doses of endocrine disrupting chemicals can have significant effects on human health. Unfortunately, our regulatory structure does not adequately protect people from these possible human health effects. Given reports finding traces of these chemicals in indoor air, schools, drinking water supplies, and urine, many Americans are in uncharted territory when it comes to the future of their health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) largest move in this area came in 2007; a full 10 years after Congress mandated regulatory authorities to determine a mechanism to screen for these chemicals. When EPA did propose testing, the experiments performed were criticized by many as being outdated.

Atrazine is used nationwide to kill broadleaf and grassy weeds, primarily in corn crops, but also in turf management. Beyond endocrine disruption, the chemical has been implicated in a wide range of human health effects, including cancer, neurotoxicity, and kidney and liver damage. A study by the U.S. Geological Survey found atrazine in approximately 75 percent of stream water and 40 percent of groundwater sampled near agricultural areas. Earlier this year, U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) reintroduced a bill that (H.R.4318) would ban the production, sale, importation or exportation of any pesticide containing atrazine. However, as it currently stands, nearly 10 years after atrazine was banned in the European Union, the chemical is still sold in the United States.

Beyond Pesticides urges concerned citizens to contact their member of Congress and ask them to support a ban on atrazine.

For more information on endocrine disrupting chemicals, see Beyond Pesticides’ webpage on endocrine disruption in our Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database (PIDD).

Source: Baylor College of Medicine Press Release
Photo Credit: Kidshealth.org

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

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01
Oct

Goats to Join Chicago O’Hare Maintenance Crew

(Beyond Pesticides, October 1, 2012) O’Hare International Airport in Chicago is planning to sign on a shepherd and approximately 30 goats and sheep to graze on overgrown brush at the perimeter of the airport later this fall. The animals are expected to clear about 250 square feet of vegetation per day. Airport officials sought out the goats in order to eliminate an overgrowth of poison ivy and poison oak, and reduce the habitat for wildlife hazardous to airport operations, such as birds or deer. Chicago will join a list of other cities, including Atlanta and San Francisco, that use grazing animals to help maintain portions of their airport and a multitude of other cities that use goats as part of their weed management plans.

The choice to use goats at O’Hare was made because, according to Department of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride, the overgrown property is difficult for machinery and pesticide applicators to reach because of hills and standing water. The area where the goats will be grazing is outside the security fence, so there’s no danger of goats straying onto the runways. “The animals are a more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly alternative for brush removal,”Ms. Pride said. Five potential vendors already have been identified, and the department hopes the three-week pilot program can get started before the weather gets too cold.

Beyond Pesticides has long been an advocate for the use of goats and grazing animals as a least toxic solution for weed management. Goats are often more efficient at eradicating weeds, and are more environmentally sustainable than using harmful pesticides and chemicals. When goats are used for weed management the first thing they do when they walk through the pasture is snap off all the flower heads. Then they pick the leaves off one at a time, very quickly, leaving a bare stock. Once goats graze a weed, it cannot go to seed because it has no flower and cannot photosynthesize to take in sunlight and build a root system because it has no leaves. Grasses are a last choice for goats, which means the desirable grass species are left behind with natural fertilizer to repopulate the land. Goats are notorious for eating poisonous plants, such as poison ivy and poison oak, and can handle them without getting sick. Goats can also be helpful in recycling Christmas trees. They will strip the whole tree leaving just the trunk, which can be turned into firewood.

Chicago O’Hare is not the only airport using grazing animals to deal with difficult lawn maintenance problems. This year, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport also adopted a pilot project where 100 grazing sheep (plus a few goats) are being used to eat invasive plants such as kudzu. In just two days, a herd ate through nearly half of the waist high weeds in a test acre near the airport. The sheep were hired from Ewe-niversally Green and are part of the “Have Ewe Herd?” program hosted by Trees Atlanta, a nonprofit group dedicated to planting and conserving trees.

Goats have been used for eight summers as part of the weed management program at San Francisco International Airport. Goats are used because the property is an environmentally sensitive area that contains two endangered species, the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog. The goats are used to eat the vegetation along the property lines on the west side of the airport property and can go into places where the airport cannot use heavy machinery or personnel, similar to the situation in Chicago. The goats used in San Francisco come from Goats R Us, which hires out goats to homeowners, private land managers, and public agencies to graze sites ranging from neighborhood yards to 30,000 acre ranches.

