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Daily News Blog

10
May

Local Pesticide Ordinances Under Attack in the State of Maine

(Beyond Pesticides, May 10, 2017) Local authority to restrict pesticides is under attack in Maine, as Governor Paul LePage has introduced a bill that would explicitly preempt the right of municipal governments to restrict pesticide use on private property. The bill, LD 1505, mirrors chemical industry efforts to suppress or preempt local democratic action to adopt public health and environmental protections in order to allow the unimpeded marketing of hazardous products. Those industry groups that are leading the charge to preempt local government action have a vested economic interest in selling toxic products and services and stifling the market from moving toward greener alternatives. Passage of the bill in Maine would serve as a huge blow to many local communities that currently regulate pesticides more stringently than the state, as the bill also includes language voiding any local regulations that predate the bill.

Communities that restrict pesticides recognize that pesticides released in the environment know no boundaries, so that use can contaminate air, water, and land throughout the community. The effort in Maine to preempt local pesticide ordinances is likely being advanced by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), given that the language is modeled after the organization’s State Pesticide Preemption Act, drafted in 1995. Similar language appears in state laws across the country that were pushed through state legislatures by a coalition of pesticide manufactures and users after the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991 upheld the right of local governments to restrict pesticides under federal pesticide law, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). In fact, only seven states, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Utah and Vermont, currently maintain the right of local municipalities to regulate pesticides through the absence of explicit preemption language.

Legislation incorporating preemption language has led to a battle for local control of the democratic process, as more and more local grassroots organizations mobilize effectively with knowledge of the hazards that accompany many lawn care products containing pesticides and the availability of alternative products and land management systems. For a more detailed explanation of state preemption law and how it affects local communities, please see Beyond Pesticides’ State Preemption Law factsheet.

Some of the most decisive victories in recent years as far as the ability local communities to regulate pesticides have come out of Maine. In 2014, the town of Ogunquit voted to become the first town in the state to prohibit the use of pesticides on public and private property for turf, landscape, and outdoor pest management activities. The ordinance was passed after a three-year education and awareness campaign, initiated by the town’s Conservation Commission, and expanded upon existing pesticide use restrictions on town-owned property. More recently, in 2016 the town of South Portland passed an ordinance banning the use of toxic lawn pesticides on private and public land. The ban, which passed 6-1, protects 25,000 residents, the largest jurisdiction in the state to-date to adopt such as measure. Both of these ordinances would be affected by L.D. 1505, as the language of the proposed bill states that, “An ordinance regulating the sale or use of pesticides adopted prior to the effective date of this subsection is void.”

According to the Portland Press Herald, the pesticide measure introduced by the governor is the latest in a string of bills modeled to legislators by ALEC. Based on his research, staff writer Colin Woodward points out that “while ALEC claims to be a nonpartisan professional association for state legislators, virtually all of its funding comes from its corporate members [which include CropLife America, Dow Agrosciences and the American Chemistry Council], who give “scholarships” for lawmakers to attend ALEC conferences, where the group works with them to draft legislation.” He also reports that ALEC keeps the names of its members, which includes 1,500 state legislators, concealed, limiting accountability to constituents.

ALEC’s actions are primarily driven by its vested economic interest in the status quo and the profit they stand to gain by stifling the transition to green products. If successful, their preemption efforts would significantly slow the growth of a new market, as well as technologies that aid in the transition away from toxic pesticide use and dependence. Their economic motives differ significantly in scope from NGOs and other state and local organizations that are working to limit pesticide use in an effort to protect human health and the environment.

“Preemption is one of their main goals, preemption of the democratic process by having higher levels of government supersede the local level,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, an environmental nonprofit based in Washington, DC that promotes the rights of municipalities to restrict pesticides and consistently tracks ALEC’s efforts. “Industry adopted pesticide preemption before ALEC, but ALEC has taken up the mantle and been the predominant force in advancing it for some time.”

The bill is set to be voted on next week, and opponents of the measure are urging  Maine legislators to uphold the tradition of protecting local control. Two recent legislative defeats, one regarding broadband and the other minimum wage, indicate that bills preempting local control are not well received in Maine and that there is hope for defeat. When speaking to the Portland Press Herald, head of the political science department at the University of Maine in Orono, Amy Fried, Ph.D. pointed out that, “Maine has a long tradition of localities being fairly autonomous and independent, and therefore towns guard their powers and their ability to make their own decisions.” She continued, “Legislators are from those areas and steeped in those traditions, and they are also accountable to local constituencies. And therefore they would not want to just simply hand over the powers to state government.”

