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Daily News Blog

24
Aug

Banned Chemicals Linked to Increased Autism Risk

(Beyond Pesticides, August 24, 2016) Researchers at Drexel University report that higher levels of some organochlorine compounds during pregnancy are associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability (ID). The organochlorine compounds under study have long been banned in the U.S., and include pesticides like DDT, underscoring how pervasive and persistent these chemicals are, and their continued impact on human health.

The research is reported in the CP-SLOPE-wb-gantry-power-supply-transformer-PCB-warningstudy Polychlorinated Biphenyl and Organochlorine Pesticide Concentrations in Maternal Mid-Pregnancy Serum Sam
ples: Association with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual Disability
, which examines whether prenatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) influences offspring risk of ASD and intellectual disability without autism (ID). According to the research, children born after being exposed to the highest levels of organochlorines during their mother’s pregnancy are roughly 80 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism when compared to individuals with the very lowest levels of these chemicals.

The team looked at a population sample of 1,144 children born in Southern California between 2000 and 2003. Data was accrued from mothers who had enrolled in California’s Expanded Alphafetoprotein Prenatal Screening Program, which is dedicated to detecting birth defects during pregnancy. Participants’ children were separated into three groups: 545 who were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, 181 with intellectual disabilities but no autism diagnosis, and 418 with a diagnosis of neither. Blood tests were used to determine the level of exposure to two different classes of organochlorine chemicals: Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, which were used as lubricants, coolants and insulators in consumer and electrical products) and organochlorine pesticides (which include chemicals like DDT).

According to the researchers, human exposure to PCBs and organochlorines is ubiquitous. Biomonitoring data, like those collected by the Centers for Disease Control‚Äôs (CDC) National Health And Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) still detect measureable levels of these chemicals in the U.S. population. However, according to lead researcher Kristen Lyall, ScD, assistant professor in Drexel University‚Äôs A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, adverse effects are related to levels of exposure, not just presence or absence of detectable levels. ‚ÄúIn our Southern California study population, we found evidence for modestly increased risk for individuals in the highest 25th percentile of exposure to some of these chemicals.‚ÄĚ

The study finds that two compounds in particular ‚ÄĒ PCB 138/158 and PCB 153 ‚ÄĒ stood out as being significantly linked with autism risk. Children with the highest in utero levels (exposure during their mother‚Äôs pregnancy) of these two forms of PCBs were between 79 and 82 percent more likely to have an autism diagnosis. In children with intellectual disabilities but not autism, the highest exposure to PCBs appeared to double the risk of a diagnosis when compared to those with the lowest exposure.

“There’s a fair amount of research examining exposure to these chemicals during pregnancy in association with other outcomes, like birth weight — but little research on autism, specifically,” Dr. Lyall said. “To examine the role of environmental exposures in risk of autism, it is important that samples are collected during time frames with evidence for susceptibility for autism — termed ‘critical windows’ in neurodevelopment. Fetal development is one of those critical windows.”

PCBs and organochlorines are categorized as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) because they persist for long periods of time in the environment, eventually making their way up food chains, accumulating in the fatty tissues and animals and humans. Their legacy of poisoning the environment has been well documented, despite being banned for decades. Recent studies have linked these POPs to hormonal disturbances, abnormal sperm development, cancer, diabetes, obesity and environmental contamination.

Beyond Pesticides tracks the scientific literature related to pesticide exposure through the Pesticide Induced Diseases Database (PIDD). One way to reduce human and environmental contamination from pesticides is buying, growing, and supporting organic. Consumer choices encourage the protection of the people who help put food on our table every day by purchasing organic. By buying organic, you support an agricultural system that does not permit the application of dangerous pesticides. For more information on how organic is the right choice for both consumers and the farmworkers that grow our food, see Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture.

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

Source: Drexel Now

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23
Aug

Senator Blumenthal Calls for Repeal of New, Weak GE Labeling Law that Preempts States

(Beyond Pesticides, August 23, 2016) ‚ÄúFundamentally anti-consumer,‚ÄĚ said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) of the new genetic engineered (GE) labeling bill signed into law by President Obama late last month. Senator Blumenthal‚Äôs frustration with the new legislation and its preemption of state-level laws such as Vermont and Connecticut‚Äôs led the Senator to announce he will be introducing a bill next session to repeal the divisive law.

AfcornQRcodeter years of state-level ballot initiatives in California, Oregon, Washington State, and Colorado, which were defeated after the chemical industry poured millions of dollars into ad buys that played on consumer fears of higher prices at the check-out line, Maine and Connecticut took a stand for consumer’s right to know. While their legislation required trigger clauses to go into effect, Vermont‚Äôs was passed shortly after without such a clause, and withstood a legal challenge from the multinational food and chemical industry. Vermont‚Äôs law propelled industry to move its efforts to Congress, and the state‚Äôs legislation actually went into effect on July 1, 2016, as industry was still working to garner the necessary votes for its new DARK deal. ¬†

Pushed forward by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS), the new law has been characterized by its supporters as a compromise, and stronger than the original legislation, the Biotechnology Food Labeling and Uniformity Act (S.2621), which was dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act. However, the law as written does little to get consumers out of the DARK on whether the food in their grocery and convenience stores contains GE ingredients. The bill permits labels to be conveyed through a range of options that will not warn consumers ‚Äď quick response (QR) codes, 800 numbers, websites and on-package labeling. This approach leaves low-income¬†Americans at a disadvantage in receiving this information, as QR code labels require the use of a smartphone to read. Allowing food companies to decide how to label all but ensures they will work to misinform the public about their products; we have already seen big food links to websites that extol the safety of GE foods.

“As a consumer and a dad, I want to know what my family is eating,” said Senator Blumenthal to the Hartford Courant. ‚ÄúWebsites, phone numbers and barcodes – nearly impossible to access while standing in a grocery aisle with a child – create cumbersome hurdles for consumers and fall far short of providing families what they need to make educated and informed choices about what they want to put on their dinner table.‚ÄĚ

Further, the bill includes no mandatory standards for manufacturers. Instead, it preempts Vermont’s stronger, compulsory labeling law through a voluntary process that will likely be determined by the next President’s Secretary of Agriculture. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, a big supporter of genetically engineered food production, will have two years to develop the standard, during which time it will assess the question of equitable access to the disclosure of ingredients.

Leading up to the Senate vote on the DARK compromise between Senators Stabenow and Roberts, Senator Blumenthal introduced amendments that would have preserved state laws like Connecticut and Vermont‚Äôs, and allowed additional states to pass laws that reflect the will of their citizens. ‚ÄúBecause, at the end of the day, it should be up to consumers whether they choose to purchase food containing GMOs not food giants or big business,‚ÄĚ said Senator Blumenthal in a Press Release.

Despite favorable public opinion to labeling GE foods, repeal legislation is likely to encounter strong headwinds in Congress. Senator Blumenthal is anticipating that new members of the Senate elected this November will be willing to revisit the issue, according to CT Mirror. ‚ÄúConsumers can vote with their feet and their pocketbook even if their elected representatives are not voting as they would like,‚ÄĚ he told CT Mirror. ‚ÄúEvery survey of public opinion shows that the American people want this information.‚ÄĚ

While the latest developments are a set-back for pro-labeling efforts, consumers can indeed follow Senator Blumenthal‚Äôs suggestion and vote for their right to know at the ballot box and the check-out line. Check whether your Representative or Senator voted for the DARK deal (disregard the title of the bill to reauthorize National Sea Grant Colleges ‚Äď the legislation was amended onto an older bill), and consider their decision when you head to the ballot box in November. In the supermarket, vote with your food dollars by purchasing organic foods whenever possible. Even with GE labeling, the answer to the presence of GE ingredients is not to switch to a product that is only non-GE. While those products do not contain genetically modified ingredients, they may still be grown with toxic pesticides and sewage sludge, or irradiated before purchase. Only by buying certified organic products can you be certain that your food was grown in a way that is healthy for you, and safer for the planet.

For more information on GE labeling and the dangers associated with GE agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides program page. And for the details on how certified organic is the right choice for your family and the environment, see our webpage on Why Organic.

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

Source: Hartford Courant, CT Mirror, Senator Richard Blumenthal Press Release

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22
Aug

Pesticide Resistant Whitefly in U.S. Points to Need for Organic Management Strategies

(Beyond Pesticides, August 22, 2016) An invasive whitefly that is resistant to pesticides has been found outdoors in the U.S. for the first time, prompting a public discussion hosted by the University of Florida Extension Miami-Dade in Homestead, Florida on July 29. And while the fears amongst fruit and vegetable growers over crop devastation are valid, little attention has been paid to the viability and effectiveness of organic and cultural management practices in preventing and managing whiteflies. Meanwhile, chemical intensive agriculture, which is dependent on insecticides to control whiteflies, is harming the same beneficial insects that act as natural predators to the whitefly.

whitefliesThe pest, a Q-biotype of the sweet potato whitefly, Bemisia tabaci, has been present in greenhouses around the U.S. since 2004, when it was first found in Arizona. According to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, this pest ‚Äúposes a serious risk to Florida‚Äôs $120 billion agriculture industry and the more than two million jobs it supports.‚ÄĚ

Whiteflies are tiny, fluid-sucking insects that thrive in warm weather and become abundant in ornamental and vegetable plantings. This particular species breed year round and large colonies often develop on the undersides of leaves. Whiteflies draw fluid of out a plant and emit a sticky residue, known as honeydew, which can lead to mold growth and makes it more difficult for the plant to photosynthesize properly.

This type of whitefly is problematic to growers who depend on toxic pesticides to manage their systems, because it has extremely high resistance to the insecticides, pyriproxyfen and imidacloprid, compared to other types of whitefly populations in the U.S. Pesticide resistance in whiteflies has been documented in many other regions of the world in the past several decades, due to a constant cycle of insecticide use in ornamental and vegetable production around the world. This has enabled a building of a resistant strain of insects who pass on their resistance to their offspring. The fact that pesticides with similar modes of action are used repeatedly to control these pest populations is problematic and leads to these products losing their efficacy.

In addition to resistance issues, the overuse of insecticides such as imidacloprid to control for sucking insects like whiteflies is negatively affecting non-target species, particularly pollinators, and other beneficial species. Imidacloprid is also a major public health concern and is linked to reproductive effects and genetic damage in addition to being neurotoxic.

Pesticide resistance is not a new issue, and the pesticide treadmill will continue to escalate as farmers repeatedly move to even more toxic chemicals to treat what become difficult pests. Because of this, Beyond Pesticides advocates for organic management approaches that encourages biodiversity and holistic management practices which are proven to be effective in both the short- and long-term. Underpinning the success of organic in the U.S. are small-scale producers who focus on fostering biodiversity, limiting external inputs, improving soil health, sequestering carbon, and using integrated holistic approaches to managing pests, weeds, and disease. For more information about the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ organic program page.

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

Source: AFP

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19
Aug

More Evidence Shows Neonics Harm Butterflies

(Beyond Pesticides, August 19, 2016) A study published earlier this week has found that the increasing use of neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides is correlated with a steep decline in butterfly health and reproductive success ‚Äď as more neonics are used, butterflies are struggling to survive. This study adds to previous evidence that demonstrates, in addition to bees, neonics can cause serious harm to other important pollinators.

Fesoj_-_Papilio_machaon_(by)The study, Increasing neonicotinoid use and the declining butterfly fauna of lowland California, looks at 67 species of butterfly fauna in the lowlands of Northern California at four sites that were monitored for approximately 30-40 years. The sites include Suisun Marsh, West Sacramento, North Sacramento, and Rancho Cordova. While controlling for land use and other factors, the researchers found a correlation between butterfly population decline and increasing neonic applications, which also appeared to be more severe for smaller-bodied species. According to the researchers, the results suggest that neonics could influence non-target insect populations when applied nearby.

This study contributes to the mounting evidence that neonicotinoid insecticides are linked to pollinator decline. Neonics have increasingly been the subject of studies that highlight a relationship between neonicotinoid exposure and harmful effects to pollinators. These effects are being identified by scientists all over the world, consistently negating industry criticism of study design. Neonics are most well-known for their association with decreased learning, foraging and navigational ability, as well as increased vulnerability to pathogens and parasites, in bees. But, in addition to toxicity to bees, pesticides like neonicotinoids have been shown to adversely affect butterflies, birds, aquatic organisms and contaminate soil and waterways, and overall biodiversity.

In November 2015, a study published in the United Kingdom used over 1,000 sites cataloged from 1984 to 2012 in the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) database to point to the strong association between neonic use and butterfly population decline. The lead author of the study expressed serious concerns about their findings, stating, ‚ÄúOur study not only identifies a worrying link between the use of neonicotinoids and declines in butterflies, but also suggests that the strength of their impact on many species could be huge.‚ÄĚ While the¬†study authors found¬†that the main cause for butterfly decline is habitat deterioration, they concluded that neonic use is either acting as a proxy for or helping to quantify the agricultural intensification that is contributing to habitat deterioration.

In February 2015, research from the University of Minnesota presented some of the first evidence linking the bee-killing insecticides to monarch butterfly deaths. The study found that milkweed plants, which monarch butterflies need to survive, may also retain neonicotinoids from nearby plants, making milkweed toxic to monarchs. During the course of the study, larvae from monarch butterflies and painted lady butterflies fed on plants treated with the insecticide imidacloprid, a neonic, for seven days. Researchers found that all of the monarch larvae perished, and only a few painted lady larvae made it through the trial. Monarchs lay eggs exclusively on plants in the milkweed family, and population numbers have fallen by 90% in less than 20 years.

Neonicotinoids are not the only pesticide implicated in the downfall of butterfly populations. A 2014 study on monarchs attributed the disappearance of milkweed plants primarily to the use of GE corn and soybean crops. Scientists also point to the prolific use of herbicides in the Midwest eliminating these plants, and found that 70% of the losses of milkweed between 1995 and 2013 were located in agricultural areas.

