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Daily News Blog

10
Jul

California Lists Glyphosate as a Carcinogen but Controversy Remains

(Beyond Pesticides, July 10, 2017) The state of California has listed glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular Roundup, as a known carcinogen under its Proposition 65 law. This listing went into effect July 7, 2017. Now, state officials have to develop guidelines for product labels and determine what level of exposure to the pesticide will put people at risk for developing cancer. Some have argued that the state’s proposed levels are not protective enough. Meanwhile, the state continues to face pressure from Monsanto, maker of glyphosate, which continues to challenge the decision to list the chemical as a known cancer-causing agent.

California’s decision to list glyphosate as a carcinogen was prompted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) finding in 2015 that it is a “probable” human carcinogen. This classification was based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. Later that year, California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced that it intended to list glyphosate as a cancer-causing chemical under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65).  Under California law, Proposition 65 requires that certain substances identified by IARC be listed as known cancer-causing chemicals. Glyphosate’s listing became effective July 7, 2017. Now, OEHHA has until early April 2018 to work out guidelines for glyphosate product warnings before requirements for such warnings take effect in July 2018.

The issue of contention for the state surrounds what level of exposure California might allow without any warnings. The state has proposed what some see as an overly generous ‘safe threshold’ or “No Significant Risk Level” (NSRL) for glyphosate at 1100 micrograms per day, meaning exposure levels and discharges into drinking water sources below that benchmark would be exempt from warning requirements.  Setting the NSRL is done so that companies will be able to determine whether they need to provide warnings and/or reformulate products. Food products containing glyphosate residues that cause an exposure exceeding the final NSRL would be included in the warning requirement.

However, critics point out that the proposed NSRL is significantly higher than amounts that have been shown to have cancer-causing effects in several animal studies. A letter submitted to OEHHA from a group of scientists and advocates expressed concern that the proposed NSRL is not sufficiently health protective, and identified studies that show statistically significant increases in tumor incidence with oral administration of glyphosate at doses far below 1000 mg/kg/day. The letter urged OEHHA to lower the NSRL and uphold its statutory mission to protect humans from the harmful impacts of glyphosate.

In addition, allegations of possible OEHHA collusion with Monsanto over the setting of the NSRL have cast a dark cloud over the process. It was revealed in legal documents by lawyers for scores of cancer victims currently suing Monsanto over Roundup, that before California regulators set the NSRL they met privately with Monsanto in 2015 to discuss Monsanto’s recommendations for calculating the NSRL and which studies should be considered. Already, there is an investigation by the inspector general for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into whether or not an EPA official engaged in collusion with Monsanto regarding the agency’s safety assessment of glyphosate.

Monsanto is still challenging the listing of glyphosate under Prop 65. Its lawsuit against OEHHA was dismissed by a Fresno County Superior Court judge in March, but Monsanto appealed the dismissal and that appeal is still pending. The company’s effort to block the listing while the appeal is pending failed. As recently as June 20, Monsanto was continuing to press OEHHA to drop or delay the glyphosate listing, arguing that the IARC classification was invalid.

As evidence of the hazardous effects of glyphosate continues to mount, environmental groups like Beyond Pesticides are urging localities to ban or restrict the use of the chemical and other toxic synthetic pesticides. These groups maintain that California’s glyphosate listing is certainly a step in the right direction; however, further steps toward a restriction or ban will be needed to protect the public’s health. Being  the number one agricultural producing state, California’s action may help to move glyphosate off the market, which would serve as a victory for the low-income communities in the southern part of the Central Valley that are exposed to glyphosate at higher levels than the general population.

The best way to avoid glyphosate and other harmful pesticides is to support organic practices in landscapes and agriculture and purchase organic food. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for organic management practices as a means to foster biodiversity, and research shows that organic land management does a better job of protecting biodiversity than its chemical-intensive counterparts. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and crops bioengineered with insecticides, responsible organic practices focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and ecological balance, and only resort to judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective.

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

Source: Environmental Health News

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07
Jul

Common Bug Killers Used in Homes Persist for Over a Year

(Beyond Pesticides, July 7, 2017) The active ingredients in commonly used bug sprays such as RAID leave significant residues that persist for over a year in the home, according to a study published by Brazilian researchers in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. The pesticides tested, synthetic pyrethroids, have been linked to a range of health effects, most notably in children. The results of this study add to calls for homeowners to rethink a chemical-based approach to home pest control, in favor of simple, non-toxic practices.

In the recent study, researchers compared the breakdown time of two synthetic pyrethroids, cypermethrin and beta-cyfluthrin, between laboratory conditions and those in an average home. Under lab conditions, with temperature controlled and without sunlight or ventilation, both active ingredients broke down little within the 112 day test period observed. However, the test house, where insecticides were applied according to indoor label conditions, displayed breakdown times similar to the lab results during the first 112 days. Researchers continued their observation of pyrethroids in the home for up to a year, finding after that period 44% of beta-cyfluthrin and 70% cypermethrin remained in household dust samples from the singular, original application.

A 2014 study published by scientists at the University of California, Davis, found that homes with detectable levels of pyrethoids in floor wipe tests were associated with higher levels of pyrethoids in their urine. In their study of both adults and children in California communities, 63% of participants had detectable levels of pyrethroids in their urine. Exposure and presense of these chemicals in the human body has been linked to concerning health effects. A 2013 study published by Canadian researchers found high scores on emotional difficulties tests and conduct problems in children was significantly associated with the use of pesticides in or around the home. Another study published by French scientists earlier this year reinforced the Canadian study’s results, finding strong associations between childhood behavioral problems and pyrethroid pesticide exposure. A 2017 study found that urinary metabolite levels of cypermethrin were associated with an increase in early onset of puberty in boys. In addition to developmental and behavioral problems, past research has connected pyrethroid use to cancer. A 2013 study found that termite applications in the home within a year of pregnancy increased the risk of a child developing a brain tumor by twofold.

The recent study may help explain the high frequency of pyrethroid detections in the general population, as only one application has the potential to remain in the home for a significant amount of time. Based on this, any subsequent applications will only add to concentrations present in a home. This long breakdown time is also more likely to put young children, who are more prone to exposure because of time spent crawling and hand to mouth activities, at greater risk.

Rather than reaching for a spray can or calling a pesticide applicator when a pest is spotted in a home, focus on preventive measures that will eliminate pests and stop them from coming back. These practices do not require chemicals, but instead simple cultural changes. The goal of this approach is to deny pest access to food, water, and shelter. Ants, for instance, can be easily controlled by regular cleaning, not leaving dirty dishes or standing water in the sink, and keeping tight fitting lids on food containers and trash cans. Their access into the home can be prevented by maintaining caulking around windows and doors, and installing doorsweeps. After entrances/exists are sealed and access to food, water, and shelter is denied, remaining pests can be controlled through least-toxic bait stations containing boric acid.

For more information on how to control common household pests without the use of chemicals, see Beyond Pesticides’ ManageSafe database. And to read more about the connection between pesticide exposure and children, and finds resources on getting these chemicals out of your community and child’s school, see the Children and Schools program page.

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

Source: ScienceDaily

 

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06
Jul

Washington Oyster Growers Request Approval to Apply Neonicotinoid in Aquatic Environments

(Beyond Pesticides, July 6, 2017) The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) is evaluating a new permit application for the use of imidacloprid, a toxic neonicotinoid, to combat a growing native population of burrowing shrimp that threatens oyster beds in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor in Washington state. The application was recently submitted to Ecology by a group of oyster farmers from the Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association (WGHOGA), who “propose to use the pesticide to treat tide lands to support their aquaculture practices.” Imidacloprid is known to be toxic to bees and aquatic organisms, raising questions on the impacts of its use on the long-term ecological health of the bays.

In April 2015, much to the dismay of activists and concerned local residents, Ecology approved a permit submitted by oyster farmers for the use of imidacloprid to combat burrowing shrimp in these aquatic ecosystems. But with a nationwide public outcry, the permit was withdrawn in May 2015. The recent request that was submitted differs in several ways from this 2015 permit, including:

  • The new permit proposes treating 485 acres in Willapa Bay and 15 acres in Grays Harbor, compared to 2,000 acres combined from both water bodies in the 2015 permit.
  • The oyster farmers propose applying imidacloprid from boats or ground equipment rather than aerially in helicopters.
  • The 2017 Preliminary Aquatic Risk Assessment for Imidacloprid by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and similar risk assessments adds new research to the supplemental environmental review being drafted by Ecology.

In its 2017 risk assessment, EPA finds risks from imidacloprid exposure to ecologically important organisms not previously evaluated as part of its regulatory review. A 2013 comprehensive assessment of the effects of imidacloprid in surface water reports a wide variety of aquatic invertebrates adversely harmed by imidacloprid residues in water. These important findings, as well as others, will need to be considered as Ecology undertakes its environmental review process for this aquatic pesticide permit.

The shellfish industry is important to the Pacific Northwest, injecting an estimated $270 million or more into the region’s economy, and providing jobs for many. Washington’s tidelands, especially those in Willapa Bay. The fisheries have been particularly productive for more than 100 years. However, according to shellfish growers, the burrowing shrimp undermines the industry. The creatures burrow into shellfish beds, making the beds too soft for shellfish cultivation. Their burrowing churns the tidelands into a sticky muck, smothering the oysters. After several years of deliberations and studies, Ecology identified imidacloprid as its preferred choice for eradicating the shrimp. According to the agency, imidacloprid disrupts the burrowing shrimps’ ability to maintain their burrows. A 2013 risk assessment conducted by Ecology concluded that, “The proposed use of imidacloprid to treat burrowing shrimp in shellfish beds located in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor is expected to have little or no impact on the local estuarine and marine species”, and will not significantly impact human health.”

However, in comments submitted by the Xerces Society in 2014, supported by Beyond Pesticides and others, Ecology failed to consider existing published research that demonstrates the potential for wide-range ecological damage from the use of the insecticide imidacloprid. The groups say that the risks, coupled with the lack of data on how imidacloprid will impact sensitive marine environments like Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, warrant greater caution. The comments urged the agency to review existing data that shows imidacloprid’s potential to damage the rich marine ecosystems of Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. Imidacloprid is water soluble and highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates. Its persistence and largely irreversible mode of action in invertebrates make it particularly dangerous in these ecosystems. Further, the comments note, imidacloprid’s impact on these key species can also cause a cascading trophic effect, harming the fish, birds, and other organisms that rely on them for sustenance.

The decision to withdraw the permit in May 2015 was reached in large part due to vocal public outrage over the plan, as consumers, environmental organizations, and prominent local chefs spoke out against the spraying. Retailers, consumers and environmental organizations were not the only ones to raise concern for the use of imidacloprid. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) voiced many concerns over the application of imidacloprid to the bays.

Beyond Pesticides recently released Poisoned Waterways, a report which documents the persistence of neonicotinoids in U.S. waterbodies and the danger they cause to aquatic organisms, resulting in complex cascading impacts on the aquatic food web. The report also highlights current regulatory failures of EPA aquatic standards, which continue to underestimate risks to sensitive species due to a reliance on test protocols that do not reflect real-world exposures or susceptibilities. Further, the impacts of chemical mixtures and synergistic interactions are not considered. Aquatic standards, which continue to underestimate risks to sensitive species due to a reliance on test protocols that do not reflect real-world exposures or susceptibilities. Further, the impacts of chemical mixtures and synergistic interactions are not considered.

Take Action

Once the Washington State Department of Ecology finalizes their draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), a 45-day public comment period will open. However, if you have information you want considered now as they complete this SEIS, Ecology encourages you to send it to Derek Rockett, Water Quality Program Permit Writer, at derek.rockett@ecy.wa.gov.