Beyond Pesticides submitted comments on behalf of its Maine members opposing LD 1505, which can be viewed by clicking here.

TAKE ACTION: Community activism is the best way to get your town to adopt a policy that limits toxic pesticide use similar to those passed by the town of Ogunquit or South Portland. For assistance in proposing a policy to your city council (or its equivalent), contact Beyond Pesticides at  info@beyondpesticides.org or 202-543-5450. For more information on being a part of the growing organic lawn care movement, see Beyond Pesticides Lawns and Landscapes program page. Let your neighbors know your lawn and garden are organic by displaying a Pesticide Free Zone sign.

Source: Portland Press Herald

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

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09
May

San Juan Capistrano, CA Passes Organic Landscape Policy for City Lands

(Beyond Pesticides, May 9, 2017) Last month, San Juan Capistrano (SJC) became the latest community in Orange County, CA to pass an organic landscaping policy for city parks and open spaces. The city’s move follows the passage of an organic land care policy in nearby Irvine, CA last year, and like Irvine, was brought forward by a strong contingent of local advocates, health practitioners, and city officials working together to safeguard public health and the environment. By a vote of 4-0-1, San Juan Capistrano’s City Council put the community on the cutting edge of local changes to pesticide use that are taking place across the country.

SJC’s policy is the result of persistent pressure and engagement by community group Non-Toxic San Juan Capistrano with city officials. A change.org petition hosted by the group, which received over 300 signatures, detailed the discussions and responses the group received from local leaders. At the time the City Council took up the issue at a mid-April meeting, Mayor Kerry Ferguson made a strong statement indicating that, “Chemical pesticides and herbicides have been proven to be toxic to children, pets, and the general public.”

Mayor Ferguson further said, “While [chemical pesticide] use is somewhat limited in our parks and open spaces at the present time, it would be helpful for a policy to be put into place that gives clear guidelines to present and future contractors to guide them in their practice on our city properties.”

The city’s new policy provides these clear guidelines by prioritizing “long-term prevention and suppression of pest problems” and putting a focus on “prevention and non-chemical control measures before the use of pesticide controls.”

The measure directs landscape managers to use a prioritized approach to pest management by choosing plants with low susceptibility to pests, forgoing treatment unless necessary, and, when treatment is required, apply organic pesticides first, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “caution” labeled pesticides only “when deemed necessary to protect public health and economic impact…”

Bruce Blumberg, PhD, professor of Developmental and Cell Biology at University of California Irvine and member of local group Non-Toxic Irvine, addressed the city council on the science that supports the policy. Speaking to the rise in non-communicable diseases, such as leukemia, autism, obesity, fertility issues, and brain cancer, Dr. Blumberg stated, “I and my colleagues would like to offer the possibility that chemicals that disrupt the function of endocrine system have significant role to play.” Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that have the ability interfere with the proper functioning of the body’s hormonal system at low, often infinitesimal doses.

As Dr. Blumberg discusses later in his talk to the SJC City Council, there is a common misconception that government agencies are adequately testing these chemicals and protecting us. “The fact of the matter,” he notes, “is that EPA doesn’t test…a single chemical.” Instead, Dr. Blumberg explains, manufacturers perform their own tests on their own chemicals, and transmit their unpublished studies to EPA for the agency to rely on.

Given the range of deficiencies in federal protections, from inadequate testing performed by chemical manufacturers, to failure to incorporate the latest science on endocrine disruptors, to the continued allowance of undisclosed inert ingredients, to the perpetuation of pesticides permissible under dangerous “conditional registrations,”  it is up to local governments to provide a path forward to protect their residents from unnecessary hazards.

The good news is that there are readily available alternatives to the use of toxic pesticides. Speaking of nearby Irvine’s experience with alternative weed abatement measures over the past year, Kim Konte, concerned mother and advocate with Non Toxic Irvine noted, “After a full year of maintaining all City properties organically, the City of Irvine shared in their annual report its total cost was only 5.6% higher.” This cost accounts for Irvine’s 570 acres of parks, more than 800 acres of right-of-way, 70,000 trees and nearly 1.5 million square feet of facilities.

