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Daily News Blog

01
Mar

Scientists Warn of Sperm Count Declines Linked to Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, March 1, 2013) In a literature review published in Toxicology last week, researchers found that environmental and occupational pesticide exposure was strongly associated with declines in sperm count. Researchers Sheena Martenies, BS, and Melissa Perry, ScD., MHS., determined that of the 17 studies evaluated, 15 of them reported significant associations between pesticides and semen quality.

The researchers counted semen quality according to concentration of sperm over an area, their motility and ability to move, as well as their shapes. Researchers targeted studies on DDT, HCH, and abamectin, grouping pyrethroids and organophosphates by class. What they found was striking: almost all the studies reported a decrease in sperm concentration; decreased motility was also reported though less frequently; while morphological changes were not strongly associated in studies—only two indicated any changes to sperm shape. These findings build on a growing body of evidence that pesticide exposure at environmental or occupational levels diminished sperm health.

In addition to the U.S. findings, studies conducted on French, New Zealander, Indian, Tunisian, and Israeli men have all found decline in sperm count. Some studies record a drop by approximately 50% between 1940 and 1990, no small amount.

These results might not be surprising as sperm production is regulated by the endocrine system, a highly sensitive system of hormone regulators. A study on Mexican workers in the floral industry, where workers are routinely exposed to organophosphate, finds that workers not only have increased levels of testosterone, but also suppressed levels of follicle stimulating hormone and inhibin b, which are two sensitive markers for sperm production.

The study highlights the importance of generating strong pesticide regulations that incorporate endocrine disruptors for worker protection from pesticide exposure. In 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was charged with evaluating pesticides for endocrine disruption under the Food Quality Protection Act. While EPA has completed Tier 1 evaluations for 79 chemicals, it is unclear how its methodology is taking into account low-dose responses that deviate from traditional dose-response curves. With endocrine disruptors, it is only low levels of exposure that is required to severely threaten human and animal reproductive and hormonal functioning.

To learn more and contribute to our cause against the use of pesticides, join us in April 5-6, in Albuquerque, NM for Beyond Pesticides’ 31st annual National Pesticide Forum, “Sustainable Families,Farms and Food.” With top national scientists, local and national activists, and concerned citizens as we share information on the issues local communities face, craft solutions and catalyze networks to manifest positive health and environmental policy and change. Discussions on the impact that pesticides and other endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have on human and environmental health would be led by renowned scientists and medical professionals like Tyrone Haynes, PhD, Lynn Carroll, PhD, Joel Forman, M.D., Issac Pessah, PhD, and others. For more information on the forum, visit http://www.beyondpesticides.org/forum/.

For more on EDCs, download Beyond Pesticides’ Endocrine Disruption brochure (bi-fold), or read Beyond Pesticides article, “Pesticides That Disrupt Endocrine System Still Unregulated by EPA.”

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

 

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28
Feb

Genetic Engineering Labeling Bill to be Introduced in U.S. Congress

(Beyond Pesticides, February 28, 2013) Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) announced last Wednesday that he intends to co-sponsor a bill in Congress along with Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) to mandate the labeling of food containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients in the U.S. Earlier this week, the Maryland House Health and Government Operations Committee held a public hearing on state House Bill 0903, which would set requirements for labeling and disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients in food.  Other state labeling efforts have been launched in California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Oregon, Missouri and Washington.

More than 90 percent of Americans believe that foods with GE ingredients should be required to be labeled; however, Rep. Polis recognizes that it is still going to be tough to get enough votes to pass. Corporate opponents have spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying against GE labeling, and a bill introduced in the state of Colorado by Representative Jeanne Labuda (D-Denver) to label GE foods was stopped after just five hours of testimony. The House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee in Denver voted 7-2 against the bill just a day after Rep. Polis’ announcement. Despite testimony from concerned consumers, parents, and health advocates, the committee said the law would unfairly burden farmers and agricultural businesses, shifting the costs to consumers.

However, as it stands now, the current lax regulations of genetically engineered crops in the U.S. unfairly shifts the cost to organic growers and consumers. Wind-pollinated and bee-pollinated crops, such as corn and alfalfa, have high risks of cross pollination between GE crops and unmodified varieties. Beyond Pesticides’ goal is to push for labeling as a means of identifying products containing GE ingredients, giving consumers the right to choose.

“I am proud to help lead the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Labeling Bill, which is all about consumer choice and information,” Polis said in a news release. “It’s important to empower people with the information they need to make their own healthy choices. People have the right to make consumer decisions based on accurate transparency in labeling, and knowledge is power.”

The announcement was held at a press conference at local food grocer, Alfalfa’s Market. Mark Retzloff, organic foods pioneer, co-founder and President of Alfalfa’s said, “As someone who has devoted his life and 43-year career to ensuring consumers have access to healthy organic foods, I think that consumers have a right to know how their food is produced, and the vast majority of consumers polled say they want to know if their food has been genetically modified.  A federal labeling standard for GMO ingredients is the best choice for consumers and product manufacturers, as it provides transparency on the label and requires the same labeling standard for all manufacturers, regardless of their location or production methods.”

GE food is prevalent in our food supply, however consumers have little ability to identify which products contain them:

  • Over 50 countries around the world have significant restrictions or bans on GE foods.
  • According to a recent Washington Post article, 94% of Americans believe genetically modified foods should be labeled.
  • An estimated 85 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered and 91 percent of soybeans.
  • An estimated 70 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients.
  • The organic food business, which is under threat from the uncontained spread of GE food, is estimated at 30 billion dollars a year in the U.S.
  • Mandatory labeling requirements for genetically engineered food produced in the United States would facilitate national trade by allowing American farmers and companies to export and appropriately market their products to foreign customers.

The GE Labeling bill:

  • States that consumers have a right to know whether the food they purchase contains or was produced with genetically engineered material.
  • Defines the term genetically modified organism, including plants, animals and fish, and requires labeling.
  • Provides a framework of civil penalties for violations.

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

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

Sources: Food Safety News

Boulder Weekly

Alfalfa’s Press Release

DenveriJournal

 

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

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27
Feb

Pesticide Makers Win Bid to Overturn Pesticide Restrictions

(Beyond Pesticides, February 27, 2013) Last week a U.S. Court of Appeals found that pesticide restrictions to protect endangered salmon and steelhead proposed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in its Biological Opinion (BiOp) were “arbitrary and capricious,” supporting Dow AgroSciences LLC and other pesticide makers’ claims that the restrictions were based on “unsupported assumptions and conclusions.” The BiOp concluded that the pesticides chlorpyrifos, malathion and diazinon, three of the most highly toxic pesticides still in use, pose risks to salmon, steelhead and their habitat. salmon

In collaboration with NMFS, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with implementation of any recommended pesticide restrictions to satisfy the mandate under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). However, to date, EPA has not taken any actions to implement any of the proposed measures to protect endangered salmon and steelhead, in part due to challenges from industry. Dow AgroScience LLC, Makhteshim Agan of North America, Inc., and Cheminova, Inc. USA first filed a suit in 2009 (Dow Agrosciences v. National Marine Fisheries ), challenging the NMFS’ 2008 BiOp to restrict chlorpyrifos, malathion and diazinon as being based on numerous unsupported assumptions and conclusions, and faulty analyses. The U.S. District Court upheld NMFS’ BiOp in 2011, finding that the BiOp is rationally supported by the “voluminous facts and studies considered by the [Fisheries Service].” Last week, however, the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court reversed the previous decision, ruling that the BiOp is not the product of reasoned decision making because NMFS failed to explain or support several assumptions critical to its opinion. The court vacated the BiOp and remanded the case back to the district court. The decision also states that NMFS failed to supply an economic reason to ban pesticides from buffer strips of land abutting salmon habitats, even though environmental and fisheries groups argue that BiOps must be based on biology and toxicological impacts, not economic concerns.

(See the ruling here.)

The 2008 BiOp assesses the effects of pesticides containing chlorpyrifos, diazinon, or malathion on 28 listed Pacific salmonids, as required under Section 7 of ESA. Citing the goal of the recommendations, “to reduce exposure to ensure that the action is not likely to jeopardize listed species or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat,” the 2008 BiOp concludes that, “EPA’s proposed registration of pesticides containing chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of 27 endangered and threatened Pacific salmonids and is likely to destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat for 25 threatened and endangered salmonids.” Further, it states, “Measured and predicted concentrations of the three active ingredients in salmonid habitats, particularly in off-channel habitats, are likely to cause adverse effects to listed species including significant reductions in survival, reproduction, migration, and growth,” and that  “EPA’s proposed registration of chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion is likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat of these endangered and threatened species because of adverse effects on salmonid prey and water quality in freshwater rearing, spawning, migration, and foraging areas.” Recommendations call for buffers surrounding streams and watersheds and requests that EPA encourage chemical companies to change their pesticide product labels to include buffer requirements, but EPA withheld action until the resolution of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case.

Stephen Mashuda, an attorney for Earthjustice, a San Francisco-based environmental advocacy group that joined the case defending the BiOp, predicted that NMFS will be able to supply the evidence to back up its position that the pesticides pose a threat to salmon and related species. “We’re still confident that the agency’s ultimate conclusions about the pesticides will stand,” Mr. Mashuda said. “These are three of the most toxic pesticides on the planet, to wildlife and to humans.”

NMFS has issued several Biological Opinions which call for several limitations on aerial spraying and ground application of the pesticides near salmon waters, as well as buffer zones around salmon waters and ditches that drain to salmon habitat, among others. EPA was court ordered to consult with NMFS to identify measures needed to protect salmon and steelhead from the pesticides as a result of a 2002 and 2007 lawsuit. As a result of these consultations, EPA in a letter to NMFS, explained how it planned to achieve protection goals through the methods outlined in the BiOps or by alternative methods drafted by the agency. However, pesticide manufacturers willfully ignored and challenged NMFS’ findings and EPA’s implementation of the recommendations. Dow AgroSciences LLC and Cheminova, in stated in correspondence to the EPA, said they were “baffled by the agency’s position,”  and that their products do not threaten endangered species. Citing their “solid scientific evidence” that they claim is “far more complete than is reflected in the NMFS Biological Opinion,” they are not prepared to make the registration revisions [to their products].

EPA, under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), can force chemical companies to change their labels by cancelling existing labeling and issuing new ones. However, label changes are piecemeal efforts that do not address the larger problem that toxic pesticides pose to human health, wildlife, and environmental integrity. Beyond Pesticides calls for the full protection of endangered species through strong legislation that supports least-toxic chemical use. Throughout the years, chemicals have been poisoning our foods and sickening our children.

In a similar issue, a NMFS draft Biological Opinion found that the issuance of the proposed pesticides general permit by EPA is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of endangered and threatened species and cause the destruction or modification of critical habitat of the species without the implementation of a reasonable and prudent alternative (RPA). NMFS stated that pesticide discharges were resulting in exposures to pesticide pollutants in concentrations, durations or frequencies that cause adverse effects to ESA listed species or designated critical habitat. The controversial pesticide general permit went into effect October 31, 2011 after a months-long unsuccessful battle in Congress to have the water protections revoked.