Critical to the survival of monarchs, other pollinators, and organisms essential to ecological balance is the large-scale adoption of organic farming practices. Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat. To attract beneficial insects like butterflies and protect their habitats in your own backyard, there are several steps you can take. Like any other living organisms, pollinators need food, water, and shelter in order to thrive. For more information, see Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind and Hedgerows for Biodiversity: Habitat is needed to protect pollinators, other beneficial organisms, and healthy ecosystems. You can also visit the BEE Protective Habitat Guide and Do-It-Yourself Biodiversity for more ways in which you can protect our pollinator friends.

Source: Conservation Magazine

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

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18
Aug

Half of the Total Decline in Wild Bees throughout the UK Linked to Use of Neonics

(Beyond Pesticides, August 18, 2016)  Decline of wild bee populations is linked to the use of toxic, systemic neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides used on oilseed rape (canola), according to new research done by a team of scientists at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in the United Kingdom. In addition to corn and soybeans, canola is one of the main crops treated with neonicotinoids worldwide. Neonic pesticides have long been identified as a major culprit in bee decline by independent scientists and beekeepers, yet chemical manufacturers like Bayer and Syngenta have focused on other issues such as the varroa mite. As Beyond Pesticides put it in the spring 2014 issue of Pesticides and You, the issue of pollinator decline is No Longer a Big Mystery, and urgent action is needed now to protect pollinators from these toxic pesticides.

Gary-Tate-Riverside-CA-Honey-Bee-taking-flight-Riverside-Ca-300x260-300x260Neonics are associated with decreased learning, 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, pesticides like neonicotinoids have been shown to also adversely affect birds, aquatic organisms and contaminate soil and waterways, and overall biodiversity.

The study, Impacts of neonicotinoid use on long-term population changes in wild bees in England, published in the journal Nature Communications, analyzed 18 years of UK national wild bee distribution data for 62 different species, and related it to amounts of neonicotinoid use. Researchers focused on figuring out which species of wild bees had been observed in different plots of land, and which of those species had disappeared over the course of the study (1994-2011).  The results of the study show the decline of species that forage on the neonicotinoid-treated canola is on average three times more than that of species that forage on other plants. By comparing the locations of these bees and their changing populations with growing patterns of canola fields across England, researchers are able to attribute half of the total decline in wild bees to the use of neonics.

According to Reuters, Ben Woodcock, Ph.D., leader of the study, said at a briefing in London that the average decline in population across all 62 species was seven percent, but the average decline among 34 species that forage on oilseed rape is higher, at 10 percent. Dr. Woodcock, an ecological entomologist at the Natural Environmental Research Council Center for Ecology and Hydrology, emphasizes the extent of the impact that their findings show. He said,

“Historically, if you just have oilseed rape, many bees tend to benefit from that because it is this enormous foraging resource all over the countryside, but this correlation study suggests that once it‚Äôs treated with neonicotinoids up to 85%, then they are starting to be exposed and it’s starting to have these detrimental impacts on them. What we can’t say is what these detrimental impacts are but what it does suggest is you can have these population declines and they can be big – I mean 30% is a big decline.”

Over the past decade, numerous studies have illuminated the negative affect that neonics have on different pollinator species, but until now little research has been performed on the chemicals long-term effects. The results of this recent study provide some of the first evidence that links the sublethal impacts of neonic exposure and large-scale population extinctions of wild bee species.

Nick Isaac, Ph.D., macro ecologist and co-author of the paper, told¬†the Mirror that the damaging effects of the pesticide reported in small-scale studies had been replicated. ‚ÄúThe negative effects that have been reported previously, they do scale up,‚ÄĚ Dr. Isaac said. ‚ÄúThey scale up to long-term, large-scale, multi-species impacts that are harmful.‚ÄĚ

The European Commission voted to suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in 2013 for two years, in order to protect its severely declining and threatened bee populations ‚ÄĒa problem throughout Europe and the world. The moratorium came several months after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a report identifying ‚Äúhigh acute risk‚ÄĚ to honey bees from uses of certain neonicotinoid chemicals. This temporary ban is scheduled to be formally reviewed sometime this year, although to the detriment of pollinators some exemptions to this policy have already been implemented in the UK.¬† This recent study provides even more weight to the scientific evidence that neonicotinoids play a critical role in the ongoing decline of bees and other pollinators and could make a major difference later this year by providing evidence for ESFA to consider as it¬†considers extending the moratorium.

This critical research comes at a time when pollinators, specifically honey bees, are gaining national attention due to their importance for pollinator services and their continued decline. Globally, progress has been made towards ending the use of neonicotinoids. In July of this year lawmakers in France approved plans to totally ban neonicotinoid pesticides by 2018. In December of 2015, Montreal, the largest city in Canada’s Quebec province, announced plans for an all-out ban on the use of bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides. Numerous localities in the U.S. have restricted neonicotinoid pesticides, and the states of Maryland and Connecticut have removed them from the retail market.

Despite limited¬†action in the United States by federal agencies and Congress to discontinue the use of neonicotinoid insecticides and toxic pesticides in general, consumers and advocates around the country can create safe pollinator habitat and encourage local governments to do the same. Ultimately, the widespread adoption of‚ÄĮorganic management‚ÄĮis necessary to protect pollinators and the environment in the long-term. Beyond Pesticides has long sought a broad-scale marketplace transition to organic practices that disallows the use of toxic synthetic pesticides by law and encourages a systems-based approach that is protective of health and the environment.‚ÄĮFor information on growing plants to protect pollinators, see our Pollinator-Friendly Seeds and Nursery Directory. Use the Bee Protective Habitat Guide to plant a pollinator garden suited for your region, and consider seeding white clover into your lawn. You can also declare your garden, yard, park or other space as pesticide-free and pollinator friendly. Sign the pledge today!¬† Contact Beyond Pesticides for resources and factsheets available to help you organize and reach your local elected officials. Give us a call (202-543-5450) or email ([email protected]) for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to have a positive impact on local pollinators. More information on the adverse effects neonics can be found in the Beyond Pesticides‚Äô report‚ÄĮCultivating Plants that Poison.

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

Source: The Washington Post, Phys.Org

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17
Aug

Decrease Found in Retail Sales of Plants Treated with Bee-Toxic Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, August 17, 2016) In response to dramatic scientific findings, a severe decline in bee populations, and growing public demand for bee-safe plants, a new report confirms¬†the decision¬†of¬†major retailers to phase-out¬†the sale of flowers and trees treated with the pesticides most closely associated with the decline ‚Äďneonicotinoids. A new report released by Friends of the Earth, analyzes plants purchased at¬†Home Depot,¬†Lowe‚Äôs, Ace Hardware,¬†True Value¬†and¬†Walmart. Many of these major retailers have made public commitments to stop selling bee-toxic neonicotinoids and treated plants. Additionally, the states of Maryland and Connecticut have passed legislation that stops the retail sales of neonics.

plThe report,¬†Gardeners Beware 2016, released yesterday is a follow-up to previous testing that demonstrated the presence of bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides in more than half of bee-attractive flowers tested. The 2016 analysis found that 23 percent of flowers and trees tested contain neonicotinoid insecticides at levels that can harm or kill bees, compared to 51 percent in 2014, indicating that stores are selling far fewer plants treated with bee-killing neonics. This reduction is likely due to changes in store policies that commit retailers to eliminate neonicotinoid use on garden plants. Retailer commitments are having a ripple effect in production methods by suppliers and have resulted in reduced use of neonicotinoids, which are systemic and expressed through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets. With widespread supplier use of neonics and other systemic pesticides, evaluated in the Beyond Pesticides’ report Cultivating Plants that Poison, consumers are urged to purchase plants that are certified as organically grown. For information on finding organically grown plants, see Pollinator-Friendly Seeds and Nursery Directory.

Large retailers, including Home Depot and Lowe’s, have made commitments to phase out use of neonicotinoids. The new data demonstrates that these two companies are making progress toward that goal. Ace Hardware, True Value and Walmart have not yet made similar commitments to eliminate neonics in their stores.

Also released, a YouGov Poll commissioned by Friends of the Earth and SumofUs which found that 67 percent of Americans feel more positively about Home Depot and 66 percent feel more positively about Lowe’s because of their formal commitments to eliminate neonics.  Following this survey, half of respondents said they are more likely to shop at Home Depot (50 percent) and Lowe’s (51 percent) because of the store’s commitment. Further, more than a third (39 percent) said they would feel more negatively about a retailer that had not formally committed to eliminate systemic neonicotinoid insecticides.

Neonicotinoids affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and eventual death. These pesticides have consistently been implicated as a key contributor in pollinator declines, not only through immediate bee deaths, but also through sublethal exposure that causes changes in bee reproduction, navigation, and foraging. Pesticide exposure can impair both detoxification mechanisms and immune responses, rendering bees more susceptible to viruses, parasites, and other diseases, and leading to devastating bee losses. A recent government survey finds that beekeepers lost 44 percent of their colonies between April 2015 and April 2016.

Efforts to boost pollinator populations at the federal level have largely ignored the risks posed by pesticides and instead have focused on creating pollinator habitat. This is evident is the recent White House Pollinator Protection Action Plan, which focuses primarily on actions to plant pollinator habitats, particularly in agricultural areas. While pollinators need habitat for food and shelter, a recent study by Christina Mogren, PhD, and former USDA entomologist, Jonathan Lundgren, PhD,¬†these created habitat areas still put bees at risk for pesticide contamination, as they fail to provide spatial or temporal relief. The study underscores that meaningful solutions to reversing pollinator decline does not lie solely on planting pollinator habitat, but on eliminating pesticide contamination of plants. Flowering trees and plants are frequently used in home gardens, landscaping city streets and business campuses, providing pollen and nectar for bees and seeds for birds. The results of the new report show that systemic neonicotinoids, though reduced, are still used in plant and tree production exposing pollinators to these toxic pesticides. Also, see Dr. Lundgren’s talk Pollinators, Biodiversity, and Scientific Integrity: Heal the soil to solve the bee problem and biodiversity crisis.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action to protect these beneficial organisms, it is left up to us to ensure that we provide safe havens for pollinators by creating pesticide-free habitat and educating others to do the same. Take action by calling on EPA to suspend neonicotinoids now. Ensure the plants you purchase were produced without bee-toxic pesticides. You can also declare your garden, yard, park or other space as pesticide-free and pollinator friendly. It does not matter how large or small your pledge is, as long as you contribute to the creation of safe pollinator habitat. Sign the pledge today! Need ideas on creating the perfect pollinator habitat? The Bee Protective Habitat Guide can tell you which native plants are right for your region. For more information on what you can do, visit our BEE Protective page.

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

Source: Friends of the Earth 

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16
Aug

Australian Study Finds Nearly Half of Insecticide Poisonings Affect Young Children

(Beyond Pesticides, August 16, 2016) Young children are disproportionately poisoned by toxic pesticides used indoors, according to a study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. Data analyzed from the Queensland, Australia Poisons Information Centre (QPIC) finds that 49% of 743 insecticide-related calls in 2014 concerned young children. Given that children are more sensitive to pesticide exposure than adults because they take in more of a chemical relative to their body size and have developing organ systems, this data underscores the importance of educating the general public about alternatives to the use of toxic pesticides in and around the home.

Ababy significant share of childhood pesticide poisonings occurred in very young children. ‚ÄúChildren in the one-year age group were at greatest risk ‚Äď as they‚Äôre at that stage where they spend a lot of the time on the floor and put things in their mouth,‚ÄĚ said Karin English, PhD candidate at the University of Queensland. As a result of children‚Äôs propensity for hand to mouth motion, cockroach baits and ant liquid were found to be the most common source of insecticide exposure for kids under five, covering 39% of calls. However, Ms. English notes that enclosing cockroach baits in casings reduced poison exposure, and most liquid ant baits were placed in open containers on the floor, where children could access them. ‚ÄúWhile these products carry a relatively low risk of poisoning, parents need to ensure that all insecticides are out of reach and stored safely.‚ÄĚ Bug sprays, including those containing synthetic pyrethoids and the toxic synergist piperonyl butoxide, accounted for another significant route of exposure in the home, comprising 26% of calls.

The lopsided impact of acute pesticide exposure and poisoning on toddlers and infants is underscored by the danger pesticides pose to developing bodies. A robust set of scientific studies has shown that children and pesticides don‚Äôt mix. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a landmark policy statement affirming that, ‚ÄúChildren encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity.‚ÄĚ Childhood pesticide exposure has been linked to a range of adverse health endpoints, including cancer, asthma, impaired sexual development, ADHD and other learning disabilities.

Despite this constant threat, while certain U.S. states like California, Oregon, and Maryland have pesticide illness reporting systems, there has been no change at the federal level since Director of the Government Accountability Office highlighted the absence of a comprehensive national database on pesticide incidents and poisonings in 2001. Available data does indicate that pesticide poisonings continues to impact human health and the U.S. economy. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Agromedicine determined through reports from the American Association of Poison Control Centers that an average of 130,136 calls to poison control centers occurred between 2006 and 2010. Scientists estimated the annual national cost associated with pesticide exposures at roughly $200 million.

The vast majority of pesticide poisoning incidents can be prevented by eliminating the need to use a pesticide in the first place. Adhering to organic and integrated pest management techniques in and around the home can work to address pest problems before they become an infestation and health problem themselves. For household pests, place a focus on sealing pests out and denying them access to food and water. This can be done through structural and cultural practices. Seal pests out by calking and sealing cracks and crevices, and installing simple door sweeps. Deny pests access to food and water by making sure pipes and faucets are not leaking, storing food in tightly sealed containers, and purchasing a trash can with a tight fitting lid. Additional cultural controls such as attentive vacuuming, not leaving food or crumbs out at night, immediately cleaning up messes, and refraining from allowing dishes to soak overnight are certain to limit pest access to food and water. In the unlikely event pests do become a problem, least toxic pesticides like baits or gels can be employed but should never be stored or placed in areas where children or pets can access them.

In the event that you or a child are poisoned by a pesticide, it is important to seek help immediately by calling 911 and the poison control hotline at 1 (800) 222-1222. Pesticide poisonings incidents should also be reported to your state pesticide regulatory agency, which you can find through this link. You can also send a pesticide incident report to Beyond Pesticides, which allows us to keep track of poisoning events and watchdog state and federal agencies. Though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not have a comprehensive pesticide incident reporting database, it does keep track of poisonings based on individual chemicals, and use that information when evaluating a pesticide for re-registration.