Goats and grazing animals are being used across the United States for a variety of weed management programs from Hempstead, New York to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Even Google hired 200 goats instead of a mowing crew to manage the weeds and brush growing on their corporate campus in Mountain View, California. Google used them in order to reduce fire hazard, according to Dan Hoffman, Google’s Director of Real Estate and Workplace Services. The company’s hiring of the goats costs about the same as mowing.

For more information on natural, non-chemical land management strategies, read “Successfully Controlling Noxious Weeds with Goats: The natural choice that manages weeds and builds soil health” and see Beyond Pesticides’ Lawn and Landscape pages.

Sources: The Chicago Tribune , NBC News

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

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28
Sep

Proposed Rulemaking in Maine Undermines Comprehensive School Pesticide Reform

(Beyond Pesticides, September 28, 2012) Over the last few months, heated debate over toxic pesticide use in school buildings and grounds have dominated discussion in Maine. Unfortunately, proposed amendments to Maine’s school pesticide regulations make no mention of safer, preventive pest management practices, or the use of least-toxic pesticides only as a last resort, setting back efforts to reform pesticide legislation for schools in Maine. Should these new amendments be approved, students in Maine will not receive the same protections as students in other states that have been eliminating unnecessary pesticide use by adopting pest prevention practices and using least-toxic pesticides as the last resort. Tell the Maine Board of Pesticide Control to keep pesticides out of Maine Schools by today, September 28, 2012.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is a program of prevention, monitoring, and control that eliminates or drastically reduces the use of pesticides. This is accomplished by utilizing a variety of methods and techniques, including cultural, biological, and structural strategies. It also stipulates the use of least-toxic chemical options only as the last resort. The amendments to Maine’s Chapter 27, which in 2007 established integrated pest management (IPM) procedures and standards for school buildings and on school grounds, do not make provisions for instituting preventive pest management practices nor the use of least-toxic options, which means the officials will still be able to spraying school property with potentially toxic pesticides, contrary to IPM. At the very least, provisions need to provide safe alternatives that will protect students, teachers, and community members alike.

The proposed rulemaking provides wide latitude for discretion on the part of the IPM coordinator and exterminator to determine whether pesticides should be applied to meet cosmetic threshold levels, (allowing pesticide management practitioners (PMPs) to decide whether dandelions are unsightly or spiders are undesirable), contrary to integrated pest management (IPM) practices. IPM should not support the application of pesticides for cosmetic purposes. The new amendments to Chapter 27 will exempt certain indoor pesticide use and mosquito spraying from advanced parental notification, and also exempt agricultural and horticultural educational centers from proper notification and the use of IPM techniques, further exposing students to potentially toxic pesticides.

The proposal allows pesticide management practitioners (PMPs) to decide whether dandelions are unsightly or spiders are undesirable. Most egregious of all, is the pointed lack of concern for personal safety and environmental fate that are intrinsic to herbicide and insecticide application. At the very least, provisions need to provide safe alternatives that will protect students, teachers, and community members alike.

Equally alarming is that the proposed rulemaking would exempt greenhouses, nursery plots and other agricultural educational centers from notification requirements prior to pesticide spraying. The proposal goes on the state “students entering treated areas must be trained as agricultural workers, as defined by the federal Worker Protection Standard.” However, students are not agricultural workers and must not be considered as such. Children are especially vulnerable to chemicals due to physiological, metabolic, and behavioral characteristics that differ from adults. Training students as agricultural workers does not mitigate the unique circumstances that surround children’s exposures to pesticides.

Even without the proposed changes, persistent pesticide violations at schools highlight the need to strengthen existing policy. To name just one example, in June 2012 Tripp Middle School of southwestern Maine was fined $250 for a violation that sent five school employees to a medical facility. After school hours, a school employee applied Misty Wasp/Hornet Killer IIb to the school kitchen to control a fly problem. Exposure to Misty Wasp, active ingredient permethrin, may lead to headaches, dizziness, anesthetic effects, nausea, respiratory depression. Chronic exposure has other serious health impacts, including central nervous system damage. The following morning employees who intended to clean the application area reported seeing pools of pesticides, smelling chemical fumes and feeling ill. They were examined at a nearby medical facility.

