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Daily News Blog

01
Aug

Growing Body of Research Shows Gynecological Diseases Linked to Environmental Contaminants

(Beyond Pesticides, August 1, 2012) New research is adding to the evidence that some pesticides and industrial chemicals may increase women’s risk of uterine and ovarian diseases, such as endometriosis. The research supports the decades old theory that hormone-mimicking chemicals impact human reproductive systems.

Scientists have long suspected a link between estrogen-mimicking pollutants and gynecological diseases. According to Environmental Health News, research investigating a link between hormone-disrupting chemicals in the environment and gynecological diseases has had mixed results. But a new study, “Persistent Lipophilic Environmental Chemicals and Endometriosis: The ENDO Study,” from researchers at the National Institutes of Health and others, found that two groups of women in the Salt Lake City and San Francisco areas – one group with pelvic pain and the other with no symptoms — were more likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis if they had high blood levels of the estrogen-like pesticide hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) than women with low levels. HCH, a persistent organic pollutant (POP), and a byproduct of the production of the insecticide lindane (head lice treatments), has been banned as a crop pesticide in the United States but it persists in the environment and remains in some food supplies. Endometriosis is a female health disorder that occurs when uterine tissue grows in the ovaries or other parts of the body, often causing pelvic pain and infertility. It affects approximately 10% of women of reproductive age.

Similarly, in Italy, women had endometriosis more often if they had higher levels of two chlorinated chemicals that can disrupt hormones –polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) or residue of the insecticide DDT, according to a 2009 study, “Endometriosis and Organochlorinated Environmental Pollutants: A Case–Control Study on Italian Women of Reproductive Age,” which looked at exposure to organochlorine persistent pollutants as a risk factor for endometriosis.

Recent research has uncovered links to other gynecological problems. Women in Greece diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) -which causes irregular menstrual periods, infertility, weight gain and excessive hair growth– were more likely to have higher blood levels of the estrogen-mimicking chemical bisphenol A than women without the disease, according to a study published last year.

Another recent study, “Environmentally Induced Epigenetic Transgenerational Inheritance of Ovarian Disease,” found that female rats exposed in the womb to high doses of several chemicals, including pesticides and plasticizers, develop cysts resembling human polycystic ovarian syndrome and premature menopause. These changes are passed down through three generations –great-granddaughters of the exposed rats also developed cysts and other ovarian problems, even though they were not directly exposed. In this study, vinclozolin, a fungicide commonly used in the wine industry, reprogrammed genes as the rat fetuses developed according to DNA analysis. Other chemicals in this study that caused multi-generational effects were dioxins, a pesticide mixture including permethrin and DEET, and a plastic mixture including BPA and two widely used phthalates.

Exposure to many hormone-disrupting chemicals starts in the womb, and some scientists suspect the timing may be important in determining reproductive disease risk later in life. But because decades can pass between exposure during fetal development or early childhood and the manifestation of the disease in adult life, it can be difficult to nail down a link.

Some studies have found no connection between women’s exposure to environmental chemicals and gynecological disease. For instance, among several hundred women in Italy highly exposed to dioxins from a 1976 factory explosion, UC Berkeley scientists found no significant increase in endometriosis linked to their contaminant levels. However, emerging data is beginning to paint another picture regarding environmental contaminants and reproductive health. Previous research documented by Beyond Pesticides has shown that women who drink water containing the widely used herbicide atrazine may be more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles and low estrogen levels, even at concentrations far below federal drinking water standards considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The danger of estrogen-like chemicals already has been well-documented with DES, or diethylstilbestrol, a drug that was prescribed to millions of women at risk of miscarriages from 1940 through 1971. Daughters and granddaughters of the pregnant women who took the potent estrogenic drug had an increased risk of endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and rare reproductive cancers. In the case of uterine fibroids, the body’s natural estrogens turn genes on and off in the smooth muscle of the uterus that allow the tumors to grow, according to researchers. Investigations are underway to determine whether estrogen-mimicking chemicals in the environment affect these same genes.

“We know from animal models that there are critical periods during early development when cells are rapidly dividing and forming the circuitry through which cells will communicate with each other to form various tissues of the body,” said Retha Newbold, PhD, a reproductive biologist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina. “When chemicals alter this set-up, the changes may not be reversible.”

Pesticides have been linked to a host of diseases and other adverse effects like cancer, Parkinson’s disease and birth defects. Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced-Disease Database documents these outcomes.

Source: Environmental Health News

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

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31
Jul

Richmond, California Unanimously Approves Pesticide Restrictions

(Beyond Pesticides, July 31, 2012) Last week, Richmond, California’s City Council unanimously approved a pesticide reform ordinance targeting the use of toxic chemical pesticides within city boundaries. Barring a public health emergency or immediate threat to city property, the regulation bans city departments from using any pesticide considered a known carcinogen (Toxicity Category I and II) by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. It also prohibits city workers and contractors from applying pesticide products which contain highly toxic organophosphate and carbamate class chemicals. Moreover, with the implementation of the new ordinance, picnic areas, playgrounds, and riparian areas will be considered “no-spray” zones. In other public areas, the legislation puts a strong emphasis on non-chemical methods of pest prevention and control. It would allow the use of least-toxic pesticides only as a last resort, with the intention to significantly reduce or eliminate the use of and exposure to pesticides. The legislation also requires all city departments involved in pest management to submit an implementation plan and undergo training and education programs on least-toxic pest control.

According to Roger Roberts of the Contra Costa Times, when the City Council first considered the ordinance in June, some were skeptical of the proposal. They felt that changing pest control practices would put an unnecessary burden on the city’s finances. However, after Parks and Landscape Superintendent Chris Chamberlain explained that his department had already begun to implement a least-toxic pest control strategy without increasing the financial cost to the city, dissenters of the proposal agreed to support the plan. “We just point you to it, and you get it done and do it well,” remarked Corky Booze, who was converted by Mr. Chamberlains’ assurances. The Parks and Landscape department oversees pest management practices on over 600 acres of city land on a $4 million budget. Mr. Chamberlain added that, within the past 2 years, the department has decreased their use of carcinogenic pesticides by over 40 percent.

The passage of this ordinance adds to the growing movement across the country calling for increased restrictions on the use of dangerous chemicals in the public sphere. In addition to Richmond, CA, Beyond Pesticides has worked with localities throughout the U.S. in an effort to promote organic land care systems and restrict the hazardous use of chemicals. Washington D.C. recently passed legislation 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, prioritizing the use of natural, organic, horticultural and maintenance practices with an Organic Pest Management (OPM) program. The City of Greenbelt, Maryland also has a law that completely eliminates the use of cosmetic pesticides through a phase out period, and includes a requirement that all city contractors follow OPM and organic land care management. The village of New Paltz, New York has a “Healthy Turf and Landscape Policy,” which emphasizes the precautionary principle, and only allows the use of pesticides if a pest problem poses a threat to public health. 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.

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

Organic land management is practical and economical. Opponents may claim that organic management will cost more money, or put the fields at risk for disease and weed infestation; however, in a Cornell University study of turf, chemically maintained turf is more susceptible to disease. Another report prepared by Grassroots Environmental Education and Beyond Pesticides’ Board Member Chip Osborne for the New York State legislature concludes that organic approaches can save money. The report compares the relative costs of maintaining a typical high school football field using a chemical-intensive program and an organic program over a five-year period and finds that the annual cost of maintaining an organic field can be as much as 25% lower than the cost of chemical-based programs. The Parks and Recreation Department in Branford, Connecticut has a successful organic land care program resulting in more attractive playing fields at a decreased cost to taxpayers. Furthermore, Harvard University saved two million gallons of water a year by managing the grounds organically, as irrigation needs have been reduced by 30 percent. Previously, it cost Harvard $35,000 a year to get rid of “landscape waste” from its campus grounds. Now that cost is gone because the school keeps all grass clippings, leaves and branches for composting and making compost teas. This in turn saves the university an additional $10,000 from having to purchase fertilizers elsewhere.

For more information on organic-based, pesticide-free lawn and landscape management, see Beyond Pesticides Lawns and Landscapes program page. Beyond Pesticides encourages concerned citizens to stand up and make their voices heard in their community. If you’d like to join Richmond, California and help ban pesticide use in your community’s public spaces, contact Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450 or at [email protected].

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

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29
Jul

EPA Asks for Public Comment on Petition to Ban Pesticide Deadly to Bees, Senators Urge Expedited Action

(Beyond Pesticides, July 30, 2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened a 60-day public comment period on the agency’s decision to deny the request by beekeepers to immediately suspend the use of clothianidin, a pesticide that poses harm to pollinators. The legal petition was filed earlier this year by 25 beekeepers and environmental organizations, and cites significant acute and chronic bee kills across the United States linked to neonicotinoid pesticides, particularly clothianidin. On Thursday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, called for an expedited review of pesticides that could be inadvertently decimating honey bee populations. The letter is also signed by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). EPA is not expected to complete its review until 2018, and any implementation plans could take years beyond that to complete. Given that Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has decreased the U.S. bee population by 30 percent since 2006, Senator Gillibrand is urging a quicker timeframe, asking that it be completed by the end of next year.

“Our agriculture industry is vital to the upstate New York’s economy,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Our farmers need honey bees to pollinate our crops and produce. However, certain pesticides may be unintentionally killing off the honey bee population. By expediting this review, we can help save our honey bee population and grow our agricultural economies.” Honey bees are vital to the health of agricultural industries in New York as one in three bites of food is reliant on honey bee pollination.

In her letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Senator Gillibrand wrote, “Protecting honey bees and other pollinators is vital to American agriculture. In fact, one in three bites of food is reliant on honey bee pollination, and threats to pollinators concern the entire food system and could drive up the cost of food in this country. Highlighting the economic importance of pollinators, a recent study by Cornell University found that insect pollination results in a value of more than $15 billion annually.”

This spring and summer, beekeepers from New York to Ohio and Minnesota are reporting extraordinarily large bee die-offs, due, in part, to exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides. The die-offs are similar to what beekeepers have reported in the past few weeks in Canada (where EPA has admitted there are 120 bee kill reports, a huge number). On average, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that beekeepers have been losing over 30% of their honey bee colonies each year since 2006 –but some are losing many more times that number.

Neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid and thiamethoxam in addition to clothianidin, are highly toxic to a range of insects, including honey bees and other pollinators. They are particularly dangerous because, in addition to being acutely toxic in high doses, they also result in serious sublethal effects when insects are exposed to chronic low doses, as they are through pollen and water droplets laced with the chemical as well as dust that is released into the air when treated seeds that have been coated with the chemicals are planted. Previous research has shown that these effects cause significant problems for the health of individual honey bees as well as the overall health of honey bee colonies, including disruptions in mobility, navigation, feeding behavior, foraging activity, memory and learning, and overall hive activity.

The emergency legal petition to EPA was filed on March 21, 2012 and asked the agency to suspend all registrations for pesticides containing clothianidin. The petition, which is supported by over one million citizen petition signatures worldwide, targets the pesticide for its harmful impacts on honey bees. The legal petition establishes that EPA failed to follow its own regulations when it granted a conditional, or temporary, registration to clothianidin in 2003 without a required field study establishing that the pesticide would have no “unreasonable adverse effects” on pollinators. The granting of the conditional registration was contingent upon the subsequent submission of an acceptable field study, but this requirement has not been met. EPA continues to allow the use of clothianidin nine years after acknowledging that it had an insufficient legal basis for initially allowing its use. Additionally, the product labels on pesticides containing clothianidin are inadequate to prevent excessive damage to non-target organisms, which is a second violation of the requirements for using a pesticide and further warrants removing all such mislabeled pesticides from use.