Sources: WA State Department of Ecology

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

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05
Jul

Polli-NATION Pollinator of the Month: The Hoverfly

(Beyond Pesticides, July 5, 2017) The Hoverfly is July’s pollinator of the month. Hoverflies, also known as flower flies and syrphid flies, are members of the “true fly” order Diptera, family Syrphidae. There are roughly 200 genera and 6,000 species of hoverflies throughout the world.

Range

Hoverflies are commonly seen in in flowering landscapes across the globe. According to the United States Forest Service (USFS), there are almost 900 species of the family in North America. They live in a range of habitats, including decaying wood, still and moving freshwater, on plants, and sometimes even in other insects’ nests. They are not often found in desert regions, and no known species have been discovered in Antarctica.

Diet and Pollination

The diet of hoverflies varies widely among species. In general, they are vital pollinators for a range of common flowering plants. Most adult flower flies have generalized mouthparts structured to sap up nectar and harvest pollen from open flowers; others use a long, beak-like proboscis to imbibe nectar from tube-shaped flowers; and some reportedly feed on the honeydew secreted from aphids. Because certain syrphid flies will feed on human perspiration, they are often mistaken for sweat bees. Unlike sweat bees, however, flower flies cannot sting.

In addition to being crucial wild pollinators, larvae of many flower flies, such as the common Allograpta obliqua, are voracious predators of garden and agricultural pests — particularly aphids. Approximately 40% of larval stage hoverfly species prey on soft-bodied pests. Larvae of these species use their piercing mouthparts to suck aphids dry. The larvae of other hoverflies are not predatory, but instead, feed on fungi or plant material. Some syrphid flies lay their eggs in the nests of ants or bees. Hoverfly larvae inhabiting ant nests consume eggs and larvae of the ants. On the other hand, Volucella species larvae eat dead bees and other organic matter in bumblebee nests.

Physiology

Flower flies provide an excellent example of Batesian mimicry. Although hoverflies do not have stingers, a majority of North American species are black and yellow, resembling some bees or wasps, thus mimicking the warning signals of more dangerous insects. In addition to deterring predators, this camouflage permits certain flower fly species to lay their eggs in other creatures’ nests.

Hoverflies and other Diptera species can be distinguished from bees and wasps by the number of their wings. Flies have one pair of wings, while bees have two. As their name implies, their wings are used to hover over flowers, providing hoverflies an ability to change direction and location quickly. They are among the small number of insects who can fly backwards.

Syrphid fly larvae are much less charismatic than adults: they grow out of dull-colored, oval-shaped eggs, and are born legless and blind. Hoverflies undergo complete metamorphosis, meaning that they will pupate for one to four weeks before emerging in their adult form.

Ecological Role

Syrphid flies are important pollinators, and many are critical to the cross-pollination of certain plant species. Accounts of pollinators in Colorado’s prairie found that 44% of flowering plants species investigated were pollinated by 16 hoverfly species. While a few species specialize in pollinating certain flowers, most flower flies are generalist pollinators, though they do show a notable preference for white and yellow flowers. Certain hoverfly species are laboratory reared and placed in greenhouses for pepper pollination, or for the production of seeds for seed banks.

Flower fly larvae play an ecological role in pest control and nutrient cycling. Of those that feed on aphids, high larval populations can reduce aphid numbers by 70 to 100%, according to the University of Florida. The larvae of some hoverfly species have been shown to consume an average of more than 30 aphids per day. Although ladybugs and lacewing larvae are more recognizable pest predators in gardens and crop fields, the unassuming larvae of the flower fly may deserve a good share of the credit. For instance, preliminary research finds syrphid flies able to maintain adequate control of aphids in California lettuce crops. Flower fly larvae will also feed on mealybugs, scales, and caterpillars. Syrphid larvae who live in other habitats often assist in the decomposition of organic wastes.

Threats to Existence

Research conducted in Europe finds that hoverfly diversity differs significantly between areas of high and low human activity. Flower fly populations in natural, undisturbed areas are more diverse, with a higher number of species specializing in the pollination of specific flower species. In areas with high levels of human activity, researchers discovered that more generalist hoverflies tend to dominate the landscape. USFS notes that, although no syrphid flies are currently listed under the Endangered Species Act, this may be a result of a dearth of information about these pollinators.

The University of Washington indicates that flower flies are “highly susceptible” to insecticides, and recommends pest managers forgo insecticidal control of aphids if hoverfly larvae have been spotted feeding on them. There is also evidence that pesticide use may deter flower flies from moving into an area in the first place. A 2013 study indicates that syrphid flies may avoid feeding in areas where field-realistic levels of bee-toxic neonicotinoid class insecticides are present.

How to Protect the Species

People can protect hoverflies through some simple actions. Planting a diversity of flowers in and around one’s garden and yard is a surefire way to promote flower fly populations. Flowers in the carrot family, such as dill, Queen Anne’s Lace, fennel, and parsnip are favorites of many species. Hoverflies will also frequent daisies, asters, borage, and buckthorn, as well as perennials such as goldenrod. Try to cultivate a variety of flowers that bloom throughout the year to ensure that forage is always available.

Avoid the use of pesticides that can harm these valuable insects. Neonicotinoids, once applied, will make their way into a plant’s vascular system, and express themselves in pollen and nectar, putting flower flies at risk. Other insecticides, like synthetic pyrethroids, are acutely toxic to many non-target pollinators, and may leave harmful residue on plants and their flowers once applied. Avoid herbicide use as well, which can destroy important habitat and nesting grounds for flower flies. Fostering biodiversity in your yard and garden will ensure a strong population of syrphid flies and other natural predators that will eliminate the need for insecticide use in the first place.

For more information on pollinators and the impact of pesticides on their health, habitat, and the ecosystem in which they live, please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Bee Protective program and be sure to click on What You Can Do.

Photo Source: Matt Cole Photography

Citations

BugGuide, N.D. Syrphidae. http://bugguide.net/index.php?q=search&keys=syrphidae

Encyclopedia of Life, N.D. Syrphidae: Flower Flies and Syrphid Flies. http://eol.org/pages/9017/details

Brenner, Kelly, 2015. The Metropolitan Field Guide. Urban Species Profile: Hover Flies.http://www.metrofieldguide.com/urban-species-profile-hover-flies/

Lavoipierre Frederique. Pacific Horticulture, 2017. Garden Allies: Hover Flies.https://www.pacifichorticulture.org/articles/hover-flies/

Ssymank, et al, 2008. Biodiversity. Pollinating Flies (Diptera): A major contribution to plant diversity and agricultural production. Vol 9 (1 & 2). https://repository.si.edu/bitstream/handle/10088/9619/FCT_115.pdf 

University of Illinois Extension, 2014. In the Backyard: Sweat Bees and Syrphid Flies.http://web.extension.illinois.edu/lms/eb107/entry_8792/ 

University of Florida, 2014. Featured Creatures. http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/beneficial/hover_fly.htm

Shepherd, Matthew, and Scott Hoffman Black, N.D. USDA/Forest Service. Flower Flies. https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/flower_flies.shtml

Warner, Geraldine, 1993. Washington State University. Syrphid flies (hover flies, flower flies).http://jenny.tfrec.wsu.edu/opm/displaySpecies.php?pn=730

Wikipedia. List of Syrphidae Genera. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Syrphidae_genera [for a hint of the diversity of the family]

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03
Jul

Largest Field Study Finds Neonicotinoids Decimate Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, July 3, 2017) A two-year long study conducted at 33 sites in multiple European countries to assess the effects of neonicotinoid (neonics) insecticides on three bee species in real-world environmental conditions confirms that these pesticides have a deleterious effect on bee survival. The study, the largest of its kind, explored the role of the agricultural use of neonics as seed coatings on bee health and fnds that the pesticides are persistent in the environment, contaminating pollen and nectar that bees forage, reducing colony fitness. The results of the study support ongoing calls for a ban on neonics, including a European Union (EU) wide ban proposed earlier this year.

The new research, published in the prestigious peer-review journal Science, which was in part funded by Bayer and Syngenta – manufacturers of the pesticides, encompassed large field experiments to assess the effects of neonic-treated crops on various bee species –honey bees (Apis mellifera), bumble bees (Bombus terrestris), and solitary bees (Osmia bicornis)– across three European countries (Germany, Hungary and the United Kingdom). The study examines the impacts of clothianidin and thiamethoxam, the neonics frequently used as seed coatings of oil seed rape (canola), and used in the fields under study. This large-scale field study reports negative effects on honey bees that persisted over winter, resulting in smaller colonies the following spring, including reduced worker bees. In the wild species, reduced reproduction was observed, allowing the researchers to conclude that neonics do cause “a reduced capacity of bee species to establish new populations in the year following exposure.”

The results differed between countries, however. The survival of honey bee colonies was reduced by exposure to the neonics in the UK and Hungary, but not in Germany where the bees foraged far less on oil seed rape and had lower levels of disease. The researchers attribute this to the fact that bees in Germany get only 15% of their food from the oil seed rape fields, compared to 40-50% in the UK and Hungary. Bees in Germany are therefore feeding on other flower resources in the landscape and are less exposed to neonics. For wild bees, their reproductive success was reduced in all three countries. Interestingly, wild bees were also found to be exposed to imidacloprid, another neonic that was not part of this study. The researchers believe its presence is “most likely a result of environmental contamination from previous widespread agronomic use.” Overall, the study finds that exposure to low levels of neonics causes reductions in hive fitness that are influenced by a number of interacting environmental factors that can amplify the impact of honey bee worker losses and reduce longer-term colony viability.

“We showed significant negative effects at critical life cycle stages,” said Prof Richard Pywell, Ph.D. of the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), and part of the research team. “If the bees are foraging a lot on oil seed rape, they are clearly at risk.”

The results of this study are being used to justify and bolster calls for an EU-wide ban on neonics, which was proposed earlier this year. A vote by member states is still being awaited, and recently French Prime Minister declared France will retain a neonic ban, which is set to go into effect in 2018 and is stronger than the current European Union restrictions. In 2013, the European Commission implemented a moratorium on the use of certain neonics for a limited time in order to protect severely declining and threatened bee populations. The moratorium came several months after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a report identifying “high acute risk” to honey bees from uses of the neonicotinoids. But, the researchers of this study say that even if use of neonics were to be restricted, continued exposure to neonic residues persisting in the environment as a result of their previous widespread use has the potential to impact negatively wild bees.

Neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees and a growing body of scientific literature has linked them to pollinator decline in general. Neonicotinoids are associated with decreased foraging  and navigational ability, as well as increased vulnerability to pathogens and parasites as a result of suppressed bee immune systems.  In addition to toxicity to bees, neonicotinoids have been shown to also adversely affect birdsaquatic organisms, and contaminate soil and waterways, and overall biodiversity.

Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is finalizing its proposal to phase out imidacloprid after its reevaluation assessment finds that current levels of imidacloprid in aquatic environments pose risks to aquatic invertebrates. PMRA notes that, “Based on currently available information, the continued high volume use of imidacloprid in agricultural areas is not sustainable.” Uses proposed for phase out: trees (except when applied as a tree trunk injection), greenhouse uses, outdoor agricultural uses (including ornamentals), commercial seed treatment uses, turf (such as lawns, golf courses, and sod farms), and lawns.

Similarly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2017 assessment also finds that imidacloprid poses risks to aquatic organisms, and has concentrations in U.S. waters that threaten sensitive species. After much delay, the agency also released its preliminary pollinator assessment for the other neonics, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, which finds that they present “no significant risks” to honey bees, despite finding multiple instances where bees are at risk of toxic exposure, and overwhelming independent data to the contrary.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action in the U.S. to protect these beneficial organisms, it is left up to us to act. You can pledge to stop using neonicotinoids and other toxic pesticides. Sign the pollinator protection pledge today. Beyond Pesticides also advocates the adoption of organic land management practices and policies by local communities that eliminate the use of toxic pesticides in our environment. For more information on what you can do to protect pollinators in your backyard, see Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign page.