Schools and day care centers must nurture a healthy environment in which children can grow and learn. Children are especially sensitive to pesticide exposure as they take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals. Even at low levels, exposure to pesticides can cause serious adverse health effects. Numerous studies document that children exposed to pesticides suffer elevated rates of childhood leukemia, soft tissue sarcoma and brain cancer. Studies also link pesticides to childhood asthma, respiratory problems, and learning disabilities and inability to concentrate. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ Children and Schools page. To see more scientific research on the effects of pesticides on human health, see our Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National PTA, among others, recommend schools adopt pesticide-reduction programs, without minimum federal standards, such as those contained in the proposed School Environment Protection Act, the protection provided children is uneven and inadequate across the country. SEPA provides basic levels of protection for children and school staff from the use of pesticides in public school buildings and on school grounds by requiring schools to implement a strictly defined IPM system and identify allowed least-toxic materials as a last resort for building management and organic practices for school grounds.

Aside from the serious concerns associated with pesticide use, it also should be noted that it has been repeatedly demonstrated that organic land management, when properly applied, can result in full, healthy, and weed-free turf. Organic land management is not simply a “hands-off” approach in which one is expected to sit back and do nothing to maintain the area. It requires careful fertility management, monitoring, and examination of weed and pest issues to diagnose problems, determine their source, and alter maintenance practices accordingly. Additionally, it has been shown that this approach can actually lower maintenance costs in the long term. Beyond Pesticides maintains numerous resources regarding research and guidance on organic lawn care.

Beyond Pesticides, founded in 1981, has worked extensively to promote sound IPM and organic policy in communities throughout the country. To this end, we support the implementation of strong Integrated Pest Management (IPM) policy in Maine and throughout the U.S., although the term IPM has been misused to characterize pesticide-dependent management systems. With proper design and preventive practices, there is little to no need to use any pesticide product. Existing buildings can be repaired and retrofitted and grounds can be planted with tolerant, native species, with nonsynthetic fertilization that supports healthy soils and virtually eliminates the use of pesticides. Join us in our fight against toxic pesticide use!

Take Action: Let the Maine Pesticide Control Board know that students are not “mini adults” and should be protected from pesticides on school grounds with strategies that eliminate pesticide dependency.

Send an email to the Maine Pesticide Control Board by TODAY – Friday, Sept. 28, if you are concerned about pesticides on school grounds.

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

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27
Sep

Proposed Pesticide Ban in Manitoba Charges Forward, Public Input Sought

(Beyond Pesticides, September 27, 2012) Manitoba will likely join the majority of Canada’s provinces in banning cosmetic pesticides next year, according to Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh. The minister made his announcement on Monday after a coalition of health and environment groups, Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Manitoba, delivered a letter with over 1,000 signatories that calls on the government to ban the sale and use of cosmetic pesticides.

The public has until October 1 to submit their comments on the ban to the Manitoba government. The province is providing guidance to the public through a paper entitled Play it Safe, which outlines the background on the proposed ban, explores restriction options, and raises awareness about pesticide use on lawns. The paper makes note of the importance of using a precautionary approach to the sale and use of lawn care pesticides, acknowledging the potential harm these chemicals can cause to the environment and human health, especially those at increased risk, such as pregnant women and children.

Research by the Ontario College of Family Physicians has identified scores of studies showing that human health is at risk from pesticide use. Other recent scientific evidence shows aquatic ecosystems are especially endangered. Minister Mackintosh said a May 2012 Ontario compilation of more than 140 medical studies links pesticides to several health risks, especially for children and pregnant women. The review links pesticides to autism, asthma and lung disease for fetuses exposed in utero. The Canadian Cancer Society has also warned pesticide exposure may increase the risk of certain cancers.

“There are studies looking at the health and environmental impacts of cosmetic pesticide use, and the science appears to indicate that there is a risk,” Minister Mackintosh said. “We also know that most Canadians do have different precautions across the country in place and … the obvious question is shouldn’t Manitoba children have the same benefits that most other Canadian children do enjoy?”