“Non Toxic Irvine is encouraged to see City leaders choose to make the health of their residents their priority over weed abatement. Children should never be exposed to toxic pesticides, especially for purely cosmetic reasons,” Ms. Konte continued. As now a third community, Huntington Beach, considers organic pilot projects, the Non Toxic groups are hoping to see other communities in Orange County, the state, and the country follow their lead in ensuring broad community-wide protections from health-damaging pesticides.

For more information on passing your own community pesticide policy, see Beyond Pesticides’ Tools for Change webpage and reach to at 202-543-5450 or info@beyondpesticides.org.

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

Source: The Orange County Register, SJC City Council Session

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08
May

Beyond Pesticides Sues Mott’s for Labeling Pesticide-Laden Applesauce “Natural”

(Beyond Pesticides, May 8, 2017) – A national environmental health organization last Friday sued Mott’s, under consumer protection law, for false and misleading “natural” labeling of applesauce products containing a toxic pesticide. The suit argues that the finding of residues in the company’s applesauce of the neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid, which is particularly toxic to pollinators, disqualifies the products from being labeled “natural” or as containing “all natural ingredients.” The case is filed under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act against Mott’s parent company, the Dr Pepper Snapple Group.

The plaintiffs maintain that by using “natural” or “all natural ingredients” labeling, Mott’s leads consumers to believe that its applesauce products do not contain synthetic substances. Plaintiffs claim that defendants know or should have known that many consumers buy foods labeled as “natural” in an attempt to “limit the amount of pesticides they and their families ingest” or eliminate the use of synthetic ingredients that adversely affect pollinators.

“People are looking for food products that are healthy for their family, children, and the environment, and deceptive “natural” labeling of products grown with pesticides undermines their best intentions,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

There are concerns in the scientific literature and European Food Safety Authority about the effect of acetamiprid on human health, particularly children. Scientists are concerned that acetamiprid affects nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) or cerebellar neurons, causing adverse effects to brain development. Children are at elevated risk from pesticide exposure due to developing organ systems and higher intake relative to body weight.

Beyond Pesticides is represented by the Richman Law Group.

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

 

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05
May

Walmart and True Value Pledge to Phase Out Bee-Toxic Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, May 5, 2017) Walmart and True Value have announced that beginning on Wednesday they will be phasing out neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides from all retail supply chains. These announcements follow numerous scientific studies that have consistently implicated neonics in the decline of honey bees and other wild pollinators. The decision stems from an ongoing consumer and environmental campaigns urging retailers to stop selling plants treated with neonics and to remove products containing them from store shelves.

Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides, or whole plant poisons, taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed in the pollen, nectar, and dew drops. They are also highly persistent, with research showing the potential for certain chemicals in the class, such as clothianidin, to have a half-life of up to 15 years. Studies show significant cause for concern when it comes to pollinators and exposure to these pesticides. Although little substantive action on these chemicals has been taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency agreed that the pesticides do harm bees, though only in the limited situations and constrained scenarios that were actually investigated by EPA.

The European Commission (EC) has proposed a complete ban of agricultural uses of the widely used bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides across Europe under draft regulations. The EC cites neonicotinoids’ “high acute risks to bees.” In 2013, three neonicotinoids were temporarily banned because of concerns about their high toxicity to bees. A vote by member states can happen as early as May 2017. The Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency, in 2016, announced its proposal to phase out imidacloprid because, “Based on currently available information, the continued high volume use of imidacloprid in agricultural areas is not sustainable.” Uses proposed for phase out: trees (except when applied as a tree trunk injection), greenhouse uses, outdoor agricultural uses (including ornamentals), commercial seed treatment uses, and turf (such as lawns, golf courses, and sod farms).

According to a Friends of the Earth press release, “Walmart confirmed that its growers have eliminated neonics from approximately 80 percent of its garden plants. Walmart has also eliminated neonicotinoids in almost all its off-the-shelf gardening products.” The press release also pointed to a True Value announcement that stated they would no longer carry products containing neonicotinoids by the spring of 2018. These two companies join a variety of others in their pledge to do more to protect pollinators.