For more information on what to do in a pesticide emergency, see Beyond Pesticides’ webpage. And for important information to on protecting newborns, infants, and toddlers from toxic chemical exposure, see the Healthy Health Care webpage. Lastly, for management of household pests without hazardous pesticides, see Beyond Pesticides’ ManageSafe database.

Source: University of Queensland Press Release, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health

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

 

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15
Aug

Availability of Highly Toxic Pesticide Leads to Multiple Deaths in Dubai from Illegal Use

(Beyond Pesticides, August 14, 2016) According to recent reports, the illegal misuse of pesticides in Dubai has left ten people dead within the last year. The culprit? Domestic use of a pesticide containing highly toxic aluminum phosphide sold on the black market, touted as a way to fight bed bugs for low-income families that may not have the education level or means to research and pursue other options. While the government acknowledges a significant problem given the common occurrence of these deaths, those in positions of power are admittedly at a loss when it comes to finding a solution, with some calling for a crack down on those selling the pesticides illegally, and others wanting to punish those that buy and use it. Regardless of the actions, elected officials decide to pursue, embracing organic pest management systems, as well as a robust education campaign, will be critical in curbing these deaths. Given the availability of greener, safer alternatives, Beyond Pesticides opposes any registration or allowance of phosphide fumigants and other highly toxic chemicals that can be easily misused.alum phos

Phosphide fumigants, including aluminum phosphide, are known to be acutely toxic when ingested or inhaled. Symptoms of mild to moderate acute exposure include nausea, abdominal pain, tightness in the chest, excitement, restlessness, agitation and chills. Symptoms of more severe exposure include, diarrhea, cyanosis, difficulty breathing, pulmonary edema, respiratory failure, tachycardia (rapid pulse) and hypotension (low blood pressure), dizziness and/or death. Already subject to stringent government oversight in Dubai, aluminum phosphide is only allowed for use by licensed companies on palm plantations, and is completely banned from use in homes. Additionally, for any application taking place, the Dubai Municipality has to approve its use, know when and where it will be deployed, and have an official present while it is being used.

Hisham Al Yahya, head of public health and pest control at Dubai Municipality, points to people as the source of the problem, mostly blue-collar workers who want to kill bedbugs, choosing to ignore the warnings and use the toxic pesticide because it is cheaper than using exterminators. “They resort to these methods and buy the pesticides illegally or from the black market. However, they may not only be harming themselves but also their neighbors,” said Mr Al Yahya. He also warned that phosphide gas is not easily detected because it is colorless and odorless. The inability to detect the pesticide was likely a main factor in an incident that claimed the lives of a mother and child when aluminum phosphide seeped into their home through air conditioning ducts after a neighbor applied the pesticide.

“In almost all cases, the people affected are neighbors, as the people who use them leave their apartment because they know it‚Äôs poisonous.” said Amina Mustafa, a 29-year-old Dubai resident who feels the government must act to combat the use of these dangerous pesticides.

Dubai is not the only country to see tragic and unnecessary deaths occur because of the misuse of aluminum phosphate, often referred to in the United States by its product name, Fumitoxin.  In 2010, investigators in the U.S. found that the deaths of two young sisters in Layton, Utah was caused by phosphide pesticide, which was used to kill voles, a small burrowing rodent. The pesticide was applied in their family’s front yard. The death of these children and the poisoning of the family raises serious issues about the adequacy of the pesticide’s label restrictions, approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and its enforceability.

That same year, just a few months before the untimely death of the one and four year old sisters, EPA imposed restrictions on aluminum and magnesium phosphide products in an attempt to better protect people, especially children, from dangerous exposures. The new restrictions prohibits all uses of the products around residential areas and increased buffer zones for treatment around non-residential buildings that could be occupied by people or animals from 15 feet to 100 feet. However, human exposure to these toxic chemicals continues because of their availability for use on athletic fields and playgrounds, around non-residential buildings, and in agricultural production.

As concern over the misuse of these pesticides in Dubai continues to grow, many feel that a government response should target those who sell the pesticide on the black market, as opposed to those buying the products. Calls for the identification and prosecution of anyone who knows of the deadly potential of aluminum phosphide pesticides and opts to make money by selling it to others who do not appreciate the risks ring loud and clear. Though anything sold on the black market is difficult to regulate, the government must take the necessary steps to stop the misuse of toxic chemicals, and encourage safer practices, before more deaths occur.

Beyond Pesticides and other organizations have raised concerns about chemicals that volatilize as gas and chemical fumigants that move through the air from the target site (be it an animal burrow or an agricultural crop) in the past. In June 2009, Beyond Pesticides and 27 groups from across the country sent then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson a letter indicating that the agency‚Äôs new fumigants policy ‚Äúcontinues an outdated EPA approach to pesticide regulation that adopts unrealistic and unenforceable standards as risk mitigation measures, in an age of safer, greener approaches to agricultural pest management.‚ÄĚ As a solution to the problem, Beyond Pesticides believes that organic or integrated pest management (OPM/IPM) is a vital tool that aids in the rediscovery of non-toxic methods to control pests like bed bugs or rodents, and facilitates the transition toward a pesticide-free (and healthier) world. A well-defined IPM or organic pest management program offers the opportunity to eliminate or drastically reduce pesticide use and to minimize the toxicity of and exposure to any products that are used. Sanitation, structural repairs, mechanical and biological control, pest population monitoring are all safer¬†methods that have proven successful. To find out more, visit our webpage on¬†Integrated Pest Management, and our program page on bed bugs.

Source: The National UAE

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

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12
Aug

Pesticides Registered by EPA Alter Honey Bee Microbiome

(Beyond Pesticides, August 12, 2016) A new study by a team of scientists at Virginia Tech finds that commonly used in-hive pesticides result in changes to the honey bee gut microbiome. The study, Honey bee gut microbiome is altered by in-hive pesticide exposures, was led by Virginia Tech associate professor of horticulture, Mark Williams, Ph.D., and colleagues from Oregon State University and North Carolina State University. This research, published several weeks ago in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, aimed to determine the microbiome of honey bees (Apis mellifera) after being exposed to three common pesticides. Coumaphos and tau-fluvalinate, both common miticides used in conventional beekeeping, and chlorothalonil, a fungicide commonly detected in hives, were used as pesticide treatments in the study.Susan Quals Algood TN Honeybee on Yellow Crownbeard2

While this¬†research contributes to the already established body of science on the complexity of pesticide exposure effects, beekeepers reported the steepest, and then sustained, declines in honey bee populations after the large¬†increase in¬†neonicotinoid pesticide¬†use in the early 2000’s. Beekeepers nationwide suffered¬†their highest hive losses of 44.1% in the last national survey from April 2015-2016. While it is likely that neonicotinoids are not the sole factor in pollinator decline, they have been found to exacerbate other challenges that pollinators face, such as the one reported in the Virginia Tech research. Neonicotinoids¬†weaken the immune system of honey bees, making them more likely to succumb to disease carried by varroa mites and other parasites. Multiple studies have found that bees exposed to neonicotinoids have more parasite and pathogen problems, increasing the need for the mite pesticides evaluated in the Virginia Tech research.

Dr. Williams told Science Daily that, “Although helpful for ridding hives of parasites and pathogens, the chemicals in beekeeper-applied pesticides can be harmful to the bees. Our research suggests that pesticides could specifically impact the microbes that are crucial to honey bee nutrition and health.” This is especially alarming because changes to the gut’s microbiome can lead to difficulty metabolizing sugars and peptides, which is vital to honey bee health and immune system response.

This field-based study used three pesticides, along with a pesticide-free control at three replicated treatment sites in Montgomery County, Virginia. The microbiome of the honey bees at each location was assessed in relation to the control after a 6-week pesticide treatment. The analysis reveals that cholorothalonil-treated hives show the most significant changes to the structure and function of the honey bee gut bacteria relative to the control. The dominant bacteria present in the honey bees studied were Firmicutes, Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria, which is consistent with previous studies looking at the bee bacterial community. There was little evidence on any changes to the fungal communities of the honey bees from pesticide exposure after the treatments.

Chlorothalonil, a broad-spectrum fungicide originally registered in 1966 by the Diamond Shamrock Corp. is widely used on field crops, as well as peanuts, vegetables and fruits. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) characterizes chlorothalonil as “relatively non-toxic” to honey bees, but identifies it as a “probable human carcinogen.” However, EPA does not require data on the effect of this pesticide on human or non-target organism gut health, which is just one of the holes in the data required for registration. There has been limited examination of the mechanisms involved with miticides and fungicides and declining honey bee health. A 2013 study found that fungicides, chlorothalonil in particular, rendered honey bees more vulnerable to gut parasites such as Nosema ceranae.

The research team hopes to continue investigating the specific changes in the honey bee gut microbiome using data to ‚Äúhelp best characterize the microbes that support healthy honey bees and thus stave off disease naturally.‚ÄĚ While researchers say further studies are needed, pesticides have consistently been implicated as a key issue in pollinator declines, not only through immediate bee deaths, but also through sublethal exposure causing changes in bee reproduction, navigation and foraging. Beyond Pesticides has comprehensively compiled research that highlights the impact of various pesticides on these organisms and their role in exacerbating susceptibility to parasites and viruses.

This critical research comes at a time when pollinators, specifically honey bees, are gaining national attention due to their importance for pollinator services and their continued decline. Despite the delayed action by federal agencies and Congress to discontinue the use of neonicotinoid insecticides and synthetic pesticides in general, consumers and advocates around the country can create safe pollinator habitat and encourage local governments to do the same. Use the Bee Protective Habitat Guide to plant a pollinator garden suited for your region, and consider seeding white clover into your lawn. You can also declare your garden, yard, park or other space as pesticide-free and pollinator friendly. Sign the pledge today!

Source: Science Daily, Virginia Tech News

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

 

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11
Aug

78 Commonly Used Agricultural Pesticides Linked to Wheezing

(Beyond Pesticides, August 10, 2016) New research connects 78 pesticides commonly used by farmers with many adverse respiratory effects, including both allergic and non-allergic wheeze. The study, Pesticides Are Associated with Allergic and Non-Allergic Wheeze among Male Farmers, was led by NC State environmental epidemiologist, Jane Hoppin, ScD and colleagues from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the National Cancer Institute, Westat and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). This is one of the most comprehensive evaluations of pesticides in relation to wheeze that has been evaluated to date, finding that several commonly used pesticides in both agriculture and residential settings can cause adverse respiratory effects.

“Fifty-one of the pesticides we tested in this study had never been analyzed in terms of their effects on respiratory outcomes. And some of them, like glyphosate, 2,4-D and permethrin, aren‚Äôt just used on farms. They‚Äôre used residentially now to kill weeds or treat fleas on pets,” said Dr. Hoppin. “We believe it‚Äôs important information that will help people make decisions about pesticides.‚ÄĚ

Researchers used interview data from the 2005-2010 Agricultural Health Study (AHS) to assess the correlation between pesticide exposure and wheeze in male farmers. 22,134 farmers were interviewed in the current study, answering questions regarding which pesticides they had used in the previous year, current farming activities, medical conditions, and other demographic factors. Using this information, researchers were able to compare the frequency of allergic or non-allergic wheeze in farmers who had never used the pesticides being evaluated, to those who had.

Included in the 78 pesticides evaluated are: 45 herbicides and plant growth regulators, 25 insecticides, six fungicides, one fumigant, and one rodenticide. Overall, 29 pesticides had some association with at least one type of wheeze; 19 were significantly associated with allergic wheeze and 21 were associated with non-allergic wheeze; 11 pesticides were significantly associated with both.

Of the pyrethroids evaluated, which are among the most commonly used insecticides, all but one (tefluthrin) are approved for residential uses, and the most frequent users of permethrin in the study were most likely to report wheeze, both allergic and nonallergic. Of the organophosphates, malathion, which is is widely used in mosquito control programs, was associated with both allergic and non-allergic wheeze.

Three of the most commonly used herbicides, glyphosate, 2,4-D, and atrazine all were associated with at least one of the wheeze outcomes. Glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide in the world, as well as atrazine were associated significantly with both types of wheeze, while 2,4-D was primarily associated with allergic wheeze. Researchers noted that use of glyphosate, commonly sold under trade name RoundUp, produced and sold by Monsanto, has increased dramatically since their initial analysis due to the prevalence of genetically engineered crops that are glyphosate tolerant (“RoundUp Ready”). This increased frequency of use gave researchers more power to detect associations, with effect estimates similar to those reported previously. Initially touted by the industry as a “safer” pesticide, the mounting evidence of glyphosate‚Äôs hazards is piling up.

The study also acknowledges the possibility of synergistic effects that the pesticides may have, and evaluated whether correlation among the pesticides were responsible for the large number of significant findings. However, researchers found no strong evidence showing that when mixed, the chemicals had any significant changes in results.

While researchers point out that little is known about the potential impacts of currently used pesticides have on the respiratory system, there is mounting scientific evidence that link pesticide exposure to respiratory problems and asthma, especially in young children. Beyond Pesticides’ Asthma, Children and Pesticides webpage documents many of the studies that have found evidence that exposure to pesticides is correlated with asthma. In addition to being an underlying cause of the disease, pesticides can also trigger asthma attacks for those who already suffer from it. Furthermore, the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database documents over 30 studies linking pesticides to asthma and other respiratory effects.

The study concludes that ‚Äúwhile this analysis was limited to male farmers who, most likely, have applied pesticides for decades, the chemicals that they use are not exclusively agricultural. The findings for chemicals like glyphosate, 2,4-D, carbaryl, and the pyrethroids are particularly relevant for consumers who would like to minimize their wheeze and allergy risk associated with the use of chemicals in their homes, gardens and play areas.‚ÄĚ

Fortunately, there are alternative ways to manage pests that do not rely on toxic pesticides. Ultimately, the widespread adoption of organic management is necessary to protect consumers and the environment in the long-term. Beyond Pesticides has long sought a broad-scale marketplace transition to organic practices that disallows the use of toxic synthetic pesticides by law and encourages a systems-based approach that is protective of health and the environment. This is why food labeled organic is an important choice. Around the home, simple mechanical fixes, like doorsweeps, caulking and sealing cracks and crevices, a well-fitted trash can lid, and diligent cleaning, can prevent pest infestations in the first place, and isolate and contain ongoing problems. For a step-by-step guide on how to control common indoor pest problems without pesticides, see Beyond Pesticides ManageSafe database.