Environmental groups and public health organizations, including the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), and The David Suzuki Foundation are all pushing the Manitoba government for a full ban on the sale and use of these toxic chemicals for lawn care.

The minister also noted that lawn care businesses have fared well in other Canadian jurisdictions where cosmetic pesticide bans are in place. During the past decade, over 150 municipalities and several other Canadian provinces, including Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, have banned the use of “cosmetic” lawn care pesticides because of health and environmental concerns. The bans have had the support of the Canadian medical community, including the Canadian Cancer Society and the Ontario College of Family Physicians.

Across the U.S., many communities, school districts, and state policies are now following a systems approach that is designed to put a series of preventive steps in place that will solve pest (weed and insect) problems. This approach is based on three basic concepts: (i) natural, organic product where use is governed by soil testing, (ii) an understanding that the soil biomass plays a critical role in soil fertility and turf grass health, and (iii) specific and sound cultural practices. Communities that have recently taken steps to ban or limit pesticide use include the states of Connecticut and New York, Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, Cape Cod, over 30 communities in New Jersey, and Chicago’s City Parks.

Take Action:
For more information, see Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Manitoba. The coalition also has a petition that individuals may sign on to here. The Manitoba government is taking comments and feedback on the proposal until Oct 1, 2012. Comments can be submitted here.

Beautiful landscapes do not require toxic pesticides. Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes webpage provides information on pesticide hazards and information on organic management strategies. The site also provides an online training, Organic Land Care Basic Training for Municipal Officials and Transitioning Landscapers, to assist in going pesticide-free. With the training, landscapers can learn the practical steps to transitioning to a natural program. Or, you can order Pesticide Free Zone yard signs to display to your neighbors. For assistance in proposing a policy to your city council (or its equivalent), contact Beyond Pesticides at [email protected].

Sources: Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Manitoba Press Release,Global Winnepeg and Winnepeg Sun

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

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26
Sep

Group Petitions for Ban on Roadside Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, September 26, 2012) A citizen’s group in Washington State submitted to its county commissioners a petition that urges a ban of all herbicides or other chemicals on county rights-of-way. The group, which opposes all roadside pesticide spraying, is calling for the adoption of safer management alternatives, citing dozens of studies showing cumulative and recurring damage that may be expected with the continued use of herbicides.

The group, Jefferson County Ecological Roadsides, presented the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners with 4,700 signatories asking the commissioners to create an ordinance to stop the use of herbicides on county roadsides. The 4,700 signatures represent community members (majority), people from nearby counties who shop in Jefferson County, local organic farmers and providers, and local community leaders. According to the group, there was a 30-year moratorium on county roadside spraying due to a previous petition drive by community members. However, the moratorium was broken two years ago with an internal consent agenda by the county commissioners. This year, the herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in the commercial herbicide known as Roundup, has been sprayed three times. Roadsides group members call for a strict one-year moratorium on the use of the chemical by the county, during which time its impact could be studied and other weed removal options could be explored, like the removal of weeds by volunteer groups who would do so by hand. Group members have said they are willing to talk with county officials about a compromise solution, but only after a moratorium is passed.

Along with the petition, Jefferson County Ecological Roadsides also outlined a plan to educate the public about the dangers of using herbicides. Along with enacting the ordinance to stop herbicide use on county roadsides, the plan also includes: replanting roadsides with native plants to suppress the spread of invasive plants, creating pollinator pathways to support bee and other pollinators, and creating opportunities for citizens to get involved and conduct research on alternative methods to suppress invasive plants without toxic chemicals. Find out more about Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinator Protection program.

Commissioner John Austin said during the meeting that the names on the petition should be used to create a database of people who are interested in the issue and should be kept apprised of future developments. After the meeting, Commissioner David Sullivan said that he did not see a need to change county policy in the use of the chemical, which he said has been done on a very limited basis over the last few years. According to Mr. Sullivan, commissioners approved limited spraying of herbicides three years ago under the auspices of the weed board.