Source: Bloomberg News

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

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26
Feb

Mosquitoes Show Resistance to Highly Toxic DEET Repellent

(Beyond Pesticides, February 26, 2013) The world’s most commonly used synthetic insect repellent is not as effective as it once was, according to scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. While researchers found DEET to be an effective repellent after an initial application, subsequent rounds of testing mere hours later showed mosquitoes to be unaffected by its presence. The study, published in the journal PLOS One, underlines the need to develop safe, natural, effective alternative preventions to this hazardous chemical.Aedes_aegypti_feeding

To perform their experiment, researchers took the mosquito species Aedes aegypti, a carrier for dengue and yellow fever, and exposed it to a human arm covered in DEET. A few hours later they repeated the experiment, but this time the mosquitoes largely ignored the presence of the chemical. To find out what caused this to occur, researchers placed electrodes on the antennas of the insects. “We were able to record the response of the receptors on the antenna to DEET, and what we found was the mosquitoes were no longer as sensitive to the chemical, so they weren’t picking it up as well,”  co-author James Logan, PhD told the BBC.  “There is something about being exposed to the chemical that first time that changes their olfactory system – changes their sense of smell – and their ability to smell DEET, which makes it less effective.”

The authors indicate that this current research does not contradict their earlier studies on DEET from 2010.  Published in the journal PNAS, the researchers discovered that A. aegypti females were able to pass down a trait which prevented the sensory cell on the insect’s antennae from detecting DEET. When mutated females were bred with males of unknown sensitivity in tests, the quantity of mosquitoes that were insensitive to DEET rose from 13% to 50% in one generation. Dr. Logan told the BBC that, “It was vital to understand both these permanent genetic and temporary olfactory changes that were taking place.”

“Mosquitoes are very good at evolving quickly,” Dr. Logan explains. Companies currently experimenting with genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes should take note of Dr. Logan’s statement. Environmental groups, such as the UK based Genewatch, are concerned about continued experiments by the biotechnology company Oxitec, which is attempting to develop mosquitoes genetically engineered to produce sterile offspring. The organization claims, citing confidential Oxitec documents, that there is a possibility of next-generation mosquitoes mutating further and surviving until breeding age. This would imply that the modification could only provide a temporary reduction in the number of mosquitoes, with further unknown human and environmental health effects as a result.

Scientists, medical doctors, and environmental groups have raised concerns about DEET for years – and not just because of issues with resistance. DEET is quickly absorbed through the skin and can cause severe skin reactions at high concentrations, including large blisters and burning sensations. A 2009 study found DEET to have the potential to cause neurological damage in humans, as it was shown to interfere with the prominent central nervous system enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE). AChE is crucial for regulating nerve impulses in both insects and mammals. Interference with the nerve signaling process can cause convulsions and lead to muscular paralysis. In humans, symptoms of this disruption include headache, exhaustion and mental confusion together with blurred vision, salivation, chest tightness, muscle twitching, and abdominal cramps. The study also investigated the consequences of DEET interactions with carbamate insecticides on the cholinergic system, and found that DEET has the capacity to strengthen the toxicity of carbamates, a class of insecticides also known to block acetylcholinesterase.

DEET’s synergistic toxicity with other pesticides is well documented. A 2001 study showed that a combination of DEET and permethrin, another chemical often sprayed for mosquito control, led to motor defects and memory dysfunction in humans. Although EPA does not test for the synergistic effects of pesticides, one should never combine pesticides with each other or use them with other medications. Even a drug as simple as an antihistamine could interact with DEET and cause toxic side effects.

There are many least-toxic options for repelling insects that include the use of citronella and other essential oils, like oil of lemon eucalyptus, which has been recommended as an efficacious alternative by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For more information on safer methods to protect yourself from insects, please visit Beyond Pesticides’ fact sheet on repellents.

Given last year’s public health crisis as a result of a severe West Nile virus (WNv) outbreak, Beyond Pesticides encourages citizens concerned about the use of pesticides to control mosquitoes to begin attending, or encourage your own, community meetings on alternative strategies to control WNv. Contact Beyond Pesticides with any questions you may have at [email protected] or 202-543-5450.

Source: BBC
Image Source: Wikipedia

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

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25
Feb

Public Comment Process on Pesticide Use under Attack in Several States

(Beyond Pesticides, February 25, 2013) Both current and future pesticide laws are under assault in several states. State-run agencies in Alaska are no longer required to solicit public comments or a review process for pesticide applications on state land due to new regulations adopted by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). In Maine, the state Board of Pesticides Control is considering a proposal that weakens requirements for notification of pesticide spraying in fear of West Nile Virus (WNv) problems this summer. A state bill introduced in Hawaii to require neighbors to share specific information on pesticides being used to any abutting property owners was revised by various Hawaii statehouse committees until all notification rules in the bill were removed.

Alaska

The decision in Alaska, which will go into effect on March 7th, allows state agencies to spray pesticides on state land without having the application subject to public comment. The new regulation replaces the former transparent process with one that only requires agencies to develop an Integrated Pest Management Plan and submit it to the DEC. This new regulation takes away the ability for the public’s input to have an impact on proposed pesticide applications on state land. The biggest effect of this new regulation will be in terms of how Alaskan railroad tracks and right-of-ways will be managed. Due to public opposition, The Alaska Railroad has used mostly non-chemical methods of vegetation control since 1985, the year the state took over the railroad. These new regulations could end the Alaskan Railroad’s reputation as the only herbicide-free stretch of rail in the county. However, Alaskans have also used other tactics to reduce the use of pesticides on railroads beyond utilizing the public comment process.

In 2006, several jurisdictions passed resolutions opposing the spraying of pesticides by the Alaska Railroad in their districts, including the Denali, Kenai Peninsula and Matanuska-Susitna boroughs; the Municipality of Anchorage, the City of Seward, the Native Village of Eklutna; and the citizens advisory board for Matanuska-Susitna Valley state parks. The Alaskan Supreme Court also halted plans for the use of glyphosate to kill weeds along Alaskan Railroad track in 2010. Alaskans are particularly concerned with how pesticides can affect waterways and fishing. In 2008, several Alaskan Environmental groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for failing to conduct a proper assessment of the environmental consequences of using herbicides to kill non-native species in Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge and the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

Maine

In Maine, the state Board of Pesticide Control is considering a proposal to weaken public notification requirements so towns can more easily spray pesticides to control for insect-borne diseases. The board is recommending changes after consulting with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Maine health authorities on preparing for public health threats from WNv and other insect-borne disease. The new changes would allow the state to preform aerial and ground applications if the CDC recommends spraying. The town would only have to give general public notice through media outlets or websites, for example, in comparison to giving advance notification to all landowners. Land owners can still request to opt out of ground spraying but would not be allowed to opt out of aerial spraying.

This proposal has raised concerns among organic farmers and environmental groups about the potential exposures to pesticides that people and crops may face. Katy Green, quoted in an article in the Portland Press Herald, organic transitions director with the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) in Unity, said the nonprofit organization, which represents some 7,000 members in Maine, is worried about “the feasibility of limiting aerial spraying.”

“If an organic farmer’s fields or orchards are inadvertently hit by drifting spray, they couldn’t sell any of those products as organic,” she said.  “They’re worried about their livelihoods.”

Evidence through scientific studies  and experiences from communities around the country has shown that spraying pesticides is not an effective or efficient way to prevent death or illness associated with insect-borne WNv. Moreover, spraying for WNv can be harmful to non-target species, adversely affect wildlife, and contaminate drinking water sources.

Hawaii

Hawaiian state legislators worked to craft a bill that requires neighbors to provide specific information about the pesticides being used to any abutting property owner who requests it. House Bill 673 was originally crafted after families living near Monsanto’s corn fields tried to get information from the company on when and what they were spraying. However, Monsanto gave these families very little information. Kauai County councilman Gary Hooser notes in a recent blog post published on the organization Hawai’i Seed’s website, “People on my island are getting sick… Yet when I’ve asked these companies directly and officially in writing to disclose what chemicals and in what quantities they are spraying, the industrial agrochemical GMO companies on Kauai have refused to do so.”

After being introduced, House Bill 673 bill was amended by the Committee on Health, which deleted the requirement that private or commercial pesticide applicators provide an inquiring property owner certain information about the application of pesticides. The focus of the bill now, after passing through two committees with amendments, is for the Legislative Reference Bureau of Hawaii to conduct a study of pesticide reporting requirements of other states. The bill, if it passes in its current form, has an effective date of July 1, 2050. Even though this bill has been watered down, there is an opportunity for the Hawaiian legislature to review other successful pesticide notification programs in the state and further amend the legislation to allow the legislation to take effect at an earlier date.

There is strong momentum for providing citizens greater protection from pesticides in Hawaii, despite efforts by agrichemical companies to spur this type of legislation. House Bill 1386 would establish a commercial pesticide-free buffer zone around schools, child care facilities, and health care institutions, imposing a 72-hour notice requirement in at least two newspapers or publications and to all schools, child care facilities, and health care institutions in the immediate area of commercial pesticide spraying.

The state Hawaii could also become the first state to impose labeling requirements  on imported genetically engineered (GE) food. Hawaiian House Bill 174 has already passed the agriculture, and consumer protection and commerce committee and was scheduled to be heard by the finance committee on February 22nd.

Notification of pesticide applications provides the public with the opportunity to take precautions to avoid direct exposures to hazardous pesticides. The weakening of these regulations particularly affects children, individuals with multiple chemical sensitivities, and other populations like the elderly, who are more sensitive to the effects of pesticides. For more information on pesticide notification laws read Beyond Pesticides’ “State Lawn Pesticide Notification Laws” fact sheet and visit Beyond Pesticides Lawns and Landscapes page.

Join the movement to promote policies which protect people from pesticide exposure by contacting Beyond Pesticides at [email protected], or call our office at 202-543-5450.

Source(s): Portland Press Hearld , KHON 2 , and Alaska Dispatch

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

 

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22
Feb

Speak Out for Organic Standards!

(Beyond Pesticides, February 22, 2013) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has invited the public to submit comments concerning changes to organic standards being proposed by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which will be voted on at the Board’s spring meeting on April 9-11,2013 in Portland, OR. The proposals will be open for public input until 11:59PM ET March 19, 2013.

The documents under Board consideration can be found on the NOSB website along with further information on the meeting, as well as where and how to register for in-person comments or to submit written comments. See Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage for more information on the upcoming issues and how to submit comments. We will be updating this webpage with our perspectives on the issues, so be sure to check back as new information is added.

Public participation is vital to the development of organic standards, as we are all organicstakeholders in ensuring a safe and sustainable food supply. 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. To read the recommendations from the various NOSB Subcommittees,  go to the NOSB website and select the subcommittee you are interested in from the drop down menu. The proposed recommendations are then sorted by date. You can also view the agenda and all committee proposals in the full meeting packet.