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

Source: The GuardianScience Magazine

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30
Jun

Did Dow Chemical Influence the EPA Administrator’s Decision to Reverse Chlorpyrifos Ban?

(Beyond Pesticides, June 30, 2017) Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), met privately with Dow Chemical’s CEO several weeks before reversing EPA’s tentative decision to ban chlorpyrifos, according to records recently obtained by the Associated Press (AP). A copy of Mr. Pruitt’s schedule reveals he met with Dow CEO, Andrew Liveris, on March 9 at a Houston hotel and “twenty days later Pruitt announced his decision to deny a petition to ban Dow’s chlorpyrifos pesticide from being sprayed on food.”

At a hearing this week, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) pressed Mr. Pruitt to name a peer-reviewed study that indicates that chlorpyrifos is safe. Mr. Pruitt answered by saying that “he had relied on ‘interagency dialogue’ with USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] before denying the petition to ban the chemical.” In a congressional hearing earlier this month regarding chlorpyrifos’ safety, Mr. Pruitt stated that his decision was founded on “meaningful data and meaningful science.” However, AP followed up with EPA to provide details on this science, and Mr. Pruitt’s office replied with quotes from trade groups and USDA, but failed to provide any scientific studies on the chemical’s safety.

In March 2017, in an about-face, EPA’s Administrator Scott Pruitt decided to side with industry and reject the conclusions of EPA scientists and the independent scientific literature. This decision reversed a tentative decision from 2015 to revoke chlorpyrifos food tolerances that would have essentially banned the chemical in agriculture. Chlorpyrifos, an extremely potent neurotoxicant, was found by agency scientists to lead to mental development delays, attention problems, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder problems, and pervasive developmental disorders in children exposed to high levels of the chemical. However, Mr. Pruitt’s press release stated the “…need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos, while still protecting human health and the environment.” Mr. Pruitt’s decision leaves the door open for continued neurotoxic dangers for humans, especially children, who have been shown to be especially vulnerable to chlorpyrifos.

The path is clear for EPA to revoke tolerances for chlorpyrifos and ultimately ban this toxic pesticide. Chlorpyrifos is part of the organophosphate (OPs) class of pesticides, which were used in World War II as nerve agents. As potent neurotoxicants, organophosphates are extremely harmful to the nervous system, given that they are cholinesterase inhibitors and bind irreversibly to the active site of an enzyme essential for normal nerve impulse transmission. Epidemiological data also points to subpopulations that are disproportionately affected by chlorpyrifos exposures. Low-income African-American and Latino families, including farmworker families, continue to suffer the most, and this disproportionate impact creates an environmental justice issue that the agency has ignored. Although organophosphate use has been on the decline in the U.S., EPA has allowed the continued registration of many of these products, and Mr. Pruitt’s recent decision sets a precedent for continued allowance.

EPA’s own assessment, which incorporates recommendations from a 2016 Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP), finds that children exposed to high levels of chlorpyrifos have mental development delays, attention problems, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder problems, and pervasive developmental disorders. The SAP agreed with EPA that there is an association between chlorpyrifos prenatal exposure and neurodevelopmental outcomes in children. After the 2016 review, EPA concluded that there is “sufficient evidence” that there are neurodevelopmental effects even at levels below the agency’s level of concern, and that current approaches for evaluating chlorpyrifos’ neurological impact is “not sufficiently health protective.”

Organophosphates like chlorpyrifos are a widely used agricultural pesticides, with millions of pounds applied yearly across the country and are acutely toxic to bees, birds, mammals, aquatic organisms and certain species of algae at low doses. A 2014 study by the U.S. Geological Service determined that an estimated six million pounds of chlorpyrifos is sprayed for agricultural use. In early 2016, a study found that honey bees experience a learning and memory deficit after ingesting small doses of the chlorpyrifos, potentially threatening their success and survival. In January 2017, EPA released its final Biological Evaluations of Three Chemicals’ Impacts on Endangered Species, which found that chlorpyrifos likely has detrimental effect on 97 percent of all species listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Ultimately, the widespread adoption of organic management is necessary to protect consumers and the environment in the long-term from pesticides like chlorpyrifos. Beyond Pesticides has long sought a broad-scale marketplace transition to organic practices that, as a default, prohibits the use of toxic synthetic pesticides by law and requires a systems-based approach that is protective of health and the environment. This approach never allows the use of highly toxic synthetic pesticides, such as organophosphates, and advances a viable, scalable path forward for growing food. Find out more about why organic is the right path forward for the future of farming by going to Beyond Pesticides’ organic agriculture webpage.

Sources: Associated Press

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

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29
Jun

European Chemicals Agency Classifies BPA as an Endocrine Disruptor

(Beyond Pesticides, June 29, 2017) On June 16, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) decided to classify bisphenol A (BPA) as an endocrine disruptor, and as a substance of “very high concern” due to “probable serious effects to human health.” The classification follows a proposal by the French food security agency (ANSES), which was made earlier this year. The committee, comprised of representatives from all 28 European Union EU countries, agreed to the classification unanimously.

With pressure from environmental groups and others, the European Commission (EC) is working to define scientific criteria that will be used to identify endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), and lead to more effective regulation in EU countries. In June 2016, the EC issued weak regulations on endocrine disruptors in pesticide products, undermining the precautionary legal standard that governs pesticide usage in Europe. Many scientists and advocacy organizations criticized the proposed regulations for creating an impossibly high burden of proof for defining harm from endocrine disrupting pesticides and other products.

EDCs contained in common household products such as detergents, disinfectants, furniture, plastics, and pesticides, interfere with the body’s hormone system either by mimicking naturally produced hormones, blocking hormone receptors in cells, or effecting the transport, synthesis, metabolism or excretion of hormones. These impacts can result in devastating effects on one’s health, including behavioral and learning disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), birth defects, obesity, early puberty, infertility, cardiovascular disease, and childhood and adult cancers. Nearly 100 percent of people have detectable amounts of EDCs in their bodies, according to the introductory guide to EDCs published by the Endocrine Society and IPEN.

A 2015 study, which analyzes the economic impact of a number of EDCs, including BPA, found that exposure to endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals (EDC) results in approximately €150 billion ($162 billion) in health care costs in the European Union each year. Results of the study are glaring, and present a grim portrait of the future. The expert panel of scientists agreed on findings of probable causation for EDCs and a number of human diseases, including IQ loss, autism, ADHD, childhood obesity, adult obesity, adult diabetes, cryptorchidism (undescended testes), male infertility, and mortality associated with reduced testosterone. In 2013, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared EDCs a global health threat. A 2012 study by a group of renowned endocrinologists finds that even low doses of EDCs can influence certain human disorders.

As for the U.S., with similar or higher amounts of pesticide use than the EU, the impact is likely just as great. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required by law to evaluate chemicals for their endocrine disrupting potential, the agency is still in the process of finalizing a screening protocol. The best way to avoid EDCs in your food is to eat organic ingredients and avoid plastic containers and canned food. Read labels carefully to identify cans that are BPA-free. If using a microwave, avoid heating things up in plastic containers, as they are usually treated and compounds can leak into the food.

Beyond Pesticides has previously weighed in on the use of BPA in packaging materials used in organic food packaging, urging the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to seek other alternatives. According to our comments, “BPA poses serious hazards, and Beyond Pesticides supports its elimination from organic food packaging. At the same time, since known alternatives to BPA may also present similar problems, the NOSB should approach the issue of food packaging in a comprehensive way.” The comments then urged the committee to keep this as a priority issue, and requested a technical review on BPA alternatives.

Source: ECHA, Euractiv

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

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28
Jun

Manslaughter Charges Filed by State AG Against Officials for Flint, MI Water Poisoning

(Beyond Pesticides, June 28, 2017) In a move that could portend broader action in the case of environmental crimes, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed charges of involuntary manslaughter against five state officials in a death resulting from Flint’s water crisis. While most criminal charges resulting from environmental mishaps and disasters are filed against corporations or their CEOs, one law review article notes, “Prosecutors have become aggressive in seeking out responsible parties. The net of criminal liability is no longer limited to those directly involved in causing the disaster, but may now extend to those involved in the response, as well as officials whose derelictions in office helped create the risk.”

In announcing the charges, the Attorney General stated, “All defendants charged with involuntary manslaughter are charged in relation to the death of Robert Skidmore, 85, of Mt. Morris, Michigan. Skidmore died of Legionnaires’ disease after many others had been diagnosed with the illness, yet no public outbreak notice had been issued. The charges allege failure to notify and lack of action to stop the outbreak allowed the disease to continue its spread through Flint’s water system.” Involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and/or a $7,500 fine. While a total of 51 charges were filed against 15 public officials, the Attorney General’s investigation found that a number of other government employees did seek to inform officials and ensure that the public was protected.

The city of Flint switched water sources, but failed to ensure that lead would not leach from antiquated lead pipes, threatening thousands of children. In addition, several Flint-area residents died of Legionnaires’ disease in the time immediately following the switch from Detroit Water and Sewer Department to the Flint River. The corrosive conditions that promoted leaching of lead also provided ideal growing conditions for the Legionella bacteria. The Attorney General’s investigation found that public officials who knew of the dangers nevertheless refused to correct the situation due to “a fixation, a preoccupation, with data, finances and costs, instead of placing the health, safety and welfare of citizens first.”

The net of criminal liability is no longer limited to those directly involved in causing the disaster, but may now extend to those involved in the response, as well as officials whose derelictions in office helped create the risk.” Since public officials make decisions that allow hazardous activities –such as spraying dangerous chemicals– while acknowledging risks to innocent people, property, and ecosystems, it is surprising that they are not often targeted for prosecution. International law holds to principles –Nuremberg principles created in response to Nazi atrocities— holding government officials responsible for violations of international law, even when they are acting under orders of superiors.

A case in point might be the decisions made by the Environmental Protection Agency in registering pesticides, to allow an “acceptable risk” of cancer. The victims of these decisions –unlike Holocaust victims or Robert Skidmore, who died of Legionnaires disease as a result of the Flint water crisis—are nameless statistics. A lawsuit against Monsanto by sufferers of non-Hodgkins lymphoma attaches faces to the statistics. It also issues charges of collusion between Monsanto and EPA officials concerning the evaluation of the carcinogenicity of glyphosate, resulting in an EPA Inspector General investigation of the charges.

An example of the kind of action for which the Michigan Attorney General levied charges against state officials might be EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s overruling of the judgment of agency scientists that chlorpyrifos presents unacceptable risks to humans and the environment.

Underlying these faulty decisions is the assumption that toxic chemicals are the only alternatives available. Incorporation of organic alternatives could improve decision-making that is currently limited to balancing one toxic material against another with the same limited “fixation . . . with data, finances and costs, instead of placing the health, safety and welfare of citizens first” found in Flint.

Sources: ProPublicaMichigan Attorney General press release

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

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27
Jun

French Prime Minister Retains Bee-Toxic Neonicotinoid Pesticide Ban

(Beyond Pesticides, June 27, 2017) French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, is retaining the neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticide ban, which is set to go into effect in 2018 and is stronger than the current European Union restrictions on neonics. This decision follows a disagreement with French Agriculture Minister, Stephane Travert, who was in favor of relaxing the ban and told media outlets that he wants to address “the possibility of a number of exemptions until we find substitution products.”

In July 2016, lawmakers in France approved plans to ban neonicotinoid pesticides by 2018, based on their link to declining populations of pollinators, specifically bees. The outright ban on neonicotinoid pesticides in France was adopted by a narrow majority of the country’s National Assembly, as part of a bill to protect biodiversity. In March 2017, the European Commission (EC) proposed a complete ban of agricultural uses of the widely used bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides across Europe under draft regulations. The EC cites neonicotinoids’ “high acute risks to bees.” In 2013, three neonicotinoids were temporarily banned because of concerns about their high toxicity to bees. A vote by member states is still being awaited.