Each year, millions of miles of roads, utility lines, railroad corridors and other types of rights-of-way are treated with herbicides to control the growth of unwanted plants. Unfortunately, drift from the application of these herbicides can negatively affect organic farmers and chemically sensitive residents. Rights-of-way include roads, utility lines, and railroad corridors, although different states have varying policies for maintaining rights-of-way. In North Carolina, a utility company nearly destroyed one of the nation’s oldest and most famous vines, “Mother Vine,” when it accidentally sprayed a part of the plant while spraying the right-of-way.

In 2010, the Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Alaska Center for the Environment, Alaska Survival, Cook InletKeeper and the Native Village of Eklutna was granted a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction for a planned program to treat rail lines with the herbicide glyphosate. The Rail Company argued that its vegetation problem has gotten too out of hand for “so-called ‘alternative methods,” including flame throwers, a steam machine and inmate labor. Environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, which submitted comments against the use of glyphosate on the railroad, are opposed to the strategy because they say regulators have not considered the chemicals’ effects on drinking water and streams where salmon live. Glyphosate is a neurotoxicant irritant, and can cause liver, kidney and reproductive damage. It is also linked to non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Glyphosate has been identified as a common chemical found in acute agricultural worker poisonings, and linked to birth defects and intersex frogs.

Alternatives to Roadside Weed Management
Mechanical methods, which include cutting, girdling, mowing and grazing animals, provide effective means to eradicate unwanted vegetation along rights‐of‐way when used in a time effective manner. These methods can be labor intensive, but can be a source of employment to many. Utilizing herbivorous animals, such as goats, have been proven to be a cost effective and efficient way of controlling vegetation.

Biological methods, such as the use of native vegetation, used in conjunction with mechanical means, create and encourage stable, low‐maintenance vegetation that is a more permanent vegetation management strategy. The establishment of desirable plant species that can out‐compete undesirable species requires little maintenance and meets the requirements for management. Although native vegetation may take more time to establish itself, native flower and grass species are better adapted to local climate and stress. Native plant species are especially effective in providing increased erosion control, aesthetics, wildlife habitat and biodiversity. Numerous states have established roadside wildflower programs for these reasons.

Other control methods include the use of corn‐gluten and steam treatments. Corn gluten is a natural preemergence herbicide and is classified by EPA as a “minimum risk pesticide.” Steam treatments involve 800 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures and low pressure. This technique exposes the plant to high temperatures for a short period of time, disrupting the cell functions. Least toxic chemicals such as acetic acid (vinegar) or citric acid are known and registered herbicides and should not be discounted as effective chemical treatments.

Some states allow residents the right to refuse herbicide use on their property and people can post their property with no spraying signs provided by the utilities. For example, Maine, North Carolina, and Oregon all have no-spray agreements. If you are interested in becoming active in your community to stop spraying on rights-of-way or other public spaces such as parks and schools, please refer to our “Tools for Change” webpage and read The Right Way To Vegetation Management, which contains information about spraying policies along rights-of-way in different states.

Take Action: Sign the petition to ask the Jefferson County commissioners to pass an ordinance to ban the use by county employees, contractors, and volunteers the use of all herbicides and pesticides along Jefferson County roadsides. See here for more details.

Sources: Peninsula Daily News, Jefferson County Ecological Roadsides

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

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25
Sep

Despite IPM Law, New York City Applied Roundup to Public Spaces Nearly 500 Times in 2011

(Beyond Pesticides, September 25, 2012) According to a report from New York City’s Department of Health, Roundup, Monsanto’s most popular and widely used product is also the most frequently applied herbicide in the city. This has occurred in violation of the spirit and intent of the 2005-passed the Pesticide Useage Law (Local Law 37), which put New York City on track to eliminate dependency on hazardous pesticides, and submit a city integrated pest management (IPM) plan to the mayor every January. The report, Pesticide Use by New York City Agencies in 2011, indicates that over 500 gallons of Roundup in various formulations was applied to city ground in the year 2011.

While the city is required to report on the total amount and number of herbicide applications, according to an article from Mother Jones, information on the location of these applications is harder to come by.

“Parks also declined my request for a sample of the warning sign or safety protocols that it posts around areas where Roundup is sprayed, though signs from previous years noted that Roundup applications, at sites like Central Park’s Turtle Pond and Metropolitan Museum grounds, were done at 4 a.m. Parks didn’t answer my question about how long it warns passers-by away from sprayed areas,” author Anna Lenzer indicated.