TAKE ACTION: Submit your comments on the NOSB Subcommittees proposals via Regulations.gov before Tuesday, March 19. You can search for the meeting using this docket number: AMS-NOP-12-0070, or by keywords such as NOSB, Organic, or Portland, or by clicking the link. This will bring you to a form in which to fill out your personal information and type your comment. When filling out your personal information, you only need to fill in the fields with a blue asterisk next to the label. Other fields, such as Submitter’s Representative and Government Agency should be left blank. Under Organization Name, enter the name of the group you are representing or “None” or “Private Citizen” if you are representing only yourself. You may then type your comment or upload it as a separate file. Finish by clicking the orange Submit button.

View the full docket Regulations.gov to see other comments already submitted. It should be noted that the NOSB meeting structure has been changed from how it was previously organized. There will now be an open public comment period on the first day of the meeting, Tuesday, April 9, during which you may present general comments or comments on multiple agenda items. If you wish to comment on a specific agenda item, there will be comment periods scheduled during each committee’s presentation for comments related to that committee’s items. Deadline to sign up of the in person oral comment is March 19, to reserve a spot click here.

We recommend using these guidelines and referring back to the organic law in order to organize your thoughts in your comments. This will help to clearly and succinctly lay out your points and make it easier for NOSB members to follow your reasoning.

Issues Before the NOSB for Spring 2013
A wide range of issues will be considered at the fall 2012 meeting. Beyond Pesticides will be updating our website in the coming weeks with our own comments that we will be submitting to the board on specific issues, as well with guidance that you may use in your own comments. All of these issues have direct bearing on organic integrity, so it is critical to have public input into the NOSB decision making process. As you write your comments, you may want to refer to the Principles of Organic Production and Handling adopted by the NOSB. Please submit your comments before March 19.

About the NOSB
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service oversees NOP and the NOSB. The NOSB includes four producers, two handlers, one retailer, three environmentalists, three consumers, one scientist and one certifying agent. The board is authorized by the Organic Foods Production Act and makes recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture regarding the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for organic operations. The NOSB also may provide advice on other aspects of the organic program. For more information on the history of organic agriculture and why it is the best choice for your health and the environment, please see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food Program Page.

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

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22
Feb

Pesticides, Not Crop Intensification, Found To Be the Primary Cause of Bird Declines

(Beyond Pesticides, February 22, 2013) Scientists agree that farmland and grassland birds are on the decline worldwide, but the debate over the causes has been contentious. A study published Tuesday points to pesticide use as the single most important indicator of grassland bird declines in the U.S., raising long held concerns over wildlife impacts.

Researchers in the UK and Denmark have studied why grassland birds have declined faster than birds in anyBaltimore-Oriole other biome –many linking declines to pesticide use– but similar research had not been conducted in the U.S. Proposed causes have ranged from: larger fields, the rise of uniform crop monocultures, the loss of native and natural habitat, the increase in autumn sowing and finally, the increase to fertilizer and pesticide inputs. Authors Pierre Mineau, PhD., senior research scientist on pesticide ecotoxicology with Environment Canada, and Melanie Whiteside sought to determine to what extent grassland bird declines were linked to agrochemical use in the U.S.

The results show that bird decline are, in fact, most correlated to pesticide use, rather than the intensification of crop production. Using information on agricultural intensity, pesticide use data published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, as well as bird breeding surveys conducted by the U.S. Geological Service between 1980 and 2004, researchers found that the best predictors of bird declines were:

1. ‘Lethal Pesticide Risk’; 2. Insecticide use; and 3. Loss of cropped pasture.

“Our results suggest that the use of lethally toxic insecticides cannot be ignored when trying to identify causes of grassland population declines in North America. Indeed, they offer a more plausible explanation for overall declines than does the oft-cited ‘habitat loss through agricultural intensification.’”

The study highlights the major difference between U.S. and European pesticide use patterns: while the Europe Union tends to ban or restrict on powerful pesticides, more lenient pesticide regulations in the U.S. continue to allow many more pesticides that are toxic to birds. With direct pesticide toxicity3.9 times more likely as a predictor of declines than loss of cropped pasture, the study has powerful implications for the future of U.S. pesticide regulations.

Our food choices have a direct effect on farmers, wildlife, and consumers around the world: This is why food labeled USDA Organic is the right choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, and the protection of farmworkers and farm families. See Beyond Pesticides’ guide Eating with a Conscience to see how your food choices make a difference.

Organic Solutions will be an important topic discussed further at the 31st Annual Pesticide Forum. Featured speakers will include Jeff Moyer, organic farm and gardening expert at the Rodale Institute and Courtney White, founder and creative director of the local organization, the Quivira Coalition. Beyond Pesticides is collaborating with local groups to bring many other speakers, top scientists, local and national activists and concerned citizens to share information on the issues local communities are facing. At the forum, participants and speakers alike will craft solutions and catalyze networks to advance positive health and environmental policy and change. Sustainable Families, Farms and Food: Resilient communities through organic practices will be held April 5-6, 2013 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. For more information and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

Source: PLoS ONE
Image Source: Focusing on Wildlife

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

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21
Feb

Chlorpyrifos Preliminary Volatilization Assessment Finds Risks to Children; EPA Requests Comment to Address Uncertainties

(Beyond Pesticides, February 21, 2013) On February 6, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its preliminary volatilization assessment for the registration review of chlorpyrifos, finding that vapor phase chlorpyrifos may be emitted from treated fields at levels resulting in exposure to children and others who live, work, attend school, or otherwise spend time nearby. In some circumstances, these bystanders may be exposed to chlorpyrifos and/or the transformation product chlorpyrifos-oxon at concentrations that could cause adverse effects. Citing uncertainties, the agency is requesting comments by March 8, 2013 on the potential risks to children and other bystanders from volatilization of chlorpyrifos from treated crops.

EPA’s preliminary volatilization assessment is also in response to a petition filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Pesticide Action Network North America (PAN) in 2007, which requested that the agency revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos. In a letter to NRDC and to PAN dated January 25, 2013, updating these groups on EPA’s response to their September 12, 2007 joint petition regarding chlorpyrifos, EPA stated that, “This assessment represents a significant advancement in the evaluation of pesticide risks, as it will be the first probabilistic assessment of the risks posed by the post-application volatilization of a semi-volatile pesticide.” EPA further stated that it is “critical to involve the public in the development of this assessment before it is finalized,” given “the groundbreaking nature of the new assessment and its potential for use in guiding additional risk mitigation.” The implications of the draft assessment and possible regulatory pathways forward could be significant, particularly with regard to pesticide spray drift.

If the final, more refined, chlorpyrifos volatility assessment indicates that risks are similar to those found in the preliminary evaluation, EPA anticipates that it may be necessary to take action to reduce bystander risks. With more information, however, the agency’s preliminary assessment could be refined and result in lower exposure and risk estimates. Last year, EPA 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. Chlorpyrifos was voluntarily withdrawn by manufacturers from residential use 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.

The preliminary evaluation of the potential risks from volatilization of chlorpyrifos supplements the EPA’s June 2011 preliminary human health risk assessment for the registration review of chlorpyrifos, and July 2012 spray drift assessment. The chlorpyrifos volatilization assessment includes approaches that the agency has used previously to assess inhalation exposures of fumigant pesticides. The assessment also is consistent with recommendations of the December 2009 FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel meeting on the scientific issues associated with field volatilization of conventional pesticides.

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. 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.

Take Action: Comments on the preliminary volatilization assessment are due March 8, 2013. EPA states that after reviewing comments received during the public comment period, it will issue a revised volatilization assessment, explain any changes to the preliminary volatilization assessment, respond to comments, and evaluate the need for risk mitigation for chlorpyrifos. The preliminary assessment is available online, and the docket is available online.

The chlorpyrifos preliminary volatility assessment , guide to commenters , and related documents are available in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0850 at www.regulations.gov.

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

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20
Feb

UN Report Declares Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals a Global Health Threat

(Beyond Pesticides, February 20, 2013) A new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified endocrine disrupting chemicals as having significant health implications for the global population. According to the report, these chemicals have the capacity to interfere with tissue and organ development and function, and therefore they may alter susceptibility to different types of diseases throughout life, and represents a global threat that needs to be resolved. The report cites insufficient reporting and information on chemicals in products, materials and goods and calls for more research and collaboration.

The State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals,  a joint study by UNEP and WHO, findsendocrine system that endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are important environmental risk factors for endocrine diseases. Exposures during critical phases of development play an important role in the onset of many diseases, affecting future generations. Trends indicate an increasing burden of certain endocrine diseases across the globe, and it is clear from human studies that populations are exposed to perhaps hundreds of environmental chemicals at any one time. This UN study, which is the most comprehensive report on EDCs to date, highlights some association between exposure to EDCs and health problems, including the potential for such chemicals to contribute to the development of non-descended testes in young males, breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, attention deficit /hyperactivity in children  and thyroid cancer. The report notes that with more comprehensive assessments and better testing methods, potential disease risks could be reduced, with substantial savings to public health.

“We urgently need more research to obtain a fuller picture of the health and environment impacts of endocrine disruptors,” said Maria Neira, M.D., WHO’s Director for Public Health and Environment. “The latest science shows that communities across the globe are being exposed to EDCs, and their associated risks. WHO will work with partners to establish research priorities to investigate links to EDCs and human health impacts in order to mitigate the risks. We all have a responsibility to protect future generations.”

A healthy endocrine system is essential for healthy reproduction and development in human and wildlife. However, endocrine disruptors can change the function(s) of the body’s hormonal system, increasing the risk of adverse health effects. Chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties linked to disease outcomes in laboratory studies have been identified. According to the Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX), founded by Theo Colborn, PhD, endocrine effects include direct effects on traditional endocrine glands, their hormones and receptors  (such as estrogens, anti-androgens, and thyroid hormones), as well as signaling cascades that affect many of the body’s systems, including reproductive function   and fetal development , the nervous system and behavior, the immune and metabolic systems, the liver, bones and many other organs , glands and tissues. TEDX has identified approximately 870 endocrine disruptors, including chemicals like PCBs, Bisphenol A, pesticides like atrazine, triclosan, DDT and many others.

The report also raises similar concerns on the impact of EDCs on wildlife. In Alaska, exposure to such chemicals may contribute to reproductive defects, infertility and antler malformation in some deer populations. Population declines in species of otters and sea lions may also be partially due to their exposure to diverse mixtures of PCBs, the insecticide DDT, other persistent organic pollutants, and metals such as mercury. Meanwhile, bans and restrictions on the use of EDCs have been associated with the recovery of wildlife populations and a reduction in health problems.

The report identifies current needs to take advantage of existing knowledge to improve human and wildlife health by prevention of environmentally induced diseases:

–  Testing: known EDCs are only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and more comprehensive testing methods are required to identify other possible endocrine disruptors, their sources, and routes of exposure.

 Research: more scientific evidence is needed to identify the effects of mixtures of EDCs on humans and wildlife (mainly from industrial by-products) to which humans and wildlife are increasingly exposed.

–  Reporting: many sources of EDCs are not known because of insufficient reporting and information on chemicals in products, materials and goods.

–  Collaboration: more data sharing between scientists and between countries can fill gaps in data, primarily in developing countries and emerging economies.

The State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals—2012 report begins by explaining what endocrine disruption is all about and then reviews our current knowledge of endocrine disrupting effects in humans and in wildlife. The document ends with a review of sources of and exposures to EDCs. The Summary for Decision-Makers is also available.

