• Archives

  • Categories

    • Agriculture (545)
    • Announcements (523)
    • Antibacterial (105)
    • Aquaculture (19)
    • Beneficials (9)
    • Biofuels (6)
    • Biological Control (2)
    • Biomonitoring (17)
    • Cannabis (14)
    • Children/Schools (197)
    • Climate Change (23)
    • Environmental Justice (83)
    • Events (73)
    • Farmworkers (87)
    • Fracking (1)
    • Golf (11)
    • Health care (28)
    • Holidays (24)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (41)
    • International (263)
    • Invasive Species (26)
    • Label Claims (39)
    • Lawns/Landscapes (165)
    • Litigation (257)
    • Nanotechnology (52)
    • National Politics (361)
    • Pesticide Drift (93)
    • Pesticide Regulation (579)
    • Pesticide Residues (89)
    • Pets (15)
    • Resistance (55)
    • Rodenticide (17)
    • Take Action (343)
    • Uncategorized (62)
    • Wildlife/Endangered Sp. (281)
    • Wood Preservatives (21)
Daily News Blog

03
Apr

Bayer, Syngenta Propose Bee Health Plan to Forestall Restrictions on Products

(Beyond Pesticides, April 3, 2013)  Last week, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience proposed an action plan to forestall pending European Union (EU) restrictions on their neonicotinoid products that have been linked to global bee declines.  Stating that a ban on their products would not save hives, the plan focuses on implementing agricultural best management practices, planting habitat, and new research and development, all of which fail to seriously address the real problem that their products are highly toxic to bees. This new industry plan comes on the heels of the European Union (EU) stalemate on bee health, and after the EU food safety agency concluded that certain neonicotinoids pose unacceptable risks to bees.Source: Alex Staroseltsev

Public and regulatory scrutiny is now focused on the class of chemicals – neonicotinoids– linked to bee health decline. Neonicotinoids have been shown by numerous studies to adversely impact the health of bees, as well as birds and aquatic organisms. Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, and Pesticide Action Network North America joined beekeepers and other environmental and public health advocacy groups to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling for the suspension of the neonicotinoids, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. The science continues to document these chemicals as impairing bee function, navigation and long-term health. Over in Europe, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience released a press release last week to “help unlock the EU stalemate on bee health.” Both companies adamantly state that their products are not the cause of recent bee declines. According to the release, “This comprehensive plan will bring valuable insights into the area of bee health, whereas a ban on neonicotinoids would simply close the door to understanding the problem. Banning these products would not save a single hive and it is time that everyone focused on addressing the real causes of declining bee populations.”

Their plan includes the planting of more flowering margins around fields to provide bee habitat and food, as well as reducing agricultural dust emissions, best management practices, and more research into the impact of parasites and viruses. Not surprisingly, the proposed plan does not address the reduction of pesticide applications to fields where bees forage, or any of the concerns about the toxicity of their products on bee health. Most of the proposed features of the plan are already mandated under European legislation and have done little to reduce impacts to bee. Furthermore, proposing to plant bee-attractive flowering fields adjacent to agricultural areas where pesticide-contaminated dust and pollen can drift for miles may only exacerbate the bee crisis.

According to the press release, Bayer and Syngenta identify parasites and viruses as the major culprit behind bee declines. However, recent studies by U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists find that low level pesticide exposures can in fact impair the immune system of honey bees, making them more susceptible to parasites and viruses which otherwise healthy bees can control. Other recent published studies conclude that the neonicotinoids, imidacloprid and clothianidin, cause cognitive damage in bees. While the bees are still alive, the lobes of the brain fail to communicate with each other with obvious implications for their survival. Beekeepers across the country have been experiencing above average honey bee losses since 2006, around the time crops treated with neonicotinoids (clothianidin) became popular.

This new statement by the industry giants comes as Europe is at a stalemate over restricting these chemicals. European member states failed to reach an agreement on the proposal to suspend neonicotinoid use on flowering crops over the next two years. The EU proposal followed reports released by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which found the continued use of neonicotinoids –clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid– to be an unacceptable “high acute risk” to pollinators, particularly honey bees. However, three EU members opposed the plan to suspend, blocking the European Commission from attaining a qualified majority to adopt the proposed suspension. The EU proposal would have suspended the use of the three neonicotinoids from use on flowering crops like corn, oil seed rape, apples, carrots, and strawberries for a period of two years, with a requirement for subsequent review.

EPA, which has federal regulatory jurisdiction over pesticides, has yet to act definitively. Recently, the agency hosted a “Pollinator Summit” which was led and overwhelmingly dominated by industry interests. The summit produced the same measures proposed by Bayer and Syngenta in their recent press release. EPA, taking industry’s lead, seems content to focus on short-term risk mitigation measures, such as reducing contaminated field dust. The agency continues to ignore acute and chronic toxicity, supported by the scientific literature, that neonicotinoids have on bees and other pollinators. EPA continues to fail to uphold its standard that pesticides must have a “no unreasonable adverse effect” on the environment.

Join us this weekend as we convene the 31st National Pesticide Forum in Albuqueque, New Mexico! New Mexican honey bee inspector, president of the New Mexico Beekeepers Association, and a beekeeper for over 30 years, Les Crowder, will address the forum on organic and natural solutions for problems commonly treated with chemicals, and the role beekeepers can play in protecting biodiversity. Join us in Albuqueque, New Mexico for a discussion on strategies that we all can take to protect pollinators!

 Source: Syngenta Press Release

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

Share

02
Apr

Biotech Rider Undermines U.S. Food Security

(Beyond Pesticides, April 2, 2013) On March 26, President Obama signed into law House Resolution 933, a stop-gap Continuing Resolution(CR) that allowed the U.S. to avoid a government shutdown for six months. The resolution contains the “biotech rider,” or amendment that takes away the authority of federal courts to halt the sale or production of genetically engineered (GE) crops, undermining the courts’ ability to protect farmers and the environment from potentially hazardous GE crops- a major violation of the separation of powers, an essential element of U.S. constitutional governance and law. It would also compel the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately grant any requests for permits to allow continued planting and commercialization of unlawfully approved GE crops. The rider, section 735 of the resolution, also dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” for the GE corporate giant, was never voted on and was written by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), who worked with Monsanto to craft its language. This new rule will be viewed as a challenge for environmental organizations as courts have played an important role in slowing the growth of GE industry due to noncompliance with environmental law.

In early March, Beyond Pesticides reported that a coalition of over one hundred food businesses and retailers, and family farm, consumer, health, environmental and civil liberties groups, lead by Center for Food Safety (CFS) and including Beyond Pesticides, united to oppose the biotech rider and urged the public to contact their Senators and demand that Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski(D-MD) pull this dangerous and unconstitutional rider. Because the rider was adding to a CR that was needed to avoid a government shutdown, members of Congress were reluctant to oppose the resolution. However, the rider has far reaching implications. According to Senator John Tester (D-MT), who worked to remove the rider and is the only farmer in the Senate, “If the USDA makes a mistake when it issues a permit to plant a genetically modified crop, they can’t go back and pull that crop out of the ecosystem, out of our land. If a court finds that, in this case the USDA, a federal agency, finds this crop is bad, is harmful, the USDA, because of this rider, is required not to comply with that court ruling.” According to CFS the rider will be law for the 6-month life of the CR. Beyond Pesticides, along with other consumer and environmental organizations, will continue to work to ensure this rider is not extended.

The rider also seemed to take some members of Congress by surprise. Many Democratic members of Congress were unaware that the rider had been added to HR933. The chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbra Mikulski released a statement asserting her opposition to the rider after her committee allowed it in the Continuing Resolution, “As Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Mikulski’s first responsibility was to prevent a government shutdown. That meant she had to compromise on many of her own priorities to get a bill through the Senate that the House would pass. She will continue to fight for a regular and timely Appropriations process and other valuable priorities, including food safety.” Senators Boxer (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Leahy(D-VT) , Begich (D-AK) and Blumenthal(D-CT) also worked with Sen. Tester to introduce an amendment to strip the biotech rider and preserve judicial oversight over regulatory decisions for the allowance of GE crops.

The author of the rider, Sen. Blunt, has deep connections to Monsanto, which is based in his state of Missouri. Sen. Blunt has received $70,592 in campaign contributions from Political Actions Committees (PACs) supported by the food and biotech industries which is the most received by any member of the Appropriations Committee and second most by any senator.  

The expansive planting of GE crops in the U.S. has already led to several environmental incidents. A recent study found that the dramatic loss of Monarch butterflies can be tied to the expansion of GE crops. Historically, milkweed has been the key source of food for Monarch butterflies. The weed was typically found in several key states where the butterfly feeds and breeds: Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, parts of Ohio and the eastern Dakotas. But now these areas have been planted with more than 120 million acres of corn and soybeans genetically engineered to be tolerant to glyphosate, and many other herbicides, allowing farmers to use glyphosate to kill milkweed in and around farm fields. The widespread use of glyphosate with GE crops has similar effects in eliminating habitat in which honey bees and wild bees forage.

Weeds are also growing increasingly resistant to the herbicides used on GE crops. Farmer dependency on the herbicide glyphosate to solve all of their weed problems has led to the proliferation of so-called “super weeds,” which have evolved to survive the treatments through repeated exposure. The spread of resistance is what has led farmers to increasingly rely on more toxic alternative mixtures. In November of 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted an emergency exemption to allow the unregistered use of the herbicide fluridone on cotton in order to control glyphosate resistant weeds.  Fluridone is an aquatic herbicide used to control large aquatic plants and has not been assessed on endangered animals.

The proliferation of GE crops also poses a risk to a growing organic agriculture industry. Allowing GE crops to be grown close to organic produce increases the risk of cross contamination, as pollen from GE crops has the potential to drift. If organic farmers’ crops become polluted with genetically engineered pollen, they may be subject to financial losses.  In January, a local branch of GMO-Free Oregon filed a petition to ban GE crops in their county because farmers had been forced to throw away seed tainted with GE crops.

This rider is also a concern for consumer health and environmental organizations because they have used court decisions to help slow down the advance on GE crops. In October 2012, a federal court ruled in favor of halting cultivation of GE crops in all national wildlife refuges in the Southeastern U.S. The suit, filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), CFS, and Beyond Pesticides, was a part of a series of legal actions taken against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services (FWS) for entering into cooperative farming agreements for GE crops on wildlife refuge sites without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and refuge management laws.

In August of 2012, the Oregon Court of Appeals ordered a temporary halt to the state’s plan to allow genetically engineered (GE) canola to be planted in parts of the Willamette Valley, Oregon. The order is in effect until the court rules on a lawsuit filed by opponents of GE canola planting who say it threatens the state’s $32 million specialty seed industry.

Even with the rider setback, consumer, health and environmental organizations are gearing up for campaigns in several different states to require all genetically engineered ingredients in food to be labeled.

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the USDA Certified Organic Seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited.

For a discussion on GE food and biodiversity, join us for our 31st National Pesticide Forum in New Mexico April 5-6. Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety will be joined by local organic farmers and organizers, including: Eleanor Bravo of Food and Water Watch–NM, who helped with New Mexico’s labeling bill, and Isaura Andaluz, executive director of Cuatro Puertas and the only member of AC21 to dissent the report on strengthening coexistence among agricultural production methods because of the undue burden it places on organic farmers. For more information and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

Source: Living on Earth

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

 

Share

01
Apr

Fruit Flies Live Longer when Fed Organic Diet

(Beyond Pesticides, April 1, 2013) Fruit flies that are fed organic food lead healthier lives compared to those that are fed conventionally grown food, according to a study, “Organically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster,” published March 26 in PLos One. The study, led by Ria Chhabra, a student at Clark High school in Plano Texas and Dr. Johannes H. Bauer, PhD, an assistant professor of biology at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Texas, finds that flies fed organic foods have better fertility, are more resistant to oxidative stress and starvation, and live longer. This study adds to the mounting evidence that organic food is safer and healthier for consumers. This study comes out only weeks before the upcoming spring National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting and helps underscore why it is important to maintain the integrity of organic agriculture.

According to Dr. Bauer, “It’s rare for a high school student to have such a prominent position in the lab. But Ria has tremendous energy and curiosity, and that convinced me to give this research project a try.” To conduct the study, the researchers purchased organic and conventional foods from a grocery store and fed the flies extracts from potatoes, soybeans, raisins, and bananas. The researchers tested each food independently to avoid mixing the diets. Fruit flies are often used in research facilities to study human diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and alzheimer’s.

In the study, flies that consume organic food have greater longevity and fertility compared to those that are fed conventional food. According to the study, “Longevity and fertility are the most important life history traits of an animal and are excellent indicators for overall health.” The data also suggests that organic foods are more nutritionally balanced than conventional foods, or contain high levels of nutrients. Though the study could not determine the specific reason for these improved health effects, it concluded, “Our data suggest that organic foods provide improved health outcomes.”