TAKE ACTION: Tell EPA to suspend clothianidin. Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID number EPA-HQ-OPP-2012-0334-0015 at www.regulations.gov, or by clicking on this link. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments (please note that only the fields with asterisks are required).

The original petition can be found here. Additionally, the agency has published an electronic docket with the petition, the partial response, and other supporting material available for viewing.

For more information on how pesticides affect pollinators and what you can do to help, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinator Program page.

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

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27
Jul

Pesticides Detected in Long Island Sound Lobsters for the First Time

(Beyond Pesticides, July 27, 2012) A Connecticut state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection study has detected residues of mosquito control pesticides in lobsters pulled from Long Island Sound. Using new testing technology that can detect small concentrations of substances, ten lobsters were tested for three common mosquito control chemicals: malathion, methoprene, and resmethrin. Positive results were found in the organ tissue of one lobster for methoprene and three lobsters for resmethrin. The results present the first scientific evidence that pesticides may be affecting lobsters in the Sound and are likely to further anger the Connecticut lobstering industry which, for years, has been pointing to mosquito pesticides as a likely cause of a serious decline in the lobster population of the Sound, but has been met with resistance.

Late summer declines in the Sound’s lobster population have been alarmingly common throughout much of the last decade, devastating fishers and the local economy that depends on them. A number of factors have been blamed, but the lobstering community has increasingly been pointing to mosquito pesticides for several reasons. Some, such as methoprene, have a tendency to sink to the bottom of the ocean water, where lobsters live and feed. Additionally, lobsters are a distant cousin of mosquitoes, and the chemicals act on them in much the same way that they do insects. Finally, the western part of the sound was the hardest hit. Last fall, Connecticut lobster fishers called attention to the fact that New York State was spraying these chemicals as part of its West Nile virus (WNv) control program. Not only is the western end of the Sound the area that is closest to New York, but it is also one of the areas more protected from ocean currents that would normally help to wash the chemical out into the open sea.

In 2003, it was determined by researchers at the University of Connecticut that methoprene is deadly to lobsters at concentrations of only 33 parts per billion. The research was seized upon by the lobstering community as part of its quest to seek legal recourse against chemical companies whose pesticides they blamed for widespread lobster deaths in 1999.

The fishing community has been pushing state lawmakers in Connecticut, which emphasizes least-toxic controls for mosquitoes, to open a dialogue around the issue with their counterparts in New York. Connecticut State Representative Terry Backer (D-Stratford) has taken up the fight, arranging meetings on the issue and gathering affected parties. Backer also directs a local non-profit organization that works on issues of water quality in the Sound and has called for the reintroduction of a bill that would further restrict mosquito pesticides in the state.

The WNv control plan adopted by one county on Long Island, Suffolk County, was highly controversial when first passed, partly over its planned use of methoprene. Despite major objections from other county agencies, environmentalists, and members of Suffolk’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the County Legislature passed the plan in 2007. The CEQ advises lawmakers on the environmental impact of proposed county projects and while their recommendations are non-binding, the legislature has generally followed the group’s advice. Approval of the plan caused several members of the CEQ to resign in protest.

The effect of mosquito pesticides on marine life, especially lobsters, has repeatedly come under scrutiny over the years, in Connecticut as well as in other northeastern waters, such as the Bay of Fundy. Some of the other mosquito killing chemicals suspected of causing damage to aquatic life include cypermethrin and malathion. Both are already known to be toxic to many aquatic species, including crustaceans.

Resmethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid pesticide. Pyrethroid class chemicals are synthetic versions of pyrethrin, a natural insecticide found in certain species of chrysanthemum. In addition to the serious environmental concerns surrounding their use, they can also present great risk to human health. They were initially introduced on the market as ‘safer’ alternatives to the heavily regulated and highly toxic organophosphates 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.

Communities and agencies in New York have taken a stand against unnecessary pesticide spraying in the past, in areas such as pesticide free state parks and safe school playing fields. Some would argue that the states’ outdated mosquito management scheme is inconsistent with these past actions, and that it is time to bring it in line, not only with other policies in the state regarding pesticide use, but also with the wealth of knowledge and evidence concerning the harmful effects of pesticides on human health and the environment, as well as nearby local economies.

Other municipalities around the country have consistently proven that dangerous pesticides are not necessary to effectively control mosquitoes and prevent outbreaks of West Nile virus. Prevention strategies, such as removing standing water and using least-toxic larvicides only as a last resort, have been adopted in such densely populated areas as Shaker Heights, OH and the District of Columbia. To learn more about safe and effective mosquito management strategies, visit Beyond Pesticides’ page on Mosquitoes and Insect Borne Diseases.

Source: Connecticut Mirror

Image credit: Flickr user rexhammock

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

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26
Jul

USDA Gives Final Approval to GE Sugar Beets

(Beyond Pesticides, July 26, 2012) The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced this week that it is formally deregulating a line of sugar beets genetically engineered (GE) to resist applications of the herbicide glyphosate. Developed by chemical and seed giant Monsanto Co., the new sugar beets, referred to as “Roundup Ready” (RR), were found by APHIS to not present a risk of becoming a plant pest risk and that they will and are not likely to cause a significant environmental impact. Environmental and public interest advocates, however, point to the fact that the proliferation of glyphosate-tolerant crops has already led to increased pesticide resistance among weeds, and increased pesticide use. The planting of engineered sugar beets brings with it the risk of genetic drift and cross contamination of pollen into non-GE and organic fields growing sugar beets or other related crops, such as table beets, spinach, swiss chard, and quinoa.

APHIS originally deregulated RR sugar beets in 2005. A coalition of environmental groups and organic seed companies, led by the Center for Food Safety, challenged the USDA approval in 2008. It argued that GE sugar beets would contaminate organic and non-GE farmers of related crops, such as table beets and chard, as well as increase pesticide impacts on the environment and worsen the current Roundup-resistant “superweeds” epidemic in U.S. agriculture. In September 2009, Judge Jeffrey S. White in the federal district court in San Francisco agreed, and ordered USDA to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) assessing these and other impacts, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In August 2010, after a year of vigorous litigation over the proper remedy for USDA’s unlawful approval, the court again agreed with plaintiffs, threw out the USDA’s approval, and halted planting.

Despite the absence of lawful review or a new agency decision, in summer 2010, USDA and the biotech industry, led by Monsanto, demanded the court allow planting to continue unabated. The district court refused to do so and instead set aside USDA’s approval of the crop based on the agency’s failure to comply with environmental laws. That precedential ruling was also preserved by the appeals court order. During this case’s appeal, USDA approved 2011-2012 planting of GE sugar beets under the terms of a novel permitting and “partial deregulation” scheme while it conducted the court-ordered analysis. The final EIS is available on the USDA website.

Monsanto created “Roundup Ready” crops to withstand its Roundup herbicide (with the active ingredient glyphosate). Growing other Roundup Ready crops, such as soy, cotton, and corn, have led to greater use of herbicides. It has also led to the spread of herbicide resistant weeds on millions of acres throughout the U.S. and other countries where such crops are grown, as well as contamination of conventional and organic crops, that has been costly to U.S. farmers. Due to GE crops, in large part, Roundup has become the most popular pesticide ever.

Glyphosate is a general use herbicide and has been linked to a number of serious human health effects, including increased cancer risk, neurotoxicity, and birth defects, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. One of the inert ingredients in product formulations of Roundup, polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA), kills human embryonic cells. It is also of particular concern due to its toxicity to aquatic species as well as instances of serious human health effects from acute exposure.

As researchers scramble to find new ways of chemically coping with increased weed resistance, they overlook the glaring fact that there already exist alternative systems such as organic farming, which erase the need for these drastic measures through systemic pest prevention approaches. Organic farming can be at least as productive as conventional, chemical-reliant farming while having none of the toxic side effects that create significant risks to ecosystems and human health. To learn more, see our page on organic food and agriculture.

Currently, there are commercially available glyphosate-tolerant seed varieties for corn, soybeans, canola, sorghum, and cotton. In addition to sugar beets, USDA recently approved Roundup-Ready alfalfa. Due to serious questions regarding the integrity of USDA’s environmental evaluations, public interest groups, including Beyond Pesticides, filed suit against the agency to stop its full deregulation of GE alfalfa. In January of this year, a judge in San Francisco found that the alfalfa deregulation was legal. However, organic farmers and public interest groups have vowed to appeal that decision.

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

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25
Jul

Pesticides in Air a Risk To Pregnant Women, Unborn Children

(Beyond Pesticides, July 25, 2012) A Texas border study has found that air samples in the homes of pregnant Hispanic women contain multiple household pesticides that could harm fetuses and young children. The first study of its kind conducted by the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, finds traces of both household and agricultural pesticides that have been linked to disorders such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The researchers sampled air in 25 households, finding at least five pesticides in 60 percent of the dwellings. Nine other pesticides were identified in less than one-third of the homes. All the women were in the third trimester of pregnancy, when the fetal brain undergoes a growth spurt. Numerous studies have reported birth defects and developmental problems when fetuses and infants are exposed to pesticides, especially exposures that adversely affect mental and motor development during infancy and childhood. This new report is in the summer issue of the Texas Public Health Journal sent to members this week.

The study found 92 percent of air samples contained o-phenylphenol, which is used as a fungicide, germicide and household disinfectant, while 80 percent of samples contained chlorpyrifos, used in agriculture and to kill mosquitoes and other insects. Chlorpyrifos has been well-documented as posing risks to babies exposed in the womb to brain abnormalities after birth. Researchers asked the women questions about pesticide use and exposure, proximity to agricultural fields, the frequency of spraying operations, and the detection of pesticide odors drifting from fields. Air samples were measured for multiple pesticides used in agriculture, given the close proximity of the fields to participant homes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week announced new mitigation measures to reduce bystander exposure to chlorpyrifos drift from agricultural fields, including the use of buffer zones for residential areas, schools, hospitals etc.

Propoxur, found in such products as granular baits and pet collars, was detected in 76 percent of samples. A 2011 study published in the journal NeuroToxicology found a positive link between exposure to the pesticide propoxur and poor motor development in infants. At the age of two, children exposed to propoxur in the womb experience poor development of motor skills, according to a test of mental development. Propoxur is a carbamate insecticide that was banned in 2007 for indoor uses to which children would be exposed; however, it is still commonly used in flea and tick pet collars.

The insecticide diazinon is found in 72 percent; and the herbicide trifluralin is found in 60 percent of homes. 12 percent of homes surveyed contain traces of agricultural pesticides. The study verifies the conclusions of a larger 2007 survey that found household pesticide levels are higher than desirable in the homes of 102 pregnant minority women in New York City.

“Increasingly, pesticide exposures are being linked to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),” said co-author Claudia S. Miller, M.D., M.S., professor in environmental and occupational medicine with the Department of Family and Community Medicine. “Planning for pregnancy today should include not only prenatal vitamins and a good diet, but also avoiding potentially hazardous pesticides. Instead, use non-toxic approaches for pest control and IPM.”

Authors of the study recommend managing household pests using integrated pest management (IPM), a low-cost strategy to replace the use of residential pesticides. IPM includes least-toxic techniques other than spraying, including sanitation, proper storage and food and water, caulking of windows and doors; installation of door and window screens; and the use of boric acid and diatomaceous earth. Beyond Pesticides’ Safer Choice brochure provides information on managing household pests with defined IPM principles.

“Once we educate our women of childbearing age about how they can safely and in a healthy manner diminish pests in their homes, they will feel empowered that they can make a difference in their family’s life,” says lead author Beatriz Tapia, M.D., M.P.H., lecturer at the UT Health Science Center — Regional Academic Health Center campus in Harlingen.