A 2012 study from a group of renowned endocrinologists finds that even low doses of EDCs can influence certain human disorders, highlighting various epidemiological studies that show that environmental exposures to EDCs are associated with human diseases and disabilities. The authors conclude that the effects of low doses cannot be predicted by the effects observed at high doses, and therefore recommend fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination to protect human health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is mandated to screen chemicals for potential endocrine disrupting effects. However, the agency has yet to finalize its screening and testing procedures since tasked to do so in 1996. The tests to be used by EPA were first recommended in 1998, but since then the science has made progress and become more sophisticated, while EPA’s toxicological testing protocol has not been updated, according to some critics.

Some EDCs occur naturally, while synthetic varieties can be found in electronics, personal care products and cosmetics. They can also be found as additives or contaminants in food. A well-functioning endocrine system regulates the release of certain hormones that are essential for functions such as metabolism, growth and development, sleep and mood. Human exposure can occur via the ingestion of food, dust and water, inhalation of gases and particles in the air, and skin contact.

Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Disease Database features a wealth of studies that have linked pesticide exposures to adverse impacts on the endocrine system. These studies explore outcomes and mechanisms for several health effect endpoints including cancer, developmental and learning disorders, Parkinson’s disease, reproductive health.

Join us at Beyond Pesticides’ 31st annual National Pesticide Forum, “Sustainable Families,
Farms and Food,
” with top national scientists, local and national activists, and concerned citizens as we share information on the issues local communities face, craft solutions and catalyze networks to manifest positive health and environmental policy and change. Discussions on the impact that pesticides and other EDCs have on human and environmental health would be led by renowned scientists and medical professionals like Tyrone Haynes, PhD, Lynn Carroll, PhD, Joel Forman, M.D., Issac Pessah, PhD, and others. For more information on the forum, visit http://www.beyondpesticides.org/forum/.

For more on EDCs, download Beyond Pesticides’ Endocrine Disruption brochure (bi-fold), or read Beyond Pesticides article, “Pesticides That Disrupt Endocrine System Still Unregulated by EPA.”

Source: UNEP News Centre

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19
Feb

Farmworker and Environmental Groups Urge EPA to Act on Farmworker Protection Standards

(Beyond Pesticides, February 19, 2013) On February 14, Beyond Pesticides joined with Earthjustice, Farmworker Justice, and a number of other environmental and farmworker organizations to submit a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson, urging for long overdue revisions to the Workers Protection Standard (WPS) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).Manual_sprayer_farmworker

The letter states that, “EPA’s inaction is unacceptable given farmworkers’ persistent exposure to harmful pesticides and ineffectual enforcement of the current WPS.” This letter comes after a previous petition in 2011 stressed the need for the agency to implement stronger protections for farmworkers. This letter also comes after fears from environmental and farmworker organizations over a recent EPA handout distributed during a November 2012 Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC) meeting that downplayed the details of a 2010 EPA document released on farmworker safety. EPA has not effectively updated WPS for almost 20 years, leaving farmworkers at risk.

Farm work is demanding and dangerous physical labor. A 2008 study by a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researcher finds that the incidence rate of pesticide poisoning is extremely high among U.S. agricultural workers. An average of 57.6 out of every 100,000 agricultural workers experience acute pesticide poisoning, illness or injury each year, the same order of magnitude as the annual incidence rate of breast cancer in the United States. As a result of cumulative long-term exposures, they and their children, who often times also work on the farm, are at risk of developing serious chronic health problems such as cancer, neurological impairments and Parkinson’s disease. Children, according to a recent American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report, face even greater health risks compared to adults when exposed to pesticides

The 2011 petition recommends that revisions to WPS focus on three key protections for the workers who handle and apply pesticides:

  • Medical monitoring of workers using pesticides that inhibit enzymes necessary to the functioning of the nervous system;
  • Use of “closed systems” for mixing and loading pesticides, which prevent splashing and blowing of pesticides onto workers;
  • Use of enclosed cabs in tractors from which pesticides are being sprayed using an airblaster.

In addition, the petition requests a range of basic measures that would afford stronger protections for agricultural fieldworkers.

The groups argue that EPA is required to incorporate these protections into its revisions both under FIFRA, the federal statute regulating pesticides, and under the agency’s stated obligation to achieve environmental justice by addressing the disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs and policies on minority and low-income populations.

Environmental and farmworker groups have grown increasingly concerned over the possible changes to WPS. After a 2010 EPA document proposed WPS that would determine ways to increase training, improve safety requirements, provide clear emergency information, and create strong protection for applicators, the agency has abruptly changed course. A handout distributed at the 2012 PPDC meeting downplayed the details within those goals, bringing into question the agency’s previous commitments. Advocacy groups are disturbed by EPA’s mercurial attitude towards farmworker protection, and fearful that there will be further delays in releasing WPS.

This recent letter submitted by Beyond Pesticides and other environmental and farmworker organizations highlights these fears and urges EPA to publish the proposed rule revising the WPS without further delay.  The letter argues:

“In sum, EPA has violated its legal and moral duty to protect farmworkers from being exposed to significant levels of toxic pesticides on the job. EPA must stop merely expressing its concern, and take meaningful steps to protect these workers, who are critical to the economy of the nation, from the pesticides they handle, including, at a minimum, adopting the safeguards we identify in the Petition.”

The letter was signed on to by Beyond Pesticides, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Earthjustice, Farmworker Association of Florida, Farmworker Justice, Farmworker Self-Help, Hispanic Federation, Kentucky Environmental Foundation, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, League of United Latin American Citizens, Migrant Clinicians Network, Migrant Farmworker Justice Project, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Latino Coalition on Climate Change, Pesticide Action Network North America, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste/Northwest Tree Planters and Farm Workers United, and United Farm Workers.

Our food choices have a direct effect on those who grow and harvest what we eat around the world. This is why food labeled organic is the right choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, and the protection of farmworkers and farm families. See Beyond Pesticides’ guide Eating with a Conscience to see how your food choices can protect farmworkers.

Farmworker safety will be an important topic discussed further at the 31st Annual Pesticide Forum. Beyond Pesticides is collaborating with local groups to bring top scientists together with local and national activists and concerned citizens to share information on the issues local communities are facing. At the forum, participants and speakers alike will craft solutions and catalyze networks to advance positive health and environmental policy and change. Sustainable Families, Farms and Food: Resilient communities through organic practices will be held April 5-6, 2013 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. For more information and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

Source: Letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson

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

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15
Feb

Bat Killing Fungus Spreads West

(Beyond Pesticides, February 15, 2013) Bats around the U.S. are being decimated by White Nose Syndrome (WNS). The deadly disease was detected recently at Kentucky’s Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, according to the National Park Service. Based on laboratory testing, three bats were discovered with WNS, coming from three separate caves in the park.

The cold-loving fungus thrives on hibernating bats, spreading in 2006 from a cave in New York State to 21 other states in the East and Midwest. In 19 of these states there have been confirmed cases of WNS, not including detections in four Canadian Provinces (see map). White nose syndrome is usually transmitted bat-to-bat, although the spore can also spread through human clothing, shoes or gear. The fungus causing WNS, Geomyces destructan, is extremely lethal to hibernating bats–though posing no health threats to humans, pets, or other animals– killing 90% of bats where the fungus had persisted for a year or more, totaling 5.8 million bat deaths since 2006.WNS_Status_Large20130128

There are six species of cave-dwelling bats that are susceptible to WNS, including the endangered Indiana bat. There are also three species of tree-dwelling bats in the parks, but these are less at risk for contamination as they are more mobile, wintering at the park but flying to other areas in the summer. Though they are at risk for exposure to other contaminated bats, tree-dwelling bats are not exposed to the soils and particulate matter within the caves that harbor the fungal spores.

While location certainly plays a role in bat susceptibility, bat mortality is largely attributable to changes in their immune system during hibernation. Research published by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2012  indicates that bats are susceptible to infection during their hibernation period as their body temperature and their immune system are depressed, allowing the fungus to spread unchecked over their wings, wears and muzzles. Without any cellular response to the disease, the pathogen destroys important tissue particularly in the wings. Infected bats often emerge from hibernation early and can be seen flying around in midwinter. These bats usually freeze or starve to death. If the infected bats actually survive the winter, they face the challenge of openly inflamed wounds prone to infection, as well as tears in their wings caused by the disease.

The startling impact to North American bats is in part because they have not yet developed an immune response or tolerance for the fungus as bats in Europe have, but may also be linked to toxic chemicals or other environmental factors interacting with the disease. In light of a 2010 study showing high concentrations of  polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), DDT, and chlordanes in the fat tissue of WNS stricken bats, it is evident that the role environmental contaminants play in the spread of WNS should be researched further.

While park officials can use decontamination protocol for visitors to the caves, unfortunately there is little they can do to stop the bat-to-bat transmission of WNS. “The bats are moving it pretty quickly and efficiently on their own, and we don’t have any way we can prevent that spread,” said spokeswoman Ann Froschauer, of the federal Fish and Wildlife Service.

Bats are a crucial species in ecosystem functioning. They are one of the only nocturnal pollinators and the only nocturnal insect predator in the US, playing a key role both for plants and for farmers. Organic farmers in particular, are reliant on bat pollinators as a pest management tool: one brown bat can kill between 3000 and 7000 insects per night. A study published in 2011 in the journal Science estimated that bats provide $3.7 Billion to $53 Billion per year worth of pest control services to agricultural operations, and that number does not include pollination services.

Bat pollination, technically known as chiropterophily, is integral for many wild and commercial tropical fruits. The next time you eat a guava, avocado, fig, peach, clove, cashew, or mango you might want to thank the bat. Indeed, over 500 plants worldwide are completely or partially dependent on bat pollination.

Beyond Pesticides will continue to advocate for pollinator species, including bats, to learn more about our work go to our Pollinator Protection website. For more information bats  or white nose syndrome, go to Bat Conservation International  or WhiteNoseSyndrome.org.

Source: National Park Service

Photo Source: Bat Conservation International 

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

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14
Feb

Grassroots Organizers, Cutting Edge Scientists, Organic Solutions – The 31st National Pesticide Forum

(Beyond Pesticides, February 14, 2013Beyond Pesticides’ 31st National Pesticide Forum brings together top national scientists with local and national activists and concerned citizens to share information on the issues local communities are facing, craft solutions and catalyze networks to advance positive health and environmental policy and change. Sustainable Families, Farms and Food: Resilient communities through organic practices will be held April 5-6, 2013 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. For more information and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

The 2013 conference will focus on building resilience in our food system and bringing ecosystems back to balance, incorporating regional issues such as water and food sovereignty in the Southwest. The conference is convened by Beyond Pesticides, University of New Mexico Sustainability Studies Program (UNM SSP) and La Montanita Food Co-op.Local co-sponsors include: Agri-cultura Network, Amigos Bravos, Cuatro Puerta, Farm to Table, Food and Water Watch NM, Holistic Management International, Mid-Region Council of Governments Agriculture Collaborative, New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s Organic Program, Our Endangered Aquifer Working Group, Skarsgard Farms, South Valley Economic Development Center (SVEDC).31NPFposter

Registration is $15 for students, $35 for activists, $75 for non-members (includes a 1-year membership) and $175 for businesses. Registration covers access to all sessions, including organic food and beverage, Friday night performance and farm tours on Friday afternoon. Register online.