In April 2015, Lowe’s announced a commitment to phase out products containing neonics within 48 months. Home Depot followed shortly after that. In January 2016, Aldi Süd, the German supermarket chain with stores in the U.S., became the first major European retailer to ban pesticides toxic to bees. In April 2016, major pesticide manufacturer Scotts Miracle Gro announced that it will immediately being phasing out neonicotinoid insecticides, including imidacloprid, clothianidin, and dinotefuran from its outdoor-use Ortho brand by this year. Smaller, more local stores are leading the charge as well, by removing bee-toxic neonicotinoids from store shelves and working to reorient customers toward natural, holistic practices – over 18 retailers in the Boulder, Colorado area have signed a “pollinator safe retail” pledge!

Eliminating the sale of harmful pesticides does not mean that retailers will have nothing left to sell their customers. Last year, Beyond Pesticides released The Well Stocked Hardware Store, an online toolkit that identifies organic compatible products for hardware stores seeking to find replacement products that can be used with an organic system approach to land management. Beyond Pesticides highlights the actions of Eldredge Lumber, a hardware store in Maine, through the video Making the Switch. “You’re protecting the envirronment, your family, your children and grandchildren, and your neighbors. Nobody wants to have pesticides drifting into their front or rear yard, and people are just loving it, they’re feeding into it. I couldn’t be happier,” says owner Scott Eldredge in the video.

Beyond Pesticides encourages concerned residents to share these materials and encourage your own local hardware store to follow suit. If they already are, let us know by sending an email to info@beyondpesticides.org. For customers not near a forward-thinking hardware store or nursery, see the comprehensive directory of companies and organizations that sell organic seeds and plants. Included in this directory are organic seeds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs, as well as live plants and seedlings.

Source: Friends of the Earth

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

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04
May

Bumblebee Exposure to Neonicotinoid Pesticide Reduces Egg Development

(Beyond Pesticides, May 4, 2017) This week, a study released in the Proceedings of the Royal Society found evidence of reduced egg development and impact on feeding behavior in wild bumblebee queens after exposure to the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam. The study, led by researchers from the University of London, investigates the impact of field-relevant levels of thiamethoxam exposure on four wild species of bumblebee queens. In a BBC News article, lead author, Dr. Gemma Barron, Ph.D., stated, “We consistently found that neonicotinoid exposure, at levels mimicking exposure that queens could experience in agricultural landscapes, resulted in reduced ovary development in queens of all four species we tested. These impacts are likely to reduce the success of bumblebee queens in the spring, with knock-on effects for bee populations later in the year.”

The study focuses on sublethal effects of neonicotinoids, as wild bumblebees are more likely to be exposed to low doses of these chemicals, rather than higher lethal levels. The queen bumblebees of four species were collected in the spring of 2014, with a total of 506 being used in the initial study groups. These queens were divided into three treatment groups and exposed to either a high level, low level, or no dose of thiamethoxam-treated syrup, reflecting pesticide levels found in pollen and nectar from wildflowers and oilseed flowers.

In their analysis, the researchers find that exposure to the high dose of thiamethoxam-treated syrup leads to a decline in ovary development through a reduction in the length of the reproductive cells, or oocytes, of the queens of the four species. After exposure to the high dose syrup, there is also a reduction in feeding by B. pratorum and B. pascuorum queens and no difference in feeding for the other two bumblebee species, which suggests that species sensitivity to this chemical may differ.

This research follows on the heels of another recent publication which reveals that exposure to thiamethoxam affects honey bee flight patterns as well as their physical ability to fly in ways that may be detrimental to their survival. The study is the latest in a growing body of science linking pesticide use to honey bee declines, raising concerns about overall honey bee health and longevity in the face of continued neonicotinoid use.

Thiamethoxam is a neonicotinoid insecticide used to coat seeds prior to planting. When the coated seed germinates, the resulting plant takes the chemical up through its vascular system and expresses the pesticide through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets, and pollinators are exposed when they forage. Thiamethoxam is very closely related to the neonicotinoid insecticide clothianidin. When insects ingest thiamethoxam, their digestive system metabolizes it to clothianidin, killing the insect. These pesticides, which in addition to thiamethoxam include imidacloprid, dinotefuran, and clothianidin, have been found by a growing body of scientific literature  to be linked to pollinator decline in general.