Source: NC State News Press Release

 

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10
Aug

Major UK Bread Companies, Supermarkets Urged To Stop Using Glyphosate

(Beyond Pesticides, August 10, 2016) In a letter, submitted by the Soil Association, leading bread producers and supermarkets in the United Kingdom (UK) are being urged to cease stocking and selling bread products that contain traces of the herbicide glyphosate. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, has been classified as a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is linked to numerous other environmental and human health concerns. Glyphosate residues have already been detected in bread, beer, and wine.

wheatfieldThe Soil Association, a UK organization that campaigns for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use, is concerned that glyphosate is used on crops immediately before harvest, and subsequently makes its way into food. According to the letter and a spokesperson for the group, “Using glyphosate, and glyphosate-based products, as a pre-harvest treatment is fundamentally wrong, and we are calling for an end to it with our campaign.¬†Wheat harvest will start in the next few weeks, and we are asking bread companies to act now and put a stop to glyphosate as a pre-harvest desiccant in their supply chains. The EU has just advised glyphosate use as a pre-harvest spray on food crops should be restricted – but it’s up to individual member states to decide if they want to implement this or not.”

Debate has been raging in Europe about the continued use of glyphosate in light of the 2015 classification by the World Health Organization‚Äôs (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of glyphosate as a ‚Äúprobable human carcinogen.‚ÄĚ However, confusion peaked when a few short months later the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)¬†published its report¬†finding that glyphosate is¬†‚Äúunlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.‚ÄĚ However, EFSA‚Äôs report is¬†limited in that it reviewed glyphosate alone, unlike IARC, which reviewed glyphosate and its formulated products (Roundup) which are more relevant for evaluating risks to human health. The European Commission has since issued a limited license extension for¬†glyphosate, after member states were unable to come to a formal decision. The extension also comes with some restrictions, including obligations for member states to minimize use on playgrounds, and a ban on formulations with the ingredient POEA.

According to the Soil Association, glyphosate use in UK farming has increased by 400% in the last 20 years and it appears regularly in regular testing of British bread, with it showing in 30 per cent of samples tested by a government committee, Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF).

Earlier this year, a European poll reported that the majority of people across the EU’s five biggest countries, including three-quarters of Italians, 70% of Germans, 60% of French and 56% of Britons, support a ban on glyphosate. The herbicide is the most widely used chemical in the world, according to reports, and as a result is being detected in food and human bodies. Tests have detected glyphosate residues in German beer, at levels higher than allowed in drinking water. Last year, glyphosate residues were found in bread being sold in the UK, and is one of the three pesticides regularly found in routine testing of British bread -appearing in up to 30% of samples tested by the UK government. A pilot study conducted by the group Moms Across America in 2014 found that glyphosate may also bioaccumulate in the human body, as revealed by high levels of the chemical in the breast milk of mothers tested.

Glyphosate, produced¬†by Monsanto, is touted as a ‚Äúlow toxicity‚ÄĚ chemical and ‚Äúsafer‚ÄĚ than other chemicals by industry. But glyphosate has been shown to have¬†detrimental impacts¬†on humans and the environment. Given its widespread use on residential and agricultural sites, its toxicity is of increasing concern. In addition to IARC‚Äôs findings,¬†previous studies¬†have linked the toxicant to non-Hodgkin‚Äôs lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It is also an endocrine disruptor, causes reproductive effects, kidney and liver damage, and is toxic to aquatic organisms, according to studies.¬†In September 2015, a study published in¬†Environmental Health News¬†found that¬†chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate¬†led to adverse effects on liver and kidney health. Roundup formulations can also induce a dose-dependent formation of DNA adducts (altered forms of DNA linked to chemical exposure, playing a key role in chemical carcinogenesis) in the kidneys and liver of mice. Human cell endocrine disruption on the androgen receptor, inhibition of transcriptional activities on estrogen receptors on HepG2, DNA damage and cytotoxic effects occurring at concentrations well below ‚Äúacceptable‚ÄĚ residues have all been observed. Similarly, a study released this year finds that glyphosate can cause changes to DNA function resulting in the onset of chronic disease, including diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer‚Äôs disease.

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. Beyond Pesticides also urges the adoption of organic lawn and landscape programs.

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

Source: The Ecologist

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09
Aug

Farmers Dealing with Fall-Out from Monsanto’s New GE Crops

soybean(Beyond Pesticides, August 9, 2016) Farmers in Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee are confronting widespread crop damage and bracing for lower yields as a result of agrichemical giant Monsanto’s botched roll-out of new genetically engineered soybean and cotton crops. The company, whose current line of glyphosate-tolerant crops are failing to control weeds throughout the U.S. and across the globe, developed a new line of soybean and cotton with traits that make it tolerate applications of an older herbicide dicamba. However, while its seeds are available for purchase on the market, and Monsanto is encouraging farmers to grow them, the company has yet to receive EPA regulatory approval for the dicamba herbicide meant to be used with the plants.

A spate of news reports over the past two months in southern soybean growing regions finds that many farmers are illegally applying off-label dicamba-based herbicides to Monsanto’s new GE crops in an effort to control weeds resistant to glyphosate. Use of this highly volatile herbicide is causing widespread crop damage not only to soybeans that don’t carry the resistance trait, but other crops in the region, including peaches, melons, and tomatoes.

Dicamba has a strong propensity to volatilize small particles of the herbicide into the air and drift far off-site. Sensitive crop species can be damaged by dicamba at levels in the parts per million. ¬†A study published by Pennsylvania State scientists in late 2015 found dicamba drift was ‚Äúfrequently responsible for sublethal, off-target damage‚ÄĚ to plants and insects. Researchers found that even very low rates of dicamba herbicide exposure negatively impacted plant flowering, and thus insect pollination.

Monsanto is encouraging farmers to plant its dicamba-tolerant seeds because the company claims it also creates higher yields. The company told NPR that it made clear to farmers that they could not spray dicamba on its dicamba-tolerant crops.

However, many farmers are concerned about their livelihood as a result of Monsanto‚Äôs aggressive marketing of its product without full regulatory approval. ‚ÄúIf we don‚Äôt do anything to stop this, it‚Äôs going to happen year after year until everyone‚Äôs planting dicamba-resistant crops or they‚Äôre not planting anything at all. . . That seems to be the path we‚Äôre on,‚ÄĚ said Kade McBroom, a farmer and operator of Malden Specialty Soy, to LakeExpo.com.

Already in four Missouri Bootheel counties over 100 complaints of pesticide drift have been reported since mid-June. The Missouri Department of Agriculture indicates that it usually receives 75 to 80 complaints of pesticide misuse each year for the entire state.

Despite data showing glyphosate resistance to at least 29 weed species worldwide, Monsanto and other agrichemical companies have insisted on doubling down on their failed technology, opting to create new GE cropping systems that incorporate older, more toxic herbicides. Dicamba has been linked to damage of the kidney and liver, neurotoxicity, and developmental impacts. Another GE cropping system, developed by Dow Agrosciences relies on the herbicide 2,4-D, a chemical linked to non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL), and is also neurotoxic, genotoxic, and an endocrine disruptor. Both of the herbicides associated with these GE crops remain formulated with glyphosate, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently identified as carcinogenic to humans based upon laboratory animal studies. In fact, synergy, the potential for pesticide mixtures to increase or decrease the potency of the formulated product, is the main reason why EPA is rethinking its approval of Dow’s 2,4-D/glyphosate herbicide.

Southern soybean farmers are specifically concerned over the spread of glyphosate-resistant palmer amaranth, or pigweed, which can significantly reduce yields. In 2014, cotton farmers in Texas requested an emergency application under Section 18 of the Federal Fungicide, Insecticide, and Rodenticide Act to use the highly toxic herbicide propazine to control resistant palmer amaranth in their fields. EPA denied their request citing the danger of groundwater contamination, but recognized that the situation warranted an emergency exemption, a point with which Beyond Pesticides strongly disagrees.

Weed resistance is an entirely predictable occurrence in fields where herbicides are sprayed incessantly during the growing season. Even the use of older, more toxic herbicides will only slow resistance down briefly. Research out of the University of Arkansas was able to create dicamba-resistant palmer amaranth in a greenhouse after only three generations. Farmers should expect similar results in the field, regardless if they’re applying registered or illegal, off-label dicamba products.

While Missouri lawmakers contemplate increasing fines on illegal pesticide applications, ultimately, this problem will need to be addressed on a structural scale, as conventional farmers will need to diversify the crops they plant and implement other cultural practices to deter weeds, such as cover crops, crop rotation, and intercropping. Food distribution systems will also need to shift to accommodate greater diversity in farmer fields. Organic agriculture represents a time-tested approach to managing weeds and avoiding resistance problems that plague GE cropping systems. With organic, the use of toxic synthetic herbicides and GE seeds is prohibited, and farmers must craft an organic system plan aimed at improving soil health and managing pests and weeds should they arise.

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

Sources: LakeExpo.com, NPR, Farms.com

 

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08
Aug

Failure of Hawai’i to Enforce Pesticide Law Sparks Request that EPA Revoke State’s Authority

(Beyond Pesticides, August 8, 2016) Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received a letter from Earthjustice requesting that the agency notify the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture (HDOA) of its chronic failure to meet statutory duties for pesticides regulation and enforcement under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and, if timely corrections are not made, to rescind HDOA’s primary enforcement authority completely. Earthjustice has asked EPA to immediately notify HDOA that it has failed to carry out its responsibilities, and, pursuant to FIFRA, to give the agency 90 days to correct its overwhelming shortcomings. If the problems, which include failure to enforce pesticide use violations and a large backlog of pesticide complaints and investigations dating back to as early as 2008, are not corrected and addressed within 90 days, Earthjustice requests gmohawaiithat EPA revoke HDOA’s primary enforcement authority indefinitely. In the event that HDOA’s authority to regulate is stripped, EPA would then take over the responsibility for enforcing pesticide use violations occurring within the state.

Under FIFRA, the federal statutory authority for pesticide approval and use, EPA may delegate to a state primary responsibility for enforcing pesticide use violations if thestate has adequate pesticide laws and adequate procedures for carrying out the law, or enters into a cooperative agreement with EPA. The state must have procedures that allow for quick and effective prevention, discovery, and prosecution of pesticide use violations. EPA regulations require that a state with primary enforcement authority have sufficient personnel and financial resources to maintain an effective compliance monitoring program, and must pursue enforcement actions promptly. EPA and Hawaii currently have a cooperative agreement giving Hawaii those responsibilities.

But EPA has been warning HDOA repeatedly since at least 2012 that HDOA has failed to adequately enforce pesticide laws and has allowed an unacceptable backlog of inspection files to grow. Instead of increasing its staff, HDOA’s enforcement staff has been steadily shrinking, and not surprisingly, the number of inspections and enforcement actions has been decreasing every year. EPA’s most recent annual review of HDOA’s performance noted there were about 700 inspection files in need of review, some dating back to 2008. As a result, there have not only been enforcement delays but some cases can no longer be enforced because the statute of limitations expired while files sat on HDOA’s desk. At the same time, the number of complaints about pesticide misuse has been increasing, along with public frustration and loss of confidence.

HDOA is not the only government body in Hawaii failing to take action when it comes to addressing pesticide issues plaguing the state. This past March, a draft version of a report commissioned by Hawaii and Kauai County found that Hawaii should dramatically improve its regulation of pesticide use and study its impacts fell on deaf ears in the state legislature. Additionally, in 2015 the Hawaii state House agriculture committee rejected a bill that sought to impose buffer zones for large agricultural companies that spray restricted-use pesticides near schools and other sensitive areas, once again failing to act to protect the interests of Hawaiian citizens from toxic pesticide use. The bill had strong support from the Hawaii chapter of the national nonprofit Center for Food Safety (CFS), as well as a strong backing from neighbor island residents, but industry efforts once again proved overwhelmingly powerful in obstructing the bill.

In light of continuing inaction at the state level, several local governments took action to try to protect their residents from harmful pesticide practices across the islands. Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island all passed laws to regulate the seed industry, but a federal district court judge ruled that Hawaiian counties do not have that power, citing state preemption in his reasoning. That ruling followed a similar federal court decision handed down in August 2014 that overruled a Kauai ordinance requiring annual reporting of genetically engineered organisms. Both of those decisions were unfortunate, as state preemption laws effectively deny local residents and decision makers their democratic right to better protection when a community decides that minimum standards set by state and federal law are insufficient, and in the case of Hawaii, often unenforced.

Paul Achitoff, Earthjustice‚Äôs managing attorney in Hawaii, noted that the lack of enforcement is consistent with the Department of Agriculture‚Äôs general failure to take seriously its duty to regulate pesticides in Hawaii and protect the public: ‚ÄúThe Department of Agriculture has been ignoring for years repeated warnings from EPA that it‚Äôs not keeping up with its responsibility to investigate pesticide complaints and enforce the law against violators. So pesticide users now have good reason to think they can get away with carelessness, or even ignoring the law. And why shouldn‚Äôt they, when the Department cuts its enforcement staff instead of increasing it, and allows the statute of limitations to run out, preventing any enforcement at all?‚ÄĚ

Mr. Achitoff pointed out, ‚ÄúWhile agrochemical companies have been arguing in court that only the State, and not the counties, have the power to protect the public from pesticide drift and contamination, the Department of Agriculture has done nothing to use the authority it has. In fact, the Department‚Äôs Chair recently scoffed at the findings and recommendations of Kaua Ľi County‚Äôs Joint Fact Finding report that that toxic chemicals are finding their way into our air, water, and soils in violation of the law, and that Hawai Ľi‚Äôs pesticide enforcement and monitoring are inadequate. It‚Äôs no wonder that many believe the State is protecting the agrochemical industry rather than the public.‚ÄĚ

Residents living on the Hawaiian Islands are subject to a particularly pronounced form of environmental assault, as the state’s premiere growing conditions have made it a prime target for agrichemical companies to test new, experimental forms of genetically engineered (GE) crops. Data released last year reveals that high levels of restricted use pesticides, in some cases almost double the pounds per acre average of other states, are being used in Kauai County. According to the Center for Food Safety, in 2014 alone, there were 1,381 field test sites in Hawaii, compared to only 178 sites in California- a large agricultural state. Most of these crops are engineered to resist herbicides and pesticides. Testing these crops means repeated spraying of dangerous chemicals near neighborhoods, schools, and waterways.  Residents of the Hawaiian Islands that live, work, or go to school near these fields are subject to incessant pesticide spraying, as the climate provides a year-round growing season for GE crops. A May 2014 report found 25 herbicides, 11 insecticides and 6 fungicides in Hawaii’s waterways, underscoring resident concerns for both the land and human health.