In 2013, the European Commission voted to suspend the use of the neonicotinoid pesticides for two years in order to protect severely declining and threatened bee populations. The moratorium came several months after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a report identifying “high acute risk” to honey bees from uses of the neonicotinoids. After the 2013 moratorium, the pesticide manufacturers Bayer and Syngenta were requested to provide the Commission with additional data. Subsequently, EFSA carried out updated risk assessments in 2015 and 2016, which again confirmed risks to bees. According to PAN  (Pesticide Action Network) Europe, the information provided by Syngenta was not sufficient to improve the risk assessment and the majority of the risks could not be characterized, and EFSA concluded ‘high risk cannot be excluded.’ The agency identified new high risks to bees concerning Bayer’s clothianidin and imidacloprid. Further assessment of neonicotinoid uses (granules and seed treatment uses) is currently in progress by EFSA and should be formally released sometime this year.

Neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees and a growing body of scientific literature has linked them to pollinator decline in general. Neonicotinoids are associated with decreased foraging  and navigational ability, as well as increased vulnerability to pathogens and parasites as a result of suppressed bee immune systems.  In addition to toxicity to bees, neonicotinoids have been shown to also adversely affect birdsaquatic organisms, and contaminate soilwaterways, and overall biodiversity. A review of the science, The Environmental Risks of Neonicotinoid Pesticides: a review of the evidence post-2013, authored by Dave Goulson, PhD, and Thomas James Wood, a PhD candidate, concludes that studies published since EFSA’s risk assessments in 2013 show even greater risks, and identify the range of lethal and sublethal effects of , the chemicals on non-target organism.

The neonic ban in France comes as Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is finalizing its proposal to phase out imidacloprid after its reevaluation assessment finds that current levels of imidacloprid in aquatic environments pose risks to aquatic invertebrates. PMRA notes that, “Based on currently available information, the continued high volume use of imidacloprid in agricultural areas is not sustainable.” Uses proposed for phase out: trees (except when applied as a tree trunk injection), greenhouse uses, outdoor agricultural uses (including ornamentals), commercial seed treatment uses, turf (such as lawns, golf courses, and sod farms), and lawns.

Similarly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2017 assessment also finds that imidacloprid poses risks to aquatic organisms, and has concentrations in U.S. waters that threaten sensitive species. However, at the same time, EPA said that other neonicotinoids (clothianidin, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran) present “no significant risks” to honey bees, despite finding multiple instances where bees are at risk of toxic exposure. EPA, however, has not made a final decision on the registration of imidacloprid or the other neonicotinoids, nor on whether restrictions to protect vulnerable species will be implemented. The agency is scheduled to make a final decision in 2018.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action in the U.S. to protect beneficial organisms, including bees, it is left up to us to act. You can pledge to stop using neonicotinoids and other toxic pesticides. Sign the pollinator protection pledge today. Beyond Pesticides advocates the adoption of organic land management practices and policies by local communities that eliminate the use of toxic pesticides in our environment. See more information on the serious decline of honey and other pollinators at www.beeprotective.org.

Sources: Reuters, Nasdaq

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

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26
Jun

Inspector General: EPA Must Evaluate Impact of Chemical Mixtures

(Beyond Pesticides, June 26, 2017) A new report released last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of the Inspector General finds that the agency must collect and assess information on chemical mixtures and potential synergistic effects in order to improve oversight over pesticide registrations and management of developing herbicide resistance. Synergy results when the mixture of chemicals creates effects greater than the aggregation of individual effects, leading to underestimated toxic impacts on human and environmental health. EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention states it will consider how best to use synergistic effects data for pesticide registration decisions by 2019.

The report, released June 21, 2017, EPA Can Strengthen Its Oversight of Herbicide Resistance With Better Management Controls, is the result of an assessment into EPA’s management and oversight of resistance issues related to herbicide-resistant genetically engineered (GE) crops. The report finds, “EPA uses the pesticide registration process to collect information on human health and environmental risks from pesticides used on herbicide-resistant weeds, but no information is collected regarding synergism.” It states that information on synergy is important because it allows EPA “a greater ability to assess human health and environmental risks combined with real-world pesticide use.” Cited in the report is the case of the herbicide product Enlist Duo, which is a mixture of glyphosate and 2,4-D, and approved for use on GE crops. However, no evaluation of synergy was conducted initially, even though there were patent claims to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office citing synergism. This was discovered during litigation proceedings of the lawsuit filed challenging the approval of Enlist Duo in 2014. EPA then withdrew its registration approval for Enlist Duo in November 2015. According to EPA, its subsequent review of the synergism claims and data found no synergistic effects. According to the Inspector General, the example of Enlist Duo, “highlights the potential for uncertainty when the EPA does not request data on synergy during the registration process.”

This report follows the 2016 findings by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) which report evidence of synergy in the patent applications of nearly 70 percent of multi-ingredient pesticide products (including herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides) approved by the EPA in the last 6 years. CBD’s report found that 140 products with at least two active ingredients were registered between June 2010 and June 2016. Some of the most frequently used herbicides e.g., glyphosate; atrazine; 2,4-D; dicamba; and neonicotinoids, were present in the majority of these patent applications. CBD followed its report with a petition to EPA, asking that the agency require information on pesticide synergy in pesticide-registration applications. That information, according to CBD, was required by regulation from 1984 until 2007, when the agency deleted the provision, calling it unnecessary.

In addition to issues around synergy, the Inspector General’s report also finds a lack of communication and collaboration between the EPA and its public and private stakeholders regarding herbicide resistance management. This is a situation which, “limits the reach of actions proposed and taken by the EPA, the development of meaningful alternatives, and the agency’s ability to proactively respond to herbicide resistance in the field.” The report also notes that EPA does not have measures to track its progress addressing and slowing the spread of herbicide resistance.

The recommendations outlined in the report to assess and develop actions to address and prevent future herbicide resistance problems include, (1) requiring herbicide labels include mechanisms of action, (2) assess the need for more information on synergism, (3) improve data collection and reporting on herbicide resistance, (4) develop performance metrics, and (5) develop a plan for establishing consistent communication with stakeholders. EPA agrees with the recommendations, and the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention states that while it does not believe that synergy is related to herbicide resistance management, it is a factor that should be considered in evaluating risk. Further, the Office states, “synergy considerations present a source of uncertainty that might be germane to risk assessments and regulatory decisions in certain instances,” and will consider how best to use this type of information in future evaluations and decisions by June 2019.

To address growing weed resistance, EPA has endorsed a strategy that involves the use of multiple herbicides with differing modes of action, often times within a single product, to combat weeds that have become resistant to a particular herbicide- in this case glyphosate —brought on by the widespread use of the chemical on GE crops. Additionally, farmers are being encouraged to spray their fields with multiple herbicides. However, the effects of these herbicide mixtures have not been fully evaluated and risks are underestimated. As the crisis in weed resistance escalates, threatening crop productivity and profitability, advocates point to organic agriculture as a solution that protects public health, the environment, and farmers’ livelihood. By utilizing ecological pest management strategies, organic practices, and solutions that are not chemical-intensive are the most appropriate and long-term solution to managing unwanted plants, or weeds. Additionally, organic agriculture is an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, mechanical production practices, and natural inputs. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, organic farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most genetically engineered organisms have been falsely-marketed as solving. To learn more about organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Program Page.

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

Source:
EPA’s Office of Inspector General
Center for Biological Diversity Press Release

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23
Jun

Portland, Maine City Council Urged to Stop Hazardous Lawn Pesticide Use and Go Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, June 23, 2017) In a packed hearing room, the Portland, Maine City Council Sustainability and Transportation Committee heard community members testify in support of an ordinance to restrict pesticides on playing fields, parks, and private lawns for nearly three hours on Wednesday night. The hearing focused on a draft pesticide policy that was recently released by the Pesticide and Fertilizer Task Force, set up by Mayor Ethan Strimling. A range of community members testified, including doctors, parents, organic land managers, an organic products retailer, and public health advocates. Beyond Pesticides’ executive director, Jay Feldman, was at the hearing to support the adoption of ordinance language similar to that adopted by neighbor city South Portland in September 2016. In reaction to the Task Force proposal, which advances an undefined integrated pest management (IPM) approach that allows the use of “least toxic” pesticides, Mr. Feldman testified, “An ordinance requires specificity if it is to accomplish the goals that the community embraces –safe playing fields, parks, playgrounds, and a community that does not allow the poisoning of soil, air, and water.” The lack of specificity in the draft contrasts with the South Portland ordinance, which adopts a list of allowed materials and envisions an organic systems approach to land management that utilizes practices and products compatible with the ecosystem and protective of public health.

Over the last year, the Portland Pesticide Task Force reviewed the South Portland ordinance and assessed whether it should be adopted by Portland as well. The outcome is a draft ordinance that rejects the allowed materials approach in favor of the use of undefined least toxic pesticides through a waiver system, and report findings that endorse an undefined IPM approach. In contrast, the South Portland ordinance allows homeowners and pesticide applicators to use materials allowed under the Organic Foods Production Act and its National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

Mr. Feldman told Council members, “In my experience, we are not served by words, such as ‘least toxic,’ which are not defined by the draft ordinance. Similarly, IPM has time and time again failed us because of inexact definitions. And, emergencies [broadly defined in the Task Force draft] that are not public health-related are not emergencies in the context of turf and landscape pesticides.”  He went on to tell the Committee that,”We have a model in the South Portland ordinance and do not have to invent a new approach. It is a systems approach that has been critical to the success of organic farming and gardening systems for decades. The focus is on soil health, soil biology, beneficial fungi and bacteria, and natural cycling of nutrients for healthy plants.” Mr. Feldman urged the Council members to incorporate into the ordinance “practices and products that are compatible with organic systems, in sync with nature and protective of health.”  He pointed to resources represented at the hearing that were operating to support organic land management systems, including the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and Eldredge Lumber and Hardware, an ACE Hardware store in York, Maine that has replaced products like Roundup and Weed and Feed with materials compatible with organic systems, and cited Beyond Pesticides’ Products Compatible with Organic Landscape Management list.

At the hearing, some testified in favor of the Task Force proposal, suggesting that it would institute a sweeping ban on cosmetic use and that allowing “organic pesticides” would not be the answer to curbing dependence on toxic chemicals. But organic turf management, which meets the standards of the Organic Foods Production Act, is a “feed-the-soil” approach that centers on natural, organic fertilization, microbial inoculants, compost teas, compost topdressing, and overseeding, as needed. This approach builds a soil environment rich in microbiology that will produce strong, healthy turf able to withstand stress. The aim of a natural approach to land care is not to simply swap one herbicide or insecticide for another, but instead to build a soil environment that is rich in microbial diversity produces strong, healthy landscapes not vulnerable to weeds, insects, fungus, and disease.

In an IPM approach, as suggested by the Task Force, land managers say toxic chemicals undermine the ecological balance necessary to enhance soil biology with beneficial bacteria and fungi that contribute to soil health and support plants, which are less vulnerable to disease and infestation. In contrast, all material inputs used in organic production must undergo a rigorous evaluation by a board of independent experts that considers a number of factors relevant to the type of policy Portland intends to pass. The materials review includes impacts on the environment and public health, essentiality in an organic system, as well as compatibility with organic systems.

In its written statement, Beyond Pesticides said: “We have learned that toxic materials are not necessary to grow beautiful turf. The Task Force Report, however, holds on to the theory of acceptable use of hazardous chemicals that, “if used inappropriately and/or in excess [emphasis added], pose a threat to the environment and to human health.” This is the toxic chemical-reliant model in which, according to the Report, “homeowners and turf managers should use techniques that do not require pesticide inputs before they consider the use of a pesticide and conditions when the application of a pesticide might be appropriate. . .” This type of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) thinking, incorporated into the ordinance language, would most certainly result in toxic pesticide use, since all pesticides would be allowable under the waiver provision as predicted emergencies emerge without a shift to a sustainable systems approach with cultural practices and compatible materials.”