Organophosphates, like chlorpyrifos, are extremely toxic to the nervous system. They are cholinesterase inhibitors and bind irreversibly to the active site of an enzyme essential for normal nerve impulse transmission –acetylcholine esterase (AchE)– inactivating the enzyme. High concentrations of organophosphates have been found in the bodies of pregnant women and children.

Despite numerous organophosphate poisonings of farmworkers, homeowners, and children, the EPA has allowed the continued registration of these products. In some cases, such as those of chlorpyrifos and diazinon, household uses of the products have been cancelled because of the extreme health risks to children, but agricultural, golf course, and “public health” (mosquito control) uses remain on the market. Furthermore, the cancellation of household uses does not restrict the use of remaining stocks, meaning homeowners who purchased diazinon, for example, before the 2004 phase-out, may still use this product.

In order to reduce exposure to these chemicals, expectant mothers should choose organic foods. Families should also stop using pesticides in and around the home and advocate banning cosmetic pesticides in their communities. For more information on what you can do, see our materials for new parents with tips on food choices and safer pest management, specifically designed for new moms and dads.

To see more scientific research on the effects of pesticides on human health, including birth defects, see our Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

Source: University of Texas Health Science Center Public Release

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

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24
Jul

Large Aerial Mosquito Spraying in Massachusetts Lacks Permit and Adequate Monitoring

(Beyond Pesticides, July 24, 2012) This past weekend, the State of Massachusetts undertook what is thought to be its largest aerial spraying of pesticides covering nearly 400,000 acres and 21 communities. By using the pretext of a new emergency, the state improperly evaded Clean Water Act protections according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). PEER has asked for a federal investigation.

The massive spraying was triggered by the trapping of mammal-biting mosquitos which tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) on July 9th. On July 17th, the state Department of Public Health declared a pest emergency to justify aerial spraying over Bristol and Plymouth Counties through September 30, 2012. The spraying took place July 20th, 21st, and 22nd.

Typically, aerial spraying of pesticides requires a federal pollution discharge permit but the permit may be dispensed with if the application is done “less than ten days after identification of the need for pest control” – a requirement violated in this case. In addition, PEER charges that the state knew it would conduct aerial spraying in this area for months and is inappropriately using an emergency declaration to avoid the need for a permit. The permit is not merely red tape, in that PEER argues it allows public review of:

• The type of pesticide used. Massachusetts is using a synthetic compound called Anvil which contains an ingredient classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a possible human carcinogen;
• Scientific data that explains the basis for the scope of the proposed aerial spraying, together with a Pesticide Discharge Management Plan; and
• The Commonwealth’s efforts to minimize the discharge of pesticides to waters of the United States, including the evaluation of alternatives to aerial spraying.

“By lurching from emergency to emergency, Massachusetts clings to an uncoordinated posture which precludes effective preemptive strikes against the mosquitos carrying EEE,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a biologist and attorney formerly with EPA, pointing out that state officials admit they have no data showing whether or how effective their spraying is. “Aerial spraying is like superstition – people are afraid to stop even though they know there is no rational basis for it.”

PEER is asking the EPA Office of Inspector General to examine whether Massachusetts is skirting federal law, which includes a requirement that spraying programs undergo comprehensive efficacy studies – a process that has yet to even begin in Massachusetts.

There is often a heavy reliance on mass spraying of pesticides to kill adult mosquitoes. However, this method of mosquito management is widely considered by experts to be both ineffective and harmful due to the hazards associated with widespread pesticide exposure.Pesticides like those used in California against mosquitoes have been linked to numerous adverse health effects including asthma and respiratory problems, dermatological reactions, endocrine disruption, chemical sensitivities, and cancer. Adulticides can also be harmful or fatal to non-target wildlife. A program involving regular monitoring and the use of least-toxic methods and treatments as sustainable, long term effect against mosquito populations. For more information on protecting your community from mosquito spraying, visit Beyond Pesticides’ mosquito management tools page

“We should be looking at more efficient and less environmentally damaging methods of preventing outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases, including elimination of suspected carcinogenic chemicals in the ingredients of pesticides,” Bennett added.

Many municipalities around the country have consistently proven that dangerous pesticides are not necessary to effectively control mosquitoes and prevent outbreaks of West Nile virus. A county in New Jersey has recently decided to use tiny crustaceans for larvaecide this year to combat mosquitoes. Prevention strategies, have also been adopted in such densely populated areas as Shaker Heights, OH and the District of Columbia.

EEE is frequently found in mosquitoes in southeastern Massachusetts. It is fatal to between a third and a half of people infected. There is no treatment for EEE and people who survive it often experience permanent disabilities.

Source: PEER Press Release

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

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23
Jul

EPA Wants Further Risk Mitigation Measures for Chlorpyrifos, Groups Want it Banned

(Beyond Pesticides, July 23, 2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement last week of new agricultural risk mitigation measures for the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos continues to ignore farmworker health and that of their families, as well as the viability of organic farming systems in providing not only safer food, but safer working environments for farmworkers. The new measures, while a step in the right direction to protect vulnerable populations, do not go far enough to address the unreasonable risks associated with the chemical’s widespread continued use. The national pesticide law, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), requires protection against “unreasonable adverse effects to man or the environment.”

In its latest decision, EPA seeks to reduce exposure to “acceptable” risk levels. In this case, the agency is seeking to reduce exposure of bystanders to spray applications. The measures include reductions in aerial application rates of the insecticide and the establishment of mandatory buffers around sensitive sites where bystanders including children are known to suffer exposure. The new mitigation practices include reducing the maximum amount of chlorpyrifos that can be applied per acre using spray applications from 6 pounds/acre to 2 pounds/acre. The new measures also include no-spray buffer zones near sensitive sites, from 10 feet up to a maximum of 100 feet. The definition of “sensitive sites” includes places children live and play, whether they are present at the time of application or not. The new use restrictions will appear on all chlorpyrifos agricultural product labels starting in late 2012. EPA’s action is a partial response to a legal petition and subsequent lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA) which requested that EPA revoke all remaining allowed uses for chlorpyrifos.

EPA negotiated settlement in 2000 with the principal registrant, Dow AgroSciences, allowed the continuation of all agricultural uses except tomatoes (allowable residues on apples and grapes were adjusted), as well as golf course and public health mosquito control uses. EPA argued at the time that in banning residential applications of chlorpyrifos it was adequately mitigating risks through the removal of high exposure uses to children, but its decision ignored special risks to farmworkers and especially their children. EPA argues that the Worker Protection Standards are enough for farmworkers, however, these standards are not fully protective of farmworkers during the application of toxic pesticides, and residual exposures off application site. For more information on pesticide drift, read Beyond Pesticides’ report Getting the Drift on Chemical Trespass: Pesticide drift hits homes, schools and other sensitive sites throughout communities.

Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxic insecticide that was banned from residential applications after EPA determined that cumulative exposure resulted in serious adverse health outcomes, especially for children. Short term effects of exposure to chlorpyrifos include chest tightness, blurred vision, headaches, coughing and wheezing, weakness, nausea and vomiting, coma, seizures, and even death. Prenatal and early childhood exposure has been linked to low birth weights, developmental delays, ADHD and other health effects.

Beyond Pesticides has cited EPA’s action regarding the organophosphate chlorpyrifos as a classic failure of the risk assessment process under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) –a failure that is repeated over and over again in agency chemical regulation decisions. The purpose of FQPA is to protect infants and children from pesticides, taking into account the potential for pre- and post-natal toxicity via any route of exposure, including exposures through structural and landscape uses, diet, and water. Advocates have pointed to chlorpyrifos as the poster child for why risk assessment does not work to protect the public, workers and the environment, given that safer practices, including organic practices and products are increasingly available in the marketplace.

By focusing on risk reduction strategies to come up with “acceptable,” but unnecessary, rates of illness across the population, EPA continues to underestimate the impact of the chemical’s continued widespread use in agriculture. Chlorpyrifos is a frequent water contaminant and a long range contaminant, exposing communities and contaminating pristine areas far from where it was applied. Residues in food and water continue to put public health at risk. Volatilization drift—the evaporation of the pesticide after application—is also part of the problem for chlorpyrifos, but the new restrictions do not take into account volatilization drift. EPA noted its intention to address volatilization drift when the chlorpyrifos risk assessment is finalized in 2014.

The only way to know that you are not supporting chemical intensive agriculture is to buy organically produced food. Beyond Pesticides advocates for the national conversion to organic systems planning, which moves chemicals off the market quickly and replaces them with green management practices. The effects that chemicals such as chlorpyrifos have on the natural environment, in addition to untold damage it has caused families across the U.S., is testimony to the need to adopt alternatives assessments that force chemicals off the market that can be replaced by safer or green practices. Despite agency efforts to use failed risk assessment decision making to claim that the food supply is safe and the environment protected, an informed public is driving the growth of organic production in the marketplace, choosing health, environmental protection, and precaution over risk assessment. It is a process that can be supported through purchasing decisions every day in the grocery store and advocacy that effects a conversion of land and building management in parks, schools, health care facilities, indoor and outdoor spaces, especially lawns and gardens, to nontoxic and least-toxic methods. Visit our Organic Program page to learn more and find out what you can do to support organic production.

Also see: Pesticide Action Network North America All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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20
Jul

EPA Denies Imminent Hazard Exists in Partial Response to Beekeeper Petition

(Beyond Pesticides, July 20, 2012) On Thursday, July 19, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it had formally refused to recognize that honey bees face an “imminent hazard” and denied a request by beekeepers to immediately suspend the use of pesticides that pose harm to pollinators. The decision comes in response to a legal petition filed earlier this year by twenty-five beekeepers and environmental organizations, citing significant acute and chronic bee kills across the United States linked to neonicotinoid pesticides, particularly clothianidin.

“We’re disappointed. EPA has signaled a willingness to favor pesticide corporations over bees and beekeepers,” said Steve Ellis, a petitioner and owner of Old Mill Honey Co, with operations in California and Minnesota. “This decision puts beekeepers, rural economies and our food system at risk. And the injury we are sustaining this year will be unnecessarily repeated.”

This spring and summer, beekeepers from New York to Ohio and Minnesota, are reporting extraordinarily large bee die-offs, due, in part, to exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides. The die-offs are similar to what beekeepers have reported in the past few weeks in Canada (where EPA has admitted there are 120 bee kill reports, a huge number). On average, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that beekeepers have been losing over 30% of their honey bee colonies each year since 2006 – but some are losing many more times that number.

“EPA has failed in its statutory responsibility to protect beekeeper livelihoods and the environment from an ‘imminent hazard,’” said Peter Jenkins, attorney at Center for Food Safety and author of the legal petition filed in late March. “The agency explicitly refused to consider the massive amount of supplemental information we submitted that came to light after we filed the petition, as bees started dying in large numbers this Spring during the April and May corn planting season.”

Last month, over 250,000 people from across the country urged EPA to follow the science and move swiftly to suspend the use of the neonicotinoid pesticide clothianidin. At the same time, pesticide manufacturer Bayer CropScience has misleadingly attempted to discredit and refute new key scientific information showing the hazard clothianidin poses to bees.

“EPA has caved to corporate pressure and failed to follow the science,” said Paul Towers, media director for Pesticide Action Network and co-petitioner. “This is a reminder of the power and influence of pesticide corporations, despite significant impacts to the livelihood of beekeepers and rural economies.”