Highlights from the Program:

Friday Afternoon Tour
Beginning at 1pm on Friday, April 5, Beyond Pesticides, La Montanita Coop and UNM SSP invite you to join in on a whirlwind tour of a New Mexican food hub, Food Hub Fun for Local Flavor: Healthy Food, Healthy Communities, Healthy Economy. Many of the food that we will be serving at the conference this year will come from the farms that we’ll be visiting, including Agri-cultura Network’s farms, South Valley Economic Development Center, UNM Lobo Gardens the Veteran Farmer Project, and La Montanita Co-op’s Distribution Center.

Performance Friday Night: A Sense of Wonder
A Sense of Wonder, which is written, produced, and performed by Kaiulani Lee, is the story of Rachel Carson’s  love for the natural world and her fight to defend it. It is the story of the extremely private Ms. Carson thrust into the role of controversial public figure with the publication of Silent Spring. This powerful one-woman, two-act play brings to life on stage Ms. Carson’s passionate message on the adverse health and environmental effects of pesticides, just as these toxic chemicals were becoming an increasingly common part of modern life. Kaiulani Lee brings to the writing and acting of A Sense of Wonder and Can’t Scare Me, the story of Mother Jones more than 35 years of experience in theatre, film and television.

Cutting Edge Science
Researchers in endocrine disruption, birth defects, learning disabilities and more. Featured speakers include:

  • Joel Forman, MD, on his American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) organic food report
  • Tyrone Hayes, PhD, UC Berkeley on frog deformities
  • Isaac Pessah, PhD, UC Davis, on his research linking pesticides and autism as well as research which finds that the antibacterial triclosan impairs muscle function
  • Lynn Caroll, PhD, senior scientist at The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) on recent scientific literature on pesticides end endocrine disruption

Protecting Cultural Food Security and Biodiversity
Food and culture are indelibly linked both to each other and to the biodiversity of a region. Speakers will discuss how to balance the needs of all people to create a sustainable future. Featured speakers include:

  • Don Bustos, traditional farmer, IATP Food and Community Fellow and program director for the American Friends Service Committee- New Mexico
  • Clayton Brascoupe, founding member and program director of Traditional Native American Farmers Association
  • Loretta Sandoval, owner of Zulu’s Petals Certified Organic Produce and Nursery, working to preserve local pepper and corn varieties

Organic Land Management
Researchers and practitioners discuss the most cutting edge approaches to managing land without the use of harmful chemicals.

  • Lani Malmberg, board member of Beyond Pesticides and director of Ewe4ic Ecological Services which provides goat grazing service for noxious weed control and land restoration
  • Matthew Chew, Arizona State University on non-native species and their ecological roles in nature
  • Ann Adams, director of community services at Holistic Management International

Fighting GE Crops
From labeling food to preventing the planting of genetically engineered seeds, experts will discuss national and local policies moving forward. Featured speakers include:

  • Andy Kimbrell, Executive Director of Center for Food Safety
  • Eleanor Bravo, New Mexico Food and Water Watch
  • Isaura Andaluz, Cuatro Puertas

Protecting Pollinators
Protecting against declining honeybee health and colony collapse, featuring:

  • Les Crowder, Author of Top-Bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health and President of the NM Beekeeping Association
  • Loretta McGrath, director of the Pollinator Partners Project at Farm to Table NM

Organic Solutions
Building resilience in our food system and bringing our ecosystem back to balance. Facing climate change, limited natural resources, and deteriorating agro-industrial infrastructures demand we reevaluate and change our dependence upon chemically-intensive agriculture to maintain a sustainable food supply. We will explore the ways in which policy, planning, and community-based organizing are localizing our food systems and making them more adaptable to physical and cultural change. Featured speakers include:

  • Jeff Moyer, organic farm and gardening expert at Rodale Institute
  • Richard Moore, program director for Los Jardines Institute which advocates for stronger
  • Courtney White, founder and creative director of The Quivira Coalition

For full list of speakers, click here.

For more information on the program, local logistics and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

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13
Feb

Revisions to Human Testing Rules Finalized

(Beyond Pesticides, February 13, 2013) After years of scrutiny and criticism, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson signed amendments strengthening existing standards for human research involving pesticides submitted by third parties for consideration in EPA decisionmaking. These amendments apply to studies involving the controlled exposure of participants to pesticides, with the hope that these “tougher” new standards will decrease the number of intentional human dosing studies conducted for pesticides.humantesttube

Even though EPA stated in 2001 that it will not consider or rely on human studies in its regulatory decisionmaking, subsequent industry pressure resulted in EPA invoking the Common Rule (40 CFR 26 – Protection of Human Subjects) for third-party intentional dosing studies. The agency promulgated new rules and made revisions to these rules, stemming from the lawsuit and settlement by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) et al., to broaden and refine rules relating to human research involving pesticides.

In 2010, EPA published the proposed rule to amend EPA’s protocol for the testing of pesticides on humans. Now finalized, the rule strengthens EPA’s 2006 rule, Protections for Subjects in Human Research. Now prohibited is testing on nursing and pregnant women, children, as well as testing on individuals who may be unable to consent for themselves, e.g. the mentally disabled or incapacitated.  The new rule will also provide guidance to third parties, including pesticide manufacturers and other research institutions who intend to conduct pesticide research involving intentional exposures to human subjects. These guidelines will now require the submission to EPA, and the newly created independent Human Studies Review Board (HSRB), proposals for new research prior to study initiation, and additional review after completion. Materials to be submitted include information concerning the ethical conduct of the human study, including copies of relevant records, and copies of records relevant to the key ethical considerations. According to EPA, only after an external, rigorous review including opportunities for public involvement, will EPA reach decisions on whether to accept a human study.  The new amendments also implement the recommendations from a 2004 report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

“With this action, EPA is underscoring the critical importance and fundamental compatibility of sound science and high ethical standards,” said James Jones, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “These amendments will ensure that EPA decisions will only consider human research that has been conducted according to the highest ethical standards.”

Although these new amendments theoretically set a higher standard for the review of human studies, concern remains that EPA’s history of lax oversight and review process would lead to the unconditional approval of many questionable human studies. Beyond Pesticides believes conducting experiments on human subjects, intentionally exposing them to chemicals that can cause both short and long-term adverse effects, is unproductive, unethical and lacking in scientific integrity.

Background
Human testing, which was stopped by a moratorium in 1998, was reintroduced in 2003 by a court ruling in a pesticide industry suit. This allowed experiments in which people are intentionally dosed with pesticide effects, and allows EPA to use these experiments to set allowable exposure standards. In such experiments, people are paid to eat or drink pesticides, to enter pesticide vapor “chambers,” and to have pesticides sprayed into their eyes or rubbed onto their skin. Following the reintroduction of human studies, and under industry pressure, EPA began developing human testing rules, despite flaws found in studies, and subsequently approved testing in children, among other allowances. EPA released its final rule in 2006, despite a Congressional report decrying human testing in 2005. At the time, committee member Rep. Henry Waxman stated, “What we’ve found is that the human pesticide experiments that the Bush Administration intends to use to set federal pesticide policies are rife with ethical and scientific defects.”

A coalition led by NRDC argued in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that the 2006 rule ignored scientific criteria proposed by the National Academy of Sciences, did not prohibit testing on pregnant women and children, and even violated the most basic elements of the Nuremberg Code, including fully informed consent. The Nuremberg Code, a set of standards governing medical experiments on humans, was put in place after World War II following criminal medical experiments performed by Nazi doctors. A settlement agreement reached on June 2010 to amend EPA’s 2006 final rule.

These recent amendments do not make any changes to the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects (the “Common Rule”), which governs research with human subjects conducted or supported by the EPA and many other Federal departments and agencies.

Source: EPA News Release

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12
Feb

Vanishing Honey Bee Colonies May Impact California’s Almond Production

(Beyond Pesticides, February 12, 2013)  Is 2013 the year colony collapse disorder (CCD) begins impacting our food supply? According to the American Bee Journal, almond growers in California may not have access to the honey bee colonies necessary to pollinate this year’s crop. “We need 1.6 million colonies, or two colonies per acre, and California has only about 500,000 colonies that can be used for that purpose. We need to bring in a million more colonies but due to the winter losses, we may not have enough bees,” says Eric Mussen, PhD, extension apiculturist at the University of California Davis (UC Davis) Department of Entomology.bee-almond-blossom

The problem, Dr. Mussen explains, is due to heavy losses this winter and less populous hives overall. Some beekeepers are reporting astonishing winter losses upwards of 90 percent, and in select cases complete colony loss. Honey production in 2012 was one of the worst years in the history of the United States, Dr. Mussen notes. Less honey means less food for overwintering bees, putting increased stress on colonies attempting to fight off the spread of CCD.

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

Key symptoms of CCD include:
1) disappearance of the hive’s worker bees;
2) presence of the queen bee and absence of invaders;
3) presence of food stores and a capped brood.

Clothianidin, thiamethoxam, imidicloprid, and new systemic pesticide sulfoxaflor, currently under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review, represent enormous threats to the long-term survival of honey bee colonies both in the U.S. and across the globe. Most recently, the European Commission announced its position against the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, urging member states within the European Union (EU) to impose a two year suspension on their use. However, in the U.S., EPA has failed to act. In 2012, beekeepers, Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Food Safety, and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) filed an emergency legal petition with EPA to suspend the use of clothianidin, urging the agency to adopt safeguards. The petition, supported by over one million citizen petition signatures, targets the pesticide for its harmful impacts on honey bees.  The legal petition cites that EPA failed to adequately review relevant data to support the “no unreasonable adverse effects” standards for pollinators. Despite the absence of a relevant field study for pollinators, EPA has not only refused to take action, but is currently in the process of attempting to conditionally register another systemic pesticide “sulfoxaflor” without a long-term study on colony health.

Since the early 20th century, ‘migratory’ beekeepers have provided a critical service to U.S. agriculture by moving their hives seasonally to pollinate a wide variety of crops. Commercial beekeeping adds between $15 to $20 billion dollars in economic value to agriculture each year.

Almonds are one of the most bee-dependent crops, relying almost completely on honey bees and other pollinators in order to set fruit. California is responsible for nearly 80% of global almond production; as the state’s largest export, 70% of California almonds are shipped overseas for consumption. For the winter of 2010/11, California’s almond crops were worth approximately $2.84 billion dollars, with honey bees accounting for $2 billion dollars in value through pollination services.

This year, fewer honey bees could mean a smaller almond crop for California. Even the colonies that will be available to pollinate won’t be as populous, Dr. Mussen notes. “Almond growers usually want at least eight frames of bees per hive,” Dr. Mussen remarked to the American Bee Journal, “but this year they may be lucky to get six.  That’s one-third less bees per hive to pollinate the orchards.”

And almond growers pay a significant cost to get bee colonies on their farm – an average of $150 dollars a hive. According to the American Bee Journal, “Already brokers are getting calls from beekeepers saying ‘I can’t fulfill the contract. I’m going to be short.’”

