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Daily News Blog

20
Apr

GAO Finds USDA Regulation of Genetically Engineered Crops Deficient

(Beyond Pesticides April 20, 2016) A recently released study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) assesses the actions of three government agencies responsible for regulating genetically engineered (GE) crops, finding several shortcomings in the process. The report, which was commissioned by U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), is entitled Genetically Engineered Crops: USDA Needs to Enhance Oversight and better Understand Impacts of Unintended Mixing with Other Crops. The report finds that while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have taken some steps to regulate GE crops, USDA’s failure to update its regulations that oversee GE crops has created a large data gap on the extent and impact of the unintended mixing of GE and non-GE crops. To address this, GAO recommends, among other things, that USDA set a timeline for updating its regulations and include farmer’s growing identity-preserved crops in its survey efforts to better understand the impacts of unintended mixing.

usda_logoThe issue of coexistence between farmers using genetically engineered (GE) crops and non-GE farmers is as important as ever. GE crops pose a constant threat to the livelihood of organic farmers and undermine the burgeoning growth of the organic industry. A 2014 study released by Food and Water Watch and the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship and Marketing (OFARM), in response to USDA’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) report in 2012, found that one-third of organic farmers have experienced GE contamination on their farm due to the nearby use of GE crops . Over half of these growers have had loads of grain rejected because of unwitting GE contamination. These rejections can lead to big income losses for farmers, with a median cost of approximately $4,500 per year, according to the survey.

Additionally, several farmers report annual losses of over $20,000 due to the need to establish buffer zones, while limit the threat of contamination from their neighbors by taking contiguous farmland out of production. There have also been several high profile cases of GE contamination of organic farms. In May of 2013, USDA announced that unapproved GE wheat was found growing in an Oregon wheat field. In September of 2013, USDA refused to take action or investigate after it was confirmed that GE alfalfa contaminated non-GE alfalfa in Washington State, claiming that contamination is a “commercial issue” and should be addressed by the marketplace and not the government.”

Contamination of non-GE crops, particularly USDA certified organic crops, is a serious concern. Worries about harm to human health and the environment have prompted several state legislatures to consider bills that would require labeling of products with GE ingredients, so consumers know what ingredients are in products before they purchase and consume them. This sparked a response at the federal level as Republican lawmakers took action to prevent state and local GE labeling efforts by proposing a bill that has come to be known as the Denying Americans a Right to Know Act (DARK Act). Luckily, the bill, which has since passed the House, was blocked from a vote in the Senate. Additional legislation proposed by Senator Bill Bowman (R-ND) in 2002 would have allowed farmers in North Dakota the right to sue Monsanto if wheat was found to be contaminated with genetically modified crops. The discovery is likely to prompt similar legislation, if not litigation.

According to USDA officials and stakeholders, USDA currently has limited data on the extent and impact of unintended mixing of GE and non-GE crops. As a result, USDA is missing key information on the potential economic impacts of unintended mixing. In performing this study, GAO analyzed legislation, regulations, and agency policies and reports and interviewed agency officials and stakeholders, including representatives from the biotechnology and food industries and consumer, farm, environmental, and commodity groups to examine: (1) steps EPA, FDA, and USDA have taken to regulate GE crops; (2) the data USDA has on the extent and impact of unintended mixing of GE and non-GE crops, and what steps have been taken to prevent such mixing; and (3) the extent to which USDA, EPA, and FDA provide information to the public on GE crops. To address the shortcomings, GAO recommended (among other things), specifically related to points (2) and (3), that USDA set a timeline for updating its regulations and include farmers growing identity-preserved crops in its survey efforts to better understand the impacts of unintended mixing. USDA generally agreed with these recommendations.

Comments by Beyond Pesticides to USDA’s AC21 outline several actions USDA could take to advance an understanding of agricultural coexistence, including:

  1. USDA must level the playing field amongst stakeholders so that the burden of preventing contamination is no longer concentrated on organic and non-GE operations. In order to achieve true coexistence, we believe responsibility must be tied to ownership – those who patent, promote, and profit from GE products should be responsible for preventing contamination and covering damage in cases where prevention fails.
  2. USDA should establish a fair compensation proposal. The patent holder should be responsible for segregation and traceability, over the entirety of the life cycle of the crop. It should be held responsible for the economic and market harm caused by its products.
  3. USDA should more fully analyze environmental and economic implications of GE contamination and the implications of managing GE crops. These are also of critical importance to the ideas underpinning “coexistence” – how one system of agriculture can directly and indirectly impact the viability of the other.

Shifting the responsibility of contamination away from small-scale and organic farmers to the GE patent holder and GE farmers –a polluter pays principle– is an important first step in leveling the playing field and achieving the desired level of coexistence between growing operations. A system in which organic farmers are forced to expend resources to protect themselves from the choices of others, while potential trespassers are merely allowed to go about their business regardless of consequences is not equitable coexistence and is not a permanent solution. GAO findings support the need for more research on all aspects of GE crops, and calls on USDA to enhance oversight and better understand the impacts of the unintended mixing of GE crops with other crops.

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.

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office

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

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19
Apr

Avoiding Pesticide Residues Not Only Reason to Eat Organic Food

(Beyond Pesticides, April 19, 2016) Last week the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its annual Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce, highlighting the critical importance of eating organic food to avoid pesticide residues that endanger human health. Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience database complements EWG’s report by identifying the many additional reasons it is essential to choose organic for a healthy future. Although information on residues in conventional produce listed in the “Dirty Dozen” is helpful in alerting consumers and encouraging organic, it only tells part of the story. It turns out that even those food commodities in EWG’s “Clean Fifteen” may be grown with hazardous pesticides that get into waterways and groundwater, contaminate nearby communities, poison farmworkers, and kill pollinators and wildlife, while not all showing up at detectable levels on our food.

For its report, EWG analyzed over 35,000 samples of pesticide residue collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After 5 years at the top of the list, apples dropped to number two, replaced by strawberries. The organization reasons that a recent EU ban on the chemical diphenylamine, a fungicide linked to reproductive effects, kidney/liver damage, as well as groundwater contamination and toxicity to aquatic organisms, is behind the switch, as many conventional apples from Europe are exported to U.S. consumers. Roughly 98% of conventional strawberries tested positive for some amount of pesticide residue.

“It’s important to remember that conventional agriculture relies heavily on insecticides,” said EWG Senior Analyst Sonya Lunder to TIME. . . “There’s some systematic differences between crops, with some having many pesticides and others being consistently clean.”

Although residues may not show up on finished conventional products, Beyond Pesticides does not believe that the absence of harmful pesticides is reason enough to buy conventional produce and support chemical-intensive farming practices.

For instance, the report finds avocados to be the lowest risk to consumers, topping the “Clean Fifteen” list. However, while avocado grown with toxic chemicals show low pesticide residues on the finished commodity, there are 32 pesticides with established tolerance for avocado, 14 are acutely toxic creating a hazardous environment for farmworkers, 28 are linked to chronic health problems (such as cancer), 7 contaminate streams or groundwater, and 29 are poisonous to wildlife. California, one of the only states to systematically report pesticide poisoning incidents, has reported at least 20 incidents of farmworker poisonings as a result of growing this crop. Further, these poisoning incidents only represent the tip of the iceberg because it only reflects reported incidents in one state, and not other countries where avocados are grown. It is widely recognized that pesticide incidents are underreported and often misdiagnosed. Many of the allowed pesticides on avocado are dangerous to pollinators on which the crop is dependent. In addition to habitat loss due to the expansion of agricultural and urban areas, the database shows that there are also 10 pesticides used on avocado that are considered toxic to honey bees and other insect pollinators.

As Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience guide shows, consumers interested in sustainability should consider all the externalities, both upstream and downstream, associated with the production of chemical-intensive fruits and vegetables. To protect farmworkers, farming communities, water supplies, pollinators, and other wildlife, choosing organic whenever possible on all produce is the right choice. For more information on how organic agriculture accomplishes the goal of safe, healthy and nutritious food without sacrificing sustainability, see Beyond Pesticides organic program page.

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

Source: EWG, Time Magazine

 

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18
Apr

Scotts Miracle-Gro To Eliminate Neonics in Ortho Brand

(Beyond Pesticides, April 18, 2016) Major pesticide manufacturer Scotts Miracle Gro announced on Tuesday that it will immediately being phasing out neonicotinoid insecticides, including imidacloprid, clothianidin, and dinotefuran from its outdoor-use Ortho brand by 2017. Neonicotinoids (neonics) have consistently been implicated as a major contributing factor in pollinator declines. They can cause changes in bee reproduction, navigation, and foraging, and even the suppression of bee immune systems. In its press release, the Ortho brand announced that it was partnering with Pollinator Stewardship Council to help educate homeowners on the “safe and appropriate use of pesticides.”

Susan Quals Algood TN Honeybee on Yellow Crownbeard2“While agencies in the United States are still evaluating the overall impact of neonics on pollinator populations, it’s time for Ortho to move on.” Tim Martin, general manager of the Ortho brand said. “As the category leader, it is our responsibility to provide consumers with effective solutions that they know are safe for their family and the environment when used as directed. We encourage other companies and brands in the consumer pest control category to follow our lead.”

Neonics have emerged as the leading class of pesticides responsible for bee decline. While neonicotinoid insecticides have been responsible for high profile bee kills from high doses of the pesticides, there is a strong and growing body of science shows that neonics contribute to impairment in reproduction, learning and memory, hive communications, and immune response at doses far below those that cause bee kills. An extensive overview of major studies showing the effects of neonics on pollinator health can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows webpage.

Scotts Miracle-Gro joins the ranks of other major companies like Aldi (a supermarket chain) and Home Depot (the world’s largest home-improvement chain), who have each committed to phasing out neonicotinoid insecticides. Companies across the U.S. have begun to phase-out neonics at the request of environmental allies and consumers. In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its preliminary pollinator assessment for the neonic imidacloprid, which finds various residues of the chemical in crops where the pollinators forage, and confirms bees’ widespread and sustained exposure to the highly toxic and persistent chemical through poisoned pollen and nectar. However, calls to suspend the use of these pesticides have been ignored.

Smaller retailers have also taken notice and are working on removing neonics and other toxic pesticides from their shelves. Eldredge Lumber and Hardware in York, Maine has transitioned its shelves from harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers to organic compatible materials. Eldredge is encouraging consumers to employ alternatives by consciously stocking its shelves with organic compatible products. Efforts by local businesses to stock alternatives and educate consumers on their use is an example of creating change through grassroots efforts and a bottom-up approach. See Beyond Pesticides’ video Making the Switch, which highlights Eldredge Lumber and Hardware’s efforts to orient its customers towards safer management practices.

For more on what you can do to help pollinators, visit out Bee Protective program page.