This study adds to the mounting evidence that organic food is beneficial to consumers’ health. Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)  produced a report  that claims that organic food provides health benefits. The benefits of organic foods, according to the report, are reducing exposure to pesticides, especially for children. It also found that organic food contains 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.”

“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, a member of the AAP council on Environmental Health and one of the lead authors of the AAP clinical report, and a keynote speaker at the upcoming National Forum.

This recent fruit fly study comes only weeks before the spring NOSB meetings and underscores the importance of maintaining the integrity of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) organic standards. Among other issues that will be discussed at the upcoming NOSB meetings, the board will discuss the use of antibiotics in organic apple and pear production. Beyond Pesticides believes that antibiotics do not belong anywhere in organic production. The use of tetracycline to control fire blight in apples and pears meets none of the criteria of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). It presents significant adverse impacts to human health and the environment because its use in crop production contributes to the spread of bacterial resistance (a major public health threat as antibiotics are increasingly losing their efficacy in the clinical setting), is incompatible with organic and sustainable agriculture, and is not essential. The Board set a 2014 phase-out date and is now considering continued use in response to a petition from the apple industry.

To learn more about the issues that will be discussed at the spring NOSB, see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage.

To learn more about the health benefits of organic agriculture, join us in April 5-6, in Albuquerque, NM for Beyond Pesticides’ 31st annual National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Families, Farms and Food. Dr. Forman, one of the lead authors of AAP clinical report, will be joined by other top national scientists, local and national activists, and concerned citizens as we share information on the issues local communities face, craft solutions and catalyze networks to manifest positive health and environmental policy and change. Discussions on the impact that pesticides and other endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have on human and environmental health will be led by renowned scientists and medical professionals like Tyrone Haynes, PhD, Lynn Carroll, PhD, Issac Pessah, PhD, and others. For more information on the forum, visit http://www.beyondpesticides.org/forum/.

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

 

Share

29
Mar

Studies Find that Pesticides Cause Brain Damage in Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, March 29, 2013) Two studies released Wednesday support the findings of the European Food Safety Authority that neonicotinoid insecticides pose an unacceptable risk to bees. The pair of British studies indicate that neonicotinoids and miticides cause brain damage, compromising bee survival.

The study, published in Nature Communications by researchers at the University of Dundee and Newcastle University, concludes that imidacloprid  and clothianidin, a commonly used insecticides on crops and plants, as well as the organophosphate miticide coumaphos, a treatment for Varroa bee mites, cause cognitive damage in bees. The research indicates that within 20 minutes of exposure to pesticides the neurons in the learning center of the brain stop firing, causing “epileptic type” hyperactivity. While the bees are still alive, the lobes of the brain fail to communicate with each other with obvious implications for their survival,

Another study, published in the Journal for Experimental Biology by a team of Newcastle scientists, links imidacloprid and coumaphos to learning and memory impairment. The research indicates that brain damage from pesticides makes it more difficult for bees to forage and find food, and when they find the food they have trouble locating and returning to their hives. In sum, the Queen bee starves as her worker bees fail to provide enough food, adversely affecting long-term colony survival.

Unfortunately, the effects of imidacloprid and coumaphos together are also additive, with bees less likely to learn and remember floral smells associated with sweet nectar stores —required for survival. Indeed, “Efficient foraging by bees depends on their ability to rapidly learn, remember, and communicate the identity and location of flowers offering nectar and pollen rewards,” according to the researchers.

The shift from organophosphates and carbamates towards systemic neonicotinoid compounds over the past 10 years has brought a slew of concerns. Neonicotinoids are considered systemic, so they are applied to the seed and translocates into all parts of the plant as it grows, including the nectar and pollen that are eaten and collected by pollinators. These non-target organisms have demonstrated marked declines, although pesticides as a cause has been debated and denied by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Studies such as these further establish the role of pesticides in the decline of pollinators. EPA’s failure to regulate these pesticides adequately is all the more troubling since one in every three bites of food is completely dependent on insect pollination.

To learn more about Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinator Protection Program, visit our website. We invite you to discuss this and other important pesticide issues facing farmers, homeowners, and communities around the nation, at Beyond Pesticides 31st National Pesticide Forum in Albuquerque, NM on April 5-6. Organic agriculture, beekeeping, resilient food systems, pesticides, and much more will also be discussed. Space is limited, so register now.

Source: The Guardian

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

Share

28
Mar

Report Exposes the Flaws in EPA’s Pesticide Approval Process

(Beyond Pesticides, March 28, 2013) A scathing new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sheds much needed light on the flaws in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pesticide approval process, noting that in terms of the agency’s ability to offer transparency and rigorously test these inherently toxic chemicals, “the public’s trust is misplaced.” The recent lawsuit brought about by a coalition of beekeepers, consumer, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, emphasizes the harm resulting from EPA’s abuse of the statutory “conditional registration” program. Through this program, EPA has allowed the wide and growing use of the systemic neonicotinoid pesticides that are  linked to the dramatic decline in honey bee health and viability of honey bee colonies.

A startling number of pesticides, nearly 65% of the more than 16,000 pesticides now on the market, were first approved by the process of “conditional registration,” a loophole in which EPA allows new pesticides on the market without the full range of legally mandated toxicity tests. NRDC accuses EPA of misusing the conditional registration process, and their assertions are by no means unfounded. The report cites EPA’s own 2004-2010 internal analysis that ultimately determined the agency had misused the provision “98 percent of the time.”

Environmental_Protection_Agency_logoBeyond the agency’s scurrilous use of the conditional registration provision, NRDC makes the important point that, “EPA’s database is seriously disorganized.” The agency has no tracking system in place to keep a record of the data it has requested as part of the conditional registration process. EPA doesn’t follow up on receiving that data, and when the agency does receive the data there is no notice to the public providing an interpretation of the new information. In fact, EPA provides no public comment period before the agency decides whether to fully register a conditional pesticide.

NRDC explains, “The lack of both tracking and public engagement makes it impossible to know: 1) if the requested studies were submitted in a timely manner; 2) whether the submitted studies were reliably conducted; 3) if the EPA’s conclusions concerning safety were well-founded; and 4) if the EPA should have altered its regulatory decision for any of those pesticides.”

Two conditionally registered pesticides of significant concern to Beyond Pesticides were emphasized by NRDC’s report: nanosilver and clothianidin.(a neonicotinoid pesticide).

Nanosilver, silver nanoparticles, consists of many silver atoms or ions clustered together to form a particle 1-100nm in size. Due to their small size, these nanoparticles are able to invade bacteria and other microorganisms and kill them. Silver nanoparticles (or nanosilver) are now widely impregnated into a wide range of consumer products, including textiles such as socks, sportswear, underwear and bedding, vacuums, washing machines, toys, sunscreens, and a host of others. However, the long-term impacts of this new technology to human health and the environment are still unknown. There are concerns about the material’s ability to travel through the human body and damage brain, liver, stomach, testes and other organs, as well as pass from mother to fetus, notes NRDC. Beyond Pesticides has recently documented the ability of silver nanoparticles to disrupt ecosystems, and harm earthworms by suppressing their immune system.

Beyond Pesticides also covered NRDC’s current lawsuit against EPA’s conditional registration of the antimicrobial pesticide HeiQ AGS-20, produced by the Swiss Company HeiQ Materials Ag and applied to a diverse range of textiles, including clothes, blankets, and pillowcases in efforts to suppress odor and bacterial growth. This material never went through the full range of required tests, even though EPA affirmed that nanosilver is different than silver, and cannot apply under the registration of conventional silver antimicrobials. Despite knowing that people would be in direct contact with this untested material, EPA allowed its conditional registration under the guise that its use would be in the public benefit. The agency explained that it would reduce the overall burden of conventional silver in the environment due to its smaller size. Evidently this was not a well thought out claim, as NRDC notes, “…nanosilver is not only replacing conventional silver uses, but also being sold for new and expanded markets, resulting in the release of far more nanosilver and toxic silver ions into sewage and water treatment systems, and ultimately into rivers, streams, and other receiving waters.”

And what if the necessary tests show that nanosilver is more harmful than conventional silver? Manufactures are not required to disclose whether nanomaterials are in their products. Without a defined labeling system that enables consumers to make an informed choice on purchasing products containing these untested materials, large numbers of people may fall victim to EPA’s failed regulatory system.

Large numbers of honey bees already have. In fact, 2013 may be the year that Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) impacts our food supply, as many commercial beekeepers are reporting that they will not have the colonies necessary to pollinate California’s almond trees. In 2003, EPA granted conditional registration to clothianidin without a field study that is considered core and essential to the issuance of the continued registration.

beeEPA stated in 2003, “The possibility of toxic chronic exposure to nontarget pollinators through the translocation of clothianidin residues in nectar and pollen has prompted EFED to require field testing (141-5) that can help in evaluating this uncertainty. In order to fully evaluate the possibility of this long term toxic effect, a complete worker bee life cycle study must be conducted . . .”

The registrant, Bayer, conducted these studies and submitted them to EPA in 2007. At first the agency accepted the corporation’s study, which concluded that their chemical had no effect on bees, but upon further review in 2010 changed its position and indicated that the study was deficient, and could only be used as supplemental data. To illustrate, Bayer’s study was so lacking that EPA could not even conduct a statistical analysis of the results, as the company failed to provide the agency with the necessary raw data. EPA indicated that another field study would be required in order to fully register the chemical – this after the pesticide had been in use for 7 years.

But in 2010 EPA gave clothianidin fully registered status. Bayer’s study was deficient and only supplementary, an adequate study had not yet been provided, but clothianidin received full registration. There is no indication to this date that the necessary study has been provided; however, independent scientific studies showing the harmful effects of clothianidin on honey bee colonies show clearly that this chemical is a cause of major bee kills and significant contributor to the devastating, ongoing mortality of bees known as CCD.

NRDC recommends that EPA corrects its flawed practice of conditional registration. The study proposes: “1) Review all previously conditionally registered pesticides and bring them into compliance with the law and with the recommendations of this report; 2) Immediately cancel pesticide registrations with overdue studies or those that are out of compliance for any other reason; 3) Properly document conditional registration actions; 3) Properly document conditional registration actions; 4) Establish a process where the public can comment on new data received to support a conditional registration; 5) Place all submitted data into a publicly accessible, updated database; 6) Use the conditional registration process only in the limited and rare circumstances described by Congress.” (Read the details of the recommendations here.)

Beyond Pesticides endorses the above recommendations, but advocates an approach that relies less on risk assessments in the registration of pesticides. Risk assessments determine “acceptable harm” that considers as “acceptable” uses that result in the death of  1 in 1 million people. Additionally, EPA’s risk assessment fails to look at chemical mixtures, synergistic effects, certain health endpoints (such as endocrine disruption), disproportionate effects to vulnerable population groups, and regular noncompliance with product label directions. These deficiencies contribute to its severe limitations in defining real world poisoning.

An enlightened policy approach to proposed or continued toxic chemical use, in an age where the adverse effects have been widely and increasingly documented, is to first ask whether there is a less toxic way of achieving the toxic chemical’s intended purpose. Simply, “Is there another practice that would make the substance unnecessary?” This approach does not preclude and should demand the prohibition of high hazard chemical use, those chemicals that are simply too dangerous.

The alternatives assessment approach differs most dramatically from a risk assessment-based policy 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 data shows clear links to pesticide use and 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. Cost comparisons must take into account externalities such as water pollution and water utility expenses, associated with chemical-intensive farming. The same is true for home and garden pesticide use and defined integrated pest management systems with prescribed practices and only specific substances as a last resort.

An improved process for conditionally registering pesticides is not enough. Regulatory restrictions must be tied to an alternatives assessment that moves chemicals off the market or prohibits their marketing as safer approaches and technologies emerge.

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

Source: NRDC

 

Share

27
Mar

EPA Upholds Clean Water Act, Steps in to Add Impaired Streams to State List

(Beyond Pesticides, March 27, 2013) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stepped in this week to revise a biennial report on impaired rivers and streams across West Virginia, after state officials, under pressure from industry interests, left more than 1,000 miles of polluted waterways off the list. EPA officials stated that the Clean Water Act does not allow the state to ignore evidence that streams are troubled. Water standards and plans for cleanup must be adopted for impaired waterways.Digital StillCamera

EPA reprimanded West Virginia from shirking its responsibilities under the law to list all of the state’s impaired streams, in spite of industry interference. EPA Region 3 officials are now proposing to add an additional 255 waterway segments where aquatic life is impaired to the state’s 303(d) list, named for the section of the Clean Water Act that requires it be prepared. Section 303(d) requires a listing of impaired streams in the state, and the list is used for water standard development for subsequent cleanup plans and restoration of the impaired waterways. States are required to publish such lists every two years. West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) submitted The West Virginia Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report  to EPA for 303(d) list approval last December, but the agency found more than 1000 miles of polluted waterways left off the list.