In January of this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a major risk assessment documents on pollinator exposure to bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides, finding no significant risks, despite the large and continually expanding body of science identifying the pesticides’ hazards. In the documents, EPA identifies risks posed to bees by several neonicotinoid insecticides, but suggests that no restriction on uses are imminent. And in the same month, EPA, in regulating the sale and use of pesticides in the U.S., released the ecological (aquatic) assessment for imidacloprid, which finds elevated risks to aquatic organisms. However, imidacloprid’s aquatic assessment has not been published in the Federal Register to solicit public comments, which are necessary to ensure transparency and independent vetting of EPA’s science and risk assessment conclusions. It is not clear whether EPA, under the leadership of Administrator Scott Pruitt, will follow through on the regulatory review, and, if it does, whether it will reverse earlier scientific findings of the agency.

Federal inaction, which has allowed for continued pollinator decline, points to the growing need for action from private companies to combat known threats to pollinators. In 2016, Aldi Süd, the German supermarket chain with stores in the U.S., became the first major European retailer to ban pesticides toxic to bees, including the neonicotinoids thiamethoxam, imidacloprid, and clothianidin, from fruits and vegetables produced for their stores. Beyond Pesticides recently led a marketplace effort to urge Amazon to remove neonicotinoid products from its website, with consumers taking direct action to contact the company’s CEO.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action in the U.S. to protect organisms critical to ecosystem health, it is left up to us to act. For more on what you can do to help pollinators, visit our Bee Protective program page. To assist local garden centers and hardware stores in transitioning their customers to organic practices, Beyond Pesticides released the Well-Stocked Hardware Store, which provides the products and tools necessary to support a move to healthy organic landscapes. This guide complements Beyond Pesticides’ Model Pesticide Policy and Implementation Plan for Communities, but can be used independently for hardware stores and garden supply centers looking to encourage the use of products and practices that protect the health of their customers, community, and the wider environment.

Sources: BBC News, Proceedings of the Royal Society B

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

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03
May

Neoniocotinoid Pesticides Impair Bees’ Ability to Fly

(Beyond Pesticides, May 3, 2017) Last week, researchers at the University of California San Diego revealed the first ever link between the use of neonicotinoid pesticides and the ability of bees to fly. Published in Scientific Reports, the study, “A common neonicotinoid pesticide, thiamethoxam, impairs honey bee flight ability,” builds on previous findings that neonicotinoid use interferes with bees’ ability to navigate, and concludes that exposure to thiamethoxam affects honey bee flight patterns as well as their physical ability to fly in ways that may be detrimental to their survival. The study is the latest in a growing body of science linking pesticide use to honey bee declines, raising concerns about overall honey bee health and longevity in the face of continued neonicotinoid use.

According to the study, both acute and chronic exposure to thiamethoxam revealed significant alterations of the ability of bees to fly -affecting flight distances, duration of flights, and flight velocity. Researchers noted significant differences in bee behavior based on short versus long term exposure, which they summarized as having an “excitatory short-term effect and a depressive longer-term effect” on the bees’ ability to fly. This means that when bees were exposed to thiamethoxam for a short, acute period of time, their average flight times and flight distances increased dramatically, by an average of 78% and 72%, respectively. In contrast, when the bees were subjected to chronic exposure patterns, it lead to a significant decrease in overall flight duration, distance, and velocity. To reveal these findings, researchers used sublethal exposure levels designed to mimic the amount of pesticide residue bees would likely come into contact with in agricultural fields.

Researchers note that increased flight distances following acute exposure to thiamethoxam offers no benefits to bees, as other studies have revealed thiamethoxam and other neonicotinoids cause flight disorientation and impaired navigation. Therefore, they opine that if these exposed bees are flying greater distances while disoriented from pesticide exposure, it may actually reduce their ability to fly home, negatively impacting overall hive health. On the same note chronic exposure, which reduced bee flight distance by 56%, also poses risks to bees, as it reduces their overall forage area. Additionally, researchers hypothesize that chronic exposure to thiamethoxam may also impact the physical ability of bees to fly by lowering their body temperature, requiring more energy to use the muscles required for flight. Based on these results, researchers predict that bees who experience chronic exposure overall a few days will “fly more slowly and in a reduced area.” Moreover, they believe that the chemically induced changes in their natural behavior patterns will “reduce the pollinator service provided to plants, nectar and pollen collection for the colony, and the nutritional biodiversity of collected pollen for the colony.”

“Our results provide the first demonstration that field-realistic exposure to this pesticide alone, in otherwise healthy colonies, can alter the ability of bees to fly, specifically impairing flight distance, duration and velocity” said Simone Tosi, a postdoctoral researcher and author of the study. Dr. Tosi continued, “Honey bee survival depends on its ability to fly, because that’s the only way they can collect food. Their flight ability is also crucial to guarantee crop and wild plant pollination.”