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

Source: Scotts Miracle-Gro

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15
Apr

National Conference on Pesticides and Non-Toxic Alternatives Convenes in Portland, ME Tonight!

(Beyond Pesticides, April 15, 2016) Beyond Pesticides’ 34th National Pesticide Forum begins tonight at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, Maine. As pesticide use in communities is being debated in the Portland area, throughout Maine, and across the country, Cultivating Community and Environmental Health, the 34th National Pesticide Forum, is being held at the University of Southern Maine Abromson Center, April 15-16, 2016. Click here to register now! Registration, which is $45 for activists and $25 for students, includes access to all sessions as well as organic food and beverages.34NPFstickerimage

Join us tonight for a special performance of A Sense of Wonder, by Kaiulani Lee, followed by a talk and book signing by Kristin Ohlson, author of The Soil Will Save Us. Special Friday night only tickets are available for $10.

  • A Sense of Wonder, which is a one-woman play written, produced, and performed by Kaiulani Lee, in which the actor portrays Rachel Carson’s love for the natural world and her fight to defend it, much of it taking place in Maine! 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 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 more than 35 years of experience in theatre, film, and television.
  • Kristin Ohlson, journalist and bestselling author. Her book, The Soil Will Save Us, makes an elegantly argued, passionate case for “our great green hope”—a way in which we can not only heal the land but also turn atmospheric carbon into beneficial soil carbon—and potentially reverse global warming. Copies of the book will be available to purchase at the forum.

The national conference also highlights nationally renowned scientists, including a cancer researcher and epidemiologist from the National Cancer Institute, Aaron Blair, Ph.D., who lead the World Health Organization’s probable cancer finding of glyphosate/Roundup; soil scientist and microbiologist formerly with USDA, Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., whose studies have found pesticides’ adverse impacts on butterflies and bees; and other researchers, legal experts, land management practitioners, and an ACE retailer in Maine that is offering products that protect bees, children and the environment. The conference will provide participants with the cutting edge science on pesticide issues related to health and the environment as well as the solutions for managing land without toxic materials. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree joins the line-up of speakers to talk about federal law and organic policy.

…and more! Click here to see the lineup of speakers, and check out the forum schedule!

You can follow live tweets of the forum at our twitter handle @bpncamp or through our hashtag #34NPF.

Organizers:

The 34th National Pesticide Forum is convened by Beyond, Toxics Action Center, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), and University of Southern Maine Department of Environmental Science and Policy. Co-sponsors include: Eldredge Hardware & Lumber, Environment America, Food and Water Watch Maine, Friends of Casco Bay, GreenCAPE, Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, Organic Consumers Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine, Portland Pollinator Partnership, Portland Protectors, Protect South Portland, and Regeneration International.

Please email us at [email protected] for any questions or concerns that are not addressed on our forum page.

Registration: 

For those who have not yet registered, general admission is only $45, and $25 for students with current ID, which includes access to all sessions, workshops, and all-organic meals and beverages. Walk-ins are welcome! 

For more information, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

We hope to see you there!

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14
Apr

Majority of Europeans Want Glyphosate Banned, Use Continues

(Beyond Pesticides, April 14, 2016) Two-thirds of Europeans support a ban on glyphosate, the most widely used agricultural chemical in the world, according to a new poll. This as Germany plans to formally support a European Union (EU) plan to re-license the use of the chemical. Monsanto’s glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular weedkiller, Roundup, has been classified as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), is detected in food, breast milk, and urine, and is increasingly used on genetically engineered (GE) crops, leading to the proliferation of resistant “superweeds” and environmental contamination.

roundupThe poll conducted by Yougov, an international internet-based market research firm, surveyed more than 7,000 people across the EU’s five biggest countries and find three-quarters of Italians, 70% of Germans, 60% of French and 56% of Britons support a ban on glyphosate. Despite this, the EU is moving forward on whether to approve a European Commission proposal to extend the authorization of glyphosate for another 15 years until 2031. The existing authorization is due to lapse in June 2016. The decision was delayed after the IARC classified glyphosate as a Group 2a “probable” human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in laboratory animals. However, the EU’s European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) released its own conflicting report months later determining glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.” However, EFSA’s report is limited in that it reviewed glyphosate alone, unlike IARC which reviewed glyphosate and its formulated products (Roundup) which are more relevant for evaluating risks to human health.

In addition to IARC’s findings, previous studies have linked the toxicant to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It is also an endocrine disruptor, causes reproductive effects, kidney and liver damage, and is toxic to aquatic organisms. In September 2015, a study published in Environmental Health News found that chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate led to adverse effects on liver and kidney health.

According to Reuters, Germany agrees with the assessment of EFSA, and will support continued use of glyphosate in the EU. But a German Member of European Parliament (MEP) Bart Staes told the Guardian that up to 150 MEPs are expected to give urine samples to test for glyphosate residues, ahead of a symbolic EU vote. Mr. Staes said, “This poll clearly shows that the European public does not want… the authorisation of glyphosate, and certainly not until June 2031.” A vote on relicensing could be held as early as next week, but is thought most likely to take place at a committee meeting in Brussels on 19 May, the Guardian notes.

The herbicide is the most widely used chemical in the world, according to reports and as a result is being detected in food and human bodies. Recent tests have detected glyphosate residues in German beer, at levels higher than allowed in drinking water. Last year, glyphosate residues were found in bread being sold in the UK. The results of the  bread study also shows that glyphosate use in the UK increased by 400% in the last 20 years and is one of the three pesticides regularly found in routine testing of British bread -appearing in up to 30% of samples tested by the UK government. Similar results are expected in the U. S. A pilot study conducted by the group Moms Across America in 2014 found that glyphosate may also bioaccumulate in the human body, as revealed by high levels of the chemical in the breast milk of mothers tested.

Glyphosate, created by Monsanto, is touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by industry. But glyphosate has been shown to have detrimental impacts on humans and the environment. Given its widespread use on residential and agricultural sites, its toxicity is of increasing concern. A mounting body of data has found that formulated glyphosate (Roundup) products are more toxic than the active ingredient, glyphosate, alone. Roundup formulations can induce a dose-dependent formation of DNA adducts (altered forms of DNA linked to chemical exposure, playing a key role in chemical carcinogenesis) in the kidneys and liver of mice. Human cell endocrine disruption on the androgen receptor, inhibition of transcriptional activities on estrogen receptors on HepG2, DNA damage and cytotoxic effects occurring at concentrations well below “acceptable” residues have all been observed. A 2008 study confirmed that the ingredients in Roundup formulations kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells, even at very low concentrations, and causes total cell death within 24 hrs.

In the U.S., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has indicated it will release its preliminary risk assessment on glyphosate for public comment this year. It has been announced that federal testing will begin for glyphosate residues in food. However, although a positive step, this move is largely seen as political – a response to growing public pressure and not focused on evaluating health concerns. Beyond Pesticides urges individuals concerned about glyphosate exposure to support organic systems that do not rely on hazardous carcinogenic pesticides. In agriculture, concerned consumers can buy food with the certified organic label, which not only disallows synthetic pesticides like glyphosate, but also the use of sewage sludge and genetically engineered ingredients. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and biotechnology, responsible organic farms focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and other beneficial insects, and only resort to judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective.

Source: The Guardian; Reuters

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

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13
Apr

Still Time to be Heard on Organic Integrity; Comments Due Tomorrow, April 14!

(Beyond Pesticides, April 13, 2016) The organic regulatory process provides numerous opportunities for the public to weigh in on what is allowable in organic production. The spring 2016 public comment period is coming to a close for the National Organic Standards Board’s (NOSB) proposed recommendations on organic standards, materials and policy. Comments are due by tomorrow, April 14, 2016 at 11:59 PM. There are many important issues that are under NOSB consideration. Your voice is integral to maintaining organic integrity and the value of the USDA organic label. Remember, the Secretary of Agriculture may not allow materials in organic production that are not first recommended by the NOSB.

saveorganic1On our Public Comment Alerts page, we have listed our positions on some of our top priority issues, such as inert ingredients, sanitizers, ancillary substances, carrageenan, and paraciticides. We have now updated our Keeping Organic Strong (KOS) page with the rest of our top priority issues (as of April 12, 2016), and included the newest ones below. Please feel free to develop your own comments or cut and paste from our sample comments below or our final comments on the above KOS page:

Policy and Procedures Manual Revisions

“I appreciate the response to fall comments regarding the difficulty of reviewing proposed changes to the Policy and Procedures Manual (PPM). I appreciate, in particular, the clarification that the NOSB will vote on the proposed changes and the publication of a redlined version and an annotated table of contents. I do not think it is appropriate, however, for the NOSB to consider such a complicated proposal without an explanation and justification of each change. In giving legal status to the word “organic,” to maintain accountability to organic stakeholders, and to keep government intrusion in check, Congress explicitly empowered the NOSB to counter an abuse of government authority in an organic sector that daily challenges basic tenets of chemical-intensive and genetically engineered agriculture, which has deep institutional roots within USDA. The PPM is the instrument through which the NOSB maintains its ability to set the standards for organic production in the United States. The NOSB must not relinquish that authority and responsibility by weakening the PPM.”

Nutrient vitamins and minerals

“I appreciate the efforts of the Handling Subcommittee in untangling the mess that has come from mistaken implementation of past NOSB recommendations. Added vitamins and minerals –synthetic or nonsynthetic—should not be permitted in products labeled “organic” unless required by law. Consumers expect that organic food contains a complete complement of nutrients based on organic agricultural production practices, not supplementation.”

See our Public Comment Alerts page for a complete list of our top priority issues and sample comments. One of the best ways to make your voice heard is to submit your comments to regulations.gov. You can search for the meeting using this docket number: AMS-NOP-15-0085 or by clicking the link. If you cut and paste our comments into regulations.gov for the top priority issues before the NOSB, please first put a personal note of concern in order to reflect the importance if these issues to you, and to make sure your comment is read by an NOSB member.

We have also finished analyzing the other numerous recommendations and have provided you with our positions, which we hope you will use as the basis for your comments. See our final comments and learn about all of the issues at the spring 2016 NOSB meeting by clicking here.

NOSB Meeting Details:

Monday, April 25, 2016 – 8:30am to Wednesday, April 27, 2016 – 5:00pm
Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008

If you plan on attending the meeting and want to provide oral comments, you must reserve an oral comment slot. Oral public comments are scheduled in two blocks:

  • Tuesday, April 19, 2016, 1:00pm-4:00pm ET via webinar; 4 minute comment slot
  • Monday/Tuesday, April 25 and 26, during the face-to-face meeting; 3 minute comment slot

Oral commenters may only sign up for one comment slot, and the sign-up deadline is tomorrow, April 14, 2016 at 11:59pm. Again, you can reserve an oral comment slot by clicking here.