Before the Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972, the Potomac River and other notable rivers in the U.S. were cesspools of sewage and industrial pollution. The Clean Water Act affords waterways across the country some protections from indiscriminate pollution from industrial and some agricultural sources so that waterways are cleaner and safer for drinking, boating, and fishing. However, according to available data, over 50 percent of waterways in the U.S. are contaminated with pollutants, including pesticides, which exceed federal standards.

On March 25, 2013, EPA partially approved and partially disapproved West Virginia’s 2012 303(d) list submittal. The list includes 1,176 waterways previously designated as impaired by the state, and an additional 255 waterways identified by EPA, based on the state’s current water quality standards. The agency reviewed the information using substantially the same methodology that West Virginia has used to review this type of data in the past. In a news release, EPA acknowledges DEP’s position that it is precluded by a state bill from evaluating waters for aquatic life uses pending adoption of a new methodology for evaluating waterways.  However, EPA states it has an obligation to take action to ensure that the federal requirements of the Clean Water Act are met.

The DEP left many of those streams off the list as a result of a coal-industry-based bill passed during the 2012 legislative session. The bill, signed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, ordered the DEP to abandon its existing methods of measuring stream health and come up with a new set of rules to define when streams are considered biologically impaired. EPA in response says that federal law does not allow the state to simply ignore evidence that those streams are troubled while the DEP works on a legislative mandate to come up with a new way of deciding which of those streams belong on the list. DEP has for years used a measure called the West Virginia Stream Condition Index, or WVSCI, to grade waterways to determine if they are “biologically impaired.” EPA has been pushing the state to use another test that it believes is more accurate. State officials and the coal industry, though, oppose the EPA method.

In a letter to the state DEP, EPA regional administrator Shawn Garvin wrote that federal rules require states to “evaluate all existing and readily available water quality information” when preparing their impaired-stream lists. By ignoring available WVSCI score data indicating some streams were impaired, Mr. Garvin wrote that the DEP did not comply with those federal rules. According to the West Virginia Gazette, EPA officials were facing a potential lawsuit by the Sierra Club and other citizen groups if the agency approved the latest Clean Water Act “impaired” streams list issued by the DEP. The issue focuses on a simmering controversy over the DEP’s failure to include hundreds of streams on a list of waterways that are overly polluted and need to be cleaned up.

Industry lobby groups have been very busy around the country persuading state and federal elected officials to support legislation that weakens the authority  of the Clean Water Act. In Congress, several pieces of legislation have been introduced to strip the Clean Water Act of jurisdiction of direct pesticide discharge into waterways. Under the Clean Water Act, in order to discharge applied pesticides into the waters of the U.S., one must have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Industry claims the law is too burdensome on pesticide applicators. Additionally, the White House Council on Environmental Quality estimates that the recent sequester could reduce federal funding for state environmental programs by $154 million, which could dramatically affect the safety of U.S. waterways.

Waterways in the U.S. are increasingly imperiled from various agents including agricultural and industrial discharges, nutrient loading (nitrogen and phosphorus), and biological agents such as pathogens. Pesticides discharged into our nation’s rivers, lakes and streams can harm or kill fish and amphibians. These toxicants have the potential to accumulate in the fish we eat and the water we drink.

To keep up to date on Congressional and government agency actions, sign-up for Beyond Pesticides’ action alerts and visit our Threatened Waters page.

 

Source: EPA News Release,  West Virginia Gazette

 

Share

26
Mar

Bed Bugs Display Multiple Layers of Resistance to Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, March 26, 2013) Scientists are learning more about the mechanisms bed bugs have developed to increase their resistance to the increasingly common class of pyrethriod pesticides. The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports in early March, adds further weight to calls from consumer health and environmental groups to adopt proven, non-toxic strategies to manage bed bugs and other household pest problems. After all, if alternatives exist, why put your family at risk with unsustainable, ineffective control methods?

Bed BugimageThis latest research reveals something scientists had not suspected. Bed bugs are developing most of their resistance-associated genes on the outer layer of their shell. These genes either neutralize the insecticides before they can take effect, or slow down the toxins’ move towards the insects’ nerve cells. In addition, bed bugs in the study also show resistance developing within their nerve cells, the target site for the pesticides. This multilayered resistance is unique, scientists say, but, as Beyond Pesticides has long documented, pest resistance to pesticides is not. A 2011 study from Ohio State University reveals bed bugs’ ability to evolve hereditary changes in their production of certain enzymes, allowing them to excrete the toxins without being harmed. A study in July of 2012 confirms the ineffectiveness of pyrethriod pesticides in controlling bed bugs. The research notes that a thin cloth is enough cover for bed bugs to avoid death from the spray even if they are not a pesticide-resistant breed. As co-author Susan Jones, PhD, said at the time, “If you use these products, you will not get the infestation under control, you will waste your money, and you will delay effective treatment of your infestation.”

The pyrethroid class of pesticides, which also include permethrin, bifenthrin, resmethrin, cyfluthrin and scores of others, includes synthetic versions of pyrethrins, natural insecticides found in certain species of chrysanthemum. They were initially introduced on the market as ‘safer’ alternatives to highly toxic organophosphate insecticides, such as chlorpyrifos and diazinon, which were banned for residential use in 2001 and 2004, respectively. However, exposure to synthetic pyrethroids has been reported to lead to headaches, dizziness, nausea, irritation, and skin sensations. EPA classifies permethrin and cypermethrin as possible human carcinogens, based on evidence of lung tumors in lab animals exposed to these chemicals. Synthetic pyrethroids have also been linked to respiratory problems such as hypersensitization, and may be triggers for asthma attacks.

Fortunately, the chemical treatments that are more harmful to humans than bed bugs are also not actually necessary. These pests can be controlled by an integrated pest management (IPM) approach, which prioritizes methods such as vacuuming, steaming, and exposing the bugs to high heat. These methods effectively control an infestation without dangerous side effects that can harm human health. This approach, as well as taking steps such as sealing cracks and crevices, reducing clutter, and encasing mattresses can also help to prevent an infestation from taking hold first place.

There are recent signs that biological controls are effective against bed bugs. A preliminary study from Penn State in November 2012 finds the natural fungus, Beauveria bassinia, to be effective at controlling the pests. The fungus, a natural disease that exists in the environment, can be easily cultured in the lab and applied like many other least-toxic pesticides, according to the researchers working on the study. Importantly, infected bed bugs bring the fungus back to their hiding places, contaminating those who did not venture out in search of a blood meal.

The bed bug resurgence in the U.S. in recent years has led to public anxiety about the pests and drastic attempts to stem their spread through various means, often including the use of highly toxic and harmful chemicals. However, previous chemical use for bed bugs may have contributed to this resurgence in the first place. Beyond Pesticides strongly encourages residents that have a bed bug infestation to forgo the use of ineffective pesticides, especially in the wake of this recent study. For more information, see our Bed Bug webpage which includes a detailed fact sheet discussing bed bugs, the problems with pesticide treatments, and alternative control methods. Additionally, you can call (202-543-5450) or email ([email protected]) Beyond Pesticides for one on one help dealing with your bed bug infestation.

Source: Nature.com

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

Share

25
Mar

Harvard Develops Robotic Bees, Begs the Question – Why Not Save Real Bees?

(Beyond Pesticides, March 25, 2013) Engineers at Harvard University have developed a new technique that may allow for the mass fabrication of robotic insects. The Harvard Microrobotics Lab has been working on the development of the “RoboBees Project” since 2009. Appropriate materials, hardware, control systems, and fabrication techniques did not exist prior to the RoboBees, so each facet was invented, developed and integrated by a diverse team of researchers through this project. Researchers believe the RoboBees project could have a wide range of applications, one being the autonomous pollinating a field of crops.

Previous to this invention engineers had to fold, align, and secure each of the tiny parts and joints manually. This process was incredibly time consuming and error prone. Beyond issues of human error, manual assembly would make the project almost impossible to scale up and would keep creation costs high. To create the machines manually, “You’d take a very fine tungsten wire and dip it in a little bit of superglue, then, with that tiny ball of glue, you’d go in under a microscope like an arthroscopic surgeon and try to stick it in the right place,” according to Pratheev Sreetharan, M.S.

This impressive scientific research, beyond some of its obvious applications, could lead to a better understanding of how bee colonies and bees function. However, this project, which is funded at levels up to $2,000,000 per year for five years, also raises some important questions. The most pressing of these questions being, shouldn’t we be focused on saving the remaining bees and other pollinators that now face staggering levels of environmental stress?

In the new technique, “18 layers of carbon fiber, Kapton (a plastic film), titanium, brass, ceramic, and adhesive sheets have been laminated together in a complex, laser-cut design. The structure incorporates flexible hinges that allow the three-dimensional product —just 2.4 millimeters tall— to assemble in one movement, like a pop-up book,” as described by Harvard.  This layering process builds on the construction process currently used to make circuit boards. This means that integration of electrical components will be dramatically easier. According to Mr. Streetharan, “Now, I can put chips all over that. I can build in sensors and control actuators.”

“Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD) is the name given to the precipitous decline of honey bee populations around the world beginning in 2006. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that, on average, beekeepers are losing over 30% of their honey bee colonies each year, twice what is considered normal. However, winter 2012 may turn out to be the “worst year for bees.” While CCD appears to have multiple interacting causes, including malnutrition, pests, parasites, pathogens, and stress, a range of scientific evidence points to sublethal pesticide exposures as important contributing factors. Neonicotiniods, a class of potent systemic insecticides, are particularly suspect, especially in combination with the dozens of other pesticides bees are exposed to in their hive and when foraging.

Clothianidinthiamethoxamimidicloprid, and new systemic pesticide sulfoxaflor, currently under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review, represent enormous threats to the long-term survival of honey bee colonies both in the U.S. and across the globe. Most recently, the European Commission announced its position against the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, urging member states within the European Union (EU) to impose a two year suspension on their use. However, EU member states remain split on suspending neonicotinoids.

In the U.S., EPA has failed to act. In 2012, beekeepers, Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Food Safety, and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) filed an emergency legal petition with EPA to suspend the use of clothianidin, urging the agency to adopt safeguards. The petition was rejected. Because of this failure to act, Beyond Pesticides joined beekeepers, environmental and consumer groups in filing a lawsuit in Federal District Court against EPA for its failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides.

Wild pollinator populations have also dramatically declined. Loss of habitat to genetically engineered (GE) cropland, as well as increasingly warm temperatures are responsible for the dramatic decline in Monarch butterfly populations, according to scientists who say populations are the lowest they have seen in two decades. Forestland that is occupied by butterflies, once as high as 50 acres, has dwindled to 2.94 acres. This is problematic as recent studies have shown that wild insects pollinate crops more effectively because increases in their visitation enhanced fruit sets by twice as much as equivalent increase in honey bee visitation. Engineers may also have a harder time designing a replacement for wild pollinators than more predictable domesticated bees.

Bats are also facing dramatic environmental stress. Bats around the U.S. are being decimated by White Nose Syndrome (WNS). The deadly disease was detected recently at Kentucky’s Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, according to the National Park Service. Based on laboratory testing, three bats were discovered with WNS, coming from three separate caves in the park. Bats are nocturnal pollinators and nocturnal insect predators, playing a key role both for plants and farmers. Organic farmers, in particular, are reliant on bat pollinators as a pest management tool: one brown bat can kill between 3000 and 7000 insects per night. A study published in 2011 in the journal Science estimated that bats provide $3.7 billion to $53 billion per year worth of pest control services to agricultural operations, and that number does not include pollination services.

For the most recent action being taken to protect honey bees, see the Beyond Pesticides Pollinators and Pesticides page.

Join us April 5-6 for Beyond Pesticides’ 31st National Pesticide Forum, where New Mexico honey bee inspector, president of the New Mexico Beekeepers Association, and a beekeeper for over 30 years, Les Crowder, will discuss organic and natural solutions in beekeeping for problems commonly treated with chemicals, and the role beekeepers play in protecting biodiversity. Organic agriculture, beekeeping, resilient food systems, pesticides and much more will be discussed. Space is limited so register now.

Source: Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

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

Share

22
Mar

Several Food Retailers Refuse to Stock GE Salmon

(Beyond Pesticides, March 22, 2013) Whole Foods Market Inc, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and other food retailers representing more than 2,000 U.S. stores have committed not to sell genetically engineered (GE) salmon. This announcement from the Campaign for Genetically Engineered-Free Seafood appears to be strategic, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nears its decision on the introduction of GE Atlantic salmon from AquaBoutny Technologies into the marketplace. The announcement is being hailed as a victory for environmental and consumer protection groups who are now engaged in GE labeling fights across the country. The announcement also helps underscores the belief that consumers and food retailers are growing increasingly skeptical of the safety and necessity of GE food products.