At it works to effect a paradigm shift to organic land management, Beyond Pesticides tracks community pesticide and land management policies nationwide in its Map of U.S. Pesticide Reform Policies. The map highlights over 120 communities that have enacted some level of lawn and landscape pesticide reform. Community examples prove in practice that organic methods of managing landscapes are feasible and cost-effective for local governments. As land managers are trained and familiarize themselves with organic methods and new practices and products continue to emerge, more and more communities are moving toward common-sense, sustainable approaches to land care. These practices do not endanger people, pets, and the environment, including pollinators and other wildlife. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides Lawns and Landscape webpage. Educate your neighbors and community with our Want a Green Lawn Safe for Children and Pets door hangers. The first packet is free. Contact Beyond Pesticides.

See complete written statement of Beyond Pesticides before the Portland, Maine City Council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee.

Source: Press Herald

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

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22
Jun

Consumers Sue Monsanto for Misleading Labeling of Roundup Herbicide

(Beyond Pesticides, June 22, 2017) On Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed in a Wisconsin federal court against Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup brand herbicides, and Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, a marketer of Roundup brand products. The complaint, filed by six consumers from states around the country, focuses on the promotion, marketing, and sale of Roundup brand products, rather than physical injury from the pesticide products. The lawsuit alleges that the Monsanto and Scotts label, advertise, and promote their Roundup products with the “false statement that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, targets an enzyme that is not found ‘in people or pets.’” Plaintiffs assert that this is a false and deceptive claim, as this enzyme is found in the gut bacteria of people and pets and glyphosate can disrupt the health and functioning of their immune system.

This suit follows on the heels of and mirrors the lawsuit filed by Beyond Pesticides and Organic Consumers Association in April 2017 against Monsanto for misleading the public by labeling the weedkiller Roundup as “target[ing] an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets.” Monsanto aggressively markets Roundup as safe for humans and animals, despite newer studies indicating that glyphosate may be carcinogenic and affect human and animal cardiovascular, endocrine, nervous, and reproductive systems. No reasonable consumer seeing these representations would expect that Roundup targets a bacterial enzyme that is found in humans and animals and that affects the health of their immune system. Consequently, plaintiffs in this case seek equitable relief on behalf of the general public, with all profits earned by Monsanto for sales of Roundup in D.C. to be deposited into a charitable fund for the raising of consumer awareness of the effects of glyphosate.

In the new lawsuit against Monsanto and Scotts, plaintiffs seek “compensation for themselves and Class Members equal to the amount of money they paid for Roundup Products that they would not have purchased had they known the truth, or in the alternative, the amount of money they paid based on the false statement.” The defendants use these false statements for marketing purposes, including video ads on their YouTube channels and websites and on their Roundup weedkiller labels.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup brand of weed-killers, and research by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has found that it is a probable human carcinogen. Since IARC’s findings were released, Monsanto has made several efforts to discredit the research of this well respected, international body, including attempting to influence government agencies. Glyphosate is also patented as an antibiotic. Because glyphosate disrupts a crucial pathway for manufacturing aromatic amino acids in plants –but not animals— many have assumed that it does not harm humans. However, many bacteria do use the shikimate pathway, and 90% of the cells in a human body are bacteria. The destruction of beneficial microbiota in the human gut (and elsewhere in and on the human body) is, therefore, a cause for concern –and a major contributor to disease.

Beyond Pesticides has also filed several lawsuits against companies that have produced food products containing glyphosate, and then labeling those products “natural.” In August 2016, three non-profit organizations filed a lawsuit against General Mills for misleading the public by labeling their Nature Valley brand granola bars as natural. In November 2016, Beyond Pesticides and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), represented by Richman Law Group, filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in the District of Columbia against Sioux Honey Association, for the deceptive and misleading labeling of its Sue Bee and Aunt Sue’s honey brands.

Consumers can also avoid glyphosate exposure but buying and supporting organic food and agriculture. Beyond Pesticides has long promoted the importance of organic in a sustainable food system, and works to promote the widespread transition of conventional farmland to organic production. By utilizing ecological pest management strategies, organic practices, and solutions that are not chemical-intensive are the most appropriate and long-term solution to managing unwanted plants, or weeds. To find out more about the work Beyond Pesticides is doing on organic integrity, check out Keeping Organic Strong, or to see all the reasons to go organic, visit Eating with a Conscience.

Sources: HuffPost

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

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21
Jun

Citing a Serious Health Threat, Over 200 International Scientists Call for Limit on Antibacterial Triclosan

(Beyond Pesticides, June 21, 2017) More than 200 international scientists and medical professionals have signed the Florence Statement on Triclosan and Triclocarban, which states that triclosan and its chemical cousin triclocarban pose a risk to human health, and urges the international community to limit use of these antimicrobials, which are associated with bacterial resistance and no more effective than soap and water. In 2016 after manufacturers failed to prove efficacy, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates cosmetic triclosan products, announced that manufacturers must, by September 2017, remove triclosan from over the counter hand soaps. The agency still allows the chemical in toothpastes and other products, such as hand wipes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which regulates triclosan in household items, textiles and plastics, still permits wide use of the chemical in a range of products.

The Florence Statement on Triclosan and Triclocarban is “based on extensive peer-reviewed research,” and “concludes that triclosan and triclocarban are environmentally persistent endocrine disruptors that bioaccumulate in and are toxic to aquatic and other organisms.” The statement includes evidence of human health threats, and provides recommendations intended to mitigate harm from triclosan, triclocarban, and other similar antimicrobials. The recommendations are listed below:

  1. “Avoid the use of triclosan, triclocarban, and other antimicrobial chemicals except where they provide an evidence-based health benefit (e.g., physician-prescribed toothpaste for treating gum disease) and there is adequate evidence demonstrating they are safe.
  2. Where antimicrobials are necessary, use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems.
  3. Label all products containing triclosan, triclocarban, and other antimicrobials, even in cases where no health claims are made.
  4. Evaluate the safety of antimicrobials and their transformation products throughout the entire product life cycle, including manufacture, long-term use, disposal, and environmental release.”

Triclosan has been used for over 30 years in the U.S., mostly in a medical setting, but more recently in consumer products. Numerous reports have linked triclosan to a range of adverse health and environmental effects, from cancer and endocrine disruption, bacterial and compounded antibiotic resistance, to the contamination of water and its negative impact on fragile aquatic ecosystems. In early June, a study was released showing that the levels of triclosan spike in the bodies of children after they brush their teeth or wash their hands. Beyond Pesticides has cataloged extensive documentation of the potential human and environmental health effects of triclosan and triclocarban.

For nearly two decades, scientific studies have disputed the need for the chemical and linked its widespread use to health and environmental effects and the development of stronger bacteria that are increasingly difficult to control. The chemical offers no more health protection than soap and water, according to studies. In fact, triclosan contributes to antibiotic resistance, which has become an international public health threat.

Many agencies and companies have taken steps to get triclosan out of the marketplace. In addition to FDA’s announcement in 2016 that triclosan is banned from hand soaps, indicating that the chemical does not have substantial health benefits, the European Union in 2015 banned triclosan for hygienic uses. In the past, public pressure has contributed to growing awareness of the dangers of triclosan’s use. As a result, several major manufacturers took steps to exclude the chemical before the FDA decision, including Johnson & JohnsonProcter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive, which reformulated its popular line of liquid soaps, but continues to formulate Total® toothpaste with triclosan. Minnesota became the first state to ban the toxic antibacterial, announcing that retailers would no longer be able to sell cleaning products that contain triclosan, effective January 2017.

EPA has not been receptive to petitions and requests to cancel registered products containing triclosan. In May 2015, EPA issued its long-awaited response to the petition filed by Beyond Pesticides and Food & Water Watch, denying the request. This means that non-cosmetic consumer products containing triclosan (frequently marketed as microban) are still being sold in stores across America. These chemicals are in all types of household products, from toys, cutting boards, hair brushes, sponges, and computer keyboards to socks and undergarments.

Beyond Pesticides launched a campaign to ban the non-medical uses of triclosan in 2004 with the publication of The Ubiquitous Triclosan: A common antibacterial agent exposed, and the petitioning of the federal government the following year.

The best way to avoid these types of products is by staying informed. Be conscious of labels when buying products, such as toothpaste and hand soaps (the FDA final rule does not go into effect until September 6, 2017, so hand soaps may still contain triclosan). When purchasing home products, you can research whether or not they contain triclosan and plan to avoid buying those products. Encourage your local hospitals, schools, government agencies, and businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free, or follow the lead of Minnesota by banning triclosan; organizations can adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan. For additional information and resources on the human health and environmental effects of triclosan, join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today.

Source(s): Environmental Health Perspectives, Environmental Health News

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

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20
Jun

Arkansas Moves Towards Emergency Ban of Herbicide Dicamba Following Crop Damage from Drift

(Beyond Pesticides, June 20, 2017) As Pollinator Week 2017 kicks off, the Arkansas State Plant Board’s (ASPB) Pesticide Committee coincidentally voted unanimously to recommend a ban on the use and sale of the habitat-eliminating herbicide dicamba in the state. Motivated by the crop damage caused by dicamba drift on to neighboring cropland, the full ASPB is expected to issue its recommendation today, which, if passed, will be sent to Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) for final approval.

The move is the latest in a series of crises that began when multinational chemical company Monsanto began selling soybeans genetically engineered (GE) to tolerate dicamba without its accompanying herbicide, leading to off-label uses of older dicamba products. The growth of herbicide use in genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops is contributing to a loss of habitat for pollinators. Of particular note is the loss of milkweed habitat caused by herbicide drift. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk Management Approach to Identifying Options for Protecting the Monarch Butterfly (June 24, 2015), “Numerous publications have highlighted the importance of the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.) as a critical food resource for monarch butterfly larvae (Danaus plexippus L.), and have emphasized the importance of conservation of milkweed to preserve monarch butterfly populations.” At the same time, honey bee colonies in Arkansas experienced declines over 50% between 2015 and 2016, with other Southern states experiencing similar reports.

More than 87 complaints about dicamba label violations have been filed with ASPB this year, over double the complaints filed last year. “I hate that it’s come to this, but we have to do our jobs,” said Dennie Stokes, a Pesticide Committee member on ASPB and the operator of a crop dusting company, to KUAR. “I don’t know where we’re headed with this, but I don’t see any way to make it work. It’s just a problem that no one can solve,” said Danny Finch, a cotton and soybean farmer from Craighead County to KUAR.

Despite the lamentations of the conventional agriculture industry, the ongoing crisis is a direct result of a chemical-intensive food production paradigm. GE soy farmers have begun to move to new forms of GE crops after widespread weed resistance to glyphosate (Roundup) has developed over the past decade. According to the international survey of herbicide resistant weeds, 37 species of weeds throughout the world are now resistant to glyphosate, with the proliferative, albeit common, pigweed being the biggest resistance problem for chemical-intensive farmers in Arkansas and the region.

Critics have challenged policy makers to rethink the wisdom of an agricultural system reliant on outside chemical inputs, and destined to result in weed resistance, as the chemical industry decided to add older, more toxic chemicals to the mix. The latest GE soybean varieties are now tolerant of either herbicides dicamba (Monsanto and BASF’s products) or 2,4-D (Dow AgroScience’s product). While Monsanto received allowances from federal regulators to sell its dicamba-tolerant soy and cotton seeds, it had not yet received EPA approval for a dicamba formulation that claimed to be lower volatility. And although the company asked farmers not to use older dicamba herbicides with the new seeds, ASPB’s move appears directly related to rampant herbicide misuse throughout the state and the region.