We ask that you submit comments on as many issues and materials as you can by 11:59pm, April 14, 2016 deadline. For help crafting your comments, view Beyond Pesticides’ commenting guide. For all other questions, please go to Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage to learn more about these and other substantive issues and provide a unique public comment.

Thank you for standing up to keep organic strong!

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

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12
Apr

EPA Finds 97% of Endangered Species Threatened by Common Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, April 12, 2016) Two commonly used pesticides are “likely to adversely affect” 97% of species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to a first of its kind national assessment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The determination is part of a settlement reached by EPA and the Center for Biological Diversity, which requires the agency to complete a review of the impact of organophosphate pesticides chlorpyrifos, malathion, and diazinon by December 2017, and two carbamate class pesticides, methomyl and carbaryl, by the end of 2018. Under ESA Section 7, any agency action that it authorizes, funds, or carries out must find that it “is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of habitat.”

ChlorpyrifosUnder ESA, EPA is required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) when registering a pesticide, in order to mitigate risks to endangered species. However, EPA routinely disregards this requirement, and has been sued numerous times for failing to ensure adequate protections for endangered species. Although CBD’s original lawsuit targeted potential pesticide impacts on California’s threatened red-legged frog, both parties agreed that a broader, national review would be more efficient for government agencies. This determination was influenced by a 2013 report from the National Academy of Sciences that identified deficiencies and provided recommendations for all the agencies involved in pesticide consultations. While a new process for handling ESA consultations was outlined in 2013, EPA continues to bring pesticides to market without adequate data on a chemical’s adverse effects.

As the recent review shows, pesticide impacts are ubiquitous, with EPA finding chlorpyrifos and malathion “likely to adversely affect” 97% of listed and candidate species and diazinon “likely to adversely affect” 79% of endangered species. While all three chemicals are currently allowed for use in agriculture, chlorpyrifos and malathion’s impact is broader due to its allowance as a mosquito insecticide. EPA’s analysis required consideration of both direct impacts through dietary exposure as well as indirect impacts through prey. Adverse effects were far reaching, ranging from aquatic mammals like sea lions, to cave-dwelling spiders, and numerous listed birds.

EPA is currently considering restricting the use of chlorpyrifos in agricultural settings by revoking its food tolerances, as a result of a separate lawsuit launched by Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Although glyphosate’s listing as a carcinogen received the most coverage at the time, the World Health Organization also determined that both diazinon and malathion are probably carcinogenic to humans. Diazinon’s determination was based on evidence of cancer from human agricultural studies, and tumors in rodent studies. Malathion’s determination was made based upon human agricultural studies and strong evidence of DNA or chromosomal damage.

This ESA assessment shows that these chemicals are not only toxic to humans, but put nearly every sensitive species in the United States in unacceptable danger. However, EPA’s process for registering pesticides continues to institute restrictions intended to mitigate risks, and does not function to protect the most vulnerable in biological systems. This current review strengthen calls from health and environmental groups to eliminate the use of old, toxic organophosphate pesticides. In a world where numerous risks to endangered species exist, from habitat modification and fragmentation, to climate change, enigmatic diseases, and overconsumption, eliminating toxic pesticide use represents a low-hanging fruit for biodiversity conservation.

Tried, tested and effective sustainable and organic alternatives exist for a nearly every use of toxic pesticides. For agriculture, organic systems build healthy soil and create biodiverse habitat which in turn develops hardier crops and a more resilient system better able to address pest outbreaks before they impact harvests. With mosquito control, an emphasis on prevention and source reduction is the most effective method of managing mosquitoes, as it focuses on stopping mosquitoes from hatching in the first place. Even in the very limited situations where adulticides are used for public health emergencies, highly toxic organophosphates like chlorpyrifos need not be employed.

For an in-depth discussion on the science and law behind pesticide registrations, attend Beyond Pesticides’ 34th National Pesticide Forum at the end of this week (April 15-16th) in Portland, Maine. The Environmental Health and Law panel will feature scientist and Beyond Pesticides Board member Warren Porter, Ph.D, entomologist Nancy Ostiguy, Ph.D, permaculture designer Tao Orion, and Center for Food Safety Senior Attorney Paige Tomaselli.  Tickets are still available for purchase!

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

Source: EPA, Center for Biological Diversity

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11
Apr

Maryland Legislature Bans Retail Sales of Bee-Toxic Neonicotinoid Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, April 11, 2016) In a historic move, the Maryland legislature voted to become the first state in the nation to ban consumers from using products containing neonicotinoid pesticides, a class of bee-toxic chemicals that has been linked to the startling decline in bees and other pollinators around the world. The bill now heads to Governor Larry Hogan to sign or veto.

beehivecheckThe Pollinator Protection Act was approved by lawmakers on Thursday by a 98-39 vote in the Maryland House of Delegates. While consumers will not be allowed to buy pesticide products containing neonicotinoids starting in 2018, the legislation’s reach does not extend to farmers, veterinarians, and certified pesticide applicators, who will still be permitted to apply the chemicals. Consumers can also buy treated plants and seedlings from stores without any labeling. Cumulatively, these present major sources of exposure for bees and other pollinators.

The bill originally included a requirement that companies put labels on plants and seeds that are treated with neonicotinoids, but that provision was ultimately pulled from the bill. Hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s had previously announced that they were voluntarily phasing out the supply of neonicotinoid-treated plants over the next two to three years. Home Depot previously decided to start requiring all nursery plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids to carry a label to inform customers, following a report written last year. The report, Gardeners Beware (2014), shows that 36 out of 71 (51 percent) of garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contain neonicotinoid pesticides. Some of the flowers contained neonic levels high enough to kill bees outright and concentrations in the flowers’ pollen and nectar were assumed to be comparable. Further, 40% of the positive samples contained two or more neonics.

As the bill made its way through the legislature, an amendment was attached to the Senate language, and later rejected, that implied legislative intent to preempt (take away) the authority of municipalities in Maryland to adopt local pesticide restrictions that are more restrictive than state policy on all property within their jurisdiction. The Senate language, which required a report and recommendation “to ensure state laws and regulations are consistent” with EPA, would have put the legislature on record, for the first time, as seeking to ensure preemption. Maryland is one of seven states that does not preempt local jurisdictions from adopting pesticide restrictions more stringent than the state. Last year, Montgomery County, Maryland, with over one million residents, adopted a landmark ordinance that phases out the use of toxic pesticides, including all neonicotinoid use, for turf management on private and public land. This followed the adoption of similar ordinances in Takoma Park, Maryland, and Ogunquit, Maine.

The pollinator bill was opposed by the pesticide industry, the Maryland Farm Bureau, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, and other groups.

Proactive state and local steps to address the issue of pollinator decline is critical in the absence of federal action. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits toxic pesticide use and requires alternative assessments. Farm, beekeeper, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have urged EPA to follow the European Union’s lead and suspend the huge numbers of other bee-harming pesticides already on the market. We suggest an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, and instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of neonicotinoids. See Bee Protective to learn how you can help.

Sources: Baltimore Sun

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

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08
Apr

One Week until the 34th National Pesticide Forum Arrives in Portland, ME!

(Beyond Pesticides, April 8, 2016) With exactly one week until Cultivating Community and Environmental Health: Models for sustainable and organic strategies to protect ecosystems, pollinators, and waterways, don’t miss out on the opportunity to listen and interact with some of the leading scientists and experts in their fields. There is still time to register! The 34th National Pesticide Forum, runs from the afternoon of April 15 through the evening of April 16. Registration, which is $45 for activists and $25 for students, includes access to all sessions as well as organic food and beverages. In addition to spending time with those on the cutting edge of research and organic practices and the opportunity to network, we will serve light refreshments and organic drinks Friday night, and organic breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks on Saturday. Walk-ins will be welcome, but to ensure that we have enough food and drink, we encourage you to register today. Click here to register now!

34NPFstickerimageA Special Friday Night Event:

Join us Friday night for a special performance of A Sense of Wonder, by Kaiulani Lee, followed by a talk and book signing by Kristin Ohlson, author of The Soil Will Save Us. Special Friday night only tickets are available for $10.

  • A Sense of Wonder, which is a one-woman play written, produced, and performed by Kaiulani Lee, in which the actor portrays Rachel Carson’s love for the natural world and her fight to defend it, much of it taking place in Maine! 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 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 more than 35 years of experience in theatre, film, and television.
  • Kristin Ohlson, journalist and bestselling author. Her book, The Soil Will Save Us, makes an elegantly argued, passionate case for “our great green hope”—a way in which we can not only heal the land but also turn atmospheric carbon into beneficial soil carbon—and potentially reverse global warming. Copies of the book will be available to purchase at the forum.

Learn from Leading Scientists and Experts:

The keynote conference speakers are leading authorities in their fields, which offers participants a unique opportunity to discuss cutting issues focused on protecting human health and the environment. At the Forum, you’ll have the opportunity to interact and talk strategy with speakers on panels and in workshops, such as those featured below:

  • Ecological Tick Management Workshop, featuring Ron Circe, an ecologist and manager of the over 700 acre Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Loudoun County, VA, where he employs natural practices to successfully manage ticks; and Daniel Sonenshine, Ph.D., professor emeritus and eminent scholar of biological sciences at Old Dominion University, who researches tick pheromones, tick immunity and tick-borne diseases.
  • Montgomery County, MD Councilmember George Leventhal. As Council President, Mr. Leventhal was the lead sponsor of the landmark ordinance, Bill 52-14, which protects children, pets, wildlife, and the wider environment from the hazards of unnecessary lawn and landscape pesticides. He wrote and championed the legislation, which restricts cosmetic pesticide use on lawns throughout the county –which is now the largest jurisdiction in the U.S. to do so on both private and public property.
  • Tao Orion, author of Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Permaculture Approach to Ecosystem Restoration. She holds a degree in agroecology and sustainable agriculture from UC Santa Cruz. She has a keen interest in integrating the disciplines of organic agriculture, sustainable land-use planning, ethnobotany, and ecosystem restoration in order to create beneficial social, economic, and ecological outcomes.
  • Jim Gerritsen, an organic farmer who, for 38 years, has owned and operated Wood Prairie Farm in northern Maine, and serves as president of the national farmer-run membership trade organization, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), which was the lead plaintiff in the landmark organic community federal lawsuit, OSGATA et al. v. Monsanto.
  • Will Allen and Kate Duesterberg, both together and separately, have decades of involvement in the field of sustainable agriculture. Will was one of the pioneers of organic farming in California, and is known throughout the U.S. and around the world as an expert on organic cotton. Will and Kate are both farm managers of Cedar Circle Farm in Thetford, VT, where they are active in food politics.