The food retailers that have signed against the sale of GE salmon range from large food distributors, such as Trader Joe’s, to smaller businesses like Sacramento Natural Foods Cooperative. The commitment also came from stores that ranged from the more upscale Whole Foods to the discount grocer Aldi. Proponents of the campaign argue that genetically modified products are not sufficiently tested for safety, carry allergy risk, and also should be labeled. AquaBounty argues that these GE fish are sterilized and would be grown in inland tanks, with little chance of escape. However, escape of farmed Atlantic salmon in other operations has been well documented. Escaped farm salmon can displace wild stocks and create environmental disruptions by introducing sea lice and Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA). Beyond having to compete with escaped farmed salmon, wild stock salmon face increasingly compromised streams and rivers. Aware of these risks to the supply of wild salmon, grocers are choosing to withhold their support for GE fish.

“Our current definition of sustainable seafood specifies the exclusion of genetically modified [GE] organisms,” said a spokeswoman for Aldi.

This commitment by some food retailers is seen as a victory by environmental and consumer safety organizations as they gear up for a growing number of federal and state campaigns to label GE food. Recently, Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) announced that he intends to co-sponsor a bill in Congress along with Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) to mandate the labeling of food containing GE ingredients in the U.S. Activists have also been working on the state level to label GE products. The Maryland House Health and Government Operations Committee held a public hearing on state House Bill 0903, which would set requirements for labeling and disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients in food. Other state labeling efforts have been launched in California, HawaiiNew MexicoOregon, Missouri and Washington.

As consumers grow less willing to accept untested food products, there is mounting evidence that GE crops have a negative environmental impact. The proliferation of GE corn, soy, canola, and many other crops has led to a growing number of herbicide resistant weeds, or “super weeds.” Recently, an emergency exemption was granted for the use of floridone in Arkansas and South Carolina to control Palmer amaranth, a glyphosate resistant weed typically found in glyphosate-tolerant (or RoundUp Ready) GE crops where the herbicide is used. In August 2011, a series of studies found that at least 21 different species of weeds are resistant to glyphosate.

The production of GE crops has also dramatically affected pollinators. A recent survey found that found that the amount of Mexican forestland occupied by Monarch butterflies has dwindled to 2.94 acres. This is a 59 percent decline from the 7.14 acres of butterflies measured in December 2011. To explain this drastic decline, researchers point to the loss of Monarch habitat in the U.S. and Mexico as a result of increasing farmland used to grow GE crops. The use of multiple herbicides on these crops has almost eliminated milkweed which is the butterfly’s food source.

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic Seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers.

For a discussion on federal and local GE labeling efforts and what we can do to protect food security and biodiversity, including strategies to move forward, join us for our 31st National Pesticide Forum in New Mexico April 5-6. Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety will be joined by local organic farmers and organizers, including: Eleanor Bravo of Food and Water Watch–NM, who helped with New Mexico’s labeling bill, and Isaura Andaluz, executive director of Cuatro Puertas and the only member of AC21 to dissent in the report on strengthening coexistence among agricultural production methods because of the undue burden it places on organic farmers. For more information and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

Source: New York Times

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

Share

21
Mar

EPA Hands the Reins to Industry on Honey Bee Decline, Groups Sue EPA for Lack of Action

(Beyond Pesticides, March 21, 2013) Beyond Pesticides joins beekeepers, environmental and consumer groups in filing a lawsuit in Federal District Court against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. The coalition seeks suspension of the registrations of insecticides- clothianidin and thiamethoxam- which have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees, clear causes of major bee kills and significant contributors to the devastating ongoing mortality of bees known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). The suit challenges EPA’s oversight of these bee-killing pesticides, as well as the agency’s practice of “conditional registration” and labeling deficiencies.
Beyond Pesticides joins The Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, the Sierra Club, the Center for Environmental Health, and four beekeepers: Steve Ellis of Old Mill Honey Co. (MN, CA), Jim Doan of Doan Family Farms (NY), Tom Theobald of Niwot Honey Farm (CO) and Bill Rhodes of Bill Rhodes Honey (FL).

See Press Release. Read the 2013 Lawsuit, Appendix A: Clothianidin, Appendix B: Thiamethoxam.

Handing the Reins to Industry
The lawsuit comes on the heels of the recent Pollinator Summit, hosted by EPA with the aim to “advance our understanding and our efforts to protect honey bees and other pollinators from pesticide risks.” However, the summit was overwhelmingly dominated by industry interests. With a highly unbalanced discussion, the conversation was directed away from truly meaningful dialogue on improving the health of the nation’s honey bees, and instead focused on short-term, one dimensional solutions like reducing contamination to “acceptable levels,” and upgrading farming equipment.

In commentary released by Beyond Pesticides in the current issue of its newsmagazine Pesticides and You, executive director Jay Feldman says, “EPA’s handling of the honey bee crisis is outrageous and instructive.” In the piece, Mr. Feldman maintains that the current crisis tells us that the only way out of the pesticide-induced environmental and public health crisis is an organic food production system. As we move toward this goal, Beyond Pesticides says that we must compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to act against deadly chemicals because the degradation of honey bee health and the widespread collapse of managed and wild bee colonies is not sustainable for the nation’s food production system.”dead bee- fade

The following is reprinted from the piece by Mr. Feldman:

I spent the day recently with commercial beekeepers, visiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Congressional offices to talk about the honey bee crisis. Their message: (i) unprecedented numbers of bee colonies are dying, leaving the ability to pollinate the nation’s food crops uncertain, and (ii) EPA must restrict neonicotinoid pesticides –the insecticides used to treat seeds that are distributed systemically through the vascular system of plant, expressing themselves indiscriminately through pollen, nectar, and guttation drops and poisoning the bees, devastating bees as they pollinate or forage. We have petitioned EPA to suspend the chemical’s use.

The day after those visits, EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, with USDA, hosted an all-day industry “Pesticide Summit” at its headquarters. Three panels were assembled on (i) mitigating risks of chemical-laden dust coming off of automated vacuum seed planters, (ii) seed treatment and coatings, and (iii) best management practices and communication. The panels were led by Bayer, Syngenta, and Monsanto, respectively, and panelists were drawn from industry and an industry-supported group, with the exception of a USDA researcher, and a commercial beekeeper.

EPA Focuses on Dust Instead of Poisonous Plants

“Fugitive dust” contaminated with deadly pesticides from seed planters that stretch across 24 crop rows invades the landscape exposing bees. However, EPA and industry’s focus on risk mitigation measures, such as new seed coatings and lubricants (also not tested for hazards to the environment) to reduce dust, does not eliminate central systemic hazard posed by the chemicals. Talc or graphite are currently used in planters to keep the sticky treated seeds from getting stuck in the planter. The equipment industry does not use filters and collection devices to capture contaminated dust because it would create a disposal problem, it says. The effect of inoculating every corn, canola, and soybean plant with deadly chemical that creates fields of poisons throughout the nation is not, in EPA’s view, a concern. The one field study EPA required under a “conditional” registration in 2003 came back as inadequate four years later after EPA allowed over 90% of corn seed In the U.S. to be treated. Some European countries have issued bans and the EU is considering a wider ban, because it relies on a more precautionary approach to the question in an effort to try to protect bees before the bee crisis worsens.

Organic Solution

EPA’s approach reinforces the urgent need for a national transition to organic. The takeaway for organic,  as it grows beyond its current $30 billion market share, is the need for rigorous  science-based decision making that requires precaution on the allowance of chemical products in the face of hazards and scientific uncertainty. The Organic Foods Production Act provides the framework for doing this with the independent stakeholder National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) of environmentalists, farmers, consumers and public input providing oversight on allowable synthetic materials in organic and policies that govern organic systems. We must keep in mind the underlying standards of the organic rule, which require that practices “maintain or improve soil organic matter content in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or residues of prohibited substances.”

The Path Forward

The summit started with an industry-supported panelist who said that organic is not the answer and environmentalists cannot talk to farmers. In fact, organic is the key to stopping the relentless poisoning and contamination of the bees and other beneficial organisms. And, farmers, environmentalists, and consumers need to sit down together, as they do on the NOSB, to create a path forward and take the reins away from toxic chemical regulators who in tandem with chemical companies have put us on a collision course with nature and the health of future generations.

A Call for EPA Action

As we move toward the organic goal, EPA must suspend the use of two neonicotinoid pesticides –clothianidin and thiamethoxam, those most closely tied to honey bee decline because of their toxicity to bees and almost universal use in the seeds of corn, and at least half of all soybeans. Honey bees forage in these poisonous fields and are exposed to contaminated plants and dust from seed planting. EPA has never received for these pesticides, as required by their “conditional registration,” field studies to enable a full agency evaluation of their bee-killing effects. Meanwhile, scientific studies have shown the adverse impacts of clothianidin and thiamethoxam on bees. The data is clear, the law has been violated, and EPA must act.

For the most recent action being taken to protect honey bees, see the Beyond Pesticides Pollinators and Pesticides page.

Join us April 5-6 for Beyond Pesticides’ 31st National Pesticide Forum, where New Mexico honey bee inspector, president of the New Mexico Beekeepers Association, and a beekeeper for over 30 years, Les Crowder, will discuss organic and natural solutions in beekeeping for problems commonly treated with chemicals, and the role beekeepers play in protecting biodiversity. Organic agriculture, beekeeping, resilient food systems, pesticides and much more will be discussed. Space is limited so register now.

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

Share

20
Mar

Dramatic Monarch Butterfly Decline Tied to GE Cropland and Unseasonable Weather

(Beyond Pesticides, March 20, 2013) Loss of habitat to genetically engineered (GE) cropland, as well as increasingly warm temperatures are responsible for the dramatic decline in Monarch butterfly populations, according to scientists who say populations are the lowest they have seen in two decades. This comes as the state of pollinators continues tosmall_monarch reach crisis levels, with honey bee colonies also experiencing alarming declines.

Scientists who take the annual measure of Mexican forestland famously occupied by migrating monarch butterflies find that forestland occupied by the butterflies, once as high at 50 acres, dwindled to 2.94 acres. This is a 59 percent decline from the 7.14 acres of butterflies measured in December 2011. The survey carried out in December and January, reported nine monarch colonies wintering in central Mexico, occupying a total of 1.19 hectares, or 2.94 acres. The results were released by the World Wildlife Fund-Mexico, and Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP). This population is the smallest recorded since the Monarch colonies came to the attention of scientists in 1975.

To explain this drastic decline, researchers point to the loss of Monarch habitat in the U.S. and Mexico to increasing cropland and the widespread use of the herbicide glyphosate. Historically, for butterflies in the U.S., their key source of food, milkweed, was typically found in several key states where the butterfly feeds and breeds: Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, parts of Ohio and the eastern Dakotas. But now fields have been planted with more than 120 million acres of corn and soybeans genetically engineered to be tolerant to glyphosate, and many other herbicides, allowing farmers to use glyphosate to kill milkweed in the field. According to the researchers, the utilization of these GE crops has all but eliminated milkweeds from these fields, thus eliminating the butterfly’s source of food. A rapid expansion of farmland —more than 25 million new acres in the United States since 2007— has eaten away grasslands and conservation reserves that supplied the Monarchs with milkweed. Milkweed was once widespread throughout the U.S., but is considered a nuisance weed by farmers throughout the Midwest.

Also contributing to pollinator decline is intensive farming that reduces the area from the edge of the road to the field and management of roadsides with the use of herbicides (and excessive mowing) that also eliminates milkweeds. Loss of habitat through development of forestland also consumes 6000 acres at day or 2.2 million acres a year. Warmer weather is also cited by the researchers as impacting Monarch populations. Hot and dry conditions, which were observed in 2012 throughout Monarch habitat, have the effect of reducing adult lifespan and the number of eggs laid per female over their lifetime.

Monarch butterflies make their way from the U.S. and Canada, usually arriving in Mexico around the beginning of November, clustering by the thousands in the boughs of fir trees. Although the same trip occurs every year, no individual butterfly makes it twice, as the butterfly’s life span is too short. How the migration route lives on in the butterflies’ collective memory is an enduring scientific mystery.

By and large this is troubling news for the Mexican states of Michoacán and Mexico, where the yearly arrival of the butterflies is a major tourist attraction. For Monarch butterflies, the numbers have generally been trending downward. Of even greater concern, experts say, is the potential impact that a diminished butterfly population could have on interconnected habitats and species across North America. According to scientists, the loss of pollinating creatures like butterflies and bees, whose populations are also collapsing because of habitat loss, can result in a loss of plant diversity across the continent. “The fruits, nuts, seeds and foliage that everything else feeds on,” Chip Taylor, PhD, director of the conservation group Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas, said. “If we pull the monarchs out of the system, we’re really pulling the rug out from under a whole lot of other species.”