While refusing to issue an immediate suspension, the agency has agreed to open a 60-day public comment docket to review additional points raised in the legal petition, starting at some point during the week of July 23. The agency expects to complete its scheduled re-evaluation of clothianidin in 2018 and any implementation plans could take years beyond that to complete. Beekeepers and environmental groups cite EPA’s current timeline for making a decision on the safety of neonicotinoids for honey bees as too slow, and filed the “imminent hazard” claim in hopes of more immediate action.

“Bees and beekeepers can’t wait around for more agency inaction,” said Mark Keating, senior scientist at Beyond Pesticides, a co-petitioner. “We’ll have to consider all other options in order to protect the food and farming system.”

Neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid and thiamethoxam in addition to clothianidin , are highly toxic to a range of insects, including honey bees and other pollinators. They are particularly dangerous because, in addition to being acutely toxic in high doses, they also result in serious sublethal effects when insects are exposed to chronic low doses, as they are through pollen and water droplets laced with the chemical as well as dust that is released into the air when treated seeds that have been coated with the chemicals are planted. Previous research has shown that these effects cause significant problems for the health of individual honey bees as well as the overall health of honey bee colonies, including disruptions in mobility, navigation, feeding behavior, foraging activity, memory and learning, and overall hive activity.

The emergency legal petition to EPA was filed on March 21, 2012 and asked the agency to suspend all registrations for pesticides containing clothianidin. The petition, which is supported by over one million citizen petition signatures worldwide, targets the pesticide for its harmful impacts on honey bees. The legal petition establishes that EPA failed to follow its own regulations when it granted a conditional, or temporary, registration to clothianidin in 2003 without a required field study establishing that the pesticide would have no “unreasonable adverse effects” on pollinators. The granting of the conditional registration was contingent upon the subsequent submission of an acceptable field study, but this requirement has not been met. EPA continues to allow the use of clothianidin nine years after acknowledging that it had an insufficient legal basis for initially allowing its use. Additionally, the product labels on pesticides containing clothianidin are inadequate to prevent excessive damage to non-target organisms, which is a second violation of the requirements for using a pesticide and further warrants removing all such mislabeled pesticides from use.

EPA’s partial response can be read in full here. The agency has published an electronic docket with the petition, the partial response, and other supporting material available for viewing. The public can not yet comment on the petition, but Beyond Pesticides will provide an update as soon as the docket is opened and accepting public comments.

For more information on how pesticides affect pollinators and what you can do to help, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinator Program page.

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

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19
Jul

Take Action: Alaska Proposes to Restrict Public Comments on Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, July 19, 2012) The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), along with Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, has proposed drastic changes to state pesticide regulations that will eliminate public participation for pesticide use, undermining the democratic process and affecting public and environmental health. Earlier this week, Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) expressed concern about the proposal. “If someone’s plans risk poisoning our drinking water or fishing streams, Alaskans should have a say,” said Rep. Gara. “Alaskans have a right to fish our streams, drink our water, and hunt without fear that our resources will be contaminated by toxic pesticides. If the Parnell administration blocks public comment, it would rob Alaskans of their fundamental right to speak on potential damage to fish and wildlife, and dangers to our children and drinking water.”

In his official comments, Rep. Gara wrote, “I believe Alaskans should have a right to comment on important state issues. Elimination of a public commenting process by a state agency is always cause for concern, and when the public process pertains to human health and safety, the action is particularly disconcerting.”

Not all of the proposed changes are bad. For instance, the proposed pesticide regulation changes will require the state land managers to develop an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan that requires consideration of alternative methods to control pests before pesticides are used. Although IPM can be a helpful tool in the transition from a pesticide-intensive to a non-toxic management system, it still allows for pesticide use. With the elimination of the pesticide permitting program, citizens will lose the right to comment on when these pesticides are used on public lands, as well as the right to know when and where pesticides were used.

According to Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), which is urging residents to take action, proposed pesticide regulations would:
• Eliminate permit requirements for the spraying of pesticides on state public lands with no safeguards for the protection of sensitive waterways, drinking water sources, fish and wildlife habitat, or public health;
• Block public participation in decisions about pesticide spraying on public lands—with no public hearings, opportunity for written public comments, or way to appeal bad decisions. This would deprive Alaskans of the right to speak out about potential harm to drinking water, fishing streams, subsistence uses, dangers to our children and public health;
• Promote the application of potentially harmful pesticides and herbicides without consideration of toxicity and effects to health and the environment;
• Weaken public right-to-know requirements to notify the public about places where the pesticides will be sprayed.

“We are deeply concerned that the governor would weaken our democracy by eliminating public participation in decisions that affect our water quality, fish habitat, and public health,” Pamela Miller, biologist and executive director of ACAT.

TAKE ACTION: If you live in Alaska, please submit a letter (sample text provided) to Rebecca Colvin, Solid Waste and Pesticide Program, Division of Environmental Health, Department of Environmental Conservation. Or, you can email her directly at [email protected] The comments must be received no later than 5 pm on August 2, 2012.

Because the summer season is a busy time for many Alaskans, and Alaskans who work away from home in the summer, Rep. Gara has asked Commissioner Hartig of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to extend the public comment period on the proposed changes to the pesticide regulations another 60 days to October 2, 2012.

Sources: ACAT Pesticide Action Alert, Alaska House Democratic Caucus Press Release

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

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18
Jul

Researchers Settle NanoSilver Antimicrobial Mechanism; Low Dose May Enhance Bacteria Resistance

(Beyond Pesticides, July 18, 2012) Just as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opened the federal docket for the registration review of nanosilver, Rice University researchers settled a long-standing controversy over the mechanism by which silver nanoparticles, the most widely used nanomaterial in the world, kill bacteria. The researchers found that the silver ions, rather than the silver particles, have antimicrobial effects on bacteria. However, their work comes with a warning; low doses of nanosilver can make bacteria stronger and more resistant.

Silver nanoparticles are used just about everywhere, including in cosmetics, socks, food containers, detergents, sprays and a wide range of other products to stop the spread of germs. Researchers have debated the mechanisms by which nanosilver particles exert toxicity to bacteria and other organisms. They have long known that silver ions, which flow from nanoparticles when oxidized, are deadly to bacteria. In the study, “Negligible Particle-Specific Antibacterial Activity of Silver Nanoparticles,” published in NanoLetters, the researchers explain that the nanoparticles are practically benign in the presence of microbes. But when in soluble ionic form, that is, when activated via oxidation, nanosilver becomes toxic to bacteria. The research team decided to test nanoparticle toxicity in an anaerobic environment –with no exposure to oxygen — to control the silver ions’ release. They found that the filtered particles are a lot less toxic to microbes than silver ions.

Surprisingly, when the nanosilver was tested against E. coli, the team found that E. coli survival was stimulated by relatively low (sublethal) concentrations of nanosilver, suggesting a hormetic response (U-shaped dose-response curve) that would be counterproductive to antimicrobial applications. Overall, the researchers suggest that nanosilver morphological properties known to affect antimicrobial activity are indirect effectors that primarily influence silver ion release. The researchers hypothesize antibacterial activity could be controlled (and environmental impacts could be mitigated) by modulating silver ion release, possibly through manipulation of oxygen availability, particle size, shape, and/or type of coating.

NanoSilver Docket Open for Comment

EPA has published a Federal Register notice announcing the establishment of a registration review docket for nanosilver and is seeking public comment on a summary document for the registration review of nanosilver. The summary document (1) identifies nanosilver products, (2) outlines data gaps and requirements and (3) contains a preliminary workplan and fact sheet, along with ecological risk assessment problem formulation and human health scoping sections describing scientific analyses expected to be necessary to complete nanosilver review.

A silver nanoparticle consists of many silver atoms or ions clustered together to form a particle 1-300nm in size. Due to their small size, these nanoparticles are able to invade bacteria and other microorganisms and kill them. Just as the size and chemical characteristics of manufactured nanoparticles can give them unique properties, these same properties –tiny size, vastly increased surface area to volume ratio, high reactivity– can also create unique and unpredictable human health and environmental risks.

A study conducted in 2008 and confirmed by another study in 2009 shows that washing nano-silver textiles releases substantial amounts of the nanosilver into the laundry discharge water, which will ultimately reach natural waterways and potentially poison fish and other aquatic organisms. A study found nanosilver to cause malformations and to be lethal to small fish at various stages of development since they are able to cross the egg membranes and move into the fish embryos. A 2010 study by scientists at Oregon State University and in the European Union highlights the major regulatory and educational issues that they believe should be considered before nanoparticles are used in pesticides.

Nanotechnology, the science involving manipulation of materials on an atomic or molecular scale, is an emerging technology with a broad range of potential applications, such as increasing bioavailability of a drug, used in food packaging, and in cosmetics. There are hundreds of products currently on the market that contain nanomaterials of various types and functions, the most popular application being the use of nanosilver as an antibacterial substance in many consumer products. Given this, the federal government at this point is playing a game of ‘catch-up.’

A recent report finds the current level of knowledge does not allow a fair assessment of the advantages and disadvantages that will result from the use of nanopesticides, and a better understanding of the fate and effect of nanopesticides after their application is required. The suitability of current regulations should also be analyzed so that refinements can be implemented if needed. Research on nanopesticides is therefore a priority for preserving the safety of both the food chain and the environment. Similarly, the findings of a U.S. Government Accountability Office report identified concerns about the quality of environmental, health and safety research on nanotechnology.

Federal regulation of nanoparticles has been lacking. In 2011, EPA announced plans to obtain information on nanoscale materials in pesticide products. According to EPA, the agency will gather information on what nanoscale materials are present in pesticide products to determine whether the registration of a pesticide may cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment and human health. However, thus far pending nanotechnology regulations have been placed on hold by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

A coalition of six consumer safety groups filed suit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on December 21, 2011, citing FDA’s chronic failure to regulate nanomaterials used in these products. The lawsuit demands that FDA respond to a May 2006 petition that the coalition filed calling for regulatory actions, including nano-specific product labeling, health and safety testing, and an analysis of the environmental impacts of nanomaterials in products regulated by FDA. After years of no federal regulatory oversight, FDA in April 2012 issued two draft guidance documents addressing the use of nanotechnology by the food and cosmetics industries. The documents “encourage” safety assessments for cosmetic products containing nanomaterials, including the need for modification or development of new methods for standardized safety tests. The new guidelines for the first time show the FDA believes nanomaterials deserve greater scrutiny.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) passed a recommendation directing the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to prohibit engineered nanomaterials from certified organic products as expeditiously as possible. While there is overwhelming agreement to prohibit nanotechnology in organics generally, there is still confusion over the definition of what exactly should be prohibited and how to prohibit nanotech products in the organic industry. The recommendation deals specifically with engineered nanomaterials and purposefully omits those that are naturally occurring. Further it would block petitions seeking an exemption and keep nanomaterials out of food packaging and contact surfaces.

For more on nanosilver and nanotechnology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ program page.

Take Action: The federal register docket is now open for public comment for the registration review of nanosilver. During the comment period, anyone may submit comments, relevant data or information for the agency’s consideration. Public comment may be submitted until August 19, 2012 at www.regulations.gov in docket # EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0370.

Source: Rice University News and Media

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

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17
Jul

Organic Integrity Can Only Be Maintained Through Public Participation

(Beyond Pesticides, July 17th, 2012) On July 8, The New York Times ran an article indicting the organic food industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculgture (USDA) for their involvement in advancing a number of standards, practices, and decisions allowed under the organic label. The Times piece, “Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized?,” written by Stephanie Strom and featuring organic food industry critic and chief executive officer of Eden Foods, Michael Potter, concentrated on the outsized role large corporations have assumed economically through organic market share, and politically through the decisions of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). While the article reinforces organic advocates’ ongoing call for public vigilance, there is general agreement that organic offers consumers the safest place to spend their food dollars, the best protection for the environment and those who farm, and the highest degree of public input into the standard setting process.