Beyond Pesticides continues to be an ardent supporter of common sense protections from pesticides and their associated use on GE crops. If you too support these issues, please visit our website to learn more about the issues and find ways to get involved in your local community.

Source: Earthjustice Press Release

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

 

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05
Aug

Fighting Zika – Growing Concerns over Pesticide Resistance

(Beyond Pesticides, August 5, 2016) Concerned health officials in Miami, Florida are investigating suspicions that Zika-spreading mosquitoes have become resistant to the pesticides commonly used synthetic pyrethroid insecticides used in mosquito control. As the region works to contain a Zika outbreak in northern Miami, officials are beginning to recognize that broadcast pesticide applications are not effective at controlling populations, and are looking into cases in the U.S. and in other parts of the world of mosquitoes developing resistance to chemical controls, or whether other factors are at work. At the same, the broadcasting of the pesticides by truck and plane and the resulting exposure to people and the environment also raise serious health issues.

Aedes_albopictus_on_human_skinThe Aedes aegypti mosquito, which has the ability to live indoors and reproduce even in tiny pools of water, is the primary way the Zika virus is spread, although there are reports that the disease can also be transmitted through sexual contact. Zika virus has been linked to cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with underdeveloped brains. The virus has been detected in several Latin American countries, including Brazil where the outbreak was first observed and linked to increased cases of microcephaly. However, locally transmitted cases are now being reported in southern Florida.

In response, mosquito control officials have been stepping up pesticide applications using an arsenal of chemicals that usually include pyrethroids and organophosphates adulticides. It has also been reported that the organophosate Naled is being used in Florida. However, the efficacy of adulticidal pesticide applications (aerial or ground spraying) has been called into question over the years. Usually, this is the least efficient mosquito control technique that only targets adult mosquitoes. Further, the drifting spray impacts other non-target organisms – including humans who may suffer from rashes, headaches, and respiratory symptoms –¬†pollinators, birds, fish and amphibians.

‚ÄúAggressive mosquito control measures don’t seem to be working as well as we would have liked,”¬†Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director¬†Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, recently said after 10 additional Zika cases were announced. According to news reports, he pointed out that it was unclear if the insects themselves are biologically resistant to the chemicals used in common insecticides used or if there were other environmental factors like standing water that was not visible that lead to the mosquito population bouncing back. Dr. Frieden also said an expert was investigating the mosquitoes to test if they are genetically resistant to pesticides but that it could take weeks to get the findings.

The case has highlighted a problem health departments and mosquito control districts have increasingly been dealing: some mosquito species are becoming resistant to pesticide. In the Florida Keys, the local mosquito control district has been looking at new ways to diminish mosquito populations as some of the 46 species present have become more resistant to pesticides. Already the Aedes aegypti mosquito is showing resistance to the synthetic pyrethroid pesticide,¬†commonly used in mosquito control. William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the Aedes aegypti mosquito is especially hard to combat for multiple reasons. “There’s a history of Aedes being relatively resistant to conventional pesticide,” Dr. Schaffner said. “When we say they’re resistant that means the mosquito inherently can shrug off the pesticide.”

Mosquitoes have very short life cycle (a week or less), increasing the probability that each succeeding generation is an opportunity for random mutations to occur that predispose a group of mosquitoes to be immune to pesticides. According to entomologist Dino Martins, PhD, in an interview with the Guardian newspaper, ‚Äú[W]hen you use chemicals, you are actually applying a selection pressure on mosquito populations that will drive them to become resistant.‚ÄĚ Already there is¬†emerging resistance to insecticides among¬†Anopheles¬†mosquitoes. Additionally it is impossible to fumigate every corner of habitat where mosquitoes might breed. According to Dr. Martins, the explosion of mosquitoes in urban areas, which is driving the Zika crisis, is caused by a lack of natural diversity that would otherwise keep mosquito populations under control, and the proliferation of waste and lack of disposal in some areas which provide artificial habitat for breeding mosquitoes.

According to ABC News, research on why the mosquitoes are so resilient have found the insects may have some genetic mutations that help them survive. Scientists in Thailand found that the Aedes aegypti mosquito had genetic mutations that made pyrethroid pesticides less likely to bind to them, according to a 2016 study published in Parasites & Vectors.

Most experts agree that an efficient mosquito management strategy emphasizes public awareness, prevention, and monitoring methods. However, if these methods are not used properly, in time, or are ineffective, communities must decide whether or not to use pesticides. They must determine if they should risk exposing vulnerable populations to potentially harmful diseases caused by mosquitoes or to chronic or deadly illnesses caused by pesticides.

Beyond Pesticides believes the ideal mosquito management strategy comes from an integrated approach that emphasizes education, aggressive removal of standing water sources, larval control, monitoring, and surveillance for both mosquito-borne illness and pesticide-related illness. Control of disease-carrying mosquitoes can be successful when emphasis is placed on public education and preventive strategies.

Individuals can take action by eliminating standing water, introducing mosquito-eating fish, encouraging predators, such as bats, birds, dragonflies and frogs, and using least-toxic larvacides. 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. Beyond Pesticides’ Mosquito Management program page has a list of resources that can help you and your community safely manage mosquitoes, including least-toxic mosquito repellents, bed nets, and proper clothing that can be used to keep mosquitoes safely at bay.

All unattributed positions are that of Beyond Pesticides.

Source:  ABC News

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04
Aug

Investigative Report Uncovers Dangerous Pesticide Misuse on Golf Courses in New York

(Beyond Pesticides, August 4, 2016) Complaints about a green residue that appeared on golfers’ shoes at Rye Golf Club in New York last spring prompted an investigative report by The Journal News/lohud.com, that¬†revealed what reporters are describing a region-wide ‚Äúenvironmental toxic time bomb‚ÄĚ caused by the over and misuse of pesticides throughout the state. The investigation uncovered (i) gaps in the oversight of millions of pound of toxic pesticides applied throughout the Lower Hudson Valley, (ii) heightened health risks in Westchester and Rockland counties where pesticides are used the most, (iii) significant flaws in pesticide data collected in the state of New York, and (iv) the failure of authorities to catch the illegal sale and use of unregistered pesticides.

rye golf courseRye Golf Club, which turned into a ‚Äúfield of dustbowls‚ÄĚ within weeks of the green residue appearing on golfer‚Äôs shoes, had to close 18 putting greens, leading members to demand thousands of dollars in refunds and city leaders to address the severely damaged city-owned golf course. The cause of the mysterious green residue was later revealed to be the result of an application of a contaminated batch of the fungicide ArmorTech ALT 70, whose active ingredient is azoxystrobin. Rye Golf Club initially bought and used the pesticide, finding out after its purchase that the product was not registered for use in the state of New York.

According to the newspaper’s report, 2014 city records show that Rye Golf Club returned the unregistered Armor Tech ALT 70¬†and exchanged it for one that was registered. However, Marcus Serrano, city manager of Rye, told reporters that the questionable pesticide sale was filed with the state Department of Environmental Conservation in 2014, but regulators did not investigate the questionable sale.

‚ÄúIf we‚Äôre spraying something that is not registered, I would assume the DEC [Department of Environmental Conservation] would tell us that you‚Äôre spraying products that are not registered in the state of New York, and that didn‚Äôt happen,‚ÄĚ Mr. Serrano told The Journal News/lohud.com.

In trying to unravel the incident at Rye Golf Club, investigators eventually blamed the dead grass on a contaminated batch of pesticide, and its manufacturer, Tessenderlo Kerley, paid $2.5 million to settle Rye’s complaints about the marred golfing season. Despite the win on the surface for the City of Rye, the settlement did nothing to address hazards tied to pesticides used in heavily populated and golf-dense communities, such as Westchester and Rockland. In its investigation, the Journal News/lohud.com revealed that of 62 New York counties, Westchester ranked third-highest in pesticide use, at 2.26 million pounds in 2010. Rockland was sixth-highest, at about one million. They are also among the highest pesticide users in terms of gallons of product, the data show. All of the highest-use counties were golf-course dense, with Suffolk on Long Island topping the list at 5 million pounds. Monroe County, which includes the city of Rochester, ranked second at 2.82 million. The top six counties used nearly 14 million pounds of pesticides, more than half the 24.5 million total statewide in 2010. All of these speaks to the broader issue of pesticide use on golf courses, which, in New York, was at one point found to be 18 pounds per treated acre, about seven times higher than the 2.7 pound average in agricultural.

When asked to comment on the issue, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC)¬†refused to discuss the matter, and noted it is trying to correct pesticide data errors while taking steps to improve reporting, such as shifting from paper to electronic reporting. ‚ÄúThe NYSDEC works with the pesticide businesses to fix as many of these errors as is feasible,‚ÄĚ agency spokesman Kevin Frazier told the reporters.

Regardless of efforts to improve oversight, the article points out that tons of toxic pesticides are handled daily by hundreds of golf-course and farm workers, pest-control companies and others trusted to protect the public from harmful chemical exposures. In fact, this is not a new issue in New York. In 1995, the New York State Attorney General’s office published a report entitled Toxic Fairways, which studied pesticide use on 52 Long Island, New York golf courses. The report, which was particularly concerned with the potential for groundwater contamination, concluded that these golf courses applied about 50,000 pounds of pesticides in one year, or four to seven times the average amount of pesticides used in agriculture, on a pound per acre basis. The report recommended reducing golf course pesticide hazards by limiting or ending the use of known carcinogens, minimizing the use of other pesticides, and fully informing golf course users and the public about pesticides dangers and the times of application.

Beyond Pesticides‚Äô executive director Jay Feldman was interviewed by The Journal News/lohud.com and noted that these pesticides are inherently dangerous, pointing to the risk of pesticides leaching into the ground and contaminating drinking water, even if properly used, noting that pesticides are inadequately regulated to provide us with the protection that we need. ‚ÄúThe illegal uses of pesticides that are going on that are not caught because of inadequate oversight are adding fuel to a burning fire that is raging across this country on golf courses, and in agriculture and homes and community parks,‚ÄĚ he said.

Amid efforts to improve pesticide oversight, the investigative report points out that chemical companies face a growing list of lawsuits seeking to link them to serious illnesses, such as cancer. One high-profile lawsuit was filed by Rich Walsh, whose father, Thomas, died of leukemia in 2009 at 56 years old. Tom worked on a Pennsylvania golf course for more than 30 years, and genetic testing from his oncologist revealed chromosomal alterations as a result of years of working with pesticides. Part of the log books he kept throughout his career included the pesticides he applied, which included the insecticides Dylox and Dursban, active ingredients trichlorfon and chlorpyrifos respectively, and the fungicides Daconil and Chipco, active ingredients chlorothalonil and iprodione. All of these chemicals have been shown to be likely carcinogens, according to Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Gateway or Pesticide Induced Diseases Database. Chlorpyrifos, for instance, was banned for homeowner use back in 2001, but uses on agriculture and golf courses were allowed to continue despite objections from health and environmental advocates.

Whether this incident at Rye Golf Club is a turning point for the state’s pesticide oversight remains to be seen, but the information uncovered by The Journal News/lohud.com investigation offers insight to state and federal regulators as to where to start. By focusing on issues like poor record keeping and lax enforcement, New York now has a starting point in their quest to stop another incident like which happened at Rye Golf Club from taking place.

In light of these concerning statistics and rising awareness of the hazards associated with pesticide use in golf, many courses across the country are transitioning to organic practices. The Journal News/lohud.com also wrote a separate piece on a new public golf course in the Catskills, which is also New York’s first organic golf course: the Belleayre resort. Additionally, Rich Walsh now owns one of the courses employing safer, organic methods of turf maintenance in his Rolling Fields golf course located in Murrysville, PA.

For more information on the hazards associated with pesticide use on golf courses and the trend towards organic practices, see Beyond Pesticides‚Äô¬†Golf and the Environment¬†program page. There you can read about another poisoned golf course worker, Steve Herzog, who¬†spoke out in summer 2011 issue¬†of¬†Pesticides and You¬†on long-term contamination at the golf course where he¬†worked as a¬†groundskeeper. You can also read the interview¬†with¬†Beyond Pesticides‚Äô executive director Jay Feldman in¬†Golf Digest, titled ‚ÄúHow Green is Golf?‚ÄĚ

All unattributed positions are that of Beyond Pesticides

Source: lohud.com, How Dangerous Are All Those Pesticides

Photo Source: The Journal News

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03
Aug

Terminix To Pay Delaware Family $87 Million Settlement for Poisoning with Methyl Bromide in U.S. Virgin Islands

(Beyond Pesticides, August 3, 2016) Home pest control giant Terminix reached a tentative settlement agreement this week of $87 million with the Esmond family for the severe poisoning of the mother, father and two teenage children with the highly neurotoxic pesticide fumigant methyl bromide. The company treated a neighboring unit to their vacation residence last spring at a condo resort complex in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. This amount is in addition to $3 million already paid to the family to cover the insurance deductible, and an undisclosed amount that the company’s insurance carriers have agreed to pay pursuant to their general liability insurance policies, according to an earnings report filed by the Terminix’s parent company, ServiceMaster Global Holdings, Inc. of Memphis, Tennessee. Stephen Esmond became paralyzed after the March 2015 incident, while his two sons spent weeks in critical condition. The mother, Theresa Devine is still recovering.