Researchers note that to compensate for the continued loss of habitat, refuges of milkweed must be set up to provide a source of food for butterflies. Pollinator populations have been hard hit by new farming technologies. Similar to Monarch butterflies, honey bees and other wild bees have also been experiencing a drastic decline in numbers that has been linked to the prevalent use of highly toxic herbicides and insecticides that have not been fully evaluated for their effects on insect pollinators. Recently, the American Bee Journal reported that almond growers in California may not have access to the honey bee colonies necessary to pollinate this year’s crop, due to heavy losses experienced by beekeepers.  Honey bees face numerous challenges from agricultural exposures to neonicotinoid insecticides, linked to impaired bee foraging, learning and navigational behavior. Contaminated pollen, nectar and dust expose bees to pesticide residues that are taken back to the hive, impacting colony health and survival.

Beyond Pesticides, and our partners have petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend the use of these chemicals pending a full review of their effects of pollinators. A recent report issued by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) states that certain neonicotinoid insecticides pose an unacceptable hazard to honey bees. The EFSA report concludes that systemic contamination of neonicotinoid-treated crops, neonicotinoid dust exposure, and contaminated nectar and pollen contributes to declines in honey bees and weakens their hives. With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other insects for pollination, the decline of honey bees  and other pollinators due to pesticides, and other man-made causes demands immediate action. For more on this and what you can do to protect pollinators, visit Beyond Pesticides’ “Pollinators and Pesticides.

Join us April 5-6, for Beyond Pesticides’  31st National Pesticide Forum, where New Mexico honey bee inspector, president of the New Mexico Beekeepers Association, and a beekeeper for over 30 years, Les Crowder, will discuss organic and natural solutions in beekeeping for problems commonly treated with chemicals, and the role beekeepers play in protecting biodiversity. Organic agriculture, beekeeping, resilient food systems, pesticides and much more will be discussed. Space is limited so register now.

Source: LA Times

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

Share

19
Mar

Act Before Midnight Tonight to Stop Antibiotic Use in Organic Apple and Pear Production

(Beyond Pesticides, March 19, 2013) The phase-out of antibiotic use in apple and pear production may continue beyond 2014 unless the public speaks out. Luckily, unlike the closed-door meetings that surround the rulemaking process in other government agencies, organic regulations are unique because they include a key ingredient: you, the public.

Twice a year, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) solicits comments from the public on materials petitioned for use in organic, and issues of concern to the organic community.

organicBelow is a brief summary of select issues and proposed materials that are up for review at the Spring 2013 National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting.

Your participation is vital as it will help determine the future of organic in the United States:

  • Will antibiotics continue to be allowed in apple and pear production after years of delay?
  • Will “inert” ingredients be reviewed after a workable policy for addressing them has now been developed?
  • Will “other” ingredients continue to be surreptitiously added to organic food without review?

Your input is needed before midnight on Tuesday, March 19 to ensure that the NOSB keeps these and other hazardous synthetic substances out of organics. These materials are dangerous to our health and the environment, and are unnecessary in organic food production.

Please take a few minutes to review the issues below and let the NOSB and USDA know what you think. Or, if you’ve already commented, ask someone else to make their voice heard. Submit your comments before midnight, March 19, 2013!

For more detailed information, see Beyond Pesticides organic action webpage.

Keep These Harmful Synthetics Out of Organic

Tetracycline: Antibiotics don’t belong anywhere in organic production. The use of tetracycline to control fire blight in apples and pears meets none of the criteria of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). It presents significant adverse impacts to human health and the environment, is incompatible with organic and sustainable agriculture, and is not essential. The Board set a 2014 phase-out date and is now considering continued use in response to a petition from the apple industry.

Other Ingredients: There should be no such thing as “secret ingredients” in organic food. All ingredients, even “ingredients within ingredients” should be subject to review and oversight by the NOSB. Any ingredient of any kind in food labeled organic should be barred unless it is on the National List of Allowed Substances.

Inerts: Since the Crops Subcommittee has created a workable policy to review so called “inert” ingredients, the process should begin immediately. Ingredients of pesticide products that are labeled as “inert” are generally not physically, chemically, or toxicologically inert. The use of a word that commonly means “harmless” has led policy makers and the public to discount the problems that might be caused by these chemicals. Therefore these ingredients must be reviewed immediately.

Polyoxin D Zinc Salt: As a broad spectrum fungicide, Polyoxin D is inherently incompatible with the basic principles of organic production. There are significant concerns about the capacity of this material to negatively affect non-target organisms, including beneficial fungi, insects, and aquatic species.

Indole-3-butyric acid (IBA):
IBA is a plant hormone in the auxin family and is an ingredient in many commercial horticultural plant rooting products. However, this use of IBA does not meet organic standards—it does not fit into a category of allowed synthetic inputs, its health and environmental effects are not sufficiently known, there is no demonstrable need for IBA, and finally, it is inconsistent with a system of organic agriculture.

DBDMH: As an antimicrobial wash in meat packing, DBDMH is expected to have detrimental impacts to soil microorganisms, its products are toxic and tend to persist in the environment, and most importantly, DBDMH is “extremely destructive to the tissue of the mucous membranes and upper respiratory tract,” posing a threat to workers handling DBDMH.

Keep GMOs Out of Organic Food

GMO and Seed Purity: Preventing contamination of organic crops by genetically engineered (GE) organisms is important to maintaining organic integrity. Organic growers need seeds that are not contaminated by GE genes, and that costs should be borne by the GE seed patent holders, who are responsible for the costs associated with their products.

Take Action!

You can submit your comments directly to USDA, by clicking this link. Please note that only the fields with an asterisk are required for entry, for organization name feel free to put “Private Citizen.”

To learn more about the issues before the NOSB, see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage, which has our summary and positions on each of the issues, suggested language, and instructions on how to ensure your views are counted. Submit your comments before midnight, March 19.

Thank you!

Share

18
Mar

EU Split on Suspending Bee-Killing Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, March 18, 2013) The bee-killing neonicotinoid insecticides used for agriculture will continue to be used across the European Union (EU), as members failed to reach an agreement on the proposal to suspend their use on flowering crops over the next two years. The proposal had followed reports released by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which found the continued use of neonicotinoids to be an unacceptable “high acute risk” to pollinators, particularly honey bees. However, three EU members opposed the plan to suspend, blocking the European Commission from attaining a qualified majority to adopt the proposed suspension.dead bee- fade

“The commission put the text to the vote and no qualified majority was reached, either in favor or against the text,” the European Commission said in a statement.

Those opposing the proposal, notably UK and German Ministers, argued that more scientific evidence was needed as a suspension could cause disproportionate damage to food production, counter to research indicating bee declines also damage crop productivity. Pesticide companies Bayer and Syngenta have pressed hard following the EFSA report to effect this outcome.

The decision, or lack thereof, runs contrary to a precautionary approach to ensuring healthy bees as critical for our food production system, as well as public understanding of the seriousness of the problem. According to YouGov poll released Wednesday by the Avaaz network, 71% of people in the UK supported the proposal for restriction on neonicotinoid pesticides, with an additional 2.5 million signatures backing the proposed ban.

France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia have all instituted bans on the neonicotinoid pesticides, including clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam. However, the EC proposal would have extended ban across all 27 member states.

With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other insects for pollination, the decline of honey bees due to pesticides, disease, pathogens, and a synergistic effect of other variables has prompted action from organizations around the world. Indeed, an abundance of scientific research has been released within the last year which convincingly link neonicotinoids to declines in honey bee health, honeybee deaths, and increases in bee disappearance during foraging.

The EC proposal would have suspended the use of three neonicotinoids from use on flowering crops like corn, oil seed rape, apples, carrots, strawberries, for a period of two years, with requirement to additional subsequent review.

Join us April 5-6, for Beyond Pesticides’  31st National Pesticide Forum, where New Mexico honey bee inspector, president of the New Mexico Beekeepers Association, and a beekeeper for over 30 years, Les Crowder, will discuss organic and natural solutions in beekeeping for problems commonly treated with chemicals, and the role beekeepers play in protecting biodiversity. Organic agriculture, beekeeping, resilient food systems, pesticides and much more will be discussed. Space is limited so register now.

Source: The Guardian

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

Share

15
Mar

Activists File Petition to Stop Pesticide Spraying in D.C.-Area National Park

(Beyond Pesticides, March 15, 2013) A group of Washington D.C. area activist led by Alan Cohen, the president of Safe Lawns for DC Kids and Critters, and Beyond Pesticides delivered a petition to the National Park Service (NPS) that urges officials to stop the seasonal spraying of Rodeo, a glyphosat-based herbicide, to control for fig buttercup in Rock Creek Park in the DC metropolitan area. The group is asking the park to adopt an alternative weed management strategy. According to Mr. Cohen, “We are not saying they should do nothing. We should do something to manage this invasive plant, but it shouldn’t be this treatment with Rodeo.”rockcreekpark

The activist group gathered over 250 signatures to a petition that asks the park service to stop the spraying of Rodeo by canvassing in the park over several weekends and through their online petition. The group argues that spraying within 25 feet of waterways violates DC’s Pesticide Education and Revisions Act of 2012.  The group says that through this process of petitioning that they want to start a dialog between community members and the NPS on how to best manage fig butter cup. However, NPS has not been responsive to this request. The group argues that they could organize volunteers to manually remove the weed. The Department of Parks of Montgomery County, Maryland has already trained and certified more than 800 citizen volunteers as Weed Warriors who assist the park staff on a regular basis in monitoring and removing non-native invasive plant species (NNIs) from parkland.

According to a WJLA News report, “The park service insists that if people stay on trails and keep their dogs leashed there is little chance they will come in contact with it.” However, the activists refute this point. The group says they received an email from a dog owner who believed their dog was poisoned after being walked in the park following the spray of the herbicide. The dog’s owners were forced to rush their dog to an animal hospital where the dog was treated for its symptoms. Dogs and children may not understand the importance of staying on trails to avoid the chemical exposure that puts them at high risk.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the product Rodeo, is among the mostly widely used chemicals in pesticides. Glyphosate is most commonly known as the active ingredient in Roundup and is commonly used on genetically engineered (GE) crops. It is known to have negative chronic and acute effects on human health. Some glyphosate products are of higher acute toxicity, primarily associated with eye and or skin irritation. Symptoms following exposure to glyphosate formulations include: swollen eyes face and joints; facial numbness; burring and or itching; blisters; rapid heart rate; elevated blood pressure; chest pains; congestion; coughing; headache; and nausea. Glyphosate also has documented chronic effects. Studies have found that people exposed to glyphosate are 2.7 times more likely to contract non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

According to a statement by Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles, a spokesperson for NPS, “[N]o evidence has been found of endocrine effects in humans or other mammals when the product is used.” However, several studieshave indicated that glyphosate may be an endocrine disruptor as some agricultural workers using glyphosate have pregnancy problems. According to the authors of “Differential Effects of Glyphosate and Roundup on Human Placental Cells and Aromatase,” published in Environmental Health Perspectives (2005 June; 113(6): 716–720), “We conclude that endocrine and toxic effects of Roundup, not just glyphosate, can be observed in mammals. We suggest that the presence of Roundup adjuvants enhances glyphosate bioavailability and/or bioaccumulation.”

RodeoherbicideGlyphosate also has known environmental effects. Glyphosate persists in water and has a potential to contaminate surface waters. If glyphostate reaches surface water, it is not broken down readily by water or sunlight. For instance, the half-life of glyphosate in pond water ranges from 70 to 84 days. For the spraying happening in Rock Creek Park this may become a problem as the spraying is happening up to the edge of the creek. Glyphosate use directly impacts a variety of non-target animals including insects, earthworms, and fish, and indirectly impacts birds and small mammals. Because of the overuse of glyphosate products, glyphosate resistant weeds have been reported. In November 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted an emergency exemption for unregistered use of the herbicide fluridone on cotton in order to control glyphosate resistant weeds.

For more information on alternative weed management practices, please visit Beyond Pesticides’ alternative factsheets and Invasive Weed Management page.

For a discussion on pesticide alternatives and organic land management, join us for our 31st National Pesticide Forum in Albuquerque, New Mexico from April 5th-6th. Chip Osborne, president of Osborne Organics will be joined by local organic farmers and organizers to discuss the numerous benefits of managing land through organic practices. For more information and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

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

Source: WJLA News
Image Source: WJLA News, onlinemanuals.txt.gov

Share

14
Mar

Make Your Voice Heard: Support Call for Congress to Strike Biotech Rider

(Beyond Pesticides, March 14, 2013) A group of over one hundred food businesses and retailers, and family farm, consumer, health, environmental and civil liberties groups, lead by Center for Food Safety and including Beyond Pesticides, have united to support an amendment by Senator John Tester (D-MT) (D-MT) to strike  a dangerous biotech policy rider into the Continuing Resolution (CR) now being debated on the Senate floor. The biotech industry has quietly inserted the “biotech rider” (Sec. 735) into the proposed Senate CR to end judicial oversight of the regulation of genetically engineered (GE) crops. Groups say that this represents a serious and unique assault on the fundamental safeguards of our judicial system, and would negatively effect farmers, the environment, and public health across America. We urge you to call your Senators to demand that Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)pull this dangerous and unconstitutional rider, and support the Tester amendment to preserve judicial oversight over regulatory decisions the allowance of GE crops: Find your Senators’ numbers here, or call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202)224-3121 and ask for your Senators’ office.