Beyond Pesticides’ Executive Director Jay Feldman, current NOSB member holding an environmentalist seat, wrote a response published in the Times article. Mr. Feldman said,

“The article noted the involvement of big agriculture and food companies in establishing organic standards, as well as in several controversial decisions. But that discussion only diverts public attention from the urgent need to grow organic systems of any size, as defined by the Organic Foods Production Act. The best way to protect our planet is through the exponential, rapid growth of the organic sector, and by rejecting mainstream chemical-intensive agriculture. The nation’s organic law offers a unique opportunity for small farmers and others to ensure adherence to the core values and principles of the organics statute. But it all requires public involvement.”

The focus of the Times article on processed foods and allowed substances is important, but advocates point out that it represents only a small segment of the entire scope of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). An article in Mother Jones Magazine, “How the NY Times Went Too Far in Slamming Big Organic,” looks deeper into the issue and provides a more balanced assessment of the state of organic standards. The piece adds to the criticisms directed towards the USDA for appointing agriculture industry representatives to NOSB seats reserved by law for farmers and environmentalists. While raising the issue of organic integrity, it stops well short of calling organic production “mostly pure fantasy” as the Times piece does.

Grist Magazine also published a response to the Times article titled “The latest New York Times exposé won’t stop me from eating organic.” In it, author Twilight Greenaway gives credence to the charge that consumers should be concerned about the materials being approved in organic food, but also recognizes that this type of coverage could steer people away from organic certified products. Concerning the controversial issues of carrageenan and DHA she notes, “In the case of most conventional food, there is no discussion at all, let alone an intensive investigation.”

Some of the charges that the Times piece levels against the organic industry and organic regulators were recently highlighted by The Cornucopia Institute’s paper “The Organic Watergate.” The report provides an overview of some of the recent contentious issues and looks into the motivations behind industry representatives’ push to have questionable synthetics approved.

It is important that the USDA recognizes and addresses the criticisms of organic advocacy organizations, but consumers should not allow these controversies to overshadow the numerous benefits that come with organic certification. Certified organic production systems represent a striking contrast to conventionally produced foods in terms of both the environment and public health. OFPA was written with the intention of ensuring that organic food embodies an ecological approach to farming that does not rely on or permit toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. All these destructive inputs are allowed in conventional farming. The end result of these practices are apparent from studies of disappearing pollinators, poisoned farmworkers, hypoxic “dead zones”, degraded soil, and antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Instead of using these harmful products and practices, organic agriculture utilizes techniques, such as cover cropping, crop rotation, and composting, to produce healthy soil, increase biodiversity, prevent pest and disease problems, and grow healthy food and fiber. The standards dictate that organic farmers must maintain or improve soil organic matter content, which decreases nutrient runoff and topsoil erosion, and eases the strain on aquatic ecosystems and our water supply. Moreover, the prohibition of petroleum-based fertilizers and increased carbon sequestration in soils rich in organic matter decreases overall contributions to global climate change.

In order to understand the importance of eating organic food, we need to look at the whole picture —from the farmworkers who do the valuable work of growing food, to the waterways from which we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. Organic food offers a vision of a healthy future which doesn’t produce the toxic spillover effects of chemical agriculture. However, this vision cannot be realized without the input of vigilant and vocal consumers. In order to keep organic as a safe place free of harmful synthetic chemicals, we must all participate, and join in its defense.

To this end, Beyond Pesticides encourages concerned citizens to become involved with the organic review process. The NOSB meets two times a year. Each meeting, the topics and materials up for discussion and review are open to public comment. The public comment process represents the best opportunity for consumers, as well as farmers and processors, to have a voice as these standards are debated and adopted by the NOSB. The fall meeting is scheduled to take place in Providence, RI on October 15-18, 2012. The public can submit their comments online, or attend the meeting in person to voice their concerns. Individuals and organizations can also file their own petition to amend the National List of approved substances in organic production.

To read more about Beyond Pesticides’ vision for an organic future, visit our Organic food program page. For our take on recent NOSB decisions, see our page on Keeping Organic Strong.

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

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16
Jul

USDA Requesting Public Comment on New Wave of GE Crop Releases

(Beyond Pesticides, July 16, 2012) The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced that it will soon create a docket to receive public comment on twelve petitions for new genetically engineered (GE) plants. Nine of the petitions, which include a soybean variety engineered to tolerate 2,4-D and two other pesticides and the first ever genetically engineered apple, are being processed under USDA’s streamlined review procedures. USDA’s review of the three other petitions, including a separate soybean variety tolerant to 2,4-D and glufosinate, began under the previous procedures and those crops, having reached a further clearance stage, are approaching commercial release. Information on each of the twelve genetically engineered crops is available on the APHIS website and the agency stated that the public comment dockets will be opened in the very near future.

The introduction of crops tolerant of 2,4-D represents a dramatic escalation of the damage to human health and the environment caused by genetically engineered crops. 2,4-D is a highly toxic herbicide which has been linked to cancer, reproductive effects, endocrine disruption, and kidney and liver damage in humans. Scientific studies have confirmed significantly elevated rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for farmers who use 2,4-D. The herbicide is also toxic to beneficial insects (such as bees), earthworms, birds, and fish. Increased applications of 2,4-D on corn and soybean fields are especially dangerous because the herbicide will be sprayed repeatedly during the growing season after weeds emerge and begin to compete with crops. With the herbicide’s pronounced tendency to volatilize and drift off-site, applying 2,4-D during periods when specialty crops are in neighboring fields will increase the incidence of damage to non-target crops. The Save Our Crops Coalition, a national organization representing more than 2,000 farm groups, including the Organic Valley Cooperative, Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association, and major food processors Seneca and Red Gold, submitted comments opposing Dow’s earlier petition to release 2,4-D-tolerant corn.

The New York Times reported that the apple under review has been genetically modified to delay the browning of its flesh after slicing. The genetically modified apples, which are being developed in both Golden Delicious and Granny Smith varieties, contain a synthetic gene that sharply reduces production of polyphenol oxidase, an enzyme responsible for the browning. The added gene sequence does not come from another species, but rather from sequences found in four of the apple’s own genes that govern production of polyphenol oxidase. Putting an extra copy of a gene into a plant can activate a self-defense mechanism known as RNA interference that shuts down both the extra copy and the endogenous gene. USDA review of the genetically modified apple petition will be crucial because commercial sale of the fruit will not require testing or approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Farmers do not have to remain stuck on a pesticide treadmill that demands ever greater amounts of synthetic inputs, including GE seeds, and rewards chemical suppliers at the expense of farm profitability and the environment. Organic agriculture is an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, and mechanical production practices, and natural inputs. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, organic farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most genetically engineered organisms have been marketed as solving, though they have, in fact, exacerbated them.

Source: USDA press release

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

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13
Jul

Appeal Filed in Suit to Protect Farmers from Monsanto

(Beyond Pesticides, July 13, 2012) Seventy-five family farmers, seed businesses, and agricultural organizations representing over 300,000 individuals and 4,500 farms filed a brief on July 5, 2012 with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington asking the appellate court to reverse a lower court’s decision from February dismissing their protective legal action against agricultural giant Monsanto’s patents on genetically engineered seed.

The plaintiffs brought the preemptive case against Monsanto in March 2011 in the Southern District of New York and specifically seek to defend themselves from nearly two dozen of Monsanto’s most aggressively asserted patents on GMO seed. They were forced to act preemptively to protect themselves from Monsanto’s abusive lawsuits, fearing that if GMO seed contaminates their property despite their efforts to prevent such contamination, Monsanto will sue them for patent infringement. Beyond Pesticides signed on as a plaintiff in the suit in June 2011.

“Monsanto is known for bullying farmers by making baseless accusations of patent infringement,” said attorney Dan Ravicher of the not-for-profit legal services organization Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), which represents the plaintiffs in the suit against Monsanto known as Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al. v Monsanto. “They’ve sued and harassed other farmers who wanted nothing to do with their genetically modified seed and now that organic and conventional farmers are fighting back, they claim they would never do such a thing without backing up their words with an enforceable promise.”

In an attempt to sidestep the challenge, Monsanto moved to have the case dismissed, saying that the plaintiffs’ concerns are unrealistic. In February 2012, after hearing plaintiff’s arguments, the district court took Monsanto’s side and dismissed the case, ridiculing the farmers in the process. Despite the fact that the plaintiffs are at risk for being contaminated by genetically modified seed and then sued for patent infringement by Monsanto, Judge Naomi Buchwald of the Southern District of New York dismissed the case because she did not find a case worthy of adjudication, saying, “It is clear that these circumstances do not amount to a substantial controversy and that there has been no injury traceable to defendants.”

Plaintiffs feel otherwise. Two of the plaintiffs submitted sworn declarations in the case highlighting the prevalence of contamination by genetically modified seed. Both Chuck Noble, an alfalfa farmer from South Dakota, and Fedco Seeds, a seed distributor in Maine, have repeatedly discovered GMO contamination in purportedly conventional seed they sought to purchase. To protect themselves from being contaminated, they have had to adopt expensive and time-consuming genetic testing procedures.

“We have a right to farm the way we choose,” said Maine organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen, President of lead plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA). “Yet Monsanto is unwilling to control their GMO pollution and they refuse to sign a binding covenant not-to-sue our family farmers for patent infringement should their seed contaminate our crops. Monsanto’s publicized ‘Commitment’ promising that they would not sue farmers was described by Monsanto’s own lawyers as being ‘vague.’ The law says we deserve protection under the Declaratory Judgment Act. We will continue to pursue our right to farm, and the right of our customers to have access to good clean food and seed.”

Other plaintiffs have simply stopped growing certain types of crops due to the threat of contamination. Bryce Stephens, a certified organic farmer from northwest Kansas, had to give up on trying to grow organic corn and soy once his neighbors started using Monsanto’s genetically modified seed because it could easily spread onto his property and contaminate his organic crops, which would put him at risk of being sued for patent infringement by Monsanto.

A recent court decision in Colorado may be of significance to the issue of genetic drift in ruling that another form of drift constitutes trespassing in affecting the way a neighboring farm conducts its business. Judge Charles Greenacre determined that an application of the insecticide malathion had drifted, and thus trespassed, onto the neighboring organic farm of Rosemary Bilchak and her husband, Gordon MacAlpine. In granting the permanent injunction, Judge Greenacre decided that: “Plaintiffs have an interest, shared by the public in general, in not having their property invaded by third persons or things. Plaintiffs also have a specific interest in not having pesticides invade their property because such invasions will delay or negate their efforts to have their property certified for the production of organic crops.” The same argument could reasonably be made regarding genetic drift.

In the newly filed brief, the plaintiffs point out numerous errors in the district court decision that warrant reversal. Among them are the lower court’s failure to accept certain facts alleged by the plaintiffs that were undisputed by Monsanto, application of too harsh a legal standard on the plaintiffs to show the existence of a controversy, and neglect of public policy that encourages broad jurisdiction be available to those challenging bogus patents like Monsanto’s.

The brief filed by the plaintiffs with the Court of Appeals is available here.