Dr. Mussen does hold out a bit of hope for this year’s almond crop though. “Bees pollinate almonds on a community basis,” he says, “The strong colonies will make up for the weak colonies. The strong colonies will clean the orchard of pollen by early afternoon and then go down the street and grab food from nearby orchards.” Good weather is also an important part of a successful almond harvest. “It’s not always the bees’ fault if the nuts fail to grow,” he says.

Even if this year’s record-breaking forecast harvest of 2.10 billion pounds of almonds does narrowly come to fruition, it is evident that, given such sustained and continuing honey bee losses, we need our regulators to act. Now is the time to fight back against the unnecessary risks government agencies have allowed our pollinators to be exposed to. Take Action by midnight tonight and provide a public comment to EPA over the proposed conditional registration of sulfoxaflor. For additional information on what you can do to protect pollinators, visit Beyond Pesticides pollinators webpage.

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

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

Source: American Bee Journal, Daily Democrat (mirror)
Photo Source: NPR

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11
Feb

EPA Allows Highly Toxic Endosulfan Residues on Imported Chinese Tea

(Beyond Pesticides, February 11, 2013) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced its decision to allow residues of the cancer causing insecticide endosulfan on imported Chinese teas until July 31, 2016. Its decision to provide “additional time to transition to an alternative to endosulfan” raises serious concerns of further exposure to the toxic carcinogen for farmworkers and consumers.

In May 2011, EPA proposed to revoke all tolerances for endosulfan, as, “It can pose unacceptable health risks to farmworkers and wildlife and can persist in the environment.” The agency proposed transition time that would allow growers time to adopt alternatives, with the last four uses ending on July 31, 2016. For tea, EPA proposed an immediate revocation, since there is little if any endosulfan used in tea production in the U.S. However, the Chamber of Commerce of the Zhejiang International Tea Industry filed a complaint indicating that it would need five years or less to find feasible alternatives to endosulfan. It also indicated that it was unable to provide comment on the tolerance revocation ruling as the EPA did not provide proper notice to the World Trade Organization. In acknowledging this oversight, EPA will allow endosulfan residues of 24 parts per million (ppm) in imported Chinese tea, until July 31, 2016. Despite the risks posed by endosulfan residues, EPA sees the decision as “appropriate,” raising questions of whether EPA is putting economic interests ahead of public health.

EPA has historically favored long phase-out periods, despite the risks posed by prolonging the use of toxic pesticides. Indeed, EPA has allowed the use of endosulfan to be extended till mid 2016 for use in livestock ear tags, pineapples, strawberries, and vegetable crops for seed such as broccoli and kale, despite the fact that the DDT-era pesticide, endosulfan, is known to be extremely toxic: More than 74 countries have already banned endosulfan in recognition of its impacts to human health and the environment. Acute poisoning from endosulfan includes headaches, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, and in extreme cases, unconsciousness and even death. Studies have linked endosulfan to smaller testicles, lower sperm production, an increase in the risk of miscarriages and autism. It is also a potent environmental pollutant and is especially toxic to fish and other aquatic life, and affects birds, bees, earthworms, and other beneficial insects.

Endosulfan is volatile, persistent, and has a high potential to bio-accumulate in aquatic and terrestrial organisms. A large body of scientific literature documents endosulfan’s medium- and long-range transport on a global scale and subsequent accumulation in nearly all environmental media. In May 2011, endosulfan was finally added to the Stockholm Convention’s list of banned substances. The decision follows recommendations from the December 2009 Stockholm Convention Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC), which called for urgent “global action” to address health and environmental impacts of the toxic pesticide. Scientific experts at the POPRC concluded that endosulfan is likely to cause significant adverse human health and environmental effects as a result of the chemical’s medium- and long-range transport on a global scale and subsequent accumulation in nearly all environmental media.

EPA’s announcement underscores the continuing problem of toxic contamination of commodities coming from China. China, as well as other countries like India and Sri Lanka, uses pesticides extensively in tea production. In April 2012, the environmental group Greenpeace released a report that Unilever’s Lipton tea bags made in China contain pesticide residues that exceeded European Union’s (EU) maximum levels, three of these pesticides were banned for use in tea production by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, and seven of them were prohibited in the European Union, including endosulfan and bifenthrin. Of the tested teas, 13 pesticides were found in the green and tieguanyin tea and residue from nine was found in jasmine tea, according to Greenpeace.

“Despite their statement that their pesticides comply with national standards and that they are determined to minimize the amount of chemicals, the facts prove it is nothing but empty promises,” said a Greenpeace executive, Wang Jing, at his office in Beijing. The evidence exemplifies sharp criticism that the Chinese have not adequately addressed health violations in its food sector and continues to raise concerns on their impacts to human health and the environment.

According to the Tea Association of the USA, “Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water, and can be found in almost all U.S. households… On any given day, about one half of the American population drinks tea.” Of the tea that American’s drinks, over 22 percent comes from China, representing 24,821 MT of tea, second only to Argentina. Consumers ask, if EPA is concerned about reducing exposures to endosulfan, wouldn’t it put more restrictive revocation timelines for widely consumed products?

The extension of allowed tolerance for endosulfan in Chinese tea represents the continued threat for farmworkers, consumers and the environment. To ensure that the tea you’re drinking is not contaminated with endosulfan, consumers should protect themselves by purchasing USDA Organic Certified products when possible. Beyond Pesticides advocates through “Eating with a Conscience” for consumers to choose organic because of the environmental and health benefits to consumers, workers, and rural families. The Eating with a Conscience database, based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), describes a chemical-intensive food production system that enables toxic pesticide use both domestically and internationally, and provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page.

Take Action: Tell EPA that we need strong regulations against tea tainted with endosulfan.
We urge citizens concerned about the integrity of our food to speak out and provide a public comment to EPA. Submit your comments to the federal docket (the best way to get your voiced heard) using docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0104 at http://www.regulations.gov.

Source: Federal Register Rules and Regulations

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

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08
Feb

DDT Metabolite Linked to Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

(Beyond Pesticides, February 8, 2013) A recent study conducted at the University of Granada, Spain and published in the Journal Environmental Research proposes a link between exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in food, air, and water and prevalence of type 2 diabetes in adults, regardless of age, gender, and body mass index. The paper concludes that people with higher concentrations of DDE, the break down product of DDT, are four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to other DDT_WWII_soldierparticipants in the study. Increased rates of type 2 diabetes are also associated with exposure to beta-hexachlorocyclohexane, a break down product of the toxic chemical lindane, which in still allowed for use in agriculture and certain formulations of products used to treat lice and scabies.

The study was carried out by analyzing the concentrations of specific POPs in adipose, or fat, tissue of 386 adults undergoing non-cancer-related surgery in Spain. According to one of the authors of the study, Juan Pedro Arrebola, “Human adipose tissue acts as an energy reservoir and has an important metabolic function. However, adipose tissue can store potentially harmful substances, such as POPs.”  The study found that as concentrations of POPs grows in participants they are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes has increased significantly worldwide. According to a 2009 study, the world prevalence of diabetes among adults (aged 20-79 years) is estimated at 6.4%, affecting 285 million adults in 2010, and will increase to 7.7%, and 439 million adults by 2030.

POPs are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. Because of this, they have been observed to persist in the environment, be capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue, biomagnify in food chains, and have the potential for major impacts on human health and the environment. Many POPs are currently or were in the past used as pesticides. Others are used in industrial processes and in the production of a range of goods such as solvents, polyvinyl chloride, and pharmaceuticals. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, an international environmental treaty, aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of POPs.

DDT, an organochlorine pesticide classified as a POP, is the infamous pesticide that was the focus of Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring, published in 1962. The book details the wide range of detrimental effects that pesticides create in the natural environment, with specific focus on DDT and other POPs. Silent Spring was instrumental in setting off a chain of events including Earth Day and the formation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which subsequently banned DDT use in 1972.

Although DDT has been banned in the U.S. for over 40 years, it can still be present in homes and in the environment. A 2009 study randomly selected homes to be tested for 24 insecticides including DDT. Researchers found DDT in 42% of homes and DDE in 33 percent of homes. It is concerning that DDT was found in a higher percentage of homes than its breakdown product, DDE. This could mean that DDT does not degrade well in homes, possibly due to a lack of sunlight or microbes, and that residents are being exposed to current sources of DDT. Another study in 2005 shows elevated concentrations of DDT in fish samples taken in National Parks. As these studies show, once toxic chemicals are released into the environment they often times end up in unintended areas with the potential to cause long-term damage to human health and the environment.

DDT has long been connected to a wide array of human health problems beyond diabetes. A long line of recent studies associated with the negative health effects of DDT include breast cancer and autism. DDT has also been linked to Vitamin D deficiency  and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Lindane , also an organochlorine  POP, is carcinogenic and can lead to seizures in both children and adults. Lindane has not been registered for agricultural use since 2006, however it is still registered for use in pharmaceutical products such as lice and scabies shampoos and lotions.

This recent study is not the first study to document connections between organochlorines and other POPs with type 2 diabetes. A 2010 study found that even low dose exposure to certain POPs may play a role in the increased incidences of diabetes. Another study released in 2011 tested for development of type 2 diabetes in the elderly. The study found that subjects who have been exposed to organochlorine pesticides are up to three times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Kaiulani Lee will perform a Sense of Wonder at Beyond Pesticides’ 31st Annual Pesticide Forum. Sense of Wonder is a play based on Rachel Carson’s life, her love for the natural world, and her fight to defend it from pesticides such as DDT. Beyond Pesticides is collaborating with local groups to bring top scientists together with local and national activists and concerned citizens to share information on the issues local communities are facing. At the forum, participants and speakers alike will craft solutions and catalyze networks to advance positive health and environmental policy and change. Sustainable Families, Farms and Food: Resilient communities through organic practices will be held April 5-6, 2013 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. For more information and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

Source: Deccan Herald

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

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07
Feb

New Mexico Senate Blocks GE Food Labeling Bill

(Beyond Pesticides, February 7, 2013) Despite passing the Senate Public Affairs Committee last week after an overwhelmingly positive discussion, Senate Bill 18 to amend the New Mexico Food Act, which would require the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food and feed, was “deemed lost” after a majority of the Senate, in an extremely rare action, voted on the Senate Floor not to adopt the committee’s report. Under Senate rules, this stopped the bill in its tracks and cut off any further debate or public input.

“Even though SB 18 is dead this year, it’s clear that New Mexicans want and deserve a label that tells them whether or not their food has been genetically engineered,” said the bill’s author Senator Peter Wirth (D-25 Santa Fe). “I greatly appreciate the Public Affairs Committee’s feedback and discussion around the issue of labeling GE food, as well as Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez’s leadership on this issue. GE food labels are a right New Mexican consumers deserve and, while this defeat is a setback, this discussion will continue at the state and national level.”