Beyond Pesticides’ executive director, Jay Feldman, spoke to CBS Evening News August 2 on the poisoning. Watch news piece¬†here.¬†

Methyl bromide is a restricted use pesticide and is not registered for residential use, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‚Äôs (EPA) 2013 Methyl Bromide Preliminary Workplan. It was taken off the market for residential use in 1984. Although mostly banned in the U.S., it can still be used in certain agricultural and food storage sites under a controversial ‚Äúcritical use exemption‚ÄĚ loophole in federal (and international) law. In addition to being highly neurotoxic, methyl bromide is an ozone depleter and was slated to be removed from the market under the Clean Air Act and international treaty, the Montreal Protocol.

According to authorities, certified applicators working for the Tennessee-based company illegally applied pesticides containing methyl bromide to residences in St. John, St. Croix, and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Judith Enck, EPA‚Äôs regional administrator in New York City, which has jurisdiction over the U.S Virgin Islands said in the initial investigation that a certified applicator had applied methyl bromide in the complex where the family was staying while targeting an indoor beetle that consumes wood. The pesticide gas drifted from a rental unit that was being fumigated below the where the family was staying. Courthouse News Service reports that the Esmonds were taken to a hospital two days later with neurological symptoms such as weakness, severe muscle twitching, “altered sensorium, and word-finding difficulty,” according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission records.

In addition to the settlement to the family, Terminix had agreed to pay a $10 million criminal fine under a plea agreement after being charged by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in March 2016. ‚ÄúThe facts in this case show the Terminix companies knowingly failed to properly manage their pest control operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, allowing pesticides containing methyl bromide to be applied illegally and exposing a family of four to profoundly debilitating injuries,‚ÄĚ said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department‚Äôs Environment and Natural Resources Division in a March 29 statement on the criminal plea agreement.

According to the parent company’s earnings report, the company entered into a superseding plea agreement on July 21, 2016 in connection with the DOJ and EPA investigation. The plea calls for the same aggregate amount as previously agreed, but with monetary ranges for the fines and community service, giving the court discretion at sentencing. The superseding plea agreement is subject to the approval of the court at a hearing scheduled for August 25, 2016 and, if approved will resolve the federal criminal consequences associated with the DOJ investigation.

The company is also currently involved in another lawsuit, filed September 2015, pertaining to the poisoning of ten-year-old Peyton McCaughey of Palm City, Florida, who was hospitalized after his home was treated for termites with another toxic fumigant sulfuryl fluoride. After returning to their home hours after the Terminix subcontractor told them it was safe to enter, the whole family became very ill. While the parents and the 7-year-old daughter recovered, the young boy‚Äôs condition continued to worsen. According to news reports, the¬†fumigation was performed by Sunland Pest Control, a subcontractor of Terminix. The Florida Department of Agriculture has since issued a ‚ÄúStop Work Order‚ÄĚ while it¬†investigates the company in collaboration with EPA and the state Department of Health. According to the company‚Äôs earning report, the court has set a trial date in September 2016. Sunland and two persons associated with Sunland have pled guilty in Federal court.

Because methyl bromide is an ozone-depleting substance, its production is controlled under both the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances, which is legally binding on all signatories to the treaty, of which the United States is one, and the Clean Air Act. These laws mandate that the substance was to be completely phased out, according to a¬†precise schedule, by January 1, 2005. However it can still be used in certain agricultural and food storage sites under a controversial ‚Äúcritical use exemption‚ÄĚ (CUE) which allows the chemical to¬†continue to be used¬†if users petition that there are ‚Äúno feasible alternatives.‚ÄĚ As a result of uses under CUEs, application rates of methyl bromide in the U.S. have remained persistently high. While it should be noted that there are no CUEs for residential uses, methyl bromide has CUEs for its use as a pre-plant soil fumigant and in the post-harvest treatment of commodities and structural (food storage sites) fumigation.

After EPA began its investigation, Terminix voluntarily stopped using methyl bromide in the U.S. and its Territories, with the exception of a government contract at the Port of Baltimore.

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

There are clear established methods for managing homes that prevent infestation of unwanted insects without the use of synthetic chemicals, including exclusion techniques, sanitation and maintenance practices, as well as mechanical and least-toxic controls. Beyond Pesticides advocates the use of a well-defined integrated pest management (IPM) program for an indoor pest program for facilitates, homes, and other buildings. It offers the opportunity to eliminate toxic pesticide use through the management of conditions that are attractive to pests and exclusion techniques that through sealing keep pests out of structures, while only using least-toxic chemicals as a last resort. Sanitation, structural repairs, mechanical and biological control, population monitoring are a part of a sound pest management program. Based on range of successful pest prevention practices, use of these hazardous chemicals are unnecessary.

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

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, Courthouse News Service

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02
Aug

Bayer Loses Appeal of EPA’s Ban of Insecticide Flubendiamide that Kills Wildlife, Distributors Allowed to Sell Off Inventory

(Beyond Pesticides, August 2, 2016) The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) has upheld an earlier ruling by EPA‚Äôs chief administrative law judge, Susan Biro, to cancel sales of the conditionally registered insecticide flubendiamide, produced by Bayer CropScience, which was conclusively found¬†to be highly toxic to freshwater wildlife after EPA allowed its use on 200 crops. The situation has left many questioning why the agency did not wait to register the product until it had complete data.

The EAB disagreed with the Office of Pesticide Programs¬†and Judge Biro‚Äôs decision regarding existing stocks of the insecticide product, and ruled that farmers and other users, retailers, and distributors (not the manufacturers) will be allowed to use and sell existing supplies of the chemical. This controversy points to what health and environmental advocates cite as a fundamental flaw¬†in EPA’s pesticide registration review ‚Äďthe agency‚Äôs conditional pesticide registration process, which allows toxic pesticides¬†on the market without a complete and comprehensive assessment¬†of their¬†potential¬†harm‚ÄĒin this case to¬†wildlife and the vital ecosystem services they provide.

Despite its agreement with EPA, Bayer said in March it would fight the EPA decision, which it appealed to the EAB. But, on Friday after the¬†EAB decision, Bayer¬†told Reuters that it would “halt future U.S. sales.”

The EAB ruling¬†on July 29 makes clear that under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Bayer CropScience and fellow registrant Nichino America could not challenge conditions of the registration. The document states, ‚ÄúBy failing to request voluntary cancellation of their flubendiamide registrations within one week of the Program‚Äôs January 29, 2016 determination that flubendiamide causes unreasonable adverse effects, Bayer and Nichino failed to satisfy the termination condition in their flubendiamide registrations.‚ÄĚ The EAB also found that, while Judge Biro‚Äôs decision to halt sale and distribution of existing flubendiamide products through Bayer and Nichino was legally sound, the determination to prohibit distributors and retailers from doing the same was not supported.

“It is outrageous that EPA would allow this known hazardous pesticide to remain on the market until stocks¬†in the hands of users and re-sellers are used up, when the chemical exceeds the agency’s risk criteria, threatens¬†wildlife now, and was allowed on the market with¬†a presumed standard of safety that was not met,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

In 2008, EPA granted Bayer a ‚Äúconditional‚ÄĚ registration for flubendiamide, a classification that allows a new pesticide to be registered and used in the field, despite outstanding data on its toxicological impact. In this case, original data submitted to EPA by Bayer showed concern over the effect of the chemical and its breakdown product on freshwater benthic invertebrates, species such as crustaceans and aquatic insects that¬†live in stream sediment and provide important ecosystem services. such as decomposition and nutrient cycling. In response, rather than declining to proceed with registration of the chemical, EPA negotiated a deal with Bayer to conditionally register the chemical for five¬†years with additional label restrictions, while it waited for more¬†data on the harm to benthic species. EPA wrote (p.10): ‚ÄúIf there are risk concerns at that time that result in the Agency being unable to determine there are no reasonable adverse effects to the environment, the registrants have agreed that the pesticide will be voluntarily canceled.‚ÄĚ

Since the conditional registration agreement, studies showed that flubendiamide ‚Äďwhich is registered for use on over 200 crops, including soybeans, almonds, tobacco, peanuts, and cotton‚Äď is toxic to aquatic organisms, breaking down into a more highly toxic substance that harms organisms important to aquatic ecosystems, especially fish. The insecticide is also persistent in the environment. After being informed of the agency‚Äôs findings on January 29, 2016, Bayer and Nichino were asked to submit a request for voluntary cancellation by Friday, February 5, 2016.¬†Instead, Bayer then rejected the request and EPA‚Äôs interpretation of the science. After Bayer would not voluntarily remove from the market the insecticide flubendiamide, EPA formally issued a Notice of Intent to Cancel the insecticide, citing its high toxicity to aquatic organisms.

The saga that has unfolded between EPA and Bayer reveals an agency struck a deal that it could not immediately enforce. Rather than reject the pesticide for its adverse impacts, or require the additional data before it is used across the country on 200 crops, EPA allowed a pesticide known to harm aquatic organisms to go to market with only a promise¬†that it would be withdrawn if warranted by additional data. EPA has historically opted to work with pesticide manufacturers to have them voluntarily cancel harmful products, rather than go through a process of cancellation proceedings, which requires agency resources. Bayer‚Äôs actions show the danger of making deals with a multinational corporation that puts profit motives above environmental health. In 2013, the Government Accountability Office scolded the agency for its conditional registration process, writing, ‚ÄúSpecifically, EPA does not have a reliable system, such as an automated data system, to track key information related to conditional registrations, including whether companies have submitted additional data within required time frames.‚ÄĚ

A startling number of pesticides, nearly 65% of the more than 16,000 pesticides now on the market, were first approved by the process of ‚Äúconditional registration.‚ÄĚ Meanwhile, the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency finalized its¬†decision to discontinue granting new conditional registrations, also on June 1. ‚ÄúThe prudent approach to protecting environmental health would be to halt conditional registrations of pesticides,‚ÄĚ said Mr.¬†Feldman. Rather than provide avenues for chemical companies to game the system and poison the environment, EPA should take strong action to encourage pest prevention and readily available alternatives to toxic pesticides.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits hazardous chemical use and requires alternative assessments to identify less toxic practices and products under the unreasonable adverse effects clause of FIFRA. Farm, beekeeper, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have urged EPA to follow in the steps of countries like Canada and the European Union by following the precautionary principle, which generally approves products after they have been assessed for harm, not before. 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.

Source: Environmental Appeals Board Decision, Agri-Pulse

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

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01
Aug

President Signs Weak Product Labeling Law on Genetically Engineered Ingredients, Preempts States

(Beyond Pesticides, August 1, 2016) As expected, President Obama signed into law an amendment to S. 764, the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Law, which establishes a national GMO (genetically modified organisms or genetically engineered-GE) food labeling requirement that food safety advocates say may be deceptive, preempts states from adopting stronger label language and standards, and excludes a large portion of the population without special cell phone technology. Pushed by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS), the law is being characterized by its supporters as a compromise, stronger than the original legislation, the Biotechnology Food Labeling and Uniformity Act (S.2621), which was dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act. That bill failed to reach cloture in the Senate in March. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, a big supporter of genetically engineered food production, will have two years to develop the standard, during which time it will assess the question of equitable access to the disclosure of ingredients. This new law will invalidate a stronger GMO labeling law that took effect in Vermont on July 1.

cornQRcodeThe law, signed by the President on July 29, does very little to ensure that consumers will actually be able to identify¬†genetically engineered ingredients¬†because it¬†allows for a range of labeling options that will¬†not warn consumers ‚Äď quick response (QR) codes, 800 numbers, websites and on-package labeling. This approach leaves poorer Americans at a disadvantage in accessing¬†this information, as QR code labels require the use of a smartphone to read. Allowing food companies to decide how to label enables¬†them to misinform or mislead the public about their products. We have already seen on product labels¬†big food links to websites that extol the safety of GE foods. More on company labeling can be found here.

The law has split consumer groups from major organic manufacturers who, through their trade association, the Organic Trade Association (OTA), supported passage of the Stabenow-Roberts language. According to Natural News, ‚ÄúGroups and companies that lobbied on behalf of the bill and convinced Senators that the organics industry would accept it, include the OTA, Whole Foods Market and UNFI (the country’s largest organic and natural foods wholesalers). The OTA effort was led by Board Chair Melissa Hughes of Organic Valley. Other OTA brands leading the effort include Smuckers and White Wave.‚ÄĚ Successful Farming described the supporters this way: ‚Äú[F]ood and agriculture interests nationwide were united in their support for the bill, which had the support of the Organic Trade Association as well as the conventional industry that relies on biotechnology.‚ÄĚ In characterizing the bill‚Äôs passage, it reported, ‚ÄúPresident Barack Obama today quietly s igned into law legislation that prevents states from requiring on-package labeling of genetically modified ingredients, capping a historic win for farm groups, food companies, and the biotech industry.‚ÄĚ

Earlier in the month, the¬†Just label It campaign opposed the legislation when under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives because the bill does not require ‚Äúsimple at-a-glance GMO disclosure on the [food] package,‚ÄĚ but was silent on the preemption provision overriding state authority to adopt more stringent labeling. Gary Hirshberg is quoted in The New York Times on July 14 as saying, ‚ÄúWhat today really means is that we‚Äôve left the legislative period of this battle after seven years and moved into the regulatory and marketplace phase of it, which was where it was always headed anyway.‚Äú According to the Organic Consumers Association, “The proposed bill also gives food corporations another two years before they are even required to pretend to provide consumers with any information at all about the GMO ingredients in their products. Stabenow and Roberts are determined to preempt Vermont’s law, even though major food corporations such as General Mills, Campbell’s, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Mars, Kellogg’s, ConAgra are already labeling, to comply with Vermont’s July 1 deadline for labeling.”

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) withdrew its membership from the Organic Trade Association because of what it said were misleading assertions made to its membership and the public about what the bill would accomplish. See OSGATA statement, Organic Farmer Group Dumps Organic Trade Association.

The White House We the People has pointed to the USDA organic food label as notice to consumers of food commodities that are grown without GMO ingredients. Consumer and farmer advocates have asked USDA for years to protect organic production from GMO drift, while the agency advances a ‚Äúcoexistence‚ÄĚ policy that ignores genetic contamination of organic and non-GMO food and economic loss for organic growers. Beyond Pesticides has advanced a polluter pay policy that holds the patent holder responsible for genetic drift.

Public interest groups published an ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer during the Democratic Convention, urging President Obama to veto the bill.