In addition to these highlighted speakers, there is an all-star lineup of experts who will be joining us, from scientists, elected officials, lawyers, and activists, to the Beyond Pesticides’ board of directors. Don’t forget, we also have Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., a former top U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist, Aaron Blair, Ph.D., a National Cancer Institute researcher (emeritus), and U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree, representing Maine’s First District. Check out the full speaker list and schedule for more information. 

Organizers:

The 34th National Pesticide Forum is convened by Beyond, Toxics Action Center, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), and University of Southern Maine Department of Environmental Science and Policy. Co-sponsors include: Eldredge Hardware & Lumber, Environment America, Food and Water Watch Maine, Friends of Casco Bay, GreenCAPE, Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, Organic Consumers Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine, Portland Pollinator Partnership, Portland Protectors, Protect South Portland, and Regeneration International.

Please email us at [email protected] or give us a call at 202-543-5450 for any questions or concerns that are not addressed on our forum page.

We hope to see you there!

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07
Apr

EPA Introduces Safer Choice Label for Cleaning Products

(Beyond Pesticides, April 7, 2016) Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced the Safe Choice Program (not to be confused with Beyond Pesticides’ longstanding Safer Choice program), an overhauled labeling system created by Design for the Environment (DfE) that encourages consumers to seek out and use cleaning products that protect public health and the environment. Safer Choice uses the technical expertise of its DfE workgroup of EPA scientists to compare ingredients in the same functional class and thereby identify those ingredients with the lowest hazard profile. In order to earn a Safer Choice Standard label, products must have chemical ingredient formulations that “function in making the product work,” which allows formulators “to use those ingredients with the lowest hazard in their functional class.” Safer Chemical Ingredients are listed on EPAs website.
safer choice

“EPA’s Safer Choice program helps consumers find products that are productive and contain ingredients that are safer,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “Products that carry the Safer Choice label have been carefully evaluated by EPA scientists to ensure they contain ingredients that are safer for both humans and environmental health.”

The Safer Choice Standard and the Criteria for Safer Chemical Ingredients are protective and address a broad range of potential toxicological effects, including:

  • carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive or developmental toxicants;
  • persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals;
  • systemic or internal organ toxicants;
  • asthmagens;
  • sensitizers; and
  • chemicals on authoritative lists of chemicals of concern.

Safer Choice screens all ingredients for chemicals that may present serious health or environmental effects. This screening includes ingredients used in small percentages, like fragrances and dyes. Some of the chemicals of most potential concern in products are those used in small concentrations. Chemicals of concern include sensitizers, carcinogens, and environmentally toxic and persistent compounds. In addition, Safer Choice products must display one of four symbols that represent the level of concern based on Safer Choice criteria.

green circle Green circle: The chemical has been verified to be of low concern based on experimental and modeled data.

green half circle Green half-circle: The chemical is expected to be of low concern based on experimental and modeled data. Additional data would strengthen our confidence in the chemical’s safer status.

 yellow triangle Yellow triangle: The chemical has met Safer Choice Criteria for its functional ingredient-class, but has some hazard profile issues. Specifically, a chemical with this code is not associated with a low level of hazard concern for all human health and environmental endpoints. (See Safer Choice Criteria). While it is a best-in-class chemical and among the safest available for a particular function, the function fulfilled by the chemical should be considered an area for safer chemistry innovation.

 grey square Grey square: This chemical will not be acceptable for use in products that are candidates for the Safer Choice label and currently labeled products that contain it must reformulate per Safer Choice Compliance Schedules.

Beyond Pesticides advocates for products that avoid ingredients linked to human health or environmental hazards. The Safer Choice label is a good step in improving consumer transparency and education. We encourage all consumers to read the label of all cleaning products and opt to choose products that carry the Safer Choice label. Click here to see examples of Safer Choice Products. Please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Safer Choice page for other non-toxic suggestions on how to avoid hazardous home, garden, community, and food use pesticides.

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

Source: Environmental Protection Agency

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06
Apr

Villanova Pivots to Neonic-Free, Joins Bee Protective Campaign

(Beyond Pesticides April 6, 2016) Hot off the heels of the NCAA basketball tournament, a national title is not the only thing Villanova University has to celebrate this week. The campus, located near Philadelphia, PA, recently became the second school in the nation to receive recognition from the Beyond Pesticides’ and Center for Food Safety’s BEE Protective Campaign, which seeks to protect honey bees and other pollinators from harmful pesticides. Signing the BEE Protective pledge, Villanova signaled its continued commitment to using neonicotinoid-free insecticides on campus, making them one of the leading higher education institutions committed to the protection of pollinator species.

villanova_ignite_smaller“For Villanova, sustainability is not just about energy and recycling,” said Liesel Schwarz, Villanova’s Sustainability Manager. “We look to make all aspects of campus life sustainable, including how we treat our campus grounds. This recognition only further solidifies the wonderful work our grounds department has done to not only make the campus beautiful and inviting for people, but also for pollinators.” Villanova maintains more than fifty pollinator-friendly plants on campus, including aster, black-eyed Susans, milkweed and mint.

Along with planting pollinator-friendly habitat, the elimination of neonicotinoid pesticides on campus is an exemplary move by Villanova to protect pollinators. Neonicotinoids are a group of chemicals whose use has been linked to pollinator declines. They can kill and impair the survival of pollinators like honey bees, wild bees, and butterflies, as well as impact beneficial insects, birds, and other non-insect species. Coinciding with their introduction to the market based on conditional registration from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), beekeepers have reported unprecedented losses, as high as 90 percent, in hives across the country. Since we rely on many of these organisms for essential services, like the pollination of a third of the foods we eat, protecting their existence by eliminating neonicotinoids is a key tenet of the BEE Protective pledge.

BEE Protective is a national campaign established by Beyond Pesticides and the Center for Food Safety, and works with municipalities, campuses, and homeowners to adopt policies that protect pollinators from bee-toxic pesticides.  In addition to scientific and regulatory information, BEE Protective also includes a model community pollinator resolution and a pollinator protection pledge.  The BEE Protective Campaign gives you the tools to help honey bees and other pollinators right in your own community. Here are some ways you can take action:

  • Make your yard or a local park a “Pesticide Free Zone”
  • Become a backyard beekeeper
  • Build biodiversity
  • Go organic
  • Encourage elected officials at the state and federal level to take action to reduce pollinator declines

To find out more about these, and several other actions, please visit Center for Food Safety and Beyond Pesticides’ campaign pages. In addition to the BEE Protective campaign, Beyond Pesticides has also joined with beekeepers and environmental allies in a lawsuit to challenge EPA’s approval of two neonicotinoid pesticides, which you can read about here. Finally, legislative action like that in Minnesota, Maryland and Vermont may serve as an example to other communities that wish to take action against pollinator decline. Pollinators are a vital part of our environment and a barometer for healthy ecosystems. Let’s all do our part to BEE Protective of these critical species.

If your campus would like to follow Villanova’ example and sign the BEE Protective Pledge, contact us at [email protected] .

Source: Center for Food Safety

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

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05
Apr

Small Size of Wild Bees Correlated with Their Proximity to Intensive Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, April 5, 2016) Populations of wild, ground-nesting bees grow smaller in areas where agricultural production is high, according to Cornell University researchers. Both wild and managed pollinators are experiencing global population declines that have been linked to a range of factors stemming from human activity, to habitat loss, the spread of parasitic mites and diseases, climate change, and significantly, the use of toxic, systemic pesticides. This study underscores the wide ranging threat that conventional agricultural practices pose to wild insect pollinators.

Andrena_nasonii,_F,_side,_New_York,_Kings_County_2013-02-07-14.17.02_ZS_PMax_(8488019346)Cornell researchers explore the relationship between intensive agricultural production and the size of ground-nesting Andrena nasonii bees. These charismatic pollinators dig tunnels in the ground up to three feet deep in which they store honey and nectar, and ultimately lay a single egg. They forage on a variety of fruit crops, and are well known and important pollinators of strawberries. Thus, scientists brought their study to areas in New York with large strawberry plantations. Researchers discovered a significant, positive correlation between the decreased size of female A. nasonii bees and their proximity to intensively farmed strawberry plots.

“Once we knew there was an effect of agriculture on the size of the bees, we took a random sample of our largest bees from our natural habitats and smallest bees from these agricultural intensive habitats, and looked at how much pollen the female bees were carrying on their bodies,” said Heather Connelly, a Cornell graduate student and co-author on the paper.

“Small bees had a 40 percent smaller pollen load than large bees did, so potentially these small bees might actually be less able to provision their own offspring and we might end up seeing some cascading negative effects on the population of bees there,” said Ms. Connelly.

Researchers indicate that while more research is needed to determine the exact cause of smaller body size, the ability to collect pollen may play a key role. This impact may be influenced by the effect of pesticide exposure on bees. A study published last month found that chronic, low dose exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides interferes with bumblebee’s ability to learn to extract nectar and pollen from plants, and may change their floral preferences.  A smaller pollen load induced by adverse exposure to pesticides may contribute to smaller body sizes. However, other factors may also be at play. An increasingly monocultured landscape may lead to longer foraging flights, or bees choosing less preferable flower sources. Scientists postulate these cumulative effects may result in a feedback cycle whereby decreased pollen collection produces smaller bees, which themselves collect less pollen and produce smaller offspring.

A study published in December 2015 found that, between 2008 and 2013, native bee abundance declined across 23% of U.S. land area, generally associated with the conversation of natural habitat to farmland. Earlier research from Cornell University in July 2015 discovered that, in New York apple orchards, as pesticide use increased the number of wild bees found on farmland plummeted. The results of these past and current studies show the need for greater floral diversity in and around agricultural landscapes is needed urgently.  A November 2015 study published by scientists at the University of California Davis found that incorporating hedgerows into agricultural landscapes can reduce the need for pesticide inputs and promote on-farm biodiversity. However, it is important to note that continued use of systemic pesticides can undermine the benefits of hedgerows. Wildflowers bordering fields treated with neonicotinoids can contain pesticide residue at levels that harm bees, according to a study published in October 2015.

For these reasons and many others, Beyond Pesticides works to promote the widespread transition of conventional farmland to organic production. Organic law requires farmers to foster soil health, and create a strategy to deal with pest populations before they become a problem. Because of these factors, many organic farms do not require the use of even organic-compatible pesticides, opting instead to increase pest and disease resiliency through an increased diversity of pest predators.

For more on the plight of pollinators and practices that can help reverse their declines, join us at Cultivating Community and Environmental Health, the 34th National Pesticide Forum, April 15-16, 2016 in Portland, ME.  Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., a senior USDA entomologist will join other top scientists and leaders who have stood up to protect human and environmental health, despite facing industry backlash and scientific suppression. Dr. Lundgren’s research on the harm neonicotinoids pose to monarch butterflies reflects a growing scientific consensus that these chemicals present significant risks to declining pollinator populations. Registration, which includes access to all sessions as well as organic food and beverages, is $45 for grassroots activists, and $25 for students. Register online today.