This dangerous rider was not included in the House-passed CR, and food safety, environmental and farm groups are extremely disappointed to see that the Senate has included it. Though wrapped in a “farmer-friendly” package, this industry-driven rider is simply a biotech industry ploy to continue to plant genetically engineered (GE) crops without court oversight of whether proper regulatory reviews were undertaken. The rider would not merely allow, but would compel the Secretary of Agriculture to immediately grant any requests for permits to allow continued planting and commercialization of an unlawfully approved GE crop.

The provision undermines USDA’s oversight of GE crops, unnecessarily interferes with the U.S. judicial review process, and could be unconstitutional. It is also completely unnecessary and serves only to offer “assurance” to agrichemical companies like Monsanto, not farmers.

On the heels of federal court decisions that have found approvals of several genetically engineered (GE) crops to be unlawful, the dangerous rider has been inserted into H.R. 933, the Senate Continuing Resolution (Sec. 735). The rider, not included in the current House CR, would strip federal courts of their authority to assess the legality of potentially hazardous GE crops. Wrapped in a “farmer-friendly” package, the so-called “farmer assurance provision” represents a serious assault on the fundamental safeguards of our judicial system and would negatively impact farmers, the environment, and public health across America.

In addition to being completely unnecessary, the rider represents an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review, which is an essential element of U.S. law and provides a critical check on government decisions that may negatively impact human health, the environment, or livelihoods. Congress should not meddle with the fundamental principles of our Constitution – the separation of powers and the checks and balances among the three branches of government.

This provision must be stricken from the Senate Continuing Resolution on the following grounds:

  • Apparent unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. Judicial review is an essential element of U.S. law, providing a critical and impartial check on government decisions that may negatively impact human health, the environment or livelihoods. Maintaining the clear-cut boundary of a Constitutionally-guaranteed separation of powers is essential to our government. This provision will blur that line.
  • Judicial review is a gateway, not a roadblock. Congress should be fully supportive of our nation’s independent judiciary. The ability of courts to review, evaluate and judge an issue that impacts public and environmental health is a strength, not a weakness, of our system. The loss of this fundamental safeguard could leave public health, the environment and livelihoods at risk.
  • Removing the legal brakes that prevent fraud and abuse. In recent years, federal courts have ruled that several USDA GE crop approvals violated the law and required further study of their health and environmental impact. These judgments indicated that continued planting would cause harm to the environment and/or farmers and ordered interim planting restrictions pending further USDA analysis and consideration. This outlandish provision would prevent a federal court from putting in place court-ordered restrictions, even if the approval were fraudulent or involved bribery.
  • Unnecessary and duplicative. Every court to decide these issues has carefully weighed the interests of all affected farmers, as is already required by law. No farmer has ever had his or her crops destroyed as a result. USDA already has working mechanisms in place to allow partial approvals, and the Department has used them, making this provision completely unnecessary.
  • USDA shut out as well. The rider would not merely allow, it would compel the Secretary of Agriculture to immediately grant any requests for permits to allow continued planting and commercialization of an unlawfully approved GE crop. With this provision in place, USDA may not be able to prevent costly contamination episodes like Starlink or Liberty Link rice, which have already cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. The rider would also make a mockery of USDA’s legally mandated review, transforming it into a ‘rubber stamp’ approval process.
  • Back-door amendment of statute. This rider, quietly tacked onto an appropriations bill, is in effect a substantial amendment to USDA’s governing statute for GE crops, the Plant Protection Act. If Congress feels the law needs to be changed, it should be done in a transparent manner by holding hearings, soliciting expert testimony and including full opportunity for public debate.

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

Source: Center for Food Safety

Share

13
Mar

Pesticide Maker To Challenge EPA’s Decision to Protect Children, Wildlife

(Beyond Pesticides, March 13, 2013) On March 6, 2013, pesticide manufacturer Reckitt
Benckiser Inc. requested a hearing in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Notice of Intent to Cancel 12 of the company’s d-CON mouse and rat poison products, delaying the ban that otherwise would have taken effect on March 7, 2013. This is the first time in more than 20 years that a company has declined to voluntarily implement EPA risk mitigation measures for pesticide products to ensure children are not exposed to what EPA identifies as an unacceptable risk. Reckitt Benckiser’s products would still be available to unknowing consumers until the case is mousepictureresolved.

In submitting its request for a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge, Reckitt Benckiser is preparing to waylay federal law by engaging in a legal battle with EPA that could drag on for many years. This comes after EPA announced its decision to go ahead and cancel rodenticide products not in compliance with EPA’s new mitigation measures to reduce exposures to children and wildlife. Unfortunately, until the case is resolved, Reckitt Benckiser will be allowed to continue selling 12 of its d-CON rat poisons, despite the products not being in compliance with EPA standards and putting children, pets and wildlife at risk.

EPA is confident it will prevail in the hearing but now has the added burden of defending to a judge its decision that continued exposures of d-CON products to children, pets and wildlife pose unreasonable risks. According to EPA, of the nearly 30 companies that produce or market mouse and rat poison products in the U.S., Reckitt Benckiser is the only one that has refused to adopt the new safety measures. The company will argue to continue selling its d-CON poisons as loose pellets and pastes, and other toxic formulations. The agency is advising consumers to be aware that d-CON products subject to the ban may be available for sale by some retailers during the course of the hearing. For a list of the d-CON products the EPA is working to ban, visit: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/mice-and-rats/cancellation-process.html#cancellation.

Every year, more than 10,000 children are exposed to rodent poison products, and the majority of calls to poison control centers concern children under the age of three. After more than a decade of research and review, and an unacceptably high number of poisoning incidents, EPA acknowledged that certain active ingredients are too dangerous to remain on the market, and has required all over-the-counter rodent control products to be in secured, tamper-resistant bait stations to reduce the incidents of accidental poisonings. In 2007, EPA proposed a requirement that all over-the-counter rodenticides sold for residential use only be available in tamper-resistant bait stations to reduce the incidents of accidental exposure to children. In 2008, EPA issued its risk mitigation decision under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to reduce the risks that mouse and rodent poison products pose to children, pets, and non-target wildlife, requiring manufacturers that distributed rodenticides to meet the risk management goals. Rodenticide products containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone, and difenacoum, which are known to pose the greatest risk to wildlife, will no longer be allowed to be sold or distributed in the consumer market. These rodenticides are tied to the poisonings of federally listed threatened and endangered species, such as the San Joaquin kit fox and Northern spotted owl via secondary exposures to poisoned rodents. However, use by professional applicators will be permitted, and bait stations will be required for all outdoor, above-ground uses for products containing these ingredients.  Those rodenticide manufacturers that initially failed (refused) to adopt the standards were given the order to remove and cancel their products.

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is calling on Reckitt Benckiser to drop its legal challenge rather than engage EPA in a “lengthy and fruitless appeals process.” In its press release, ABC stated, “It is time for d-CON to put children’s health and animal welfare above corporate profits and to follow the rules like every other rat-poison manufacturer.”

Despite the availability of alternatives, many in industry argued that removing certain products from the market would lead to communities being overrun with rodents and infested with disease. While these claims are exaggerated, less toxic rodent control products and those secured in bait stations are available, shown to be effective, and more protective of children, pets and wildlife. Safer methods do exist to control rodents. For tips on controlling mice and other pests in your home, visit the Safer Choice.

Beyond Pesticides strongly encourages consumers not to use poisons as a means to control mice and rats, and especially not to use the products slated by EPA for cancellation. We believe that defined integrated pest management (IPM) practices for structural pest management are vital tools that aid in the rediscovery of non-toxic methods to control rodents and help facilitate the transition to a pesticide-free (and healthier) world. IPM, as defined by Beyond Pesticides, is a program of prevention, monitoring, and control that offers the opportunity to eliminate the use of toxic pesticides, and to minimize exposure to any products that are used. A well-defined IPM plan does this by utilizing a variety of methods and techniques, including cultural, biological and structural strategies to control a multitude of pest problems. Sanitation, structural repairs, mechanical and biological control, and pest population monitoring are some IPM methods that can be undertaken to control rodents.

To learn more about rodenticides, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Rodenticides fact sheet.

Source: EPA News Release

Share

12
Mar

Whole Foods Says It Will Label GE Food in Stores within Five Years, as States Continue Push

(Beyond Pesticides, March 12, 2013) Despite the loss of Proposition 37 in California last November, GMO labeling efforts are moving forward throughout the United States. Late last week Whole Foods Market announced its own plan to label food with genetically engineered (GE) ingredients sold in its stores, making it the first grocery chain in the nation to do so. In addition to the recent introduction of a National GE labeling bill in Congress by Representative Jared Polis (D-CO), Hawaii, Vermont, and Minnesota join the ranks of numerous other states with pending GMO labeling legislation.

JustlabelitINFOGRAPHWhole Foods’ plan requires a label for all GE food sold in its stores within the next five years. The retailer notes that the move was made in response to customers’ increased demand for labeled products. “Some of our manufacturers say they’ve seen a 15 percent increase in sales of products they have labeled [as non–GMO],” explains A.C. Gallo, Whole Foods president. The chain’s labeling requirements include all of its North American stores, as its European supermarkets already require this label. The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA), an industry trade group that represents a number of major food retailers including Pepsico Inc., The Coca Cola Company, Kelloggs, and General Mills, but also agrichemical companies like Monsanto, Dow Agrosciences, and Bayer, opposes the move by Whole Foods. During the course of California’s Proposition 37 campaign, opponents of GE labeling poured over $46 million dollars into deceptive advertising, and still only narrowly defeated the ballot measure. As organic activist Jim Hightower notes in a recent editorial, “But Monsanto doesn’t win them all, and sometimes it actually loses when it appears to have won.” As more retailers begin to reconsider their relationship with the likes of GE producers, and polls continue to show overwhelming support for GE labeling, the movement continues to gain ground at the state level.

Hundreds of anti-GMO activists marched to bring awareness to a GMO labeling bill scheduled to be heard in the Hawaii State Senate March 14. Apart from an intrinsic right to know, organizers for the push to label GE products, such as GMO- Free Kaua’i and Hawai’I SEED, are concerned about the spillover effects of GE crop production on the islands. Many GE crops are developed to be resistant to herbicides, such as Monsanto’s Roundup, and the massive spraying campaigns these large agrichemical companies perform are affecting the health of Hawaiian citizens, the organizers say. “I think it is downright insensitive of politicians, chemical companies and corporations to not even take into consideration what they are doing and the effects on us,” says Loretta Ritte, founding member of Label it Hawai’i. In addition to the growing of GE crops on the island, Hawaii’s pristine climate is used by agrichemical giants to experiment with new forms of herbicide resistant crops. “We think that it is in the best interest of the (Hawai‘i) Tourism Authority and all of the county agencies on the island to reform the use of pesticides to protect the visitor industry and our ability to grow food,” says Jeri DiPietro of GMO- Free Kaua’i.  Not only are these companies experimenting with new forms of herbicide resistant crops on the islands, they are also not telling the people exactly what, or how much they are spraying. Kaua’i County Councilman Gary Hooser explains in a recent blog post that these corporations are refusing to disclose to public officials the name and amount of chemicals they are spraying on the island. “For me,” Councilman Hooser says, “that alone is enough to keep me from buying their products or supporting their industry, and to support full labeling requirements.”

In other states around the country, GE labeling is looking more promising than ever. Vermont’s House Agriculture Committee recently approved a GE labeling bill. Although the bill was also moved through the same committee last year, it was introduced too late in order to bring to a vote of the entire Vermont legislature. The passage of the bill early in the year, notes Andrea Standler of Rural Vermont, means that it will have a good chance of making it through the legislative process. Meanwhile, a GE labeling bill was recently  introduced in both the Minnesota House and Senate. “It’s such a basic right, the right to know what’s in the food you’re eating,” says Representative Karen Clark, who introduced the House version of the bill. “This legislation is really a very moderate step. It doesn’t ban genetically modified ingredients. It just lets consumers know about them so they can make their own choices.”

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic Seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers.