The bill passed the Public Affairs Committee five to three with Senators Craig Brandt (R-Dist 40), Ron Griggs (R-Dist 34) and Gay Kernan (R-Dist. 42) voting against. In a roll call vote on the Senate Floor Thursday morning, 23 senators voted to reject the report submitted by Public Affairs Committee Chair Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Dist 12). The senators, traditionally supporters of peoples’ rights, who voted the report down were: President Pro Tempore Mary Kay Papen (D-Dist 38), John Arthur Smith (D-Dist 35), George Munoz (D-Dist 4) and three members of the Corporations Committee, Clemente Sanchez (D-Dist 30), Phil Griego (D-Dist 39), John Sapien (D-Dist 9).

“Food & Water Watch is disappointed that the Senate did not stand up for the rights of consumers to  have basic information about their food this week, but we are not discouraged,” said Food & Water Watch’s New Mexico Organizer Eleanor Bravo. “Support for mandatory GE food labels has never been stronger. Just like nutrition and country-of-origin labels before, consumers have the basic right to choose for themselves whether or not to buy and eat GE foods. The time for transparency and truth about GE foods has come and we hope New Mexico’s congressional delegation will lead on this issue the next time around. We will continue to build broad public support for our right to know.”

In other states, local groups in Oregon have been working to ban GE crops in various counties, and in the state of Washington, the sponsor of labeling Initiative 522 submitted more than the required number of signatures that will require the legislature to consider its adoption or place it on the ballot. For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic Seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers.

Ms. Bravo will be speaking at Beyond Pesticides’ 31st Annual Pesticide Forum to discuss the labeling efforts in New Mexico and strategies for moving forward. Beyond Pesticides is collaborating with local groups, including co-sponsor group Food and Water Watch- NM, to bring together top scientists with local and national activists and concerned citizens to share information on the issues local communities are facing, craft solutions, and catalyze networks to manifest positive health and environmental policy and change. Sustainable Families, Farms and Food: Resilient communities through organic practices will be held April 5-6, 2013 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. For more information and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

Source: Food and Water Watch Press Release

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

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06
Feb

Take Action: EPA Poised to Repeat Missteps, Set to Register Pesticide Toxic to Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, February 6, 2013) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to register a new insecticide, sulfoxaflor, which the agency has classified as “very highly toxic” to honey bees. Despite efforts underway in Europe to protect bee populations, and continued warnings from beekeepers, EPA is poised to allow another chemical toxic to bees into the environment without proper field studies evaluating long-term effects to bee colonies and with label statements that are impractical and unenforceable. With continuing reports of bee deaths, would sulfoxaflor be yet another bee disaster waiting to happen? Take action and tell EPA not to repeat past missteps and protect pollinators from sulfoxaflor by providing a public comment to EPA.  (see below for sample comments).beecomb

Last month, EPA opened the comment period for the proposed conditional registration of sulfoxaflor, a new active ingredient, whose mode of action is similar to that of neonicotinoid pesticides -it acts on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) in insects. Even though it has not been classified as a neonicotinoid, it elicits similar neurological responses in honey bees, with many believing that sulfoxaflor is the new generation of neonicotinoid. EPA has noted that sulfoxaflor is highly toxic to bees, and other studies reporting inconclusive effects on bee brood development, even though high mortalities were observed. Despite this, the agency believes that observed adverse effects in bees are “relatively short-lived” even though a long- term study on colony health is still outstanding.  According to the agency, sulfoxaflor residues in nectar and pollen are estimated to exceed levels of concern for honey bees, and so EPA is proposing to lower the application rate from that initially requested by the registrant, Dow AgroSciences LLC, as well as reduce minimum spray intervals. However, given sulfoxaflor’s highly neurotoxic nature, and that pertinent data gaps exists (i.e. field studies for bee colony strength and for assessing residues in bee attractive crops), it is irresponsible for EPA to allow sulfoxaflor into the environment.

EPA has routinely allowed chemicals into the environment without a firm understanding of human and ecological effects. In fact, in spite of not being formally registered, sulfoxaflor has been granted for use through emergency use permits (section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act) by various states on cotton in 2012. This means that without proper ecological assessments, sulfoxaflor was introduced into the environment posing unknown risks to honey bees for some time now. Similarly, label statements proposed for sulfoxaflor underscore the potential risks to bees, but like most product labels may be unrealistic and unenforceable.

The case of sulfoxaflor is reminiscent of clothianidin,  a neonicotinoid highly toxic to bees, which was conditionally registered in 2003 without the required field studies for assessing risks to honey bees. Clothianidin, and its parent compound, thiamethoxam, have since been linked to bee decline and are now subject to restrictions in Europe. Clothianidin is primarily used as a seed treatment on corn and translocates throughout the plant to pollen and nectar, which exposes bees to residues which leads to disruptions in mobility, navigation, and feeding behavior. Sublethal exposures have been shown to decrease foraging activity, along with olfactory learning performance and decrease hive activity.

Just last week, the European Commission announced its position against the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, pushing nations within the European Union (EU) to impose a two year suspension on their use. The proposal, put forward at a meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, would restrict the application of neonicotinoids as granules, seed-treatment or spray, on crops that are attractive to bees, particularly, sunflowers, rapeseed, corn, cotton, and cereal crops. This announcement was issued in reaction to a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report that three neonicotinoid insecticides —imidacloprid, clothianidin,  and thiamethoxam, pose an unacceptable hazard to honey bees. The EFSA report concludes that systemic contamination of neonicotinoid-treated crops, neonicotinoid dust exposure, and contaminated nectar and pollen contributes to declines in honey bees and weakens their hives. High risks were also identified from exposure to guttation fluid from corn for thiamethoxam.

Additionally, the human health assessment for sulfoxaflor reveals the occurrence of developmental abnormalities in laboratory organisms, as well as an increased incidence of several types of tumors in both male and female rats and mice, leading EPA to classify sulfoxaflor as “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential.” Sulfoxaflor is proposed for use on various agricultural commodities, including numerous vegetables, canola, soybeans, beans, turfgrass and wheat among others for aerial and ground broadcast applications. There are currently no residential uses requested for sulfoxaflor.

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

Take Action: Tell EPA Not To Repeat Missteps of the Past and Protect Pollinators. Send a Public Comment to EPA!
Given recent action in Europe to protect pollinators from hazardous pesticides, EPA should be doing the same in the U.S. Sulfoxaflor is too toxic to honey bees to be allow widespread use in the environment. Submit your comments to the federal docket (the best way to get your voiced heard) using docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2010-0889  by February 12, 2013.

(If you have problems accessing the docket, click here)

Sample Public Comment:

To the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

I am writing to express concern regarding the proposed conditional registration of the new pesticide active ingredient, sulfoxaflor. This chemical is highly toxic to honey bees and its use will compound the already growing problem of bee decline. There are many aspects of EPA’s risk assessment for sulfoxaflor that I find troubling and which I believe should disqualify this chemical from being granted conditional registration.

Sulfoxaflor is highly toxic to bees according to EPA, and there are still outstanding ecological data regarding honey bees, including field studies for assessing colony heath. Given the global phenomenon of bee population decline and the recent precautions taken in the European Union to protect bee health with the pending suspension of certain pesticides known to elicit adverse effects in bees, it is irresponsible that the agency would allow yet another chemical with a high potential to be hazardous to bee health into the environment, with unknown risks.

With continuing reports of bee deaths, I am concerned that sulfoxaflor may create yet another bee calamity. I urge the agency to protect honeybees and reject the pending registration for sulfoxaflor..

Thank you,
Your_Name

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05
Feb

Nanoparticles Found To Be Toxic to Earthworms

(Beyond Pesticides, February 5, 2013) Although nanoparticles are increasingly added to a wide range of consumer products, very little is known about the potential risks these materials pose to the health of our environment. A study by the Dutch research institute Alterra looked at the effects of nanoparticles on earthworms, revealing the ability of nanomaterials to cause significant harm to the beneficial organisms.
Nanoparticle worm

Earthworms are excellent indicators of soil health, and provide vitally important ecosystem services by aerating the soil, cycling nutrients, and increasing microbial activity. The Alterra study, led by Doctoral candidate Merel van der Ploeg, compared the health and growth of earthworms in soil containing carbon and silver nanoparticles at varying amounts with worms in regular soil. Mr. Van der Ploeg found the soil containing nanoparticles reduced reproduction, slowed growth, and increased the mortality rate of exposed earthworms. Young worms are particularly sensitive to the effects of the nanomaterial.

Mr. Van der Ploeg notes, “I also found damage to the skin tissue and intestinal wall, often accompanied by damage to the underlying muscle, but even though tissue damage is usually associated with inflammation, I did not observe this in the earthworms. There seemed to be a suppression of the immune system.”

The results of this research reinforce calls by environmental groups to increase federal oversight of nanomaterials. Previous studies have also shown nanoparticles to cause negative impacts on the environment. A 2010 study found that silver nanoparticles can harm plant life at levels the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported finding in biosolids (sewage sludge). Where silver nanoparticles were present in the soil, plant species were reduced by 22 percent, with an additional 20 percent reduction of microbial biomass, as compared to those plants without the presence of nanoparticles. A 2012 study  on zinc oxide and cerium oxide nanoparticles, found in cosmetic products and diesel fuels respectively, demonstrated the capacity for nanoparticles to accumulate in plant tissue and impair the ability of leguminous plants to fix nitrogen from the air. Additional research published in 2010 describes the toxicity of nanosilver products on fat head minnows, with the particles causing developmental deformities and death.

Currently, the chemical testing methodologies for nanotechnology are outdated, manufacturers do not fully disclose the nanoparticles that are incorporated in their products, and there is a critical lack of governmental oversight and regulation. As there are no requirements for labeling nanoparticles in the U.S., consumers are largely in the dark. Many of the products containing nanomaterials on the market now are for skin care and cosmetics, but nanomaterials are also increasingly being used in products ranging from medical therapies to food additives to electronics. In 2009, developers generated $1 billion from the sale of nanomaterials, and the market for products that rely on these materials is expected to grow to $3 trillion by 2015. Whether via biosolids, from impregnated clothing, or the range of other products containing nanomaterials, these particles are entering our environment and our food chain, with little information on their environmental fate or potential health impacts.

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

Speakers at the 31st Annual Pesticide Forum will address the wide range of regulatory failures perpetuated by our current system of government oversight. Join us in Albuqueque, New Mexico for a discussion on the alternatives already present and strategies we all can take to promote their adoption into mainstream consumer sentiments.

Sources: BloombergWageningen UR

Photo Credit: Phys.org

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

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04
Feb

Fed Legislation Would Weaken Pesticide Rules to Protect Water

(Beyond Pesticides, February 4, 2013) U.S. Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Mike Johanns (R-NE) re-introduced legislation that would reduce the review requirements for pesticides applied directly to water. Similar legislation was passed in the House of Representatives in March 2011. The previous Senate version of the bill, called the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, passed through the Senate Agriculture Committee but never reached the Senate floor because of a hold placed on the legislation by Senators Barbra Boxer (D-CA) and Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD). This re-introduced legislation would reduce pesticide testing by ensuring that Clean Water Act (CWA) permits are not required for the application of pesticides.