Dicamba use has stirred up fights between neighbors in a number of agricultural communities. Bader Farms, which grows over 110,00 peach trees on over 1,000 acres in Missouri, is suing Monsanto after its insurance company issued a refusal to pay for damages caused by off-label dicamba drift from surrounding farms. Earlier this month, University of Arkansas’ agricultural research station had over 100 acres of soybeans ruined from nearby dicamba use. Shockingly, NPR reports that last October a dispute over dicamba drift led to the murder of one Arkansas farmer.

The rampant use of this highly volatile chemical has been a factor in regional pollinator losses. A 2015 study published by researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that off-target damage from dicamba drift resulted in adverse effects on pollinator populations. The impacts were directly related to the effect dicamba has on pollinator-friendly plants, with dicamba-exposed plants negatively influencing flowering and pollen quality.

Many Arkansas farmers don’t see a way forward. “We’ve got guys out there that need the technologies and have flat out told us, ‘if I don’t have these new technologies, I can’t do anything in the field, I’ve got to let it go,” said Wes Ward, Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture to KUAR. Advocates say that if elected officials and government regulators continue to fail to provide adequate incentives for the farming community to break out of a cycle of pesticide-dependency, problems like those Arkansas is experiencing are certain to continue.

As residents throughout the country take action for pollinator week, consider the bigger picture by supporting organic agriculture. By statute, organic farms are tasked with fostering soil ecology, and never allow the use of toxic synthetic herbicides or genetically engineered cropping systems. To protect pollinators from drift that destroys their habitat, support and buy organic whenever possible.

UPDATE:

The [full] Arkansas State Plant Board late Tuesday rejected the proposed ban on the spraying of the pesticide dicamba in the state. It agreed to limit the chemical’s use to sprayers that feature a hood, which prevents drift, and also required a one-mile downwind buffer between the next farm.

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

Source: KUAR

 

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19
Jun

EPA Sued for Delaying Worker Protection Rule Changes

(Beyond Pesticides, June 19, 2017) Farmworker and health organizations have sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) following the agency’s announcement last month that it will delay for one year the implementation of a final rule that revised and updated protections for certified pesticide applicators. Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice are co-counsel on the case. The rule, the Certification of Pesticide Applicators (CPA) rule, includes much needed requirements like mandatory age minimums, as well as better training for pesticide applicators to protect workers and the public from poisoning by the most toxic pesticides.

First enacted in 1974, the Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule  was revised and made final on January 4, 2017, and was scheduled to go into effect March 6, 2017. It outlines regulations regarding the certification of applicators of restricted use pesticides (RUPs)- some of the most hazardous pesticides. The rule ensures that applicators of RUPs get adequate training and establishes a minimum age of 18 for pesticide applicators. It also requires that applicators be able to read and write; increases the frequency of applicator safety training to every year; and improves the quality of information that workers receive about the pesticides that they apply in agricultural, commercial, and residential settings. Now these new common-sense protections have been delayed until May 2018, after EPA announced that it “determined that the effective date of the revised Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule should be extended until May 22, 2018, and that the agency is taking this action to give recently arrived Agency officials the opportunity to conduct a substantive review of the revised Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule.”

On Wednesday June 14, farmworker and health groups filed suit against EPA for the delay. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and comes a month after the EPA announced the one-year delay to the rule while offering the public just 4 days to comment on the move.  The delay means minors or poorly trained applicators can continue to handle some of the most toxic pesticides in agricultural, commercial and residential settings, putting themselves and the public at risk. According to the EPA, there are about one million certified applicators nationwide. Before delaying implementation, the agency said the revised rule could prevent some 1,000 acute poisonings every year.

“EPA’s mission is to protect all Americans from significant risks to human health and yet it’s delaying life-saving information and training for the workers who handle the most toxic pesticides in the country,” said Eve C. Gartner, Earthjustice attorney. “This delay jeopardizes everyone’s health and safety.”

When the EPA adopted the rule, it pointed to various tragic incidents where children died or were seriously injured when poorly trained applicators misused highly toxic pesticides. The agency concluded stronger standards for those applying RUPs will reduce risks to workers and help protect communities and the environment from toxic harms. Yet in delaying the rule, EPA refused to address these findings, and it failed to explain to the public how a delay would not cause unreasonable risks to people.

“There is no justification for delaying common sense measures to improve safety. Each year of delay will result in more poisonings and deaths,” said Virginia Ruiz, director of occupational and environmental health at Farmworker Justice.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Farmworker Association of Florida, United Farm Workers, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and Pesticide Action Network North America.

Industry critics believe the new rules are too burdensome on pesticide applicators, citing increased time to meet training requirements and increased costs. However, with recent high profile and tragic pesticide poisonings –including the 2015 poisoning incidents in U.S. Virgin Islands  and Palm City, Florida, where evidence revealed that pesticide applicators made gross errors in judgement and were possibly negligent, it is more important than ever for applicators to raise their standards of knowledge and competency in making applications of hazardous pesticides.

Without proper enforcement and oversight, applicators, their clients, and the environment will be at risk. While striving to minimize adverse impact from pesticide use, stricter applicator standards are only one part of the solution. Instead of delaying important applicator standards, EPA must reduce the overall approval, sale, and use of pesticides that are proven to be hazardous to human and environmental health, and for which there are safer alternatives, keeping with its mandate that these products pose no unreasonable adverse effects on people and the environment.

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

Source: Earthjustice Press Release

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16
Jun

Restaurants in Nation’s Capital Feature Foods Reliant on Pollinators for National Pollinator Week

(Beyond Pesticides, June 16, 2017) In recognition of the importance of pollinators to food production during National Pollinator Week, June 19-25, Beyond Pesticides and the Center for Food Safety are teaming up with restaurants in the Nation’s Capital for the second annual “Made by Pollinators” campaign. The campaign will bring awareness to the issue of pollinator decline, which pesticides play a leading role in through lethal and chronic effects on these critical species. Participating restaurants, including Busboys and Poets, Lavagna, Logan Tavern, Restaurant Nora, Tabard Inn, and Vegetable and Butcher, will educate the public on the importance of pollinators by annotating their menus or offering pollinator-inspired specials that contain ingredients reliant on pollinators for production. One out of every three bites of food requires pollination, a fact these environmentally conscious restaurants will share with their patrons during National Pollinator Week 2017.

Busboys and Poets remarked that, “Without bees, we wouldn’t be able to serve 99% of our menu. Our participation in Pollinator Week is a small step toward a movement to promote the health of our planet’s ecosystems.” By sourcing a multitude of their ingredients from organic farms, Busboys and Poets does their part to support pollinator health.

Lavagna stated, “We’re thrilled to participate in Pollinator Week to educate our community about how integral pollinators are in creating our favorite foods. At Lavagna, we source local, organic ingredients to do our part to protect the hard working pollinators.”

Logan Tavern said, “Pollinators are the unsung heroes of our food system. We are privileged to constantly witness their role first hand on our farm, EatWell Natural Farm, in La Plata, Maryland. During Pollinator Week, we will serve a number of dishes that highlight the roles that pollinators play in producing necessary ingredients for the delicious food at your table; come see what all the buzzzzz is all about!”

Nora Pouillon, owner and founder of Restaurant Nora, America’s first certified organic restaurant, said, “Bees are the most important thing for sustainable food growth, which is one of the reasons I source 100% organic food, free of pesticides that may cause pollinators harm.” She continued, “My business partner takes it even one step further and raises bees.”

The Tabard Inn stated, “We believe it is important for us and our future generations to protect our environment and encourage smart use of our resources in as many ways as we can. By collaborating with local organic farmers, national organizations, and specialized purveyors, we aim to better the quality of our products, and ultimately everyone’s health. At the Tabard, we strive to use pesticide-free, environmentally-responsible products in all of our departments on a daily basis.”

Vegetable and Butcher said, “Bees play a vital role in our food system, and our menu wouldn’t be the same without them. Participating in Pollinator Week is one way for us to support better farming practices and further our commitment to sourcing sustainable ingredients.”

“We are thrilled at the positive response we have received from the participating restaurants, all of which are leaders in the Nation’s Capital when it comes to sourcing organic and sustainable food,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “We are especially excited about the potential this campaign has to bring awareness to the problem of pollinator declines, educating restaurant patrons on the critical role that pollinators play in our food system.”

“This week and every week we should be doing everything we can to protect bees and other pollinators that are critical to our health and the health of our food system and environment. We cannot afford to let alarming pollinator population declines continue to go unchecked, which is why we’re grateful to these restaurants for their leadership in helping to raise awareness about these important issues,” said Larissa Walker, Center for Food Safety pollinator program director.

National Pollinator Week began in 2006 when the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the designation of a week in June to address the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. However, in light of federal inaction, Minnesota, Connecticut, and Maryland have taken steps to eliminate the use of pollinator-toxic products, and many local communities throughout the U.S. have passed pesticide reform policies. While much remains to be done to combat contributing factors to pollinator declines, such as the use of neonicotinoid pesticides and disappearing pollinator habitat, National Pollinator Week is a chance to reflect and celebrate the achievements of the past year, while simultaneously raising awareness of the important role pollinator’s play and the threat that pesticides pose to their very survival.

In addition to the “Made by Pollinators” campaign, here are some things you can do for pollinator week. Here’s what you can do:

1) Organize a Meeting in Your Community. Utilize a public space, such as your local library or community center, have a house party, or host a pollinator-friendly dinner and view the talk Bees, Pollinators, and Biodiversity, by Vera Krischik, Ph.D. from Beyond Pesticides’ 35th National Pesticide Forum. This is a perfect opportunity to have a discussion with your friends and neighbors about the serious issue of pollinator decline and what you can do.

2) Make Change Happen in Your Community. Armed with allies and resources from your video screening party, go to your elected official and ask them to introduce the Model Pollinator Resolution and/or our Model Lawns and Landscapes policy.

>>Get the Model Community Pollinator Resolution here, and our Model Lawns and Landscapes Policy here.>For more information, or help with your campaign, see our fact sheet, How to Start Your Own Local Movement, see our BEE Protective webpage, or get in touch with us. Build the buzz in your community to make changes that will protect your local pollinator population!

See also Pollinator Week 2017 webpage.

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

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15
Jun

Aerial Mosquito Spraying Linked to Elevated Autism Rates

(Beyond Pesticides, June 15, 2017) Communities exposed to frequent aerial spraying for mosquito control experience elevated rates of autism diagnoses, according to new research. The study identifies the frequent use of synthetic pyrethroid insecticides, which are linked to neurocognitive and behavioral impacts, among other health effects.

Pediatric researchers at Penn State University and the University of California examined communities in eight zip codes in Onondaga County, New York with frequent aerial spray programs for mosquito control, and contrasted these findings with communities in 16 zip codes that do not employ similar pesticide use programs. According to the study, between 2007 and 2009, the average yearly pesticide burden across the eight aerial exposed zip codes was approximately 11,000 kilograms, compared to approximately 4,000 kilograms of pesticide exposure across the 16 control zip codes. The study finds that the zip codes with frequent aerial pyrethroid exposure are 37% more likely to have higher rates of childhood developmental delays and autism spectrum disorder. The researchers acknowledge that the study establishes a correlational, not a causal, link between pyrethroid exposure and autism/developmental disorders, it adds to a growing body of research demonstrating an exposure-effect relationship between the two.

Other studies have similarly linked developmental disorders and autism to pyrethroid exposure. In 2014, researchers found that pregnant women who lived within a mile of agricultural fields treated with pyrethroid insecticides are more likely to have their child develop autism. The study found that living near a field where pyrethroids were applied during a woman’s third trimester corresponded with an 87% increased risk of having a child with autism. Another study, published by a team of French scientists in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, links childhood behavioral problems to pyrethroid insecticide exposure. This past Tuesday, Beyond Pesticides reported on a study published by a team of Chinese and U.S. researchers that found prenatal exposure to commonly used mosquito and agricultural insecticides is associated with decreased motor function in infants.