City data confirms that 34.2% of herbicide applications included Roundup last year, a 40% increase from 2010.

Given the resources of the city, and recent actions from New York state to protect its citizens and the environment from nutrient pollution and exposure to toxic pesticides, the city’s reaction to its data is alarming. Two years ago, the state of New York passed the Child Safe Playing Field Act, which requires that all schools, preschools, and day care centers both public and private stop using pesticides on any playgrounds or playing fields. The bill allows pesticides to be used for infestations only if the County Health Department, the Commissioner of Health, the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation or the school board deems it an emergency. Also in 2010, the state passed a bill limiting the sale of phosphorous-based detergents and fertilizers, an act which is intended to clean up local lakes and reservoirs by decreasing overall nutrient loads. However, according to Mother Jones, New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection has supervised the use of Roundup around sensitive environmental areas such as the Pepacton Reservoir, which supplies 25% of the city’s water.

In 2005, the New York City Council enacted Local Law 37 which states that no city agency or contractor shall apply to any property owned or leased by the city any pesticide classified as Toxicity Category I by the United States environmental protection agency [§17-1203 (a)]; a human carcinogen, likely to be carcinogenic to humans, a known/likely carcinogen, a probable human carcinogen, or a possible human carcinogen by the office of pesticide programs of the United States environmental protection agency [§17-203 (b)]; or by the California office of environmental health hazard assessment as a developmental toxin [§17-203 (c)].
Monsanto’s Roundup is formulated with the chemical glyphosate and the “inert” ingredient polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, which, as opposed to being innocuous, has in fact been shown to increase the toxicity of glysophate. Research on POEA has also shown it to kill human embryotic cells. The chemical is of particular concern due to its toxicity to aquatic species as well as instances of serious human health effects from acute exposure.

New York City’s report states, “The active ingredient glyphosate poses little risk of acute poisonings or chronic health effects and has not been shown to be carcinogenic.” While no studies have shown glyphosate to be a direct carcinogen, research has indicated that the chemical increases the risk of cancer. Glyphosate has also been linked to neurotoxicity, birth defects, and eye, skin, and respiratory irritation.

Roundup has also been studied for its impact on the environment, particularly in respect to wildlife. A study from earlier this year linked exposure to the product to shape changes in frogs at sub-lethal and environmentally relevant concentrations. Last year, a Canadian federal court ordered Health Canada to take a second look at the impacts of Roundup on amphibians.

Unfortunately, Roundup is not the only toxic product New York City has applied to its public lands. For a full list, view the report here.

Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 are linked with cancer or carcinogenicity, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity, and 11 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system. Of those same 30 lawn pesticides, 17 are detected in groundwater, 23 have the ability to leach into drinking water sources, 24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem, 11 are toxic to bees, and 16 are toxic to birds.

Organic land management is practical and economical, and we hope New York City will consider transitioning to this system. Opponents may claim that organic management will cost more money, or put the fields at risk for disease and weed infestation; however, in a Cornell University study of turf, chemically maintained turf is more susceptible to disease. Another report prepared by Grassroots Environmental Education and Beyond Pesticides’ Board Member Chip Osborne for the New York State legislature concludes that organic approaches can save money. The report compares the relative costs of maintaining a typical high school football field using a chemical-intensive program and an organic program over a five-year period and finds that the annual cost of maintaining an organic field can be as much as 25% lower than the cost of chemical-based programs.

Furthermore, Harvard University saved two million gallons of water a year by managing the grounds organically, as irrigation needs have been reduced by 30 percent. Previously, it cost Harvard $35,000 a year to get rid of “landscape waste” from its campus grounds. Now that cost is gone because the school keeps all grass clippings, leaves and branches for composting and making compost teas. This in turn saves the university an additional $10,000 from having to purchase fertilizers elsewhere.

For more information on organic-based, pesticide-free lawn and landscape management, see Beyond Pesticides Lawns and Landscapes program page.