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

Source: PLOS One, Farmers’ Advance

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04
Apr

Pesticides Kill Dragonflies and Reduce Biodiversity in Rice Paddies

(Beyond Pesticides, April 4, 2016) Pesticides widely used in rice paddies in Japan are harming dragonflies. The study, conducted by researchers at Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies, finds that the insecticide fipronil significantly reduces the population of adult dragonflies, more so than any other pesticide treatment.

Blue_Dragonfly_Iski_VingartThe study, titled Fipronil application on rice paddy fields reduces densities of common skimmer and scarlet skimmer and published in the journal Scientific Reports, investigated the impact of neonicotinoids, which have been linked to bee die-offs around the world, and chlorantraniliprole, which, like neonicotinoids and fipronil, is a systemic pesticide that is taken up by the plant and subsequently expressed in pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets. Plankton species were adversely affected by clothianidin, a neonicotinoid, and chlorantraniliprole, but they recovered after concentrations of the chemicals decreased.

Koichi Goka, Ph.D., a senior researcher at the institute, said nymphs living near the soil are particularly vulnerable to toxic chemicals, according to The Asahi Shimbun. “The density of insecticidal components in the water drops quickly after they are dissolved,” Goka said. “But such components long remain in the soil. Nymphs at the bottom of water could have been affected.”

Dr. Goka is calling for more testing in outdoor facilities to assess the risks of agricultural chemicals.

Dragonflies and other pollinators are under constant threat from the widespread use of pesticides. A study published in March 2016 found over 50 different types of pesticides in honey bees, including neonicotinoids, pyrethroids, and fipronil, while investigating over 70 honey bee poisoning events. A 2013 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that pesticide use has sharply reduced the regional biodiversity of stream invertebrates, such as mayflies and dragonflies, thus posing a long-term threat to important ecosystems.

Plan to attend Cultivating Community and Environmental Health, the 34th National Pesticide Forum, April 15-16, 2016 in Portland, ME to discuss pollinators and other local and national environmental concerns.  Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., a senior USDA entomologist will join other top scientists and leaders who have stood up to protect human and environmental health, despite facing industry backlash and scientific suppression. Dr. Lundgren’s research on the harm that neonicotinoids pose to monarch butterflies reflects a growing scientific consensus that these chemicals present significant risks to declining pollinator populations. Registration, which includes access to all sessions as well as organic food and beverages, is $45 for grassroots activists, and $25 for students. Register online today.

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

Sources: The Asahi Shimbun

 

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01
Apr

Fungicides Linked to Autism and Alzheimer’s Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, April 1, 2016) A study published yesterday finds that a certain class of fungicides, the strobilurins, causes genetic changes in the neurons of mice that are similar to genetic changes seen in humans with autism and Alzheimer’s disease. Since their introduction to the market over the past 20 years, these fungicides have been used increasingly on conventionally grown crops like cabbage, spinach, lettuce, kale, tomatoes, apples, pears and grapes.

sprayfieldAfter exposing brain cells from mice to over 300 pesticides and fungicides, researchers found that the strobilurin class of fungicides produces patterns of genetic changes often seen in human neurodegenerative diseases. While the fungicides created autism-like signatures in the way the genes were expressed in mouse neurons, the results do not conclusively show that this class of fungicides causes autism or Alzheimer’s disease. Mark Zylka, Ph.D., lead scientist of the study and associate professor of cell biology and physiology at University of North Carolina, states, “What this work provides is evidence that these chemicals are bad for neurons. They turn the same genes on or off that you see not only in autism brains, but also in neurodegeneration.”

Strobilurins work by disrupting mitochondria, commonly known as the “powerhouse of the cell,” which make sure that cells have enough energy to function. Tests on the mouse neurons show that the fungicide compounds dampen gene activity during synaptic transmission, which is the process by which neurons communicate with other neurons. The activity of genes linked to inflammation of the nervous system also increase when exposed to strobilurins. Further tests show that these chemicals cause mouse neurons to produce free radicals, highly reactive particles that can damage cells, and disrupt microtubules, cell structure that help with movement within a cell.

While more research is needed to fully understand the impacts that these fungicides can have on the human brain, this study already highlights potential harmful substances to look at first. Jeannie Lee, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School who was not involved in the work, said in a statement to The Guardian that the study should serve as “a wake-up call to regulatory agencies and the medical community.” She added that the research had “wide-ranging implications, not only for autism and diseases such as Parkinson’s and cancer, but also for the health of future generations.”

Autism is on the rise in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 U.S. children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder. In 1981, this number was one in 10,000. Since 2002, autism rates have increased 123% (from 1 in 150 children) in America. Although many attribute the increase to changes in the criteria for an autism diagnosis, and genetics have been shown to play a major role, a growing number of health advocates are concerned about how exposure to industrial chemicals relates to the rise in autism spectrum diagnoses. “It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Ph.D., an epidemiology professor at University of California, Davis (UC Davis), in response to a 2009 study linking autism to environmental exposures. A 2014 Swedish study found that genetic risk for autism accounted for only 50% of overall risk, leaving an interplay of environmental factors to account for the rest. Scientists are sounding the alarm on environmental chemicals linked to a long list of neurodevelopmental disabilities in children, ranging from autism, ADD, dyslexia and other cognitive impairments.

Fungicides are not the only types of chemicals that have been linked with neurodegenerative diseases. A 2014 study from UC Davis found that pregnant women who lived within a mile of agricultural fields treated with insecticides are more likely to have a child who develops autism, with the likelihood increased by 60%. Women in the second trimester living near fields treated with chlorpyrifos, a widely used organophosphate insecticide banned for household use in 2001, are 3.3 times more likely to have their children diagnosed with autism. The UC Davis team also found that living near a field where synthetic pyrethroids are applied during a woman’s third trimester correspond with an 87% increased risk of having a child with autism.

These new findings, though far from complete, offer yet another look at the dangers pesticide use poses to human health, especially children. The World Health Organization (WHO) cites that over 30% of the global burden of disease in children can be attributed to environmental factors, including pesticides. EPA concurs that children take in more pesticides relative to body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals.

You can read more about the vulnerability of children to pesticides in our factsheet, Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix. You can also visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, which tracks the science on pesticides that are contributing to the rise of learning and developmental disorders in children.

Source: The Guardian

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

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31
Mar

Terminix To Pay $10 Million Criminal Fine for Poisoning Family in Virgin Islands

(Beyond Pesticides, March 31, 2016) On Tuesday, Terminix International LP and its U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) operation agreed to a $10 million plea agreement after being charged by the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in U.S. District Court with multiple violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for “illegally applying fumigants containing methyl bromide in multiple residential locations in the U.S. Virgin Islands.” This decision by Terminix to pay criminal fines comes just one year after a Delaware family of four was poisoned with the neurotoxic pesticide at a resort in St. John, resulting in hospitalization and serious injury. The agreement, which is still subject to District Court approval, requires Terminix USVI to pay $6 million in fines and restitution to EPA for response and clean-up costs, and Terminix LP to pay $3 million in fines and fund a $1 million community service project, and a probation period of three years. In addition, Terminix LP is also responsible for resolving past and future medical expenses for the family through separate civil proceedings.

2009-02-20_Terminix_truck_on_Geer_St_in_DurhamLast March, a family from Delaware was vacationing at a luxury condo in the U.S. Virgin Islands when they were exposed to methyl bromide, a neurotoxic pesticide. According to authorities, the pesticide gas drifted from a neighboring condo into the family’s home, sending the two teenage boys and their parents to the hospital. Judith Enck, EPA’s region 2 (which included USVI) administrator in New York City said, “So far, the investigation has revealed a certified applicator working for Memphis, Tennessee-based Terminix applied the methyl bromide in the complex while targeting an indoor beetle that consumes wood.” Methyl bromide is a restricted use pesticide and is not registered for residential use, according to EPA’s 2013 Methyl Bromide Preliminary Workplan (pg. 6). Although mostly banned in the U.S., it can still be used in certain agricultural and food storage sites under a controversial “critical use exemption” loophole in the Clean Air Act and international agreement, the Montreal Protocol, which requires a State Department petition.

The plea agreement sheds light on the detailed facts of the case. According to the Department of Justice:

“TERMINIX, USVI provided pest control services in the Virgin Islands including fumigation treatments for Powder Post Beetles, a common problem in the islands.  These fumigation treatments were referred to as “tape and seal” jobs, meaning that the affected area was to be sealed off from the rest of the structure with plastic sheeting and tape prior to the introduction of the fumigant.  Customers were generally told that after a treatment persons could not enter the building for a two to three-day period.”

Since the incident, EPA has been investigating the ongoing uses of methyl bromide in the Virgin Islands. In response, Terminix voluntarily stopped using methyl bromide in the U.S. and territories. “This prosecution demonstrates the importance of complying with environmental laws and regulations,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald W. Sharpe of the District of the Virgin Islands.  “Tragically, the defendants’ failure to do so resulted in catastrophic injuries to the victims and exposed many others to similar harm.  The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to the enforcement of environmental laws and will take all necessary steps to hold those who violate these laws criminally accountable and to protect residents and visitors of the Virgin Islands.”

Because methyl bromide is an ozone-depleting substance, its production is controlled under both the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances, which is legally binding on all signatories to the treaty, of which the United States is one, and the Clean Air Act. These laws mandated methyl bromide’s phase out, in accordance with a precise schedule, by January 1, 2005. However, due to the “critical use exemption” (CUE) loophole, which allows the chemical to continue to be used if users petition that there are “no feasible alternatives.” As a result of uses under CUEs, application rates of methyl bromide in the U.S. have remained persistently high.

In November, the Virgin Islands revamped its pesticide enforcement and applicator training on alternatives, which advocates say are too focused on alternative pesticides, rather than building management strategies that eliminate pest-conducive conditions. In St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) and the EPA held a joint conference on “Reducing Pesticides in the U.S. Virgin Islands.” As a result of discussions that took place between the more than 100 participants, DPNR has announced plans to promote natural alternatives to toxic pesticides and to draft new applications for commercial and purchase permits related to pesticide application in an effort to increase protections for residents and vacationers from pesticide poisoning. According to Judith Enck, the full day conference was the first of its kind to take place in the Virgin Islands.