The Appellants in the suit represented by PUBPAT are: Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association; Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc. (OCIA); Food Democracy Now!; The Cornucopia Institute; Demeter Association, Inc.; Navdanya International; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont; Rural Vermont; Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association; Southeast Iowa Organic Association; Mendocino Organic Network (California); Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Canadian Organic Growers; Family Farmer Seed Cooperative; Sustainable Living Systems (Montana); Global Organic Alliance; Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; Weston A. Price Foundation; Center for Food Safety; Beyond Pesticides; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island; Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut; Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York; Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (Wisconsin); Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Florida Organic Growers; Peace River Organic Producers Association (Alberta and British Columbia); FEDCO Seeds, Inc. (Maine); Adaptive Seeds, LLC (Oregon); Sow True Seed (North Carolina); Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (Virginia); Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds (Saskatchewan); Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., LLC (Missouri); Comstock, Ferre & Co. LLC (Connecticut); Seedkeepers, LLC (California); Siskiyou Seeds (Oregon); Countryside Organics (Virginia); Cuatro Puertas (New Mexico); Seed We Need (Montana), Wild Garden Seed (Oregon); Alba Ranch (Kansas); Wild Plum Farm (Montana); Gratitude Gardens (Washington); Richard Everett Farm, LLC (Nebraska); Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc. (Wisconsin); Genesis Farm (New Jersey); Chispas Farms, LLC (New Mexico); Midheaven Farms (Minnesota); Koskan Farms (South Dakota); California Cloverleaf Farms; North Outback Farm (North Dakota); Taylor Farms, Inc. (Utah); Ron Gargasz Organic Farms (Pennsylvania); Abundant Acres (Missouri); T & D Willey Farms (California); Quinella Ranch (Saskatchewan); Nature’s Way Farm, Ltd. (Alberta); Levke and Peter Eggers Farm (Alberta); Frey Vineyards, Ltd. (California); Bryce Stephens (Kansas); Chuck Noble (South Dakota); LaRhea Pepper (Texas); Paul Romero (New Mexico); Donald Wright Patterson, Jr. (Virginia); Common Good Farm; LLC (Nebraska); American Buffalo Company (Nebraska); Full Moon Farm, Inc. (Vermont); Radiance Dairy (Iowa); Brian L. Wickert (Wisconsin); Bruce Drinkman (Wisconsin); and Murray Bast (Ontario).

Source: PUBPAT press release

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

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12
Jul

Take Action: Tell D.C. Mayor Gray to Sign Pesticide Reform Bill

(Beyond Pesticides, July 12, 2012) The Council of the District of Columbia passed a pesticide reform act Tuesday strengthening pesticide restrictions in our nation’s capital. To ensure the rules are enacted, Beyond Pesticides is calling on supporters to take action and urge D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray to sign the legislation into law. The Pesticide Education and Amendment Control Act of 2012, introduced by Chairwoman Mary Cheh of the Environment, Transportation and Public Works Committee, is a step forward in the fight to keep schools and other public spaces free from unnecessary chemical applications. The bill protects children and their parents by restricting the application of pesticides at schools and day care centers, on public property, and near waterways. It also establishes publicly available courses on pesticides at the University of the District of Columbia.

The passage of this Act adds to the growing movement across the country calling for increased restrictions on the use of dangerous chemicals in the public sphere. Beyond Pesticides has worked with localities throughout the U.S. in an effort to promote organic land care systems and restrict the hazardous use of chemicals. Recently, Ohio’s Cuyoga County successfully banned a majority of toxic pesticide uses on county property, prioritizing the use of natural, organic, horticultural and maintenance practices with an Organic Pest Management (OPM) program. The City of Greenbelt, Maryland also has a law that completely eliminates the use of cosmetic pesticides through a phase out period, and includes a requirement that all city contractors follow OPM and organic land care management. The village of New Paltz, New York has a “Healthy Turf and Landscape Policy,” which emphasizes the precautionary principle, and only allows the use of pesticides if a pest problem poses a threat to public health. While stopping short of an all-out ban, Connecticut currently has a state-wide 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.

The District’s new legislation authorizes the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) to designate pesticides registered in the District as either ‘restricted use’ or ‘minimum risk’ based on certain criteria such as toxicity to human and environmental health. The legislation prohibits the use of pesticides designated as ‘restricted use’ on public use property, schools, child-occupied facilities, waterway-contingent property, and District property –unless DDOE grants an exemption in the event an emergency pest outbreak poses an imminent threat to public health, or if significant economic damage would result from not using the pesticide. Under the Act, DDOE will restrict the use of pesticides otherwise allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because less toxic means are available. Those seeking an exemption to use a ‘restricted use’ pesticide are required to make a good-faith effort to find alternatives by clearly demonstrating through a reasonable plan that effective, economical alternatives to the prohibited pesticide are unavailable.

The Act represents a step forward for D.C and the nation by creating a framework for administrators at DDOE to minimize pesticide use. To ensure exemptions are not overused and the spirit and intent of the law is upheld, concerned citizens and residents in the District of Columbia will have to be vigilant.

Opponents of the law may claim that organic management will cost taxpayers more money; however there is much evidence to the contrary. A report prepared by Grassroots Environmental Education concludes that organic approaches can save money. The report compares the relative costs of maintaining a typical high school football field using a chemical-intensive program and an organic program over a five-year period and finds that the annual cost of maintaining an organic field can be as much as 25% lower than the cost of chemical-based programs. The Parks and Recreation Department in Branford, Connecticut has a successful organic land care program resulting in more attractive playing fields at a decreased cost to taxpayers. Futhermore, Harvard University saved two million gallons of water a year by managing the grounds organically, as irrigation needs have been reduced by 30 percent. Previously, it cost Harvard $35,000 a year to get rid of “landscape waste” from its campus grounds. Now that cost is gone because the school keeps all grass clippings, leaves and branches for composting and making compost teas. This in turn saves the university an additional $10,000 from having to purchase fertilizers elsewhere.

Take action: Tell Mayor Vincent Gray to sign the Pesticide Education and Amendment Control Act of 2012.

For more information on being a part of the growing organic lawn care movement, see Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes page. If you would like assistance proposing a pesticide reform policy to your city council (or its equivalent), contact Beyond Pesticides at [email protected]

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

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11
Jul

Pesticides Blamed for Fish Kill on Canadian Coast

(Beyond Pesticides, July 11, 2012) Hundreds of dead fish have been found in Prince Edward Island, Canada, the second in two years, prompting concerns about the use of pesticides in the province’s agriculture industry, and the effectiveness of mitigation measures to reduce pesticide runoff. It is believed that pesticide runoff from nearby agricultural fields after heavy rains are to blame for the massive fish kill.

More than 2,000 fish have been scooped from the near two-mile stretch of Barclay Brook in Coleman since last Thursday following heavy rainfall, more than triple the amount of fish that washed up on the same shores of the brook last year, although the current discovery is concentrated in a smaller area. It is believed the actual number of dead fish is much higher, as predators and river currents would have quickly taken away the remains of other fish. Barclay Brook is part of the Trout River watershed, the scene of a devastating fish kill last July that mainly wiped out large fish. An investigation is underway to determine the exact cause of the fish kill, given that water temperature and oxygen levels were within acceptable ranges and the fish looked healthy and well-fed. As a result, officials believe that an acute toxic event was responsible for the kill. The provincial government is collecting fish, water and soil samples from the latest kill. They are also inspecting fields and conducting an aerial survey to try to pinpoint a possible source.

Local environmental leaders say legislation that requires a 15-meter buffer zone between waterways and farm fields is not working. They believe pesticides should be eliminated from the province’s agriculture industry altogether, as pesticide runoff has historically been a major cause of fish kills.

“There’s a lot of support in Prince Edward Island for a 100 per cent organic province,” said Provincial Green party Leader Sharon Labchuk. “There’s a very strong sense in Prince Edward Island that the root cause of all this is industrial agriculture and that there are no ways that these kind of effects can be mitigated through … (a piece) of new legislation.”

In July 2007, investigators suggested that pesticides from farmers’ fields had killed thousands of fish that were found floating in the Dunk and Tryon Rivers in western Prince Edward Island. Two farmers in that area were charged with violating buffer zone regulations. That fish kill prompted the provincial government to draft changes to regulations that she hopes will be introduced in the legislature this fall.

Agricultural runoff into streams and other aquatic habitat is not a rare occurrence. Runoff can impact aquatic life, especially sensitive and endangered species. Sizeable fish kills have resulted from pesticide use, and have often made sensational news headlines, including the 1991 death of over one million fish in Louisiana after aerial spraying of the insecticide azinphos-methyl (Guthion) on sugarcane fields. In 1995, toxic concentrations of endosulfan and methyl parathion along a 16-mile stretch of the Tennessee River in Alabama resulted in 240,000 fish killed. In 2005, an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 black crappie fish died suddenly in Clear Lake in Waseca County, Minnesota. Water samples show the presence of permethrin, the pesticide that had been used two days prior for mosquito control. The pesticide apparently contaminated the lake as runoff from a subsequent rainstorm.

Pesticide regulation in the U.S. under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) does not go far enough to protect aquatic environments from pesticide contamination, as a result of the prevalence of data gaps in the scientific knowledge of many of the registered pesticides, and a general lack of compliance with pesticide labels. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that current use patterns for certain pesticides are “likely to jeopardize the continued existence” of endangered salmon and steelhead populations on the West Coast protected by the Endangered Species Act. NMFS calls for use restrictions in several draft Biological Opinions that would prohibit aerial applications of the pesticides within 300 feet of salmon waters; mandate a 10-foot vegetated strip or a 20-foot no spray zone between salmon waters and places where these herbicides are applied; and establish mandatory reporting of fish kills near where these chemicals are applied.

NMFS’ findings contradict significant conclusions of EPA’s work and highlight weaknesses in the agency’s current ecological risk assessment process that underestimate risk and fail to meet modern standards of analysis. For example, NMFS cites EPA’s failures to provide any analysis of the pesticides’ breakdown products or of the other ingredients -whether active or inert, which are added to commercial product formulations. Additionally, NMFS states that EPA’s modeling procedures would likely underestimate exposure to the pesticides and the resulting risk and that the EPA-approved pesticide labels lack sufficient information to prevent excessive and unnecessary applications.

In November 2011, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by Dow AgroSciences that challenged EPA’s authority to implement new use restrictions based on the NMFS Biological Opinions. Due to the delay resulting from that lawsuit, none of the use restrictions designed to protect threatened and endangered species from the pesticides deemed to pose the greatest risk, including chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion, have been implemented.

The recently implemented National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program for pesticide discharges, while it does not prevent pesticides from being discharged into waterways, would help authorities know what is sprayed and when it is sprayed, so that the public may know what chemicals are used in their waterways which can then be monitored for any downstream adverse effects, including fish kills and the contamination of drinking waters. For more information on the pesticide NPDES permit, read, “Clearing up the Confusion Surrounding the New NPDES General Permit.” Currently, pesticide labels typically provide the user with direction to avoid runoff to nearby aquatic streams, however these measures have been proven to be ineffective.

Source: The Chronicle Herald Canada

Photo Courtesy CBC News

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

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10
Jul

Ruling Protects Organic Farm from Pesticide Trespass

(Beyond Pesticides, July 10, 2012) In a victory for human health and organic farmers, the District Court in Delta, Colorado granted a permanent injunction last week to prohibit a farmer from fogging for moquitoes within 150 feet of his neighbor’s property or allowing the pesticides to drift, considering this to be a form of trespass. The victory is important for organic growers and others who are frequently under threat of pesticide drift from neighboring properties.

Judge Charles Greenacre determined that an application of the insecticide, Fyfanon, a form of malathion, had drifted, and thus trespassed, onto the neighboring organic farm of Rosemary Bilchak and her husband, Gordon MacAlpine. In granting the permanent injunction, Judge Greenacre decided that: “Plaintiffs have an interest, shared by the public in general, in not having their property invaded by third persons or things. Plaintiffs also have a specific interest in not having pesticides invade their property because such invasions will delay or negate their efforts to have their property certified for the production of organic crops.”