For a discussion on federal and local GE labeling efforts and what we can do to protect food security and biodiversity, including strategies to move forward, join us for our 31st National Pesticide Forum in New Mexico April 5-6. Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety will be joined by local organic farmers and organizers, including: Eleanor Bravo of Food and Water Watch–NM, who helped with New Mexico’s labeling bill, and Isaura Andaluz, executive director of Cuatro Puertas and the only member of AC21 to dissent in the report on strengthening coexistence among agricultural production methods because of the undue burden it places on organic farmers. For more information and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source(s): New York Times, The Garden Island, CT Post, Natural News
Image Source: Justlabelit.org

Share

11
Mar

New Legislation and Sequestration Will Limit Pesticide Oversight

(Beyond Pesticides, March 11, 2013) Recent sequester cuts and new proposed Congressional legislation could dramatically affect the safety of American waterways. According to a February 25 email, the White House Council on Environmental Quality estimates that the recent sequester could reduce federal funding for state environmental programs by $154 million. These cuts, which kicked in March 1, impact all states, with California losing the most funding totaling $12.4 million. The email also contains estimates that grants to federal fish and wildlife programs would be cut by $46.2 million. As these cuts begin to take effect, U.S. Representative Bob Gibbs (R-OH) introduced the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2013 (H.R. 935) on March 4. This bill, which is similar to a piece of legislation that was passed in the house in 2011, will eliminate the requirement for pesticide applicators to file Clean Water Act (CWA) permits for applications where pesticides could be discharged into water.

The recent sequester has led to losses in “environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste,” according to the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The cuts that could most affect states’ ability to enforce pesticide regulations are the cuts to states’ clean water revolving funds. State clean water revolving funds were created in 1987 under section 319 of CWA. State revolving funds allow states to provide financial assistance to local municipalities to undertake water quality projects such as regulating agricultural runoff and other non-point pollution sources. Cuts to these programs may be higher than the estimated $154 million. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said in September of 2012 that state revolving funds could be cut by approximately $196 million in fiscal 2013 under sequestration.

These sequester cuts will come into effect at the same time Rep. Gibbs introduces H.R. 935. This legislation had passed the U.S. House of Representatives on March 31, 2011 as H.R. 872 but the full Senate failed to consider it during the last Congress, although it was adopted by the Senate Agriculture Committee. This bill, which has bipartisan support, would amend CWA by eliminating the requirement of a National Pollutant Discharge System (NPDES) permit for the use of pesticides already approved for use under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)FIFRA.

In 2009, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the case of the National Cotton Council et al. v. EPA that pesticides discharged into water are pollutants and use pertmits are required under the CWA’s NPDES. This ruling overturned Bush administration policy that created exemptions from regulation for pesticides under the CWA and applied the less protective standards of the FIFRA. CWA uses a health-based standard, known as maximum contamination levels (MCLs), to protect waterways and requires permits when chemicals are directly deposited into rivers, lakes and streams, whereas FIFRA uses a highly generalized risk assessment that does not consider the availability of safer alternatives.

The proponents of this legislation claim that requiring a CWA permit creates a double layer of red tape that is costly to the agriculture industry and consumers. However, FIFRA and CWA are complementary laws and the CWA permit process only affects a relatively small number of pesticide applications. The two statutes have fundamentally different standards and methods in determining whether a pesticide will have unreasonable adverse effects on the environment and/or human health. CWA has a “zero discharge” standard, meaning any amount of discharge, no matter how small, without a permit, constitutes a violation of the CWA. Risk assessment-based standards under FIFRA, on the other hand, are weaker. Risk/benefit allows a certain amount of pollution (i.e. risk) in exchange for controversial calculations of benefit and use a threshold of harm that can vary upon EPA discretion. Since the lawsuit, EPA has adopted a general permit for agricultural use of pesticides, however, under the law states can adjust requirements for permits based on senstive areas or use patterns that they believe should be subject to health and safety reviews.

Companion legislation, A bill to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to improve the use of certain registered pesticides (S. 175), was introduced in the Senate this January by Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Mike Johanns (R-NE). The bill has been referred to the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.

A good example of problems that may arise when states cannot enforce CWA permits is captured in a recent report on water testing for a problem chemical not tracked currently in the state of Hawaii. The report found that atrazine had run off into rivers, streams and groundwater sources on the islands. The Hawaii Department of Agriculture almost exclusively relies on label compliance, according to Thomas Matsuda, manager of its pesticide program, which is similar to the sole reliance on pesticide registration under H.R 935.

To keep up-to-date on Congressional and government agency actions, sign-up for Beyond Pesticides’ action alerts and visit our Threatened Waters page.

Source: Agri-Pulse, Bloomberg News

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

Share

08
Mar

Water Testing for Atrazine Severely Lacking in Hawaii

(Beyond Pesticides, March 8, 2013) Sugarcane and pineapple production in Hawaii is threatening aquatic life as years of atrazine applications, a pesticide regularly used for corn production too, has run off into rivers, streams, and groundwater sources.

Recent reviews by Hawaiian news atrazineservice Civil Beat found that water testing for the chemical is not tracked currently in the state of Hawaii, despite requirements by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulatory limits under the Clean Water Act. Instead, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture almost exclusively relies on label compliance, according to Thomas Matsuda, manager of its pesticide program. Monitoring problems have been compounded by understaffing, with only six inspectors for the state of Hawaii. Not surprising, close examination of atrazine sales records by Civil Beat indicate that the largest buyers of the chemical are Hawaiian seed corn companies Monsanto and Mycogen. Syngenta recently reached a class action settlement in City of Greeneville v. Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc., providing the Kaua’i Department of Water with $6,692.96 for atrazine clean-up expenses.

Atrazine is used nationwide to kill broadleaf and grassy weeds primarily in corn crops. A potent toxicant, atrazine is known to be associated with infertility, low birth weight, and abnormal infant development in humans. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledges that the chemical may harm the reproductive and endocrine systems in fish species, while the EPA acknowledges its toxicity to algae and plant life.

Clearly, there has been a major failure of the EPA to impose and enforce strong regulations on pesticides that are known to be harmful to human health and the environment. Recent reports released by the Natural Resources Defense Council indicate that one-third of waterways tested have levels of atrazine five to ten times higher than EPA limits. Likely, Hawaii has similar problems with its waterways, considering drinking water —which is indeed tested— has repeatedly been shown to be contaminated with low levels of atrazine, mostly on the Big Island, according to the Hawaii Department of Health. Notice from the image that Hawaii is ranked 10th among the states for the percentage of its population exposed to atrazine in drinking water. While levels of exposure have been below the purported safe limits allowed by EPA, researchers have warned that fetal development may be impaired at levels below the EPA standards of 3.2 parts per billion.

Similarly, low levels of exposure to atrazine are known to impact plant and aquatic life. Particularly for the island state of Hawaii, water contamination has been shown to bleach corals and harm phytoplankton, an algae and important food source to much aquatic life. In fish and amphibians, atrazine can also reduce resilience against infections, disrupt endocrine hormones and slow growth rates, according to Jason Rohr, Ph.D., a specialist in ecotoxicology at the University of South Florida.

In 2011, EPA published a petition to ban atrazine. Beyond Pesticides submitted comments last year in support of this petition in which we outline in detail the numerous reasons that this chemical is harmful and unnecessary.

The role of environmental factors on growth and development in amphibians will be a topic of discussion at the 31st National Pesticide Forum on April 5-6, 2013 at University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. Conference speaker Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D.,  professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, will discuss his research on pesticides, including atrazine, as a cause of serious deformities for amphibians. We invite you to join researchers, authors, organic business leaders, elected officials, activists, and others to discuss the latest pesticide science, policy solutions, and grassroots action. For more information, including a full speaker list please see the Forum webpage. Register now!

Source: Civil Beat

Image Source: New York Times

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

Share

07
Mar

Doctors and Nurses Urge B.C. Government to Ban Cosmetic Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2013) A group of Canadian doctors and health advocates are urging the provincial government of British Columbia (B.C.) to ban the use of all cosmetic pesticides for lawns and gardens. The campaign, lead by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) along with the David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defense began charging forward again Tuesday, despite setbacks last year, with an open letter signed by over 100 doctors urging the government to “enact a provincewide ban on the use and sale of non-essential pesticides.””Chemicals are used quite widely in many communities. They threaten kids, they threaten pets, and they threaten drinking water,” Gideon Foreman, the executive director of CAPE told CBC News.

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. The Canadian Cancer Society has also warned pesticide exposure may increase the risk of certain cancers and calls for a ban on cosmetic pesticides.

In May 2012, health and environmental advocacy groups were disappointed when a special committee in the Canadian provincial government of BC made the recommendation not to enact an all-out ban on cosmetic pesticides. The proposed rules would restrict the use and sale of some cosmetic pesticides and expand public education programs, but stop short of sanctioning an all-out ban. Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Bill Bennett explains, “The majority of the committee does not think the scientific evidence, at this time, warrants an outright ban.” The committee’s conclusion is in opposition to overwhelming support from the public (over 70% of British Columbians supported the legislation) and scientific community, and the Liberal BC Premier’s explicit endorsement of the ban.

According to The Vancouver Sun, the provincial government is making some changes to the Integrated Pest Management, however they fall short of the outright ban pledged by Premier Christy Clark during her Liberal leadership campaign. Instead, the legislation introduced a bill that would require a license to apply cosmetic pesticides. However, Mr. Forman told CBC News, “Even if these chemicals are used by licensed people, they are dangerous. Just because you have a licence it doesn’t make a poison less poisonous.”

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. Manitoba will likely be joining this list. 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:Richmond, CAWashington, D.C., which restricts the use of pesticides on District property, near waterways, and in schools and day care centers; Ohio’s Cuyoga County successfully banned a majority of toxic pesticide uses on county property; and the City of Greenbelt, MD. 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. Additionally, several communities in Cape Cod, Massachusetts are currently in the process of moving towards organic land care as a norm in their public spaces.

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: The Vancouver Sun, CBC News

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

Share

06
Mar

Minnesota State Agencies Will No Longer Purchase Products Containing Triclosan

(Beyond Pesticides, March 6, 2013) The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced on March 3rd that state agencies have been ordered by Governor Mark Dayton to stop buying products that contain triclosan, a synthetic, broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent that has become ubiquitous in consumer products ranging from face-washes to fabrics. This ban, which will go into effect in June, comes as the debate over the efficacy and necessity of triclosan intensifies in the Minnesota State legislature. A bill banning triclosan’s use outside of medical settings is expected to be introduced this week, and the legislature conducted a hearing Tuesday on the possible human health and environmental consequences of the chemical.

The state government, about 100 school districts, and local governments together currently buy about $1 million worth of cleaning products annually through joint purchasing contracts. Many of these products contain triclosan, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded in 2010 that products containing triclosan are no more effective than plain old-fashioned soap and water.

“There are alternatives, and they are at the same price,” said Cathy Moeger, sustainability manager for the Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency. “If it has an environmental benefit, why not do it?”

Triclosan has been used for over 30 years in the United States. Its original uses were confined mostly to health care settings, as it was first introduced in the health care industry as a surgical scrub in 1972. Over the last decade, there has been a rapid increase in the use of triclosan-containing products. A marketplace study in 2000 by Eli Perencevich, M.D. and colleagues found that over 75% of liquid soaps and nearly 30% of bar soaps (45% of all the soaps on the market) contained some type of anti- bacterial agent. Triclosan was the most common agent found, and was discovered in nearly half of all commercial soaps. Other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in umbilical cord blood and human breast milk. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also found triclosan to be present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 50% since 2004.

There have also been concerns related to triclosan’s link to dioxin. Dioxin can be highly carcinogenic and can cause health problems as severe as weakening of the immune system, decreased fertility, altered sex hormones, miscarriage, birth defects, and cancer. Because of the chemical structure as a polychlorophenoxy phenol, it is possible that dioxin can be found in triclosan from synthesis impurities. In addition to being formed during the manufacturing process, dioxin may also be formed upon incineration of triclosan.

Through several studies, triclosan has been shown to be harmful to human environmental health. Researchers from the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) and the University of Colorado found that the chemical impairs muscle function in fish and mice and stated that the results they found show “strong evidence that triclosan could have effects on animal and human health at current levels of exposure.” Issac Passah, Ph.D., co-author of the muscle function study and chair of the Department of Molecular Biosciences  at UC Davis will be speaking at Beyond Pesticides’ 31st National Pesticide Forum. The forum takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico and runs from Friday, April 5th to Saturday the 6th. Triclosan can alter thyroid function  and is an endocrine disruptor which has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development.

These policy changes in Minnesota come after a recent study that shows triclosan toxicants are accumulating in the bottom of lakes and rivers in Minnesota. Scientists tested eight sediment samples from freshwater lakes across Minnesota, including Lake Superior.

Bill Arnold, Ph.D., co-author of the study and professor at University of Minnesota notes, “We found that in all the lakes there’s triclosan in the sediment, and in general, the concentration increased from when triclosan was invented in 1964 to present day. And we also found there are seven other compounds that are derivatives or degradation products of triclosan that are also in the sediment an also increasing in concentration with time.”

Some of the breakdown products that scientists discovered were polychlorodibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), a group of chemicals known to be toxic to both humans and wildlife.

All of the lakes tested are end routes for wastewater treatment plants. Researchers explain that triclosan undergoes a chemical reaction in treatment plants during the last stage of the purification process, when chlorine is mixed with wastewater.