“Bees that fly more erratically for greater distances may decrease their probability of returning home,” said James Nieh, a professor in UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences and coauthor of the study. Dr. Nieh said, “This pesticide does not normally kill bees immediately. It has a more subtle effect.” He continued, “The honey bee is a highly social organism, so the behavior of thousands of bees are essential for the survival of the colony. We’ve shown that a sub-lethal dose may lead to a lethal effect on the entire colony.”

Thiamethoxam is a neonicotinoid pesticide used on many common crops within the United States, including corn, soybeans, and cotton. Systemic neonicotinoid pesticides, the class of pesticides thiamethoxam belongs to, move through the plants vascular system and are expressed through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets.  These pesticides, which in addition to thiamethoxam include imidacloprid, dinotefuran, and clothianidin, have been found by  a growing body of scientific literature  to be linked to pollinator decline in general. Neonicotinoids are associated with decreased foraging  and navigational ability, as well as increased vulnerability to pathogens and parasites as a result of suppressed bee immune systems.

In its most recent failure to address the harms posed to pollinators by neonicotinoids, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released major risk assessment documents on pollinator exposure to bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides, finding no significant risks, despite the large and continually expanding body of science identifying the pesticides’ hazards. In the documents, EPA identifies risks posed to bees by several neonicotinoid insecticides, but suggested that no restriction on uses are imminent. This is just one example of EPA not taking action to protect bees and other pollinators. In 2016, EPA released the long-awaited preliminary honey bee risk assessment for imidacloprid, one of the most widely used pesticides linked to severely declining honey bee populations, and confirmed harmful residues of the chemical in crops where the pollinators forage, including citrus and other crops. However, although EPA’s assessment confirms bees’ widespread and sustained exposure to the highly toxic and persistent chemical through poisoned pollen and nectar, the document fails to address risks posed to wild bees and widespread exposure through soil and water.

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. You can 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: UC San Diego News Center, Nature.com

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

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02
May

Polli-Nation Pollinator of the Month: Mexican Long-tongued Bat

(Beyond Pesticides, May 2, 2017) The Mexican long tongued bat is the pollinator of the month for May.  The Mexican long tongued bat, scientific name Choeronycteris mexicana, is a species of bat aptly named for its tongue, which has the remarkable ability to extend to nearly a body length. It is less-commonly referred to as the hog-nosed bat.

Range

The Mexican long-tongued bat’s range extends from the southwest of the United States through Mexico and into Central America, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In the United States, the bat is restricted to the far-south of California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas. It is found in most areas of Mexico but is absent from the Yucatan peninsula and the gulf coast. Further south, the bat is also found in southern Guatemala and El Salvador in addition to northern Nicaragua. The Mexican long-tongued bat participates in seasonal migrations rather than hibernation. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department admits that the study of the bat’s migratory patterns has been inadequate. However, it is known that the females establish maternity roosts in the southwest of the United States in late spring. They and their young depart for Mexico and Central America with the onset of cold weather in October and November. There is some evidence that a few individuals will remain in warmer northern areas over the winter.

Diet and Pollination

Mexican long-tongued bats feed primarily on the nectar and pollen of night-blooming flowers. Favorites include agave and cacti. They are also known to eat cactus fruit as well as insects found on flowers and fruit where they feed. Their preferences for agave and cactus makes them an important pollinator as they carry pollen from one plant to another. The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service notes that bats primarily pollinate large flowers that produce strong fragrance and large volumes of nectar. Over three-hundred species of fruit-bearing plants depend on the Mexican long-tongued bat and other bat species for pollination.

Physiology

The Mexican long-tongued bat belongs to the group of phyllostomid or “leaf nosed” bats. These bats are characterized by a projection from the end of the nose that looks like a leaf. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department advises that the Mexican long-tongued bat can be distinguished from other “leaf nosed” bats by their short ears, narrow snout, and presence of a small tail. The Smithsonia Museum of Natural History notes that the nose leaf may help direct the bat’s echolocation signals. The National Science Research Library at Texas Tech University describes the Mexican long-tongued bat as medium sized – between three and four inches in length and weighing less than a tenth of a pound – with sooty-gray to brown coloration. Their extendable, long, tapering, brush-tipped tongues allow them to access nectar from deep within a great variety of night-blooming flowers while hovering.