 

Source: Mother Jones

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

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24
Sep

EPA Funds Water Treatment Research

(Beyond Pesticides, September 24, 2012) In the face of widespread pesticide contamination of U.S. waterways and the lack of drinking water standards for hundreds of pesticides, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has devoted a $499,778 grant towards developing low-cost water decontamination facilities serving less than 10,000 people. Though conventional water treatment facilities remove many contaminants including suspended solids, bacteria, algae, viruses, fungi, and some chemical pollutants they do not remove many pesticide or antibiotic contaminants. Led by Professor Christopher Bellona, PhD of Clarkson University Civil and Environmental Engineering Departments, research into new water treatment technologies will aim at eliminating these antibiotics and pesticides from potable water.

There are currently 88 drinking water contaminants and indicators regulated under the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations which are legally enforceable for public water systems. EPA determines whether a contaminant should be regulated based on peer-reviewed science-based research, with a focus on the health impacts due to exposure. They then propose an enforceable standard in the form of a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), taking into account the risks of exposure and availability of technologies to remediate the contaminant. EPA has not established drinking water standards for all the pesticides found in water. Of the hundreds of pesticide active ingredients it registers, EPA (balancing consumer risk against water supplier cost) has established MCLs for only a couple dozen pesticides.

One major short-coming to this system is that often states are allowed to grant variances from these standards if they cannot afford to comply with rulings. While microbial contaminants must meet standards, exemptions for other chemicals may be granted so long as there are no “unreasonable risks to human health.” Indeed, according to Watertown Daily Times, EPA recently acknowledged drinking water concerns in a recent statement: “Concerns for man-made and naturally-occurring chemicals found in surface water, ground water, finished drinking water, and wastewaters pose a host of treatment and management challenges and potential health risks for communities served by public water systems, these challenges are exacerbated for small systems, those serving 10,000 persons or less.” Thus, many have looked to technological advances to eliminate these new and unregulated chemicals.

One new technology Dr. Bellona and associates are developing is a dual system to clean water requiring a membrane system and an oxidation process. Through this process, water passes through an ultra-fine membrane to sift out larger particles, then moving to the oxidation process which removes organic materials. The advanced oxidation process, as it is known, can effectively eliminate pesticides, aromatics, petroleum constituents and volatile organic compounds that may not be otherwise filtered. While this may prove to be an important strategy in diminishing the risks to human health, particularly for small treatment plants, it begs the question: Are there more effective hazard-management methods for providing potable water?

Reliance on technological solutions, particularly in the case of environmental stewardship, often ignores the problem (in this case pesticide use) and treats the symptom (dirty waters). Remediation is just one of many approaches that need to be considered when considering potable waters. In the long run though, stakeholders must consider applying the precautionary approach, considering that unforeseen threats to potable water can be averted through stricter regulation and management. The consequences of allowing harmful chemicals into our environment will oftentimes not be revealed until it is too late. The procedure our government takes to assess the risk that these chemicals pose makes all the difference. This is why Beyond Pesticides consistently advocates that the regulatory process should adopt an “alternatives assessment” (under the “unreasonable adverse effects” standard) in environmental rulemaking, which creates a regulatory trigger to adopt alternatives and drive the market to go green. The “alternatives assessment” approach differs most dramatically from the current EPA risk assessment method by rejecting uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, but unnecessary because of the availability of safer alternatives.

In response to the challenges facing our waters, Beyond Pesticides is working to identify threats, educate individuals, engage with local and state agencies to encourage more stringent standards, while simultaneously protecting current regulations. To learn more about the threats to our waters, see Beyond Pesticides Threatened Waters Brochure.

Source: Watertown Daily Times

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

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21
Sep

Controversial New Study Reports GM Corn Can Cause Cancer

(Beyond Pesticides, September 21, 2012) A new French study reports that rats fed a diet of Roundup-tolerant genetically modified (GM) corn had an increased risk of developing tumors, suffering organ damage and dying prematurely. The study is the first animal feeding trial studying the lifetime effects of exposure to Roundup tolerant GM corn and has prompted the European Food Safety Authority to look into the study’s results. However, it is also being criticized by some other scientists who said the methodology was flawed and that other research had not found similar problems.