Dr. Arnold continues, “Triclosan goes through the wastewater treatment system, and the wastewater treatment plant actually does a pretty darn good job of removing it. 90 to 95 percent of it is taken out, but we use so much triclosan that the rest of it gets through, and three of the compounds we found are chlorinated triclosan derivatives, and they’re formed in the last step of wastewater treatment, when the wastewater is disinfected before it’s discharged and the disinfectant is chlorine. So that creates these three new compounds. And then triclosan and these three new compounds, when they’re exposed to sunlight, each of them undergoes a reaction that forms a dioxin, so that’s where the other four compounds come from.”

Dr. Arnold notes that triclosan and its breakdown contaminants have the potential to build up in the ocean, as well as in freshwater lakes. University of Minnesota’s research follows a 2010 study that showed triclosan’s potential to disrupt aquatic ecosystems by inhibiting photosynthesis in algae and killing beneficial bacteria.

This push for policy change is also coming from solid grassroots activist work by groups like Friends of the Mississippi River.  Trevor Russell, watershed program manager for Friends of the Mississippi River, said the decision, signed by Gov. Mark Dayton, sends an important signal.

“When the [state] steps up and says we are going to stop using, it builds public support,” he said.

Beyond Pesticides urges concerned consumers to join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge  to stop using triclosan today. Read the label of personal care products in order to avoid those containing triclosan. Encourage your local schools, government agencies, and local businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, school, or company to adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.

To learn more about triclosan please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Antibacterial page.

Source: Star Tribune

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

Share

05
Mar

Silver Nanoparticles in Sewage Sludge Found to Disrupt Ecosystems

(Beyond Pesticides, March 5, 2013) Low concentrations of silver nanoparticles can cause significant disruptions to natural ecosystems, find scientists at Duke University. This research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, provides a “real-world” look at the effects of this increasingly ubiquitous material in our environment.

Although nanotechnology may have great potential to provide critical breakthroughs in medicine and electronics, one specific material, silver nanoparticles or nanosilver, is particularly suspect in terms of human and environmental health due to its antimicrobial properties and a lack of thorough testing. Nanosilver is found in a wide range of consumer products, including sun screen, children’s toys and pacifiers, toothpaste, and disinfectants. After the material is used, it often makes its way down our drains and into our wastewater treatment plants. Because of the material’s small size, treatment plants are unable to filter out the nanosilver. This causes them to be concentrated in the wastewater treatment plant’s sewage sludge, which is subsequently dried and marketed as a fertilizer under the innocuous label “biosolids.” Sewage sludge represents the primary pathway for nanosilver’s entry into our environment, as an estimated 60% of the average 5.6 million tons of biosolids produced each year in the U.S. are land applied.  While nanosilver is rapidly added to consumer goods and processed into sewage sludge, the emerging science surrounding this substance reinforces the need for a precautionary approach with stringent government regulation and oversight.

In order to get an idea of the real-world effects of nanosilver, the researchers created a number of mesocosms -small structures containing various plants and microorganisms intended to mimic the natural environment. Sewage sludge was then applied to the mesocosms in varying concentrations and compared after 50 days. Notably, the researchers included a positive control by creating a mesocosm with high levels of silver nitrate. Their expectations were that lower levels of nanosilver would not cause the same adverse effects as the high levels of silver nitrate. However, the scientists found a number of negative effects that were as large or larger than the effects of silver nitrate. Both microorganisms and plants were affected by the presence of low levels of nanosilver. One of the plants studied, a common grass known as Microstegium vimeneum, produced 32% less biomass in nanosilver treated mesocosms compared to the control. While both M. vimineum and another plant, Lobelia cardinalis, concentrated the nanosilver in their tissue, only M. vimineum showed reduced growth, indicating that the effects of nanosilver may vary from plant to plant.

Microorganism communities were significantly disturbed by the nanosilver treatment. Researchers observed changes in their abundance, function, and community composition. Enzymes that indicate a microbial community’s ability to decompose organic matter, and are also associated with a microbes’ ability to handle external stress showed marked decreases which fell in accord with the loss of overall microbial biomass. Along with the 35% drop in biomass was a decline in microbial diversity which occurred on the first day after the nanosilver application. This indicates that nanosilver may cause acute non-target effects on microbial communities, which jeopardizes an important aspect of maintaining healthy soil.

“Our results show that silver nanoparticles in the biosolids, added at concentrations that would be expected, caused ecosystem-level impacts,” notes lead author Benjamin Colman, Ph.D. “Specifically, the nanoparticles led to an increase in nitrous oxide fluxes, changes in microbial community composition, biomass, and extracellular enzyme activity, as well as species-specific effects on the above-ground vegetation.”

The scientists’ note that their next step is to look at the longer term effects of silver nanoparticles, and to examine another increasingly common nanoparticle, titanium dioxide.

This study comes on the heels of a Dutch study published early last month which revealed the harmful effects of silver imbued sewage sludge on earthworm health. With growing evidence that sewage sludge containing nanosilver damages soil and ecosystem health. Beyond Pesticides urges consumers to contact their representatives about this issue demand they tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate these substances.

Currently, the chemical testing methodologies for nanotechnology are outdated, manufacturers do not fully disclose the nanoparticles that are incorporated in their products, and there is a critical lack of governmental oversight and regulation. As there are no requirements for labeling nanoparticles in the U.S., consumers are largely in the dark. Many of the products containing nanomaterials on the market now are for skin care and cosmetics, but nanomaterials are also increasingly being used in products ranging from medical therapies to food additives to electronics. In 2009, developers generated $1 billion from the sale of nanomaterials, and the market for products that rely on these materials is expected to grow to $3 trillion by 2015.

USDA organic certified products are the last refuge for consumers wanting to avoid nanomaterials. The National Organic Standards Board imposed a general ban over nanotechnology in its fall 2010 meeting, although USDA’s National Organic Program has never initiated rulemaking on the subject. Overall, little is being done to review, regulate, or safety test nanotechnology that is currently being used in conventional agriculture and food processing, ingredients and packaging. Avoid biosolids that are marketed as “organic” fertilizers, as they can contain ecosystem damaging nanosilver.

Speakers at the 31st Annual Pesticide Forum will address the wide range of regulatory failures perpetuated by our current system of government oversight. Join us in Albuqueque, New Mexico from April 5-6 for a discussion on the alternatives already present and strategies we all can take to promote a future with Sustainable Families, Farms and Food.

Source(s):  Duke University, Futurity

Share

04
Mar

Multiple Studies Stress the Importance of Wild Pollinators

(Beyond Pesticides, March 4, 2013) Two studies released on February 28th in the journal Science detail the dramatic decline of wild pollinators and their effectiveness in producing seeds and fruit on crops in comparison to domesticated honey bees. The study conducted on the effectiveness of wild pollinators, which was led by Lucas A. Garibaldi Sc.D. of Universidad Nacional de Río Negro in Argentina, collected data at 600 test fields on all continents except Antarctica for 41 crop systems.

These studies come on the heels of a possible suspension of neonicotinoid insecticides, which have been linked to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), by states in the European Union. In the United States action currently looks less likely, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has moved to register sulfoxaflor, which the agency has classified as “very highly toxic to bees.”

These studies note that even though large active colonies of honey bees are useful for pollination, they cannot fully replace the contributions of diverse, wild insects in plant pollinations. Dr. Garbaldi’s study calls for, among other policy recommendations, “consideration of pollinator safety as it relates to pesticide application.”

The first of these two studies, led by Laura A. Burkle Ph.D., was titled “Plant-Pollinator Interactions over 120 Years: Loss of Species, Co-Occurrence and Function.” Using historical data sets, the study found that more than half of wild bee species were lost in the 20th Century in the U.S. and that the quantity and quality of pollination services have declined through time. The study also found that mismatches between when wild pollinators were active and when flowers were active was problematic and consistent with the growth of climate change. On the positive side, the study also found that pollination systems showed flexibly in response to disturbances, however these systems are also incredibly compromised and further loses would have dire impacts. The study stated, “Further interaction mismatches and reductions in population sizes are likely to have substantial negative consequences for this crucial ecosystem service.”

The second of these studies, led by Dr. Garibaldi, was titled “Wild Pollinators Enhance Fruit Set of Crops regardless of Honey Bee Abundance.” This study also found that diversity and abundance of wild insect pollinators have declined in many areas of the world. This study then went on to examine and compare the effectiveness of wild pollinators and honey bees. The study found that wild insects pollinated crops more effectively because increases in their visitation enhanced fruit sets by twice as much as equivalent increase in honey bee visitation.

The study found that the amount of times a fruit was visited by pollinators and the amount of pollen that was deposited on the fruit affected fruit set less strongly than the quality of the pollen deposited on the fruit. On average honey bees deposited a much greater amount of pollen on fruits, however wild pollinators provided higher quality pollen, such as greater cross-pollination. Honey bees have been generally viewed as an acceptable substitute for wild pollinators; however this report highlights the importance of not just examining pollen deposits but also the amount of fruit sets. By only focusing on studies of pollen deposits, the importance of wild pollinators is understated. The study also helps stress the importance of biodiversity. Using a single species of bee, such as honey bees, as the lone pollinator of agricultural crops can leave our food system vulnerable. Lone pollinator species are more susceptible to diseases and parasites such as varroa mites, which can destabilize the colony and lead to crops being left unpollinated.

Pollinators from bats to bees have been facing greater and greater environmental pressures that limit their ability to perform critical agricultural services in the U.S. The European Union (EU), however, is looking to take steps to protect pollinators by pushing states to impose a two-year suspension of the use of neonicotinoid insecticides. The proposal, put forward at a meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, would restrict the application of neonicotinoids as granules, seed-treatment, or spray on crops that are attractive to bees, particularly sunflowers, rapeseed, corn, cotton, and cereal crops.

The announcement came after research conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) indicated that three neonicotinoid insecticides—imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam, produced by Switzerland’s Syngenta and Germany’s Bayer, pose an unacceptable hazards to honey bees.

In its report released January 16, EFSA concludes that systemic contamination of neonicotinoid-treated crops, neonicotinoid dust exposure, and contaminated nectar and pollen contributes to declines in honey bees and weakens their hives. High risks were also identified from exposure to guttation fluid from corn for thiamethoxam.

Even in the United Kingdom, where it seems less likely that the government will suspend the use of neonicitinoids, hardware retailers B&Q, Wicks, Homebase, and other garden stores will stop stocking products with these insecticides after a campaign run by Friends of the Earth.

“We are pleased to see action being taken in the EU to protect bees from hazardous insecticides,” said Jay Feldman, Executive Director at Beyond Pesticides. “Their actions will set a precedent for future decisions at EPA.”

However, EPA has been far less receptive to acting on public demands to ban neonicitoniod insecticides. In 2012 EPA rejected a petition requesting the agency suspend the bee-killing pesticide clothianidin. EPA further jeopardized the safety of pollinators by proposing to register a new insecticide, sulfoxaflor, which the agency has classified as “very highly toxic” to honey bees.

Sulfoxaflor is a new active ingredient whose mode of action is similar to that of neonicotinoid pesticides -it acts on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) in insects. Even though it has not been classified as a neonicotinoid, it elicits similar neurological responses in honey bees, with many believing that sulfoxaflor is a new generation of neonicotinoid. EPA has noted that sulfoxaflor is highly toxic to bees, and other studies are reporting inconclusive effects on bee brood development, even though high mortalities were observed.

From April 5-6, Beyond Pesticides is convening its 31st National Pesticide Forum. New Mexican honey bee inspector, president of the New Mexico Beekeepers Association, and a beekeeper for over 30 years, Les Crowder, will address the forum on organic and natural solutions for problems commonly treated with chemicals, and the role beekeepers can play in protecting biodiversity. Join us in Albuqueque, New Mexico for a discussion on strategies that we all can take to protect pollinators.

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

Source: The Guardian

Share
  • Archives

  • Categories

    • Agriculture (545)
    • Announcements (523)
    • Antibacterial (105)
    • Aquaculture (19)
    • Beneficials (9)
    • Biofuels (6)
    • Biological Control (2)
    • Biomonitoring (17)
    • Cannabis (14)
    • Children/Schools (197)
    • Climate Change (23)
    • Environmental Justice (83)
    • Events (73)
    • Farmworkers (87)
    • Fracking (1)
    • Golf (11)
    • Health care (28)
    • Holidays (24)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (41)
    • International (263)
    • Invasive Species (26)
    • Label Claims (39)
    • Lawns/Landscapes (165)
    • Litigation (257)
    • Nanotechnology (52)
    • National Politics (361)
    • Pesticide Drift (93)
    • Pesticide Regulation (579)
    • Pesticide Residues (89)
    • Pets (15)
    • Resistance (55)
    • Rodenticide (17)
    • Take Action (343)
    • Uncategorized (62)
    • Wildlife/Endangered Sp. (281)
    • Wood Preservatives (21)