For the management of structures and buildings, Beyond Pesticides advocates the use of defined integrated pest management (IPM) as a vital tool that aids in the adoption of non-toxic methods to control pests and facilitates the transition toward a pesticide-free (and healthier) world. It offers the opportunity to eliminate toxic pesticide use through the management of conditions that are attractive to pests and exclusion techniques that through sealing keep pests out of structures, while only using least-toxic chemicals as a last resort. Sanitation, structural repairs, mechanical and biological control, population monitoring are a part of a defined IPM strategy to prevent and manage pests.

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

Source: U.S. Department of Justice

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30
Mar

Multiple Pesticides Detected in Poisoned Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, March 30, 2016) European researchers found over 50 different types of pesticides in honey bees while investigating more than 70 honey bee poisoning incidents. Their study, which detected neonicotinoids, pyrethroids, fipronil, and others, highlights the large number of toxic pesticides to which bees are exposed in the environment from agricultural fields to home gardens. The study results add to the body of knowledge connecting bee poisoning to pesticide exposure.

numerousbeesThe study, which is a multi-residue analysis to determine pesticides in honey bees  from poisoning incidents, was published in the Journal of Chromatography by a team of researchers from the National Veterinary Research Institute in Poland.  57 pesticides were found in 73 samples of poisoned honey bees, with four pesticides on average, and up to 13 determined simultaneously in a honey bee sample. The compounds detected include 21 insecticides and their metabolites, 20 fungicides, 12 herbicides, 2 acaricides and 2 veterinary medicinal products metabolites. Among them, metabolites of imidacloprid, thiacloprid, fipronil, methiocarb and amitraz were found. Chlorpyrifos, clothianidin, dimethoate, and tebuconazole were most frequently detected. Of the herbicides detected only MCPA, 2,4-D and prosulfocarb were determined more than once.

The authors believe that the study results contribute to understanding adverse effects associated with cumulative risk, pesticide mixtures, and other environmental factors. They note that more information is needed to determine the levels of exposure that cause adverse effects in bees. Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not evaluate pesticide mixtures and their cumulative impacts on honey bees or other organisms.

Tomasz Kiljanek, PhD, lead author of the study said: “Honeybee poisoning incidents are the tip of the iceberg. Even at very low levels, pesticides can weaken bees’ defense systems, allowing parasites or viruses to kill the colony. Our results will help expand our knowledge about the influence of pesticides on honey bee health, and will provide important information for other researchers to better assess the risk connected with the mix of current used pesticides.”

EPA’s recent pollinator assessment of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, confirms the pesticide’s toxicity to bees and that its presence in the pollen and nectar of various crops can put bees at risk, while a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report recently concluded that U.S. regulatory agencies are falling short in addressing the multiple threats contributing to declining pollinators. A study by a team of scientists led by Dave Goulson, PhD, puts into perspective the state of bee health in relation to the numerous pressures they face in the modern world: chronic exposure to multiple interacting stressors, including pesticide exposure and reduced immune response, is driving honey bee colony losses and declines of wild pollinators. Scientists suggest taking steps to reduce stress on bees, incorporating flower-rich habitat into farmland, and reducing pesticide use through adopting more sustainable farming methods. Similarly, in February, a United Nation’s assessment of pollinators and the global food supply warned that many species of wild bees, butterflies and other pollinators are on a dangerous path toward extinction, further threatening the food supply if the causes of these declines, many of them human-made, are not halted. The assessment found that an estimated 16 percent of vertebrate pollinators are threatened with global extinction.

Previous studies have found that pesticides, especially the neonicotinoids, impair bees’ ability to learn, forage, navigate as well as communicate. These pesticides, which are highly toxic to bees, have also been found to impair bee’s immune systems, leaving them more susceptible to parasites and disease. Other studies detail impairments in the brains of exposed bees, specifically in the areas associated with learning and memory. The science has become increasingly clear that pesticides, either working individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of honey bees.

Plan to attend Cultivating Community and Environmental Health, the 34th National Pesticide Forum, April 15-16, 2016 in Portland, ME to discuss pollinators and other local and national environmental concerns.  Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., a senior USDA entomologist will join other top scientists and leaders who have stood up to protect human and environmental health, despite facing industry backlash and scientific suppression. Dr. Lundgren’s research on the harm that neonicotinoids pose to monarch butterflies reflects a growing scientific consensus that these chemicals present significant risks to declining pollinator populations. Registration, which includes access to all sessions as well as organic food and beverages, is $45 for grassroots activists, and $25 for students. Register online today.

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

Source: Independent

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29
Mar

Washington State’s Emergency Rule Allows Recall of Contaminated Cannabis Products

(Beyond Pesticides, March 29, 2016) Last week, Washington State’s Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) adopted emergency rules allowing the state to recall cannabis products that have been tainted with illegal pesticide residues. The move follows widespread cannabis recalls in the City of Denver, and actions from Colorado’s Governor to declare pesticide-tainted cannabis “a threat to public safety.” Earlier in the month, Beyond Pesticides sent letters to Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) and Governor Jay Inslee imploring the state to take a proactive approach in restricting the use of hazardous pesticides in cannabis production.

Cannabis_pictureUntil now, Washington State had no process in place to remove illegally contaminated cannabis products from the market. WSLCB will now issue recalls or allow producers to initiate product removal if there is evidence that pesticides not approved by the state were used or are present on salable marijuana plants or products. However, because the state does not mandate batch testing of cannabis plants or products, it is unclear how or whether the new rule will be enforced. In an interview with the Seattle Times, WSLCB spokesman Brian Smith indicated that the state will not be taking a zero-tolerance approach.  “If a product tests very high for an unapproved pesticide, that will certainly increase the odds of recall. In the end, we may have to defend any potential recall action so a level of reasonableness will factor,” Mr. Smith said.

Available data on pesticide exposure from residue in cannabis smoke raises serious health concerns. Those who use cannabis for medicinal purposes may have underlying health conditions that can be complicated or worsened by pesticide exposure. Implementing an emergency measure to allow state recalls is a step forward, but requires a strong enforcement mechanism and way of ensuring that even the most sensitive medicinal cannabis users are protected.

Beyond Pesticides is urging states to prohibit registered pesticides in cannabis production, given the lack of testing for increased exposure through inhalation, ingestion, and skin absorption. Washington State currently lists over 200 pesticide products as permitted in cannabis production, despite their lack of compliance with federal and state testing requirements for the range of consumer, worker, and environmental exposures. While Washington’s list is generally more restrictive than Colorado’s because it limits permitted pesticides to those exempt from tolerances (which establishes allowed residues), there is concern that the unique exposure patterns and toxic body burden are not studied. Additionally, Washington’s list includes an allowance for the problematic synergist piperonyl butoxide (PBO), which is often mixed with pesticides to increase their potency. PBO is a highly toxic substance that is linked to a range of short- and long-term effects, including cancer and adverse impacts on liver function and the nervous system. It is commonly used as a synergist in pyrethrin-based pesticide products, many of which can be found on Washington State’s allowed pesticide list.

Beyond Pesticides supports criteria which limits allowed pesticides to those that are exempt from registration under federal pesticide law and also permitted for use in organic production, as has been done in New Hampshire. “As outlined in the letter sent to WSDA officials, adhering exclusively to pesticides allowed under 25(b) [Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)] is the best way to avoid any legal ramifications for unregistered pesticide use, as well as protect workers, consumers and the environment safe from the unstudied side effects that may result from the use of toxic pesticides on marijuana crops,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. With this approach, Beyond Pesticides urges growers to develop an organic system plan that encourages pest prevention, and eliminating pest-conducive conditions. Implementing this approach, advocates say, will ensure the sustained growth of cannabis production that protects public health and the environment.

For more information and background on this important issue, see Beyond Pesticides’ report Pesticide Use in Marijuana Production: Safety Issues and Sustainable Options.

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

Source: Seattle Times

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28
Mar

Minnesota Beekeepers Compensated for Bee Kills from Pesticide Drift

(Beyond Pesticides, March 28, 2016) In the first test of a landmark beekeeper compensation law that works to protect beekeepers from the effects of toxic pesticides on their hives, Minnesota has recently compensated two beekeepers for pesticide drift that killed their bees. Investigators from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) have confirmed what beekeepers and environmentalists have been saying: Even when pesticides are used in accordance with the label and the law, they can be acutely toxic to bees in everyday circumstances.

beehivecheckPam Arnold, an organic farmer who manages hives on her property, and Kristy Allen, another beekeeper who shares the same bee yard, were the first two beekeepers to actually receive compensation through the beekeeper compensation law. Last spring, a farmer across their road planted neonicotinoid (neonic) coated corn seeds on a windy day, resulting in the death of their bees as toxic dust from planting drifted on to their property. Tests performed by MDA during the investigation found acute levels of clothianidin in the dead bees, even days after the incident. Nearby dandelion weeds also showed significantly higher concentrations of the toxin. According to the MDA website, the case closing letter was sent in November 2015, but they released their annual investigation summary for 2015 last Wednesday. Since 2014, MDA has investigated 10 complaints from beekeepers, but these two were the first to be compensated for their losses under the law, according to a representative of the MDA Pesticide and Fertilizer Management Division. This demonstrates how difficult it can be to prove that pesticide drift has contributed to bee deaths, harm or contamination.

When farmers plant pesticide-coated seeds using a mechanical seeder, lubricants used to keep the seeds from sticking to the planter mechanism become contaminated and are expelled from the equipment as fugitive dust. The dust contaminates nearby plants. A 2012 study found that high amounts of neonicotinoids are present in the exhaust of corn seed planters and that bees are exposed to these potentially lethal concentrations of the chemical simply by flying through the area during planting.

Neonicotinoids like clothianidin have been found by a growing body of scientific literature to be linked to honey bee and pollinator decline. A study performed by the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) in the United Kingdom provides evidence confirming the link between neonicotinoid pesticides and continually increasing honey bee colony losses on a landscape level. Along with recent reports and studies highlighting the role these chemicals play in pollinator decline, there is evidence that the use of neonicotinoids are not efficacious or even necessary in agriculture. In August 2015, figures for the first oilseed rape harvest since the European-wide ban was introduced showed that the yield was higher than the average for the previous decade, when the chemicals were used on the majority of oilseed rape grown in the UK.  In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report concluding that soybean seed treatments with neonicotinoid insecticides provide little or no overall benefits in controlling insects or improving yield or quality in soybean production. The seed treatment market has more than tripled in size between 1990 and 2005, with neonicotinoids making up 77 percent of the market share.

Although Ms. Arnold and Ms. Allen were compensated for their loss, there was no violation of state or federal law, according to officials. Seed coatings are not considered a pesticide application like spraying because farmers buy the seed ready to plant, and the pesticide application process occurs at the distribution and processing center for the seeds. According to Ms. Allen, who also owns a Minneapolis honey company, this signals a significant failure in pesticide law. “The fact that MDA is compensating me for something that is not illegal is crazy to me,” she told the Star Tribune. “It means something is broken.”