COVER IMAGE

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

The proponents of this legislation claim that requiring a CWA permit creates a double layer of red tape that is costly to the agriculture industry and consumers. However, FIFRA and CWA are complementary laws and the CWA permit process only affects a small number of pesticide applications. The two statutes have fundamentally different standards and methods in determining whether a pesticide will have unreasonable adverse effects on the environment and/or human health. The CWA statute is more stringent than FIFRA. CWA has a “zero discharge” standard, meaning any amount of discharge, no matter how small, without a permit, constitutes a violation of the CWA. Risk assessment, on the other hand, used under FIFRA, is weaker than a “zero” standard. Risk/benefit allows a certain amount of pollution (i.e. risk) in exchange for controversial calculations of benefit and use a threshold of harm that can vary upon EPA discretion. Since the CWA statute is more stringent in its oversight of U.S. waterways, and thus provides increased safeguards for human health and the environment, FIFRA should not be allowed to override the CWA.

Proponents of this legislation also claim that this permit process would restrict public health officials from using pesticides to control mosquitoes and the spread of West Nile virus (WNv). However, as evidenced through scientific studies and experiences from communities around the country, spraying pesticides is not an effective or efficient way to prevent death or illness associated with insect-borne WNv. Moreover, spraying for WNv can be harmful to non-target species, adversely affect wildlife, and contaminate drinking water sources.

EPA first proposed draft language  in June 2010 for a Pesticide General Permit (PGP) in response to the court ruling. Under the PGP, pesticide applicators are required to reduce pesticide discharges by using the lowest effective amount of pesticide, and prevent leaks and spills, in addition to reporting any pesticide-related incidents. Pesticide applicators that exceed annual treatment area thresholds would be required to apply integrated pest management (IPM) practices, as defined by the agency. EPA’s brand of IPM is “a program of prevention, monitoring, and control, that when done correctly can greatly reduce or eliminate the amount of pesticides used.” Before the application of a pesticide, the applicator would be required to identify the specific pests, and causes of infestation. The pesticide applicator must then evaluate the following management options before selecting a pesticides: (1) no action, (2) preventive measures, (3) mechanical control, (4) cultural methods, and (5) biological control agents. EPA estimates the regulations now in place affect 365,000 pesticide applicators that use an estimated 5.6 million pounds of pesticides annually.

Waterways in the United States are increasingly imperiled from excessive pesticide contamination, and these toxic chemicals are a threat to people and wildlife. Pesticides discharged in our nation’s rivers, lakes and streams can harm or kill fish and amphibians. These toxicants have the potential to accumulate in the fish we eat and the water we drink. By eliminating the permit process under CWA, this legislation would create a dangerous vacuum in protecting wildlife, human health and natural ecosystems.

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

Source: Agri-Pulse
Image Source: United States Geographic Survey

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

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01
Feb

EU Commission Takes Steps To Suspend Bee-Toxic Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, February 1, 2013) The European Commission announced yesterday its position against the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, pushing nations within the European Union (EU) to impose a two year suspension on their use. The proposal, put forward at a meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, would restrict the application of neonicotinoids as granules, seed-treatment or spray, on crops that are attractive to bees, particularly, sunflowers, rapeseed, corn, cotton, and cereal crops. Environmental groups say that this decision should signal the way forward for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend neonicotinoids in the U.S.

“It’s a great thing,” said New York beekeeper Jim Doan, “I’m hoping that the EPA follows in their footsteps. While I recognize our government works differently, it says something that the European government has recognized the overwhelming data on the impact of these pesticides.”

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

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

“Independent science increasingly points to pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, as a critical factor in honeybee declines. Europe’s action, based on this growing body of research, should spur EPA to impose new restrictions on these pesticides,” said Paul Towers, a spokesperson for Pesticide Action Network North America.

In light of these findings, the EU Commission is urging member states to suspend neonicotinoid treatment on crops that are considered attractive to bees, i.e. flowering crops. Commission health spokesman Frederic Vincent indicated that, “We hope the regulation can be adopted before March,” and at the latest by July 1, 2013.

“Our declining U.S. honey bees, bumblebees and other pollinators, and of course our struggling beekeepers nationwide, need at least the same protections from the far-too-deadly neonicotinoids as their European counterparts are getting,” said Peter Jenkins, attorney at the Center for Food Safety.

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

Beekeepers and environmental groups including the Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides and the Pesticide Action Network North America, filed an emergency legal petition in 2012 with the EPA seeking an immediate halt to the use of clothianidin until adequate studies have been completed and safeguards put in place. The agency denied the petition and is considering other less immediate action.

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

Source: Europa

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01
Feb

EPA Moves to Cancel d-CON Rodent Killing Products

(Beyond Pesticides, February 1, 2013) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its decision to go ahead with the cancellation of 12 rodenticide products which posed “unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.” The decision came after manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser’s refusal to adopt EPA safety standards for its d-CON mouse and rat control products.

The action follows EPA’s Notice of Intent to Cancel (NOIC), issued in 2011, to Reckitt Benckiser and two dcon mouse prufe(1) other companies, Liphatech and Spectrum Group Division of United Industries Corporation, which voluntarily removed eight of their products from the market and were therefore not listed for cancelation by EPA.

EPA requires that rodenticide products sold to individual consumers are in tamper-resistant bait stations, rather than in pellet or powder form. Additionally, EPA recognizes the risks that rodenticide products containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone, and difenacoum pose to wildlife and will no longer allow them to be sold or distributed in the consumer market. However, use by professional applicators and in agriculture will still be permitted as long as they are in bait stations. EPA says this will reduce the amount of product in the environment, providing additional protection for wildlife from poisonings by these more toxic and persistent products. However, many wildlife poisonings do not come from direct contact with the bait. These rodenticides have been tied to the poisonings of federally listed threatened and endangered species, such as the San Joaquin kit fox and Northern spotted owl. Rodents can feed on poisoned bait multiple times before death, and as a result their carcasses contain residues that may be many times the lethal dose. Poisonings occur when predators or scavengers feed on these poisoned rodents.

While Beyond Pesticides commends EPA for following through with its NOIC in order to protect residential consumers and children, unfortunately, there are several shortcomings to its decision. Human and wildlife exposures to these toxic chemicals, though slightly minimized, will nevertheless continue because of their continued availability for use in agricultural production and to pest control operators. Pest control operators will still be allowed to use these chemicals in homes, at their discretion, which means residential exposures continue, albeit at slightly lower levels. These measures also do not apply to rodenticide field uses, or to tracking powder products, which may utilize any of the ten rodenticides, and thus continue to impact residential consumers and non-target wildlife.

EPA expects Reckitt Benckiser will request an administrative hearing to challenge the ruling, and if so  the company’s products can continue to be sold until a finding is made. EPA official Rusty Wasem estimated that if the company decides to challenge the decision, it will be another 12 to 18 months before the products are canceled.

For more information on rodenticides and their impacts on human health, wildlife, pets, and the environment, read Beyond Pesticides’ recent article in Pesticides and You. Or for least toxic control of mice and other pests, visit the alternatives page.

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

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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31
Jan

Risk of Infant Leukemia Associated with Mother’s Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, January 31, 2012) A new study finds that a mother’s exposure to pesticides before, during and after pregnancy may increase the risk of infant leukemia diagnosed before the age of two. Researchers in Brazil found that children are twice as likely to develop the rare cancers if their mothers were exposed three months before conception when compared to mothers who reported no exposures. A mother’s exposure at any time to the insecticide permethrin also raised the cancer risk for infants. The results support recommendations for women of reproductive age to minimize their pesticide exposure before and during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, and adds to the growing weight of evidence of the dangers of using synthetic pyrethroid pesticides.pregnant-cover

The study, entitled, “In utero pesticide exposure and leukemia in Brazilian children less than 2 years of age,” is published in Environmental Health Perspectives. Researchers asked mothers in Brazil about their pesticide exposure three months before pregnancy, while pregnant and three months after pregnancy when they were nursing. The women reported their home, work and agricultural contact with pesticides (at least once) between 1999 and 2007. Pesticide exposures from mothers of 252 children younger than two years old and diagnosed with either acute lymphoid leukemia (ALL) or acute myeloid leukemia (AML) were compared to exposures from mothers of 423 children of the same age without cancer. Researchers found that children from birth to 11 months old whose mothers were exposed to pesticides during pregnancy are two times more likely to be diagnosed with ALL and five times more likely to be diagnosed with AML, compared to children of mothers who did not report such use. Children 12 to 23 months old whose mothers reported pesticide use during pregnancy are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with ALL compared to those who did not report such exposure.

The findings support previous studies that indicate maternal pesticide exposure may play a role in childhood leukemia. Prenatal pesticide exposure has been linked to leukemia in older children. Few of these studies have looked at infants and toddlers or considered household pesticide use during the prenatal period. Also, most of the studies focused on occupational exposures.

Permethrin belongs to the chemical class of synthetic pyrethroid pesticides, which are chemically formulated versions of the natural-based pesticide pyrethrum, made from extracts from plants in the chrysanthemum family. Synthetic pyrethroids are one of the most widely used class of insecticides around the home, due in part to the prevalent myth that it is “natural,” and safer than organophosphate insecticides, which have been phased-out of most residential uses. Unfortunately, they have not been widely evaluated for developmental toxicity, despite the fact that they are designed to be more toxic and longer lasting than pyrethrum, and therefore more potent to insects and pose elevated risks to humans. Permethrin is a possible human carcinogen and endocrine disruptor, and exposure can cause immunotoxicity, and reproductive effects.

Ignoring a wealth of independent data that links this class of chemicals to certain cancers, respiratory and reproductive problems, and the onset of insect resistance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its cumulative risk assessment for the pyrethroid class of insecticides in 2011, concluding that these pesticides “do not pose risk concerns for children or adults.” However, serious issues, such as the carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting potential of several pyrethroids, are not mentioned in EPA’s risk assessment even though a another study published in Environmental Health Perspectives finds that low-dose, short-term exposure to esfenvalerate, a synthetic pyrethroid pesticide, delays the onset of puberty in at doses two times lower than EPA’s stated no observable effect level.

Beyond Pesticides has long documented the increased risk pesticides pose to young children and pregnant mothers. Numerous studies have reported birth defects and developmental problems when fetuses and infants are exposed to pesticides. Synthetic pyrethroids are designed to be more toxic and longer lasting than pyrethrum, and therefore are more potent to insects and pose elevated risks to humans. Exposure to these chemicals can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, irritation, and skin sensations. Many synthetic pyrethroids have also been linked to disruption of the endocrine system, which can adversely affect reproduction and sexual development, interfere with the immune system, and increase chances of breast cancer. Synthetic pyrethroids have also been linked to respiratory problems such as hypersensitization, and may be triggers for asthma attacks.

Given such compelling research on the risks associated with childhood exposure to pesticides, it is concerning how prevalent and persistent pesticides are in our living environment, and particularly in our homes. A 2009 study from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found the pesticide permethrin in 89% of the 500 homes randomly selected for sampling. Another study conducted by the School of Medicine at The University of Texas San Antonio earlier this year found at least five pesticides in the air of 60% of 29 homes occupied by pregnant Hispanic women. In 2008, researchers at Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) found PBO in 75% of homes occupied by pregnant women in inner-city New York.

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

Source: Environmental Health News

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

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