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

Pesticides can volatilize into the gaseous state and be transported over long distances fairly rapidly through wind and rain. Documented exposure patterns resulting from drift causes particular concerns for children and other sensitive population groups, as adverse health effects such as nausea, dizziness, respiratory problems, headaches, rashes, and mental disorientation may appear even when a pesticide is applied according to label directions. For more information on pesticide drift, read Beyond Pesticides’ report, Getting the Drift on Chemical Trespass: Pesticide drift hits homes, schools and other sensitive sites throughout communities.

Delta County, Colorado is a major center for organic growing. During the hearings in this case, plaintiffs presented testimony from Elizabeth Collins, who manages mosquitoes for the local mosquito abatement district, businessman Ed Tuft, president of Mountain Rim/Leroux Creek Farms, the largest organic farmer/processor in Colorado, Mr. MacAlpine’s oncologist, Douglas Rovira, M.D., and pesticide drift expert Susan Kegley from San Francisco.

Rosemary Bilchak and her husband, Gordon MacAlpine, whose fight against leukemia led them to develop their organic farm, hailed the ruling. “We feel vindicated in our attempts to protect our property and our lifestyle. It has been a long legal battle to be allowed to do a simple thing: Grow our own organic food.” Ms. Bilchak attended Beyond Pesticides’ National Pesticide Forum in Denver, Colorado in 2011 and spoke with experts there as she pursued the litigation.

Randall Weiner, an environmental lawyer, successfully obtained a temporary restraining order, summary judgment and a permanent injunction. He noted that this is the first decision in Colorado treating pesticide sprays as a trespass, let alone one which can be halted by injunction.’

The injunction recognizes that while West Nile Virus, carried by mosquitoes, is a serious public health threat, there are many different ways to manage mosquito populations that do not involve using adulticides that are only 50 percent effective and are likely to be less effective over time, due to mosquito’s developing resistance. Though the injunction does not support finding one form of mosquito management over another, this method of mosquito management is widely considered by experts to be the least effective and most risky response to this important public health concern. Many adulticides, including the malathion in this case, have been linked to numerous adverse health effects including asthma and respiratory problems, dermatological reactions, endocrine disruption, chemical sensitivities, and cancer. Adulticides can also be harmful or fatal to non-target wildlife. A program involving regular monitoring, eliminating breeding sites, and the use of least-toxic methods are the most effect, sustainable, long term mosquito management strategy. For more information on protecting your community from mosquito spraying, visit Beyond Pesticides’ mosquito management tools page.

Source: Law Offices of Randall M. Weiner, P.C. Press Release

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

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09
Jul

Banned Pesticides Found in Connecticut Wells

(Beyond Pesticides, July 9, 2012) Health officials in Connecticut are telling residents who drink from private wells to test their water for the banned pesticides chlordane and dieldrin, after a study from the town of Stamford, CT found at least one of the toxic chemicals in 195 out of 628 wells tested. Over half of the wells that tested positive for one of the pesticides were found to contain concentrations at levels above what the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers acceptable.

Both of these chemicals, discussed at length in Rachael Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring, were widely used throughout the country before their ban in the late 1980s. Since then, these chemicals have revealed themselves to be pervasive in our environment. In 2007, Beyond Pesticides wrote on the discovery of chlordane on the grounds of a New Jersey middle school at levels above EPA limits. In 2009, the U.S Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and EPA conducted a survey that found chlordane in 64% of U.S households sampled. In 2010, we reported on the occurrence of these two historic-use chemicals in what are considered “pristine” National Parks. Unfortunately, if the water contamination residents are finding turns out to be a consequence of past use, the results from Stamford, CT are only the tip of the iceberg.

The Stamford Health Department began its study in 2009 after testing revealed pesticide contamination near a local town dump. Health officials expected the results to be localized, but were caught off guard as the chemicals were identified in areas away from the dump. Sharee Rusnak, epidemiologist for the Connecticut Department of Public Health said, “We believe that this problem in Stamford could reach much further than Stamford itself and it could exist even beyond Fairfield County.”

The town of Stamford has a map on their website listing the locations and results of testing sites. While other communities have been slow to perform their own testing, Stamford Health Director Anne Fountain remarked, “As you can see, one house may have it and the one next door may not. This is happening in Stamford and I don’t think it stops at the borders.” Around 2.3 million people in New England get their water from private wells, and most all do not require pesticide testing before use.

Chlordane was used on lawns and agricultural crops until a five-year phase out for above ground use began in 1979. From 1983 to 1988, the chemical could still be applied to the foundation of houses as a termicide (termite insecticide). In 1987, Beyond Pesticides petitioned the EPA to ban all uses of chlordane, citing EPA findings that the chemical posed an “imminent hazard” to public health. After the ban went into effect, we called on Congress to establish a special Superfund remediation program to clean up all the contamination of homes and the environment caused by this use. However, Congress never acted, and now, because this toxicant can persist in the environment for over 40 years, it can still be found in our homes, soil, water, and even the food we eat. This bioaccumulative organochlorine pesticide is considered a probable human carcinogen by EPA, with links to nonHodgkin’s lymphoma and adverse neurological, reproductive, and gastrointestinal effects.

Dieldrin, another organochlorine pesticide with a history similar to chlordane, was most commonly used to control agricultural pests and termites. It was prohibited for most uses by EPA in 1974, and in 1987, after it was found to be harmful to fish and other wildlife, all uses of the chemical were banned. Although no longer used, dieldrin can also persist in the environment for decades and move up through the food chain, particularly in dairy products and meats, to humans. EPA notes that the chemical decreases the effectiveness of our immune system, may cause cancer and birth defects, increase infant mortality, and damage the kidney. Low-level exposure of the chemical has been linked to changes in brain function that may speed up the onset of Parkinson’s disease.

The results of this and numerous other studies show that the consequences of allowing harmful chemicals into our environment will oftentimes not be revealed until it is too late. The procedure our government takes to assess the risk these chemicals pose makes all the difference. This is why Beyond Pesticides consistently advocates for EPA to adopt an “alternatives assessment” in environmental rulemaking, which creates a regulatory trigger to adopt alternatives and drive the market to go green. The “alternatives assessment” approach differs most dramatically from the current EPA risk assessment method by rejecting uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, but unnecessary because of the availability of safer alternatives.

For additional information on testing your private well, contact Beyond Pesticides at [email protected] or 202-543-5450.

Source: The CT Mirror, Stamford Advocate

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

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06
Jul

DuPont’s Liability for Toxic Herbicide Mounting

(Beyond Pesticides, July 6, 2012) The agribusiness conglomerate DuPont has received more than 30,000 damage claims arising from its sale of a pesticide that resulted in death and injury to hundreds of thousands of evergreen trees, particularly Norway spruce and white pine. DuPont marketed the pesticide, sold under the trade name Imprelis, based on a conditional registration that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted in 2010. Soon after Imprelis became commercially available the next spring, EPA began receiving widespread reports of tree death and injury from landscapers and residential users who had applied the pesticide according to its label conditions. EPA issued an immediate stop sale order for Imprelis on August 11, 2011 after DuPont submitted reports of more than 7,000 reports of tree damage.

The New York Times reports that DuPont has set aside $225 million for claims that have already been submitted, and that the payout could ultimately reach $575 million. These figures do not include costs related to a class-action lawsuit filed by thousands of homeowners, landscapers and others, consolidated in federal court in Philadelphia. Some claimants are frustrated by the pace of the claims process and communications from the company. “We’re hearing nothing,” said Janet DaPrato of Columbus, Ohio, who had two trees die last year and has had two more die since. “We put in a claim for two trees, and now the problem is getting worse.”

Conditional registration is allowed under Section 3(c)(7) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act prior to the registrant submitting all statutorily required data. EPA is authorized to grant a conditional registration on the assumption that no unreasonable adverse effects on environmental and human health will result. As the case of Imprelis confirms, conditional registration actually allows EPA to bypass statutory safeguards and rush pesticides with unknown and unevaluated risks to market. It often takes years before EPA receives the relevant data, and sometimes that data is not submitted before the 15-year reregistration review cycle required for all pesticides.

EPA’s decision to grant conditional registration to the systemic insecticide clothianidin further illustrates the dangers of approving a pesticide before completing a rigorous and comprehensive appraisal of its risks. EPA granted a conditional registration to clothianidin in 2003 despite the absence of a required field study satisfying the statutory requirement that the pesticide not impose “unreasonable adverse risks” to pollinators including honey bees. Nine years later, EPA still lacks an acceptable study satisfying this legal requirement yet the agency continues to allow the widespread use of clothianidin and similar neonicotinoid insecticides. Substantial new research is emerging that neonicotinoid insecticides have cumulative, sublethal effects on bees including neurobehavioral and immune system disruptions that are contributing to the Colony Collapse Disorder that is decimating bee hives globally. To take action to reverse the catastrophic damage caused by clothianidin and other neonicotinoid insecticides, please visit Beyond Pesticide’s Pollinators and Pesticides webpage.

The active ingredient in Imprelis, aminocyclopyrachlor, is biologically active in soil and rapidly absorbed by roots and leaves. Aminocyclopyrachlor is in the chemical class of the pyrimidine carboxylic acids, which is similar to pyridine carboxylic acid herbicides that includes the herbicides aminopyralid, clopyralid, and picloram. The two classes of herbicides share characteristics, including high persistence in the environment, systemic incorporation into plants, and high toxicity during seedling emergence. The pyridine carboxylic acid herbicides are so persistent that they resist breakdown even when passing through the gut of ruminants that consume forage on which the pesticides have been applied. Organic farmers and gardeners have linked herbicide-contaminated manure and compost obtained from non-organic farms and dairies to severe crop damages.

Source: New York Times

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

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05
Jul

EPA Proposes to Reverse Decision to End Azinphos-Methyl Use

(Beyond Pesticides, July 5, 2012) After a 2006 cancellation of uses due to unreasonable risks to farmworker health and the environment, and a 6-year phase out scheduled to conclude this September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting a risk-benefit analysis to make a determination whether to keep in place or amend the cancellation order for the organophosphate azinphos-methyl (AZM), citing new information on the economic costs of using alternatives.

In 2001, EPA found that insecticides azinphos-methyl (AZM) posed unacceptable risks to farmworkers and announced that 28 crop uses were being canceled, seven crop uses were to be phased-out over four years, and eight crop uses were to be allowed to continue under a “time-limited” registration for another four years. Farmworker advocates challenged that decision in federal court citing that EPA failed to take into account the costs of poisoning workers, exposing children, and polluting rivers and streams. A settlement agreement effectively stayed the legal challenge pending EPA’s reconsideration of the “time limited” uses of AZM. In November 2006, EPA decided that AZM poses unreasonable adverse effects and issued a final decision to cancel AZM, but allowed continued use on some fruit crops (apples, cherries, pears) for six more years – until 2012 – and on nut crops for three more years until 2009. After September 2012, it would become illegal to use AZM on any fruit or nut crops in the U.S.

Now EPA is reconsidering the phase out and may consider extending AZM use. According to the agency, it is committed to conducting a new benefit analysis (analysis of the impacts of cancellation) to determine whether AZM alternatives are working as expected. A benefit analysis was conducted for apples, pears, highbush blueberry, and tart and sweet cherry. EPA will use these analyses to make a determination in the next three months whether to keep in place or amend the cancellation order that becomes effective September 30, 2012.