Researchers hypothesize that behavioral disorders are rooted in changes to a child’s brain. Because pyrethroids act on sodium channels, increased sodium influx may result in effects to synaptic plasticity, which is important in the development of learning and memory. Scientists infer that pyrethroid exposure may also alter the transport of dopamine throughout the brain. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter, responsible for a wide variety of functions in the brain and body.

In addition to exposure through mosquito spraying, more and more synthetic pyrethroids are sold to consumers for home use pest control, with claims that they are lower toxicity or as safe as chrysanthemum flowers, from which natural pyrethrum is derived. These chemicals are showing up in increasing concentrations in children’s urine, as reported by recent research at University of California, Davis. In addition to their use in home pest control products like RAID®, they are commonly found in head lice shampoos marketed for children, despite studies indicating that 99.6% of lice are resistant to treatment by the commonly used synthetic pyrethroid permethrin.

In light of the identified hazards and unknown effects of exposure to pyrethroids, Beyond Pesticides urges local and state officials to consider more closely the lack of efficacy associated with community spray programs. Beyond Pesticides encourages an integrated approach to mosquito management that focuses on prevention through public education encouraging frequent removal of standing water, larviciding, and use of repellents. If prevention measures are enforced, the need to spray should be extremely limited, and balanced against the potential public health impacts of hazardous pesticides. Community-based programs should encourage residents to employ these effective techniques, focus on eliminating breeding sites on public lands, and promote monitoring and action levels in order to determine what, where, and when control measures might be needed. Contact Beyond Pesticides for 25 free mosquito doorknob hangers to encourage best management practices in your neighborhood.

Source: Houston Press, Frontiers in Pediatrics

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

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14
Jun

Agricultural Herbicide Use Threatens Oak Trees

(Beyond Pesticides, June 14, 2017)  Oak trees in Iowa may be the latest victim of widespread chemical-intensive agriculture, according reports in the Des Moines Register. The newspaper indicates that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has received roughly one thousand calls this spring from residents concerned about the state of their oak trees. Leaves are ‘tattered’ down to the vein, in an appearance one would first think was related to pest damage, according to the newspaper article. However, foresters with IDNR indicate the cause is likely the use of chloroacetanillide herbicides, which are applied throughout the state and region. Advocates say that this situation contributes to mounting environmental problems associated with chemical-intensive food production that support the need for the adoption of non-toxic weed management strategies.

Past research has found associations between the use of chloroacetanillide herbicides, such as acetochlor and metolachlor, and oak leaf tatter syndrome. State officials indicate that the increase in resident complaints is likely related to a colder March, which may have retarded leaf development. By the time leaves began unfurling in early spring, herbicide use was at its height, leading to high ambient concentrations of the chemicals in the atmosphere, according to IDNR officials that spoke with the Des Moines Register.

“Our concern is, if this would happen in multiple years, year after year, that’s heavy defoliation,” said DNR forester Mark Vitosh to Radio Iowa. “It can cause stress which can induce other insects and other things to attack them.”

State officials told the Des Moines Register that the phenomenon is likely not a result of farmer herbicide misuse. While some herbicide defoliation may be related to direct pesticide drift, widespread use brings chloroacetanilide herbicides into the air, and rainfall can bring the herbicides back down to the ground, affecting oaks far away from the original application site.

“In Iowa, we have a significant decline in white oak in the last five, six years,” Mr. Vitosh said to the Des Moines Register. “I’m not saying it’s because of tatters, but that could be part of the problem.”

The syndrome is not limited to Iowa, but has been reported throughout the Midwest.  And the damage isn’t limited to oak trees. Hackberry trees have also experienced widespread defoliation, according to Iowa State University Extension forester Jesse Randall, PhD, in an interview with the Des Moines Register. “But nothing will change because it’s such a widely used family of chemicals,” Dr. Randall stated.

That sentiment is not shared by Beyond Pesticides. Oak tree defoliation as a result of minute atmospheric herbicide concentrations should be a wake- up call not only for regulators, but product manufacturers and farm groups. Although the impacts may not be as acute as those seen by the now-banned herbicide Imprellis, which was responsible for the death of thousands of spruce and pine trees, it points to a broader concern –namely, the pervasive acceptance of chemical-dependency is agricultural production.

Despite the fact that numerous studies have found that certified organic row crops produce equal yields and often increased profits when compared to conventional production, politicians and regulators continue to act as if there is no alternative to a habitual dousing of hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland with synthetic chemicals. Given continued intransigence from policy makers, residents must play a central role in promoting positive change.

Support a safer system of food production by purchasing organic food, which doesn’t allow the use of toxic synthetic herbicides, and requires methods to support ecological health. Folks in the Midwest should be aware of oak tatters, and report any signs to their Department of Natural Resources or Forestry Services. By joining together in support of a safer future, residents can make important strides in protecting trees, wildlife, and the wider environment.

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

Source: Des Moines Register, Radio Iowa

Photo Source: ISU Plant Disease Clinic

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13
Jun

Common Mosquito Control Insecticides Decrease Motor Function in Infants

(Beyond Pesticides, June 13, 2017) Prenatal exposure to commonly used mosquito and agricultural insecticides is associated with decreased motor function in infants, according to a study published in Environment International by a team of Chinese and U.S. researchers. The results of the study should give pause to insecticide-heavy efforts to control mosquitoes as the season ramps up this summer and fall. Frequent spraying as part of efforts to control Zika in Southern Florida last year resulted in large protests and calls for a preventive management approach not dependent on toxic chemicals.

For the current study, over 350 pregnant Chinese mothers were tested for the presence of organophosphate pesticides in their umbilical cord blood. Researchers looked at exposure to the insecticides naled, methamidophos, trichlorfon, chlorpyrifos, and phorate. After giving birth, their children’s motor function was tested at both six and nine months of age. Tests included an analysis of the infant’s reflexes, locomotion, grasping, stationary and visual-motor integration abilities. Scores were categorized based on gross, fine, and total motor skills, and standardized quotients were created for each of the categories.

Of the over 300 mothers, roughly 240 had detectable levels of one of the insecticides in their samples. Although no differences in motor function were observed for infants at six months of age, significant impacts were seen once the tests were repeated at nine months. The most striking effects were seen with the chemicals chlorpyrifos and naled. For naled, scores for visual motor, fine motor, and fine motor quotients decreased 0.55, 0.85, and 0.90 points lower per 1 ng/mL increase in naled originally detected in an infant mother’s cord blood. With chlorpyrifos, reflexes, locomotion, grasping, VM (visual motor), GM (gross motor), FM (fine motor), TM (total motor), GMQ (gross motor quotient), FMQ (fine motor quotient), and TMQ (total motor quotient) are, respectively, 0.50, 1.98, 0.80, 1.91, 3.49, 2.71, 6.29, 2.56, 2.04, and 2.59 points lower, when comparing exposed and unexposed infants, according to the study.

Concerns about the toxicity of naled and chlorpyrifos are not new. Chlorpyrifos is the subject of a decade-long legal battle, where the Natural Resource Defense Council and Pesticide Action Network North America sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), challenging its continued allowance, given evidence of neurotoxic effects. Earlier this year, EPA reversed a tentative decision made in 2015 to revoke food tolerances for the chemical, a move seen as politically motivated by the Trump administration. Past research has linked chlorpyrifos to a range of adverse health outcomes, from tremors in children, to lowered IQ, and autism.

Naled has also long been subject to scrutiny from scientists and health advocates. Last year, Beyond Pesticides sent a letter to EPA citing the inadequacies of its scientific review as outdated and incomplete, leading to significant safety concerns. A 2015 deadline the agency set for a final review decision on residential exposure to naled has still not been met.  Meanwhile, reports of massive bee kills, sick residents, and studies such as these add to calls to eliminate this chemical’s use in our environment. To wit, a study published last year regarding the efficacy of naled and other mosquito adulticides in controlling Zika in Southern Florida showed very little reduction in the mosquito that carries the virus, Aedes aegypti, indicating evidence of widespread resistance.

Smart community mosquito management focuses on education and source-reduction as the primary means to manage mosquito-borne disease outbreaks. Community residents are encouraged to dump out standing water at least once a week, and effective vector control operations also eliminate standing water sources to the extent possible and, as needed, treats water bodies with least-toxic larvacides like bacillus thuringiensis. Use of mosquito adulticides have been shown to lack efficacy and should only be as a last resort temporary measure when other options have failed and there is an imminent public health threat – never as a regular course of action. Beyond Pesticides’ Mosquito Management program page has a list of resources that can help individuals and communities safely manage mosquitoes, including information on least-toxic mosquito repellents, bed nets, and proper clothing that can be used to keep mosquitoes safely at bay. Beyond Pesticides produces educational doorknob hangers available for print out or request, which can be used to educate neighbors on the adoption of pesticide-free methods for reducing mosquito populations in communities nationwide.

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

Source: Environment International, CNN

 

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12
Jun

Crops Damaged by Drift Widespread from Herbicide Dicamba Applied to GE Plants

(Beyond Pesticides, June 12, 2017) Once again, there are reports that soybean and cotton fields are being damaged by off-site drift of the toxic herbicide dicamba. Last summer, farmers in Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee reported widespread crop damage from dicamba drift, which led to reduced yields. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched a criminal investigation at several Missouri locations into what they said was the illegal spraying of dicamba in October 2016. This year, reports of dicamba drift and damage are already being reported in Arkansas, and 25 formal complaints have already been filed, according to the state Plant Board.

In summer 2016, illegal applications of dicamba damaged thousands of acres of soybeans, cotton, ornamental trees and fruits and vegetables. After numerous complaints, EPA launched a criminal investigation into the illegal spraying of dicamba, an investigation that is still ongoing. Many suspect that farmers who planted Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® and XTENDFLEX® Cotton, the new dicamba-tolerant genetically engineered (GE) seeds in the region, when faced with a proliferation of pigweed, illegally sprayed dicamba across their fields leading to drift and off-site crop damage to other farmers. This year, although it is too early to say how many acres have been affected or what specific formulations of the readily available herbicide were used, many farmers are bracing for levels of damage seen last year.

One Arkansas farmer, who reported his damage to the state Plant Board, noticed the damage to his field the day after a neighboring farmer sprayed BASF’s Engenia, a dicamba product developed for genetically engineered dicamba-tolerant crops. The farmer noted that the application was made according to label directions, but dicamba-drift still occurred onto his field. In Arkansas, the conditions that lead to the widespread damage seen last year were the same. Farmers are being encouraged to plant Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant GE seed, but the accompanying herbicide formulation from Monsanto, which the industry giant claims has low volatility, has not been approved in Arkansas, according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette. So far the product, XtendiMax®, has been approved in several other states, including Missouri and Tennessee. Arkansas’ Plant Board also debated and voted 12-0 to push measures that would ban or limit the use of certain forms of dicamba in the state last November. This came after a contentious hearing where farmers expressed their displeasure at the extensive crop damage they experienced. This year the board began requiring anyone who physically applies legal formulations of dicamba to complete an online training and certification course, and plans to levy hefty fines for “egregious” violations of laws restricting dicamba spraying.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) deregulated Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans and Bollgard II XtendFlexa® cotton in January 2015, but it was not until November 2016 that EPA registered the use of specific dicamba formulations, Xtendimax  and VaporGrip  for use on these crops. Monsanto describes the dicamba-tolerant GE crops as “designed to provide farmers with more consistent, flexible control of weeds, especially tough-to-manage and glyphosate-resistant weeds to maximize crop yield potential.” What was viewed by industry and EPA several years ago as a unique occurrence, weed resistance is now acknowledged to be a serious economic problem for farmers. While the agrichemical industry and its researchers can no longer ignore weed resistance to pesticides, it continues to promote more chemical applications in GE crops as the solution, despite the success of organic systems.