Beyond Pesticides believes that consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients, not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and human health. GE agriculture is associated with the increased use of herbicides ‚Äďparticularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup‚Äď that crops are developed to tolerate. In light of findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that glyphosate is a human carcinogen based on laboratory animal test data, consumers have even more cause for concern about the health risks that these products pose. A¬†research study published in the journal Environmental Health ¬†links chronic, ultra-low dose exposure to glyphosate in drinking water to adverse impacts on the health of liver and kidneys. See Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering program page for more information on GE agriculture and alternatives to this toxic system of food production.

On July 9, a public interest petition was submitted to the White House. It generated over 100,000 signers, which required a response from the White House. The petition and the July 29 (same day as the bill signing) response is below:

A “We the People” Petition

VETO THE DARK ACT (S.764)

Created July 09, 2016
109,606 SIGNED; 100,000 GOAL

On July 7, the Senate passed a bill to label genetically modified foods allowing companies to use QR codes instead of words on the package. It discriminates against low income families, minorities, mothers, seniors, the disabled & those without smartphones.

In 2007 President Obama said, ‚ÄúWe‚Äôll let folks know whether their food has been genetically modified because Americans should know what they‚Äôre buying.‚ÄĚ

ALL Americans should know what they’re buying, not just the privileged. Only 21% of Americans surveyed have scanned QR codes; QR code software must be downloaded. Just 27% of seniors & 50% of low income Americans own smartphones. 42% of Blacks & 36% of Latinos have had to let their smartphone service lapse. President Obama: Stand up for ALL Americans. Veto this discriminatory bill.

The White House responded (see below) to the petition on its website and by email on Friday, July 29, 2016.

________________________________________
From: The We the People Team <[email protected]>
Sent: Friday, July 29, 2016 3:59 PM
Subject: An update on labeling:

An update on labeling:
In recent years, Americans have expressed increased interest in understanding how their food is produced — including whether it was produced using bioengineering (sometimes referred to as genetically modified organisms or GMOs).

This Administration is well aware of that interest, and we take it seriously.

As mentioned in this petition, earlier in July, both the Senate and the House passed a bill to require food manufacturers to disclose whether food includes ingredients that have been bioengineered. The legislation provides flexibility for companies to choose from the following options:

‚ÄĘ A text statement or symbol directly on the food packaging itself indicating bioengineered ingredients
‚ÄĘ A digital QR (Quick Response) code that customers can scan with their smartphone if they want to learn about bioengineered ingredients
‚ÄĘ Smaller companies could also offer a phone number or URL on the package that consumers can access for more info

Before the new disclosure program is put in place, the law calls for a study to be conducted to assess whether challenges exist related to consumers’ access to electronic disclosures. If the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) determines that consumers would not have sufficient access to the information, the bill directs USDA to provide for alternative methods of disclosure. USDA will do everything possible to ensure that the program provides information in an equitable way.

Today, the President signed this legislation. While there is broad consensus that foods produced using bioengineering are safe, we appreciate the bipartisan effort to address consumers’ interest in knowing more about their food, including whether it includes bioengineered ingredients. You can learn more about this legislation here or email questions to [email protected]

Through the USDA’s National Organic Program, consumers can already identify food that was produced without any genetically engineered ingredients. Whenever you see the USDA Organic seal (seen here), it means that the food was grown without the use of prohibited pesticides, genetic engineering, synthetic fertilizers, or irradiation.

Your voice and input will be important throughout the implementation process of this legislation and in helping design the best disclosure program possible.

USDA has established a working group to develop a timeline for rulemaking and to ensure an open and transparent process for effectively establishing this new program. We are committed to providing multiple opportunities for engagement, such as listening sessions and the opportunity for the public to provide written comments. This process will ensure you have the opportunity to provide the Executive Branch with input on the attributes of the bioengineered food disclosure program as it is developed.

We look forward to your continuous engagement and will keep you posted here as these opportunities arise.

— The We the People Team

Industry Response

The Vermont Retail and Grocers Association sent the following message to its members on July 29:

Vermont GMO Law Preempted by New Federal Law
[July 29, 2016]
Politico reported late today that President Obama signed into law a new federal bill governing GMO disclosure on food products, which preempts Vermont’s first in the nation GMO labeling law. Vermont’s Act 120 and the potential of other states passing similar but not identical labeling initiatives, were motivating factors by Congress to establish a new federal law on GMO disclosures.

There are a number of issues surrounding Vermont’s law that still need to be resolved. VRGA will continue to update our members on compliance related issues with the GMO regulations. The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has not updated their guidance on enforcement and are looking at various legal options that might be available to the state.

In the meantime, we have received assurances from the AG’s office that labels changed for Vermont’s law can be used for the next few years at least until the federal rules take effect. With all the consumer interest in this issue, several food manufacturers, like Campbell’s and Mars, have already indicated they will continue with on-pack labeling disclosures for the time being.

USDA has two years to develop regulations to implement the new federal statute, which requires products be labeled with disclosures either on packaging or online.

On Preemption of State Authority to Exceed Federal Standards

Those who argue for federal preemption of state environmental or public health laws say it creates needed uniformity. However, typically, states do not exceed federal standards unless there is a weakness in the public health or environmental protections. Throughout the history of pesticide regulation by the federal government, action at critical times is preceded by state action. Pesticides, such as DDT, DBCB, chlordane, EDB, and others were first banned by states, followed by federal action. Similarly, states have adopted requirements for posting and notice, school integrated pest management, field reentry restrictions for farmworkers, and other standards that more stringent than federal law. Recently, the states of Connecticut and Maryland banned the sale of neonicotinoid insecticides to consumers because of the overwhelming science linking their use to pollinator decline and the lack of federal (EPA) action. In fact, because the federal pesticide law has upheld the right of states to exceed federal standards for pesticide use, stronger federal law has resulted over time. As a result, Beyond Pesticides has maintained that it is essential to uphold the basic principle that states and localities must not have their authority to adopt more restrictive standards preempted by the federal government. This position states that the role of the federal government is to establish a regulatory floor, not a ceiling.

Going Forward

Beyond Pesticides will closely follow this issue as USDA implements the GMO labeling law and is working to ensure that organic standards are strengthened to protect organic production from GMO contamination and that the organic label reflects this. It is critical that the burden of contamination fall on the party responsible for contamination and that the organic industry stand up for organic producers and consumers, rather than accepting contamination as unavoidable, either by ignoring the problem or accepting levels of genetic drift. See Beyond Pesticides’ comments to the National Organic Standards Board. See Beyond Pesticides’ organic webpage.

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

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29
Jul

Study Adds to Findings that Link Prenatal Pesticide Exposure to Lower IQs


(Beyond Pesticides, July 29, 2016)
 A study released earlier this week finds lower IQ (intelligence quotient) in children born to mothers who during their pregnancy were living in close proximity to chemical-intensive agricultural lands where organophosphate pesticides were used. This study adds to the body of scientific literature that links prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides with lower IQ’s in children.

Organophosphate pesticides, a relatively older generation o13486470703_7f6d152fe7_bf highly neurotoxic pesticides still widely used on farms in California, have been associated with a broad range of diseases in both children and adults.  This latest study supports health and environmental advocates’ call to eliminate these toxic pesticides in agriculture and move toward safer, sustainable, and organic management practices.

The study, titled Prenatal Residential Proximity to Agricultural Pesticide Use and IQ in 7-Year-Old Children, looks at 283 women and children from the agricultural Salinas Valley who are enrolled in the long-term Center for the Health of Mothers and Children in Salinas (CHAMACOS) study. Specifically, researchers looked at pregnant women living within one kilometer of agricultural fields where organophosphate pesticides were used. They found that at age 7, the children of those women had declines of approximately two IQ points and three verbal reasoning points per 522 pounds of pesticides applied nearby. The researchers made sure to point out that it has been estimated that each one point decrease in IQ decreases worker productivity by approximately 2%, and reduces lifetime earnings of $18,000 (in 2005 market standards).

Organophosphates are pesticides that were used in World War II as nerve agents. As potent neurotoxicants, organophosphates are extremely harmful to the nervous system, give that they are cholinesterase inhibitors and bind irreversibly to the active site of an enzyme essential for normal nerve impulse transmission. A 2015 study, which also used participants from CHAMACOS, 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, a potent organophosphate, is linked to tremors in children. Although organophosphate use is on the decline in the U.S., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has allowed the continued registration of many of these products. As a result of a lawsuit filed by environmental groups, the agency proposed a rule that would remove chlorpyrifos’ agricultural uses. However, EPA is not expected to finalize the rule until December 2016. In 2000, EPA announced the phase-out of residential uses of chlorpyrifos, with the exception of public health mosquito uses and golf courses.

This new study also found similar cognitive declines for three other classes of pesticides: neonicotinoids, pyrethroids, and manganese fungicides. Unfortunately, because the pesticides were almost always used in combination, it is impossible to determine whether the cognitive deficits were caused by organophosphate use alone, or by the interactive effect with other classes of pesticides. This adds to the¬†growing body of research¬†on the interactive effects of pesticides on human health and the environment. A 2002¬†study¬†by Warren Porter, PhD., professor of zoology and environmental toxicology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, examined the effect of fetal exposures to a mixture of¬†2,4-D,¬†mecoprop, and¬†dicamba¬†exposure ‚ÄĒfrequently used together in lawn products like Weed B Gone Max and Trillion‚ÄĒ on the mother‚Äôs ability to successfully bring young to birth and weaning. Researchers looked at pesticide concentrations diluted to levels that are considered ‚Äúsafe‚ÄĚ by EPA and found that it is capable of inducing abortions and resorptions of fetuses at very low parts per billion. The greatest effect was at the lowest dose. For more information on pesticide synergy, see our 2004 article, ‚ÄúSynergy: The Big Unknowns of Pesticide Exposure.‚ÄĚ For information on individual pesticide health effects, see our¬†Pesticide Gateway.

Beyond Pesticides has long been critical of EPA’s risk assessment process, which fails to look at chemical mixtures and synergistic effects (or inert ingredients) in common pesticide products, as well as certain health endpoints (such as endocrine disruption), disproportionate effects to vulnerable population groups, and regular noncompliance with product label directions. These deficiencies contribute to its severe limitations in defining real world poisoning, as captured by epidemiologic studies in Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

Ultimately, the widespread adoption of organic management is necessary to protect consumers and the environment in the long-term. Beyond Pesticides has long sought a broad-scale marketplace transition to organic practices that disallows the use of toxic synthetic pesticides by law and encourages a systems-based approach that is protective of health and the environment. This approach never allows the use of highly toxic synthetic pesticides, let alone toxic 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.

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives, Californians for Pesticide Reform

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

 

 

 

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28
Jul

Neonicotinoid Insecticides Affect Bee Reproduction

(Beyond Pesticides, July 28, 2016)  Led by the Institute of Bee Health at the University of Bern, new research finds evidence that two commonly used neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides have a significant adverse effect on the reproductive ability of male honey bees (drones) and queen bees in managed and wild colonies. The study, Neonicotinoid insecticides can serve as inadvertent insect contraceptives, published in Royal Society Journal Proceedings B, focuses on the differences in lifespan and viability of sperm throughout exposed and unexposed drones.Pollinationn

Since 2006, honey bees and other pollinators in the U.S. and throughout the world have incurred ongoing and rapid population declines from hive abandonment and bee die-off in a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). Neonicotinoids, such as imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin, have been found by a growing body of scientific literature to be linked to the CCD phenomenon and pollinator decline in general. While science has become increasingly clear that these pesticides play a critical role in contributing to the ongoing decline of bee health, this is one of the first to look at how these chemicals specifically effect the fertility of male honeybees.

In the study, scientists randomly assigned honeybee colonies consisting of drones and workers (non-reproductive female bees) to either a control treatment or an insecticide treatment consisting of¬†thiamethoxam¬†and¬†clothianidin. The colonies were exposed to these neonics at ‚Äúfield-realistic concentrations found in plant pollen.‚ÄĚ Drones were assessed for their sperm quantity and viability once they reached sexual maturity, typically around 9-14 days old. When compared, the test drones yielded 39 percent less living sperm than the control group. These drones also had a significant difference in sperm viability, with the insecticide exposed drones having anywhere from 8 to 11.3 percent lower sperm viability than the control drones.

The reproductive ability of male honey bees helps ensure the overall health of the colony. Being able to successfully mate with the queen bee, an essential part of a drone’s role, relies on the health of their sperm.

‚ÄúThe process of the queen‚Äôs mating flight is a one-time thing so it‚Äôs really important that she collects plenty of quality sperm, if not, then worker bees in the hive will quickly sense that the queen is ineffective and kill her. We like to call it ‚Äėgame of drones,‚Äô‚ÄĚ said lead researcher Lars Straub, a Ph.D. student at the University of Bern, to¬†New Scientist.

The sperm that the queen honey bee collects from different drones provides genetic diversity within a colony, helping to protect the hive from the impacts of disease, parasitism, and different environmental changes.

Replacing the queen honey bee can only be done successfully during certain periods of the year and, because of this, colony growth significantly slows down after losing a queen, or it stops altogether. In 2015, study co-author Geoffrey Williams, MD, Ph.D, and senior bee researcher at the University of Bern led another study with an international team of researchers to prove how neonicotinoid exposure results in profound negative impacts to the health of honey bee queens. This study, Neonicotinoid pesticides severely affect honey bee queens, found that queen bees exposed to neonics are more likely to not lay worker eggs, a key indicator of queen health and mating success. In light of this, it may be inferred that individual bee mortality due to neonicotinoid insecticides results in an adverse positive feedback response from the queen that causes detrimental effects on the long-term success of the colony.

The potential link brought up between colony mortality and health of the queen bee caused researchers in the most recent study to point out the urgent need for further investigation into the matter.

The results in the new study demonstrate that exposure to neonicotinoids also significantly reduces the lifespan of drones. During the study, researchers found that the exposed drones had a mortality rate almost double that of the control drones. Considering how long it takes male honeybees to reach sexual maturity, a decrease in longevity could potentially deny neonicotinoid-exposed drones even the chance to mate with the queen bee.