The study, “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,” which is being published in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, was led by Gilles-Eric Séralini, PhD, at the University of Caen in France. The study followed 200 rats for two years, the life-span of the rat, but far longer than the typical 90-day feeding studies used in regulatory assessments and subsequent approval of GM crops. The rats were fed different amounts of NK603 corn developed by Monsanto to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup. In some cases, the corn had been sprayed in the field with Roundup. Other rats were given different doses of Roundup in their drinking water, with the lowest dose corresponding to what might be found in tap water in the U.S.

Female rats developed fatal mammary tumors and pituitary disorders. Males suffered liver damage, developed kidney and skin tumors and experienced problems with their digestive system. The team also found that even the lowest doses were associated with severe health problems. Up to 50% of males and 70% of females died prematurely compared with only 30% and 20% in the control group, and across all treatments and both sexes, researchers found treated rats developed 2-3 times more large tumors than the control group.

“The results were really alarming,” Dr. Séralini said. According to Dr. Séralini, the tumors did not develop until well after 90 days, meaning they might have been missed by shorter studies.

However, many have criticized the study’s methods and the ideological manner in which it was being presented. There are complaints that there is not enough data on the rats’ actual diet; that the sample size was too small; and that the rats in question are “very prone to mammary tumors particularly when food intake is not restricted.” The statistical methods used are also called “unconventional” and “inadequate.”

However, the study does underscore the need for more research on the long-term health effects of GM crops. Previous studies with various types of GM crops have reported higher incidents of allergies, liver and kidney damage, and significantly reduced fertility over three to four breeding cycles within one generation in mice.

“We’ve never done this kind of study before, and we should have been doing it a long time ago,” said Andrew Kimbrell, of the Washington-based Center for Food Safety, a group critical of the regulations surrounding genetically engineered crops. “I’ve heard for two decades that no one’s shown any health impacts with GMO foods. As of September 19, 2012, that’s no longer true.”

This study comes at a time when efforts to block the passage of California’s Prop 37, which would require mandatory labeling on GM foods, is heating up. The Proposition 37 campaign, which is supported by organic food companies and health groups, has been vastly outspent by a campaign to defeat the ballot initiative funded by millions of dollars in donations from chemical companies and food manufacturers such as Monsanto, DuPont, Bayer and Nestle. However, polls taken earlier this year show that 91% of consumers favor labeling for GM foods, with 81% of those ‘strongly’ in favor of enacting these requirements.

Currently, there are commercially available Roundup-tolerant seed varieties for corn, soybeans, canola, sorghum, and cotton, in addition to sugar beets, and recently approved Roundup-tolerant alfalfa. Earlier this year, Dow AgroSciences and Bayer CropScience petitioned USDA to yet again deregulate varieties of soybean and corn tolerant to multiple pesticides including 2,4-D and dicamba. In its petition, Dow states that 2,4-D is increasingly important for chemical farmers because of the presence of weeds that have developed resistance to Roundup, as a result of the widespread use of Monsanto’s GM roundup-tolerant crops. Farm research groups are also concerned with the impact of GM crops on organic farmers, whose organic crops are already at risk of contamination with Monsanto’s genetic material from pollen drift.

Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate, has been linked to a number of serious human health effects, including increased cancer risk, neurotoxicity, and birth defects, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. One of the inert ingredients in product formulations of Roundup, polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA), kills human embryonic cells. It is also of particular concern due to its toxicity to aquatic species as well as instances of serious human health effects from acute exposure. 2, 4-D is a highly toxic herbicide which has been linked to cancer, reproductive effects, endocrine disruption, and kidney and liver damage. It is also neurotoxic and is toxic to beneficial insects (such as bees), earthworms, birds, and fish. Scientific studies have confirmed significantly elevated rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for farmers who use 2, 4-D.

While the long-term health effects of eating GM crops are unclear, the environmental impacts of this technology are currently being documented. Increased herbicide use, water contamination, the spread of herbicide-resistant “superweeds,” and the loss of habitat and wildlife species as a result of increased pesticide use has all been attributed to the widespread use of GM crops.

For more information on genetically engineered food, read “Genetically Engineered Food Failed promises and hazardous outcomes,” from Pesticides and You, or go to our Genetic Engineering web page.

Sources: LA Times, St Louis Post Dispatch

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

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