Despite resounding objections from the environmental and public health community, AZM’s phase out was instituted provided that certain risk mitigation provisions (reduced applications and application rates, as well as buffer zones around water bodies and certain structures) were implemented to reduce risk to workers and the environment. Even with the mitigation, EPA determined that the risks exceeded levels of concern for workers and non-target wildlife. The United Farm Workers of America, Beyond Pesticides and others, represented by lawyers from Earthjustice, argued in federal court that EPA’s decision to allow the use of azinphos-methyl until 2012 was unconscionable. The plaintiffs contend that the phase-out period was too long because of the immediate and sevefacilitate this transition, growers, registrants and other stakeholders met periodically during the phase re risks it poses to farm workers and their families. However, EPA stated that it expected growers dependent on the AZM uses being phased out to successfully transition to the available alternative pesticides, including newer ones in the pipeline to replace AZM.

AZM is a highly neurotoxic organophosphate insecticide. Organophosphate insecticides attack the human brain and nervous system. Exposure can cause dizziness, vomiting, convulsions, numbness in the limbs, loss of intellectual function, and death. AZM poses risks to agricultural workers, water quality, and aquatic ecosystems. In 1991, AZM runoff was responsible for killing up to a million fish, along with turtles, alligators, snakes and birds in Louisiana. EPA reported that exposure to the pesticide caused enzyme changes in the red blood cells of 127 Californian farm workers, creating fears about potential long-term nervous system damage.

New information submitted to EPA by the registrants contends that alternatives to AZM are more expensive than estimates previously made, and must be used more frequently to control pests. However, a 2010 analysis conducted in Washington state found that the ban on AZM only modestly affected sales, prices and employment in the apple industry with a negligible impacts on the overall state’s economy. EPA’s document, Re-evaluation of the Grower Impacts of Cancelling Azinphos-methyl from EPA’s Biological and Economic Analysis Division (BEAD) outlines the economic costs, the possibility of load rejections of fruit due to insect contamination, and possible loss of access to export markets due to restrictions on residues of alternative insecticides.

EPA has an astounding history of negotiated multi-year phase-outs with industry, placing economic gains over the protection of the health of the public. As seen in other EPA decisions, cancellation of a toxic pesticide does not mean that the chemical would be removed from the market, but it is allowed to linger on the market for years continuing in the endangerment of farmworker health and environmental contamination. For instance, in 2010, EPA negotiated a long phase-out agreement with endosulfan’s manufacturers that allows uses to continue through 2016, even though EPA concluded that endosulfan’s significant risks to wildlife and agricultural workers outweigh its limited benefits to growers and consumers, and that there are risks above the agency’s level of concern for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, as well as birds and mammals that consume aquatic prey that have ingested endosulfan.

Take Action: Tell EPA to ban the hazardous insecticide azinphos-methyl (AZM) to protect farmworkers and the environment.

For more information, see federal register docket EPA-HQ_OPP_2009-0365.

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

Source: EPA Pesticides News Release

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03
Jul

Concerned Oahu Citizens Demand that Monsanto Stop Poisoning Hawaii

(Beyond Pesticides, July 3, 2012) Several organizations, including Occupy Wall Street Maui and GMO-Free Maui, as well as over 100 concerned citizens, held a protest on Thursday, June 28 in front of the Monsanto Corporation headquarters in Kunia on the Island of Oahu, Hawaii. According to the organizers, the protesters met in Kunia and marched over a half mile to the Monsanto, compound for two hours of roadside sign-waving and chanting, demanding that Monsanto leave Hawaii and saying they need real food not exported GMO seeds and chemical contamination. The group also demands that genetically engineered (GE) food be labeled.

The protesters wore masks to protect themselves from pesticide drift and GE spores, and received lots of support from many in passing cars that honked their horns and waved in support. According to organizers, a nearby resident even came to find out what was going on and soon donned a mask himself as he was unaware of the dangers so close to his house. The resident expressed concern about the large trucks and equipment operating at night at Monsanto’s fields.

Monsanto operates about 8,000 acres in Hawaii for GE seed production. According to organizers, these operations use the most valuable agricultural lands and water in food production, as well as large amounts of chemicals and pesticides that are required to grow these crops. Hawaii is a global center for the open-air field testing of experimental GE crops, but no impact studies have been conducted.

Food security is a growing concern in Hawaii as the majority of the food is imported while the biotech industry grows GE seeds for export. The need for locally grown, wholesome, natural, non-toxic food is high on everyone’s priority list. Walter Ritte of “Label It Hawaii” offers a strong message for Monsanto: “Get out of Hawaii, grow food, stop growing seeds and chemicals, grow food, we need food security over here.”

Monsanto stopped operations for the afternoon of the protest and allowed most workers to leave early. Monsanto erected a barrier and manned a security station at the entrance to their compound. There were several Monsanto employees filming the protesters throughout the event.

This protest follows similar protests recently held on the islands of Maui and Kauai against Monsanto. Activist organizations on the other islands vowed solidarity and stated that they are planning more protests until Monsanto leaves the islands.

Recently, the U.S. has moved to deregulate several varieties of GE crops. However, these decisions fail to take into account several scientifically-validated environmental concerns, such as the indiscriminate nature of genetically modified gene flow in crops, a heavy reliance on faulty data, and a high degree of uncertainty in making safety determinations. They also overlook the problem of pesticide-resistant weeds and insects, as well as the widespread corruption of conventional seed varieties by GE strains, and documented severe economic injury to farmers and markets. Overlooked as well are possible health consequences from eating GE food, still largely unstudied and unknown.

Fortunately, GE crops are not permitted in organic food production. For more information about why organic is the right choice, see our Organic Food: Eating with a Conscience Guide and visit the Organic Program page. For more information on the failure of genetically engineered food, read “Genetically Engineered Food Failed promises and hazardous outcomes,” from the Summer 2011 issue of Pesticides and You, or go to our Genetic Engineering web page.

For more photos and videos of the event follow the links below:

Stop Monsanto from Poisoning Hawaii Protest June 28, 2012 By Mitsuko Hayakawa

120628 Monsanto protest by Hdoug50

Monsanto Anti GMO Rally By Diane Parker

Monsanto Kunia Protest Video by jwmacey

For more information on the event, see the Facebook event page or contact James W. Macey, [email protected], (808) 672-7812

Have a story or photo you’d like to share? Send us an email at [email protected].

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

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02
Jul

Bee-Killing Neonicotinoid Pesticide Thiamethoxam Banned in France

(Beyond Pesticides, July 2, 2012) The French Ministry of Agriculture has issued a ban on the neonicotinoid pesticide thiamethoxam due to concerns over the chemical’s impacts on pollinators, especially honey bees. The pesticide product containing thiamethoxam, Cruiser OSR, is manufactured by Swiss chemical giant Syngenta and has been used as a seed treatment on canola seed. The French Agriculture Minister, Stephane Le Foll, had announced in June that his agency was considering a ban on the pesticide and asked Syngenta to submit any new data the company had on the chemical. Apparently finding this data insufficient evidence that thiamethoxam was safe for pollinators, the agency withdrew the permit for Cruiser OSR last Friday. The ban is expected to take effect at the start of the next canola planting season in late summer.

Thiamethoxam is a neonicotinoid insecticide used to coat seeds prior to planting. When the seed germinates, the plant that grows from it takes the chemical up through its vascular system and expresses it through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets from which bees forage and drink. Thiamethoxam is very closely related to another neonicotinoid insecticide, clothianidin. When insects ingest thiamethoxam, their digestive system metabolizes it to clothianidin, killing the insect.

As France acts to protect its pollinators from pesticides, the U.S. continues to allow the uses of these highly toxic chemicals to continue. The French ban comes more than a week after the passage of the 90 day period during which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was asked to take action on clothianidin in a legal petition filed in March by a coalition of commercial beekeepers and environmental organizations. It is not unusual for an agency to miss a petition deadline such as this, but due to the urgent nature of this particular issue, the petitioners are deeply concerned about any added delay. Tell Congress and EPA that the U.S. should join France in taking a precautionary approach to our pollinator crisis.

Neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid in addition to clothianidin and thiamethoxam, are highly toxic to a range of insects, including honey bees and other pollinators. They are particularly dangerous because, in addition to being acutely toxic in high doses, they also result in serious sublethal effects when insects are exposed to chronic low doses, as they are through pollen and water droplets laced with the chemical as well as dust that is released into the air when treated seeds that have been coated with the chemicals are planted. Previous research has shown that these effects cause significant problems for the health of individual honey bees as well as the overall health of honey bee colonies, including disruptions in mobility, navigation, feeding behavior, foraging activity, memory and learning, and overall hive activity.

The emergency legal petition to EPA was filed on March 21, 2012 and asked the agency to suspend all registrations for pesticides containing clothianidin. The petition, which is supported by over one million citizen petition signatures worldwide, targets the pesticide for its harmful impacts on honey bees. The legal petition establishes that EPA failed to follow its own regulations when it granted a conditional, or temporary, registration to clothianidin in 2003 without a required field study establishing that the pesticide would have no “unreasonable adverse effects” on pollinators. The granting of the conditional registration was contingent upon the subsequent submission of an acceptable field study, but this requirement has not been met. EPA continues to allow the use of clothianidin nine years after acknowledging that it had an insufficient legal basis for initially allowing its use. Additionally, the product labels on pesticides containing clothianidin are inadequate to prevent excessive damage to non-target organisms, which is a second violation of the requirements for using a pesticide and further warrants removing all such mislabeled pesticides from use.

For more information on how pesticides affect pollinators and what you can do to help, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinator Program page.

Source: Farmer’s Weekly (UK)

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

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29
Jun

Pesticide Exposure Associated with Sleep Disorder

(Beyond Pesticides, June 29, 2012) New research from the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in Montreal suggests that pesticide exposure, as well as smoking, head injury, farming, and less education, may be a risk factor for a rare sleep disorder that causes people to kick or punch during sleep, according to a study entitled “Environmental risk factors for REM sleep behavior disorder: A multicenter case-control study” published in the June 27, 2012, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

People with the disorder, called REM sleep behavior disorder, do not have the normal lack of muscle tone that occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, causing them to act out their dreams. The movements can sometimes be violent, causing injury to the person or their bed partner. The disorder is estimated to occur in 0.5 percent of adults.

“Until now, we didn’t know much about the risk factors for this disorder, except that it was more common in men and in older people,” said study author Ronald B. Postuma, MD, MSc, with the Research Institute at MUHC and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Because it is a rare disorder, it was difficult to gather information about enough patients for a full study. For this study, we worked with 13 institutions in 10 countries to get a full picture of the disorder.”

The disorder can also be a precursor to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and a type of dementia. Studies have shown that more than 50 percent of people with REM sleep behavior disorder go on to develop a neurodegenerative disorder years or even decades later. “Due to this connection, we wanted to investigate whether the risk factors for REM sleep behavior disorder were similar to those for Parkinson’s disease or dementia,” Dr. Postuma said.

The results were mixed. While smoking has been found to be a protective factor for Parkinson’s disease, people who smoked were found to be more likely to develop REM sleep behavior disorder. Pesticide use, on the other hand, is a risk factor for both disorders. Studies have shown that people who drink coffee are less likely to develop Parkinson’s, but this study found no relationship between coffee drinking and REM sleep behavior disorder.

For the study, 347 people with REM sleep behavior disorder were compared to 347 people who did not have the disorder. Of those, 218 had other sleep disorders and 129 had no sleep disorders. Those with REM sleep behavior disorder were 43 percent more likely to be smokers, with 64 percent of those with the disorder having ever smoked, compared to 56 percent of those without the disorder. They were 59 percent more likely to have had a previous head injury with loss of consciousness, 67 percent more likely to have worked as farmers, and more than twice as likely to have been exposed to pesticides through work. Those with the disorder also had fewer years of education, with an average of 11.1 years, compared to 12.7 years for those without the disorder.

For more information on how pesticides affect human health, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database.

Source: American Academy of Neurology

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

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