This new study comes on the heels of another¬†study published earlier this year¬†in¬†PLOS One¬†that reported a high rate of U.S. honey bee colony decline coinciding with queen failure linked to drones’ dead sperm. “Queen failure is a big problem and this helps explain it,” said U.S. Department of Agriculture bee scientist Jeff Pettis, Ph.D. in an interview with the¬†Associated Press. Dr. Pettis was not a contributor to the new study, but was lead author of the¬†PLOS¬†study on queen health earlier this year. “It’s not the queens themselves, it’s the drones. It’s significant,” he said.

This new study provides even more weight to the scientific evidence that neonicotinoids play a critical role in the ongoing decline of bees and other pollinators. A USDA funded study published in July 2013 found that exposure to the vast array of chemical combinations found in honey bee hives can weaken bees’ immune systems, increasing their susceptibility to parasites and other pathogens. A 2015 study defined a linear relationship between neonicotinoids and the decline in insect pollinators due to brain dysfunction. With this impact, although bumblebees are unlikely to die, they are likely to encounter difficulty with their learning and memory. Exposed bees will have greater difficulty, for instance, in recognizing the smell of a flower, or how to navigate back to their colony.

Neonicotinoids affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and eventual death. These pesticides have consistently been implicated as a key contributor in pollinator declines, not only through immediate bee deaths, but also through sublethal exposure that causes changes in bee reproduction, navigation, and foraging. Pesticide exposure can impair both detoxification mechanisms and immune responses, rendering bees more susceptible to viruses, parasites, and other diseases, and leading to devastating bee losses.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action to protect these beneficial organisms, it is left up to advocates and consumers to ensure that we provide safe havens for pollinators by creating pesticide-free habitat and educating others to do the same. Take action by calling on EPA to suspend neonicotinoids now. You can also declare your garden, yard, park or other space as pesticide-free and pollinator friendly. It does not matter how large or small your pledge is, as long as you contribute to the creation of safe pollinator habitat. Sign the pledge today! Need ideas on creating the perfect pollinator habitat? The Bee Protective Habitat Guide can tell you which native plants are right for your region. For more information on what you can do, visit our BEE Protective page.

Source: National Geographic, Associated Press

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

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27
Jul

Colombia Cautiously Declares End to Mosquito-Borne Zika Epidemic

(Beyond Pesticides, July 27, 2016) In South America, Colombia has officially declared an end to its Zika epidemic. The country, which previously had the highest cases of suspected Zika virus infection after Brazil, with a total of more than 99,721 people infected since September 2015 have registered a drop in the number of infections to 600 new cases a week, down significantly from a peak of more than 6,000 cases a week in February, according to health officials. Fernando Ruíz, M.D., Deputy Minister of Health and Service Provision in Colombia, said the numbers signaled that the epidemic had given way to an endemic phase of the disease, in which it continues to be present but spreads much more slowly.

This news arrives following the publication of Zika Virus Disease in Colombia ‚ÄďPreliminary Report, which suggests that infe
ctions late in pregnancy may pose less risk to the fetus than widely feared. The report follows thousands of women in Colombia who have had symptoms consistent with Zika virus disease during pregnancy to try to better understand the risk the virus poses. At the tiAedes_albopictus_on_human_skinme of the report, the country had only seven official cases of microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size, related to Zika infection.

The Zika virus, which is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus), generally causes no symptoms or only mild illness on its own in most healthy adults, but can be more hazardous to pregnant woman, as it has been linked to microcephaly, and Guillain-Barré syndrome, which causes temporary paralysis in adults. Meanwhile, many commonly used mosquito pesticides, such as permethrin, resmethrin, and malathion, are all associated with human and ecological health risks, especially among people with compromised immune systems, chemically sensitized people, pregnant women, and children with respiratory problems, such as asthma.

The Colombian Instituto Nacional de Salud (INS) began official surveillance for Zika in August 2015, and in early October 2015, a Zika outbreak was declared after the first cluster of laboratory-confirmed cases was identified in nine patients from northern Colombia. By April 2, 2016, a total of 11,944 pregnant women with Zika were reported in the country, with 1,484 (12%) of these cases confirmed by means of reverse-transcriptase‚Äďpolymerase-chain-reaction (RT-PCR) assay. In a subgroup of 1,850 pregnant women, more than 90% of women who were reportedly infected during the third trimester had given birth, and no infants with apparent abnormalities, including microcephaly have been identified.

However, the data are preliminary, cautions Margaret Honein, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, one of the authors of the report. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs somewhat reassuring‚ÄĚ that few severe problems have appeared in the babies born so far, Dr. Honein says, ‚Äúbut this is by no means final.‚ÄĚ

Data from other countries have suggested that the virus is most dangerous to a fetus early in pregnancy, so experts warn that Colombia may still face a wave of birth defects in the coming months. In fact, Dr. Ruíz predicts a spike of cases of in September and October, when pregnant women infected during the peak of the epidemic are due to give birth. But, these numbers are still expected to be much lower than initial projections. According to The Guardian, the Colombian government projected it could see some 500-600 cases of Zika-related microcephaly but later revised the projection downward and maintains an estimate of 100-300 cases.

While mosquitoes can pose serious public health threats when they carry diseases like Zika, West Nile virus and others, it’s important to not let fear lead on management approaches, and the decision to risk exposing vulnerable populations to potentially harmful diseases caused by mosquitoes or to chronic or deadly illnesses caused by pesticides.

Many experts agree that an efficient mosquito management strategy emphasizes public awareness, prevention, and monitoring methods. Combating mosquito-borne diseases should include good surveillance and scientific understanding for controlling mosquito populations, including a focus on eliminating or managing breeding areas, utilizing biological controls, exclusion from indoor environments with screening, and repellents. According to Dino Martins, PhD, a Kenyan entomologist, the explosion of mosquitoes in urban areas, which is driving the Zika crisis, is caused by a lack of natural diversity that would otherwise keep mosquito populations under control, and the proliferation of waste and lack of disposal in some areas which provide artificial habitat for breeding mosquitoes.

Beyond Pesticides’ Public Health Mosquito Management Strategy (see also mosquito management strategy summary) is an integrated approach that emphasizes education, aggressive removal of standing water (which are breeding areas), larval control, monitoring, and surveillance for both mosquito-borne illness and pesticide-related illness. Control of disease-carrying mosquitoes can be successful when emphasis is placed on public education and preventive strategies.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. Through education of proper cultural controls, and least-toxic and cost effective biological alternatives, the use of hazardous control methods, such as toxic pesticides, can be eliminated.

Beyond Pesticides’ Mosquito Management program page has a list of resources that can help you and your community safely manage mosquitoes, including least-toxic mosquito repellents, bed nets, and proper clothing that can be used to keep mosquitoes safely at bay.

Sources: The Guardian, Science Magazine

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

 

 

 

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26
Jul

Health Canada Moves to Limit Exposure to Boric Acid Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, July 26, 2016) Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) announced this week it will cancel certain formulations of boric acid-based pesticides. The announcement reflects the latest science showing that certain products, such as those in dust formulations or
open baits, put residents at inhalation and ingestion exposure risk, respectively, to the naturally occurring element boron and borate
compounds. PRMA’s decision is part of the Health Canada’s registration review of boric acid, which, like that of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is conducted every 15 years.

PRMA is cancelling the following uses of boric acid and similar compounds

  • All domestic dust formulation products
  • All domestic granular formulation products
  • Domestic solution formulation products, with the exception of enclosed bait stations and spot treatment with gel formulations

For other uses, PRMA has amended label requirements to better protect handlers and users of the pesticide. For example, the agency will update label directions to specify that boron products can only be applied to areas inaccessible to children anhealthcanadad pets.

Jane Philpott, Minister of Health in Canada said in a press release, “even natural ingredients like boric acid can pose a risk to Canadians. That’s why Health Canada looks at all pesticide ingredients to make sure we are not being exposed to levels that could be a concern. These steps, including cancelling some registrations and introducing new, more stringent label requirements for others, are science-based interventions that will help protect Canadians.”

Beyond Pesticides agrees with PRMA‚Äôs determination on certain boric acid uses. While boric acid provides a good alternative to the use of highly toxic and volatile baits for control of pests like ants and cockroaches, it should never be placed in areas accessible by children and pets. Boric acid‚Äôs value as a bait or gel for household pest infestations lies in its non-volatility. While most synthetic insecticides ‚Äúoff-gas‚ÄĚ or evaporate into the air and can be easily inhaled by homeowners, boric acid baits are below the level of measurable detection in terms of its ability to evaporate once applied. Alternative dusts and powers that are not of similar toxicological concern are readily available in the market in¬†the form of diatomaceous earth or silica aerogels. However, even though these products contain no potentially toxic chemical compounds and act solely through desiccation, they also should be applied with extreme care in areas out of reach of children and pets, as Beyond Pesticides webpage on these products confirm.

Boric acid is highly toxic to skin and eyes, and has concerns regarding reproductive toxicity, and birth and developmental impacts. PRMA notes the occurrence testicular toxicity of boric acid across a range of mammalian species.

Even least-toxic pesticides like boric acid and diatomaceous earth should be used as a last resort, after structural, mechanical, and cultural practices have been attempted and proven ineffective. Rather that jumping to any pesticidal product, be it natural or synthetic, simple mechanical fixes, like doorsweeps, caulking and sealing cracks and crevices, a well-fitted trash can lid, and diligent cleaning, can prevent pest infestations in the first place, and isolate and contain ongoing problems. For a step-by-step guide on how to control common indoor pest problems without pesticides, see Beyond Pesticides ManageSafe database.

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

Source: Health Canada Press Release, PMRA Re-evaluation Decision, Boric Acid and its Salts

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25
Jul

Oregon Prohibits 14 Horticultural Products Used in Marijuana Production, Not Labeled as Containing Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides July 25, 2016) The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) last week issued 12 notices of statewide detainment and stop sale and removal orders for horticultural pesticide products that contain active ingredients not listed on the label. The orders call for the product manufacturers to immediately cease all sales, offers of sale, or other distribution in Oregon. This is the latest effort by a state with a legalized marijuana market to try to curb the use of illegal pesticides in cannabis production, a practice that poses potential health threats to consumers, creating a regulatory challenge for state officials in states that have legalOregon_s-Bipolar-Cannabis-Legalizationized marijuana for medicinal and or recreational purposes. Because the U.S. government classifies cannabis as a narcotic, the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) does not register pesticide products for use in its production, leaving consumers exposed to hazardous pesticides through inhalation, ingestion, and dermal absorption without any evaluation of potential health effects.

The products in question are commonly used in horticulture and hydroponics, including cannabis production. The 12 notices cover 14 products sold in Oregon that were also identified by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) in late June as containing undeclared pesticide active ingredients. In an attempt to try and protect human health and safety, ODA issued its orders and is currently sampling and testing these products sold in Oregon.

The latest move by Oregon to curb illegal pesticide use on marijuana follows¬†widespread cannabis recalls¬†in the City of Denver,¬†and actions from Colorado‚Äôs Governor¬†to declare pesticide-tainted cannabis ‚Äúa threat to public safety‚ÄĚ is a step in the right direction after ODA released a concerning list of pesticide products available for use on marijuana earlier this year that included products that violates the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Oregon‚Äôs¬†list, which contains 257 pesticide products, aligns with similar product lists published by¬†Washington State¬†and¬†Colorado, and raises concerns over the lack of health evaluations of public exposure to the pesticides used. The list construes broad label language to allow the use of pesticide products that have not been specifically tested for use on marijuana, despite the fact that the EPA has not registered or reviewed any pesticide product for use on cannabis. For example, one ingredient approved through these standards that raises a red flag when it comes to human health and safety is the synergist¬†piperonyl butoxide¬†(PBO).

PBO is a highly toxic substance that causes a range of short- and long-term effects, including cancer and adverse impacts on liver function and the nervous system. It is commonly used as a synergist in pyrethrin-based pesticide products, many of which can be found on ODA‚Äôs allowed pesticide list. The inclusion of an active ingredient like PBO highlights the data gaps that arise when pesticides are approved using broad and/or unspecific label language as opposed to undergoing full review by EPA.¬† According to CFR ¬ß180.1001(b)(4), while PBO is currently exempt from a tolerance (allowed residue) requirement ‚Äúwhen applied to growing crops in accordance with good agricultural practices,‚ÄĚ EPA, based on the results of limited field trials, has¬†recommended the revocation¬†of this tolerance exemption, an action it still plans to take after the assessment of additional residue data. It is unknown whether PBO was one of the active ingredients not labeled in the 14 products that Oregon prohibited for sale, but the inclusion of any active ingredient that has not been properly tested and registered for use on cannabis has raised serious public health and statutory and regulatory compliance concerns, spurring¬†ODA to¬†stop the sale of any marijuana treated with those pesticides.

With this action, use of these pesticide products should stop growers and processors to stop the marketing of treated cannabis, triggering action by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) for failure to pass pesticide testing requirements. Failing the test and using any of the since-banned products, warn regulators in both states, could lead to products being confiscated and destroyed. Neither Washington nor Oregon has taken the most extreme measures, however, and as of now, ODA has issued pesticide advisories to growers of all crops and retailers advising them to discontinue using or selling the products. In addition, products within Oregon or transported into the state by any type of business transaction or other method are currently detained.

Beyond Pesticides supports criteria that limits allowed pesticides to those that are exempt from registration under federal pesticide law and non-pesticidal materials permitted for use in organic production. Beyond Pesticides advocates that growers and states seek certification of marijuana under organic standards required by independent organic certifiers, which establish compliance with organic practices and provide assurances to consumers that hazardous pesticides are not use in its production or processing. As outlined in a letter sent from Beyond Pesticides to Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) officials, adhering exclusively to pesticides allowed under 25(b) of FIFRA is the best way to avoid any legal ramifications for unregistered pesticide use, as well as protect workers, consumers and the environment from the unstudied side effects that may result from the use of toxic pesticides on marijuana crops. With this approach, Beyond Pesticides urges growers to develop an organic system plan that encourages pest prevention, and eliminating pest-conducive conditions. Implementing this approach, advocates say, will ensure the sustained growth of cannabis production that protects public health and the environment.

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

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

Source: Oregon Department of Agriculture 

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