Neonicotinoids, like imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam, have already been given a two-year moratorium in the European Union (EU). Despite calls for similar action from beekeepers and environmentalists, U.S. and Canadian officials have refused to follow suit. Although there has been some success in the form of local ordinances in the U.S. and Ontario, Canada, as well as policy shifts within some U.S. federal agencies, a Canadian beekeeper lawsuit demonstrates the desperation of beekeepers everywhere seeking relief on a broader scale.

In the U.S. courts, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, and U.S. beekeepers filed a lawsuit against EPA in 2013 calling for a ban on clothianidin and thiamethoxam. The lawsuit is still ongoing. States are also pushing for the right to regulate these toxic substances. In mid-March 2016, the Vermont House of Representatives passed a bill (H.861) that authorizes state regulation of pesticide-treated products, including coated seeds, that are exempt from federal pesticide regulations. H.861 is the latest in a string of laws introduced to address the impact of harmful neonicotinoid insecticides on ecology and agriculture, and symbolizes a concentrated effort to reverse pollinator declines within states.

Join Beyond Pesticides in supporting beekeepers across North America in their fight against neonicotinoids and learn the many ways you can BEE Protective by visiting our website! You can also learn more about the growing body of science linking bee deaths to neonicotinoids by visiting Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows webpage.

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

Source: Star Tribune

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25
Mar

Glyphosate Found to Contaminate California Wine

(Beyond Pesticides, March 25, 2016) Glyphosate is found to contaminate California wines, according to a new report from the non-profit group Moms Across America. Glyphosate is pervasive and toxic chemical found in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller and was classified in 2015 as a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

wineThe report finds that all of the ten wines tested positive for glyphosate. The highest level of glyphosate detected was nearly 30 times higher (at 18.74 parts-per-billion, or ppb) than other wines from a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from a conventional, chemically farmed vineyard. The lowest level (.659 ppb) was from a biodynamic and organic vineyard, a 2013 Syrah. According to the owner, the vineyard has never been sprayed, indicating the possibility of pesticide drift from conventional agriculture, which has been a real and persistent problem for organic growers. EPA has done little to protect organic growers, who often bear the burden, both economic and otherwise, of pesticides applied to nearby conventional farmlands and vineyards.

The report also points out that “the detection of glyphosate is an indicator of the presence of many other co-formulants in glyphosate-based herbicides, which have recently been shown…to be endocrine hormone disruptors and to be 1000x more toxic than glyphosate alone. Therefore, the type or amount of the co-formulant chemicals in the wines are untested and the consequences on our health are unknown.”

Recent reports of the widespread presence of glyphosate residues find the chemical in breast milk, in nearly 100% of Germans and in German beers, feminine hygiene products, and bread.

Following the carcinogenic classification by International Agency for Research on Cancern (IARC), a research study published in Environmental Health links long-term, ultra-low dose exposure to glyphosate in drinking water to adverse impacts on the health of liver and kidneys. The study focuses on GHBs, rather than pure glyphosate, unlike many of the studies that preceded it. In addition to impacts on human health, glyphosate has been linked to adverse effects on earthworms and other soil biota, as well as shape changes in amphibians. The widespread use of the chemical on genetically engineered (GE) crops has led it to be implicated in the decline of monarch butterflies, whose sole habitat to lay their eggs, milkweed plants, are being devastated as a result of incessant use of glyphosate.

These findings underscore the importance of organic agriculture. To learn more about why it is critical to continue to support organic food production and maintain the integrity of the USDA organic label, as well as organic programs in other countries, please visit our Save Our Organic webpage.

For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page. To voice your support for organic integrity and comment on organic standards, practices, and allowable materials, see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage.

Sources: Moms Across America

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

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24
Mar

More Companies To Label for GE Ingredients, While Maintaining Their Safety

(Beyond Pesticides, March 24, 2016) This week, four major food manufacturing companies, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Mars, and ConAgra, committed to labeling food containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, while exclaiming the safety of GE food. Each company released statements citing the new Vermont labeling law, set to take effect this summer. The four companies joined Campbell Soup Company, which announced its own label on GE ingredients in January. At the time, Agri-Pulse reported, “Campbell made clear that it still supported the use of genetic engineering in agriculture, but said that there is a need for national labeling standards that would preempt state standards.”

A summary of the companies’ releases are as follows:

Yellow CornKellogg’s
Kellogg’s North America President, Paul Norman, insists upon the adoption of a “federal solution for the labeling of GMOs.” Until that happens, he says, “We will start labeling some of our products nationwide for the presence of GMOs beginning in mid-to-late April. We chose nationwide labeling because a special label for Vermont would be logistically unmanageable and even more costly for us and our consumers.” In addition to a label, Kellogg’s launched OpenForBreakfast.com, which invites consumers to ask questions and learn more about products that include GE ingredients. “At our core, Kellogg believes in transparency and that people should know what’s in their food and where it comes from,” says Paul Norman.

General Mills
On its blog, Taste of General Mills, executive vice president and chief operating officer Jeff Harmening expressed the need for a national solution for GE labeling. He points to the Vermont state law deadline in the midst of a seemingly never-ending debate in Washington. In order to comply with that deadline, he says General Mills, “can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers and we simply will not do that… The result: consumers all over the U.S. will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills products.” Like Kellogg’s, General Mills has a platform for consumer Q&A, Ask General Mills. Included on that webpage is a link to a search engine that reveals the GE-status of each of their products alongside a disclaimer: “This technology is not new. Biotech seeds have been approved by global food safety agencies and widely used by farmers in food crops for more than 20 years.” According to Jeff Harmening, “For consumers who prefer products without GMO ingredients, we have terrific organic and non-GMO brands like Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen and LÄRABAR.”

Mars
In a discreet change to its current GMO page, Mars added the sentence, “To comply with [the Vermont] law, Mars is introducing clear, on-pack labeling on our products that contain GM ingredients nationwide.” It includes a link to U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s GE Plant website, which ensures the safety of GE-derived food products.

ConAgra
ConAgra released a statement on their website stating, “ConAgra Foods will begin adding labels to products nationwide by July 2016 to meet Vermont’s GMO labeling requirements. We stand behind the health and safety of all of our products, including those with genetically modified ingredients, and believe consumers should be informed as to what’s in their food. But addressing state-by-state labeling requirements adds significant complications and costs for food companies. With a multitude of other states currently considering different GMO labeling requirements, the need for a national, uniform approach in this area is as critical as ever. That’s why we continue to urge Congress to pass a national solution as quickly as possible.”

Generally, food manufacturers are resisting the “patchwork” mandatory state labeling laws that are slowly moving across the nation. They all insist upon a federal rule in order to create uniformity and prevent chaos for their packaging logistics. Earlier this month, Senators Jeff Merkley (OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation to require that consumer food packaging displays genetically engineered (GE) ingredient labeling. The legislation, the Biotechnology Food Labeling and Uniformity Act (S.2621), presents an alternative to the primarily Republican-backed Biotechnology Labeling Solutions Bill (dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act)  that failed to garner cloture in last week’s Senate vote. While a stark improvement from the previous bill, advocates are critical of the preemption that the new legislation allows.  The history of pesticide bans is filled with examples of state action preceding federal action, from DDT, chlordane, EDB, DBCP amd more.

Typically, states do not exceed federal standards unless there is a weakness in the public health or environmental protections. While uniformity is understood to facilitate interstate marketing of chemical and food products, states have historically advanced more restrictive policy on toxic chemical use and exposure and food when a deficiency in federal protections has been clearly identified. It is that state and local action that has provided an important check on federal inaction and ultimately influences the adoption of more protecitve federal policy. As a result, Beyond Pesticides has maintained that it is essential to uphold the basic principle that states and localities must not have their authority to adopt more restrictive standards preempted by the federal government. The role of the federal government is too establish a regulatory floor, not a ceiling.

Beyond Pesticides believes that consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients, not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and human health. GE agriculture is associated with the increased use of herbicides –particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup– that crops are developed to tolerate. In light of findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that glyphosate is a human carcinogen based on laboratory animal test data, consumers have even more cause for concern about the health risks that these products pose. See Beyond pesticides Genetic Engineering program page for more information on GE agriculture and alternatives to this toxic system of food production.

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

Source: Kellogg’s, General Mills, Mars, ConAgra

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23
Mar

Vermont House Votes to Authorize State Regulation of “Treated Articles,” such as Neonic-Coated Seeds

(Beyond Pesticides March 23, 2016) Last week, the Vermont House of Representatives passed a bill that authorizes state regulation of pesticide-treated products, including telephone poles and coated seeds, that are exempt from federal pesticide regulations. H.861 is the latest in a string of laws introduced this legislative session in Vermont to address the impact of harmful neonicotinoid insecticides on Vermont’s ecology and agriculture, and symbolizes a concentrated effort by the legislature to reverse pollinator declines within the state. If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, the bill will allow the Secretary of Agriculture to regulate above and beyond current federal laws, which exempt treated articles from regulation completely, and write appropriate rules in response to recommendations from a state Pollinator Protection Committee.

Gary-Tate-Riverside-CA-Honey-Bee-taking-flight-Riverside-Ca-300x260-300x260The bill, which passed with wide support in the House, gives the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets the authority to regulate “treated articles,” a term coined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to denote products treated with pesticides, such as utility poles, commercial crop seeds, and lumber. Traditionally, EPA gives rulemaking authority over pesticides to states, but that authority does not extend to products pre-treated with pesticides, which, until this point, has posed a problem for states like Vermont that wish to adapt to growing concerns over the prevalent use of neonicotinoid-coated seeds and their impact on pollinator species.

“Not regulating toxic substances that may pose a threat to humans or the environment would be reckless and irresponsible,” said Rep. Teo Zagar, D-Barnard, a member of the House Committee on Agriculture and Forest Products where the bill originated.” We’ve learned too many things the hard way.”

Neonicotinoid seed treatments have become increasingly common and are linked to the explosion of genetically engineered (GE) crops. At least 94% of the nation’s 92 million acres of corn –greater than the total size of the state of Minnesota, Nebraska, or both Dakotas– will be treated with one of two neonicotinoids, both manufactured by Bayer CropScience. Currently, when farmers plant pesticide-treated, or coated, seeds using a mechanical seeder, lubricants used to keep the seeds from sticking to the planter mechanism become contaminated are and expelled from the equipment as fugitive dust. The dust contaminates nearby plants . A 2012 study found that high amounts of neonicotinoids are present in the exhaust of corn seed planters and that bees are exposed to these potentially lethal concentrations of the chemical simply by flying through the area during planting.