Earlier this year, farmers, environmentalists, and conservation groups filed a federal lawsuit challenging the EPA’s approval of Monsanto’s XtendiMax with Vapor Grip Technology, which is claimed to have lower volatility. The petitioners claim that EPA violated its duties under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) in issuing a conditional registration, and that it did not adhere to duties under the Endangered Species Act that require EPA to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure registration would not harm any listed species. Monsanto is currently embroiled in another legal battle with a farmer who projected that he would lose $1.5 million in revenue from crop damage due to the formulation’s release (Bader Farms Inc., v. Monsanto Co., Case No. 1:16-CV-299 SNLJ). This farmer seeks compensation for extensive damage to his peach trees, which he blames on the illegal, or non-labeled use of dicamba, brought on by sales of Monsanto’s new, GE dicamba-tolerant crops.

Pesticide drift is an inevitable problem of pesticide application, and dicamba drift and subsequent crop injury to broadleaf crops has been a frequent problem. Abnormal leaf growth, floral development, reduced yield, and reduced quality have all been observed from dicamba drift. A study published by Pennsylvania State scientists in late 2015 found dicamba drift was “frequently responsible for sublethal, off-target damage” to plants and insects. Researchers find that even very low rates of dicamba herbicide exposure negatively affected plant flowering, and thus insect pollination. Dicamba has also been linked to damage of the kidney and liver, neurotoxicity, and developmental impacts. Historically, to mitigate against potential risks from pesticide drift, EPA has required buffer zones and application restrictions. However, these have not been sufficient to alleviate off-site crop damage and environmental contamination. Additionally, as demonstrated with these incidents, there are challenges with pesticide product label compliance.

While pesticide drift is a harmful consequence of chemical-intensive food production, there are alternatives that safeguard the environment and human health, while allowing for the sustainable production of food. Beyond Pesticides suggests 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 toxic chemicals. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, organic farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most genetically engineered organisms have been falsely-marketed as solving.

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

Source: Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette

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09
Jun

Inspector General Investigates Alleged Monsanto-EPA Collusion to Reject Glyphosate Cancer Classification

(Beyond Pesticides, June 9, 2017) Last week, it was revealed that the inspector general for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is investigating potential collusion on glyphosate-related matters between Monsanto and former EPA official, Jess Rowland. In a letter sent to U.S. Representative Ted Lieu, obtained by HuffPost, EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. stated that he has asked the “EPA OIG Office of Investigations to conduct an inquiry into several agency glyphosate review-related matters.”

According to Michael Hubbard, a retired Special Agent in Charge for the EPA’s criminal investigations division, in an interview with HuffPost, “Inspectors general have wide-ranging authority to investigate matters of corruption at federal agencies. With confirmation that the IG’s office is taking up a probe, it’s likely that IG investigators will begin interviewing Rowland’s former colleagues and bosses, pulling records and looking through his emails.”

In March 2017, Congressman Lieu issued the following statement regarding the released files and questions on glyphosate safety.

“Reports suggest that a senior official at the EPA worked to suppress a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review of glyphosate, and may have leaked information to Monsanto. I believe that a Department of Justice investigation is warranted to look into any potential misconduct by employees of the EPA. I also believe a congressional hearing is immediately warranted.”

This followed the release of documents by a federal judge in March 2017 that raised questions of collusion between officials at EPA and Monsanto to fight a cancer classification for the company’s flagship product, Roundup (glyphosate). The judge’s ruling comes in a lawsuit against Monsanto, charging that the company’s herbicide caused the plaintiffs’ non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, on May 15, the judge rejected a motion to compel testimony from Mr. Rowland.

According to the New York Times, the court documents included “Monsanto’s internal emails and email traffic between the company and federal regulators [and] suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics.” The California lawsuit was brought on following the determination and listing of glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015.

The released files show that Monsanto was “tipped off to the [IARC] determination by a deputy division director at the EPA, Jess Rowland, months beforehand. That led the company to prepare a public relations assault on the finding well in advance of its publication,” according to the released documents. According to Monsanto’s internal emails, Mr. Rowland had promised to fend off efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a separate review of the chemical, which never ended up occurring. The documents show a refusal by both EPA and HHS to protect public health over industry interests and advance the science on issues such as carcinogenicity of chemicals. This revelation comes as the Trump administration adopts positions that undermine scientific reviews and funding of regulatory oversight.

Despite the known risks of glyphosate exposure, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) abandoned its plans to test the U.S. food supply for the presence of glyphosate residues in March 2017. The decision came after heated controversy over the carcinogenicity of glyphosate, which was cleared by a California judge for listing under California’s Prop 65 in January of this year. The federal government’s pesticide monitoring program, which is run jointly by USDA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was criticized by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2014 for its failure to test for the widely used herbicide.

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. To find out more about the work Beyond Pesticides is doing on organic integrity, check out Keeping Organic Strong, or to see all the reasons to go organic, visit Eating with a Conscience

Sources: HuffPost, Center for Biological Diversity

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

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08
Jun

Groups, AGs Challenge EPA Decision to Allow Insecticide Chlorpyrifos in Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, June 8, 2017) On Monday, numerous organizations filed an administrative appeal to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), seeking to reverse Scott Pruitt’s order to continue allowing the toxic organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos in agriculture, and revoke all tolerances (allowed food residues) of the chemical. On the same day, Attorneys General (AGs) from seven states announced legal objections to Scott Pruitt’s order, also calling for a reversal of the decision and a revocation of all tolerances. Allowing the continued use of chlorpyrifos runs counter to findings of independent science and EPA’s own scientists, which establish unacceptable risks to humans and the environment.

The administrative appeal, filed by Earthjustice on behalf of 12 environmental, labor, and civil rights organizations, resulted from the decision by EPA to allow the use of chlorpyrifos while it studies the safety of the chemical. The seven AGs, in their filing, are charging that EPA wrongfully approved the continued use of chlorpyrifos in agriculture without first gathering and assessing the full safety data, as required by the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Many environmental groups spoke out in favor of these filings. “There’s a good reason this dangerous toxin has been banned from indoor use for more than a decade and the EPA’s own scientists recommended ending its use on food,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a press release. “There is no question that this pesticide causes serious harm to people and wildlife so there should be no question that it should be banned, period.”

In March 2017, Scott Pruitt and the EPA reversed a tentative decision from 2015 to revoke food residue tolerances of chlorpyrifos due to the chemical’s neurotoxic impacts. This would have effectively banned chlorpyrifos from agriculture. This decision stemmed from a petition and lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)  ten years ago, calling for EPA to revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances and cancel all registrations. A Federal Appeals court mandated that EPA take final action by March 31, 2017. Mr. Pruitt’s decision left the door open for continued neurotoxic dangers for humans, especially children, who have been shown to be especially vulnerable to chlorpyrifos.

Chlorpyrifos is part of the organophosphate (OPs) class of pesticides, which were used in World War II as nerve agents. As potent neurotoxicants, organophosphates are extremely harmful to the nervous system, given that they are cholinesterase inhibitors and bind irreversibly to the active site of an enzyme essential for normal nerve impulse transmission. The scientific evidence of neurotoxic dangers associated with chlorpyrifos exposure is extensive and consistent. A 2016 study found lower IQ in children born to mothers who, during their pregnancy, were living in close proximity to chemical-intensive agricultural lands where OPs were used. A 2015 study found that a decrease in lung function in children was linked to exposure to organophosphates early in life. Another 2015 study found that prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos is linked to tremors in children. Although organophosphate use was on the decline in the U.S., Mr. Pruitt’s decision sets a precedent for continued allowance.

EPA’s own assessment, which incorporates recommendations from a 2016 Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP), finds that children exposed to high levels of chlorpyrifos have mental development delays, attention problems, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder problems, and pervasive developmental disorders. The SAP agreed with EPA that there is an association between chlorpyrifos prenatal exposure and neurodevelopmental outcomes in children. After the 2016 review, EPA concluded that there is “sufficient evidence” that there are neurodevelopmental effects even at levels below the agency’s level of concern, and that current approaches for evaluating chlorpyrifos’ neurological impact are “not sufficiently health protective.”

Another assessment released by EPA in January 2017 found that chlorpyrifos likely has detrimental effects on 97 percent of all species listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). OPs are acutely toxic to bees, birds, mammals, aquatic organisms and certain species of algae at low doses. OPs method of entry into the environment can vary from pesticide drift, volatilization, and runoff from soil erosion.  Once present in the environment, organisms that come into contact with the pesticide will have difficulty performing basic survival and reproductive functions.

Beyond Pesticides has long sought a broad-scale marketplace transition that disallows the use of toxic synthetic pesticides by law and encourages a systems-based approach that is protective of health and the environment. That is why organic, with its requirement of a detailed organic system plan, and methods to foster and improve soil health, represent the future of agricultural production in the U.S. and abroad. This approach never allows the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, let alone organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos, and advances a viable, scalable path forward for growing food. For more information on why organic agriculture is the right alternative, see our organic program webpage.

Source(s): CommonDreams; Center for Biological Diversity

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

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07
Jun

Insecticide-Resistant Fruit Flies Show Reproductive Difficulties

(Beyond Pesticides, June 7, 2017) Fruit flies that developed a genetic resistance to the insecticide DDT have lower success at mating than those without similar changes, according to a study published last month in the journal Behavior Genetics. The results were surprising to researchers, given that the resistance developed through changes to a single allele (a variation of a single gene). “It is amazing that even if all the genes are exactly the same, having this one gene expressed at a higher level has all these effects,” said Professor Nina Wedell, PhD, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall, UK to Phys.org. The study raises possible concerns about the effect of pesticide exposure to non-target (not the focus of pesticide use) insects that are integral to a healthy ecology and food web.

In conducting their investigation, researchers studied the biological fitness costs associated with the development of an insecticide resistance gene. After scientists bred resistant flies in the lab, they set up a series of “competitive mating trials,” comparing both courtship behavior and the impact of size on male fruit flies’ mating success. In general, resistant males were found to be smaller than flies that did not contain the genetic variation. However, even when larger than non-resistant males, insecticide-resistant fruit flies were less likely to be successful in the study’s competitive mating trials.

While researchers indicate size played an important role in differences between mating success, they note a number of other factors were also at play. In addition to being smaller, males carrying the resistance allele also chased females and performed courtship displays at a lower rate. And after they performed a courtship display, they were less likely to make an attempt to mate. In addition, these males waited more than two times as long as non-resistant males before mating, a term called “copulation latency,” indicating that resistant males were less attractive to females.

In sum, Dr. Wedell said to Phys.org, “The expression level of one gene responsible for detoxifying DDT also makes males smaller, less aggressive and rubbish at courting.” While the observations were clear, the mechanism through which this genetic variation resulted in the changes were less so. “We don’t yet know how this comes about,” Dr. Wedell indicated.

Although DDT is no longer in use, insecticide resistance among pests is widespread. Reports indicate that the vast majority of lice are resistant to common insecticide treatment, including the use of new chemical class insecticides, such as the synthetic pyrethroids. Indeed, 99.6% of lice are resistant to chemical treatment. Similarly, scientific studies have found bed bugs to also be resistant to commonly used insecticides. If the current study’s results are able to be translated to other insect pests, it may seem to be a beneficial on the whole by lowing a pest’s reproductive fitness. However, it should be noted that the documented effects in this study are only seen in the absence of insecticide exposure. When insecticides are present, non-resistant fruit flies die out, leaving less fit males free reign to mate. Indeed, if translatable to other insects and pesticides, this study raises concerns about the fitness of non-target, beneficial organisms that may develop resistance as a result of pesticide drift or location-based exposure.

For nearly every pest problem, there are a range of alternative methods to address the issue without resorting to the use of toxic pesticides with a range of unknown and concerning effects on the environment, wildlife and public health. For more information on managing pests without hazardous chemicals see Beyond Pesticides ManageSafe webpage, which provides information for inside homes and structures, and outdoor gardens, lawns, and landscapes.

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

Source: Phys.org

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