In June 2014, in a letter to EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) challenged EPA’s position that seeds coated with pesticides, commonly neonicotinoid pesticides, are exempt from regulation under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). EPA argued that pesticide-coated seeds are treated articles, exempting them from being regulated as a pesticide and should be regulated by USDA under the Federal Seed Act. CFS responded in early 2016 by filing a lawsuit in federal court charging the EPA with failing to adequately regulate neonicotinoid insecticide seed coatings used on dozens of crops throughout the U.S. The suit alleges that EPA has illegally allowed millions of pounds of coated seeds to be planted annually on more than 150 million acres nationwide, constituting a direct violation of the registration requirements established by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Vermont is the first state to take action to address the regulatory problems created by the treated article exemption.

As mentioned above, H. 861 is designed to give the Secretary of Agriculture the ability to regulate neonicotinoid coated seeds based on the recommendations of a state Pollinator Protection Committee. The creation of this committee is dependent on the passage of another legislative measure, H.539, which would establish the Committee to “evaluate the causes of reduced pollinator populations in the State” and “recommend measures the State can adopt to conserve and protect pollinator populations.” While the creation of a Pollinator Protection Committee would be a positive undertaking by the state of Vermont, another piece of legislation currently being considered by the Senate would have a more immediate and long-lasting effect on pollinator populations within the state. S.200 will ban the use, sale, or application of neonicotinoid pesticides in Vermont outright without waiting for a committee to confirm the well-documented scientific link between use of neonicotinoid pesticides and pollinator declines. S.200 currently awaits review by the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Regardless of whether Vermont decides to ban neonicotinoids or to establish a committee to explore the topic further, proactive State steps to address the issue of pollinator decline is critical in the absence of federal action. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. Farm, beekeeper, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have urged EPA to follow in the European Union’s footsteps and suspend the huge numbers of other bee-harming pesticides already on the market. We suggest an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, and instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of neonicotinoids. See how you can help through Bee Protective.

Source: VTDigger

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

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22
Mar

It’s Time to Protect Organic Integrity

(Beyond Pesticides, March 22, 2016)  Make your voice heard! The public comment period has opened on National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) proposed recommendations affecting organic standards, materials and policy. Comments are due by April 14, 2016 at 11:59 PM. As usual, there are many important issues that are under NOSB consideration. Your voice is integral to maintaining organic integrity and the value of the USDA organic label.

saveorganic1We have begun to analyze the numerous recommendations and are providing you with our positions that we hope you will use as the basis for your comments. We will provide positions on additional topics in the near future. Please feel free to develop your own comments or cut and paste ours from the following web page: Top Priority Issues.

Unfortunately, the only way to make your voice heard is to submit your comments to regulations.gov. If you cut and paste our comments into regulations.gov on major issues before the NOSB (below), please put a personal note of concern in order to reflect the importance if these issues to you as an organic consumer, farmer.

Some of the major issues before the spring 2016 National Organic Standards Board include:

• Inerts
Three items on the NOSB agenda concern so-called “inert” ingredients in pesticides –sunset of List 3 “inerts,” a discussion document on the prohibition of nonylphenol ethoxylates as List 4 “inerts,” and a verbal update from the Inerts Working Group. (1) The NOSB must take the sunset review of List 3 “inerts” seriously. The NOSB must do a full review of these chemicals, which it previously recommended to come off the list at the end of last year, but are likely to remain on for at least 5 more years without action at this meeting. (2) The NOSB should move as expeditiously as possible in recommending an end to the use of endocrine-disrupting nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). The evidence shows the dangers of NPEs, and alternatives are available. Postponing will not prevent formulators from procrastinating. (3) The fall 2015 recommendation on the “inerts” annotation must be implemented in a way that ensures NOSB participation in the initial review and future sunset review of the chemicals.

• Sanitizers
There are three proposals to list hypochlorous acid –for use in crops, handling, and livestock—and another petition for use of sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate in handling that are under consideration. While both materials offer some advantages over currently allowed materials, the NOSB lacks a frame of reference for deciding which sanitizing agents are needed in organic production. Sanitizers do not always offer improvements in health, and I urge the NOSB to do a comprehensive survey of needs for sanitizing agents before adding more to the National List. I suggest that the NOSB investigate sanitizers approved for EPA’s Safer Chemical Ingredients List –most of which are already allowed in organic production—as alternatives to harsher chemicals.

• Ancillary Substances
Ancillary substances are added to ingredients found in organic foods to achieve some effect in those ingredients –preservative, adjusting moisture, even pest control. The NOSB adopted a policy in 2013 that all ancillary substances would be reviewed according to OFPA criteria, but the Handling Subcommittee has simply been listing those ancillary substances known to be in use. Now the Handling Subcommittee is proposing to modify the policy. (1) Definitions are needed. In order to be meaningful and useful, the ancillary substances policy must define terms it uses: technical or functional effect, direct food additive, incidental food additive, food contact substance, functional class, and significant amount. (2) Each ancillary substance must be approved for each particular use. Whether the approval of ancillary substances is communicated by means of listing on the National List –which we believe to be required by OFPA—or by other means, each ancillary substance must be reviewed according to OFPA criteria. The NOSB must not categorically allow substances in a functional class that have not been specifically reviewed and it must not rubber stamp ancillary substance just because they are currently in use.

• Carrageenan
I oppose the relisting of carrageenan on §205.605(a) and believe that the substance should be removed from the National List. Carrageenan should be reclassified as a synthetic. This use does not meet the requirements of the Organic Food Production Act —carrageenan may have adverse effects on the health of consumers, its production results in adverse ecological impacts, there are alternatives to its use, and its use is inconsistent with a system of organic and sustainable production. Independent scientists have presented evidence to the NOSB demonstrating inflammatory impacts of carrageenan. Due to consumer concerns about the use of carrageenan in organic products, it has been removed from many, and every product containing carrageenan is available without it –demonstrating the lack of essentiality.

• Parasiticides
In reviewing all three parasiticides together, livestock subcommittee failed to bring forward motions to remove ivermectin and moxidectin due to adverse ecological effects. This would have allowed the NOSB to consider the full range of actions that have been supported by public comment. As noted in comments from former NOSB member Dr. Karreman, the intention of the NOSB in approving fenbendazole was to allow for the removal of ivermectin and possibly moxidectin. Since such an action at this meeting would be prohibited as a substantive action not proposed for public comment, these proposals should be referred back to the subcommittee, to return with proposals that address the full range of actions supported by the available evidence.

Please go to Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage to learn more about these and other substantive issues and provide a unique public comment.

We ask that you submit comments on as many issues and materials as you can by the April 14, 2016 deadline. For help crafting your comments, view Beyond Pesticides’ commenting guide.

Thank you for standing up to keep organic strong!

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

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21
Mar

Boulder County, Colorado to Phase Out GE Crops on Public Land

(Beyond Pesticides, March 21, 2016) Last Thursday, Boulder County (CO) commissioners directed staff to draft up a plan to phase out genetically engineered (GE) crops on all farmland owned by the county. The county’s current policy, adopted in 2011, allows tenant farmers to grow certain types of GE corn and sugar beets on land leased through Boulder County, and will remain in effect at least until the end of the year. The five-year policy old has frequently come under fire from individuals and environmental groups that challenge the safety of GE crop production systems, and their effect on human health, water quality, soil health, and the overall environment.

cornplantsThe Boulder County commissioners heard recommendations from the county’s advisory committees, including the county’s Croplands Policy Advisory Group, the Food and Agriculture Policy Group, and the Parks and Open Space Advisory Group. A public hearing was held on Feb. 29 also provided public input on whether to continue or change the current approval in Section 6.1 of the Boulder County Parks & Open Space Cropland Policy that allows for the use of certain genetically engineered (GE) crops on Open Space land. That approval expires on December 20, 2016. More than 100 people spoke at the day-long public hearing, and hundreds more have submitted written comments since mid-January. After the public comments, on a 5-3 vote the Parks and Open Space Advisory Group recommended that Boulder County commissioners permit GE crops for at least five more years. While this and other advisory groups’ recommendations must be considered, the Boulder County commissioners have the final say.

Before the final vote, two of the three commissioners, Deb Gardner and Elise Jones, expressed their support for transitioning away from GE crops on county lands. As reported by Times Call, Ms. Jones said the nearly 1,180 total acres of leased-from-the-county land now used to grow GMO crops annually could be phased out of those kinds of crops over a three-to-five-year period. Ms. Gardner said the transition “should happen in close partnership with the farmers leasing the land” and may have to be done “on a field-by-field” basis. The third commissioner, Cindy Domenico, concurred with the Parks and Open Space Advisory Group’s recommendation, supporting the continuation of current cropland policy.

Last September, after pressure from local advocacy groups like Bee Safe Boulder, Boulder County enacted a historic measure, stating the county’s dedication to and plan for countywide bee safe practices, which also briefly addressed the issue of GE crops:

  • Reduce and minimize all chemical pesticide use on County lands and in County buildings;
  • Not apply neonicotinoid or other systemic insecticides on its County rights of way, along watersheds and ditches, on public trees and landscapes or in its buildings;
  • Allow exceptions only after consideration of both the necessity of treatment and of alternative treatments to achieve the necessary protection of those lands, trees, or landscapes
  • Enhance safe and healthy pollinator forage habitat on County lands, including revision of mowing policies where possible to allow wildflowers and other appropriate flowering species to flourish and feed pollinators; and,
  • Facilitate the transition of County owned agricultural lands to organic production by providing incentives to make it possible for farmers to make the transition from conventional to organic practices and will require management practices for farmers leasing county lands.

The City of Boulder has long been a national leader in sustainable approaches to the management of public lands. Boulder has a comprehensive integrated pest management program to manage weeds and insects on city land, discontinued the use of Roundup (glyphosate) in public places in 2011, and restricted the use of bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides on city property in May 2015.

Over 70% of all GE crops are altered to be herbicide-tolerant. Increased planting of glyphosate-tolerant  (or Roundup Ready) GE crops has led to a dramatic increase in glyphosate use. The use of herbicide-tolerant crops has also led to “super weeds” and the destruction of pollinator habitat. The wave of marketplace transitions towards food produced with safer practices is a sign of the growing power of consumers and the food movement to protect not only human health, but the health of farm workers that cultivate and harvest much of the nation’s food, and pollinators and other wildlife that may be adversely affected in the course of its production.

Currently, the best way to avoid GE food is to support organic agriculture and eat organic food. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for organic management practices as a means to foster biodiversity, and research shows that organic farmers do a better job of protecting biodiversity than their chemical-intensive counterparts. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and biotechnology, organic farms focus on fostering habitat with biodiversity and ecological balance, and only resort to the use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective.

For more on genetic engineering and GE crops visit Beyond Pesticides’ program page Genetic Engineering. Make sure to also visit the Organic page for information on organic food, gardening and what you can do.

Source: Times Call

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

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