Ecological Role

The Mexican long-tongued bat plays a multifaceted ecological role as predator, prey, and pollinator. Their diet largely consists of agave nectar and they play a major role in the pollination of non-cultivated agave. While nectar and pollen are their primary food source, they also prey on any insects who are present when they are feeding at a flower. In addition to their role in pollination, the bats also contribute to the survival of cacti by dispersing their seeds. According to the food-web site, What Eats, bats play an ecological role as part of the diet of a number of predators. Predatory birds, like hawks and owls, in addition to snakes and predatory mammals are known to include bats among their prey.

The role of the Mexican long-tongued bat in pollination has been somewhat diminished by the expansion of agriculture in its range. According to a 2014 Wired article, cultivated agave is actively pruned to prevent flowering. These agave reproduce via proliferation of plantlets. The Mexican-long tongued bat and other bat species mentioned in the article do not play a primary role in producing commercial agave “nectar,” which is not floral nectar, but a synthetic syrup made from the sap of the agave plant. In fact, destruction of habitat to create commercial agave fields may actually be hurting the bat populations.

Threats to Existence

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List categorizes the Mexican long-tongued bat status as “near threatened.” This means that the species is not currently endangered or vulnerable but is close to qualifying for those designations and is expected to move to a threatened category in the near future. The IUCN cites its wide range across North and Central America as an encouraging point but also cites concerns regarding the species dependence on fragile agave populations which are subject to infringement by livestock grazing and the practice of prescribed fires.

In addition to danger relating to the availability of agave, the Mexican long-tongued bat is subject to the threat of loss of roosting sites. The caves which harbor these bats are increasingly being invaded by miners and caving tourists which render the caves inhospitable. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department clarifies that the bats are very sensitive and, when disturbed, will abandon their roost.

A recent study in Taiwan connected the use of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid pesticide, to diminished ability to echolocate among bats. They found that bats who fed on insects exposed to imidacloprid developed difficulty travelling on established paths and frequently became lost while hunting. The researcher noted “When toxic substances accumulate to a certain level, they damage the bats’ neurons and destroy their echolocation system.”

Threats to bat species are particularly concerning because of their slow rate of reproduction. Bat mothers only give birth to a single pup each year. This renders bat populations particularly vulnerable to factors that might disturb food sources or prevent successful migration during mating season.

How to Protect the Species

Mexican long-tongued bats live in a range of environments including scrub and saguaro desert, deciduous, pine, and oak forests, and canyons. Preservation of these habitats as well as food sources is imperative to protect the future of the Mexican long-tongued bat. Similarly, insisting on habitat preservation and personally fostering food sources for your local bats is necessary to protect your regions species. Even if the Mexican long-tongued bat’s range doesn’t reach your region, there are many other species of bats who act as beneficial pollinators. Consult these species profiles to determine which bats contribute to pollination in your area.

It is also critical to avoid planting any seeds or flowers that have been coated in pollinator-toxic neonicotinoids. As established in the aforementioned study which linked imidacloprid to loss of ability to echolocate in bats, these chemicals can undermine your intent to provide habitat for wild pollinators. See Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinator Friendly Seed and Nursery Directory to source safe seeds. For more information, see the webpage on Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind. You can also get active in your community to protect these pollinators by holding native planting days in the spring, and advocating for changes to community pesticide policies.

In addition to actively opposing destruction of habitat and food sources, you can provide personal support to local bat populations. One option is to install a bat house on your property. You can build your bat house yourself or order one online to provide non-traditional habitat for your region’s species.

Further, Mexican long-tongued bats and other bat species have been known to visit hummingbird feeders. If you do host a number of local species at your hummingbird feeder, refer to this recipe, endorsed by the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, to ensure the health of hummingbirds and bats alike. Make sure to use organic sugar to avoid exposing visitors to unnecessary pesticides. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department supports the use of feeders to support bats which arrive too early in spring or which remain through the winter. However, they also note that sugar water, while helpful sustenance, will not support long-term survival of bats because it lacks important nutrients.

It is important to educate others to dispel the myths surrounding bats in your community. Bats are an important part of local ecosystems and play a large role in pollination and control of insect populations. There are only three species of bats feeding primarily on blood. These species are not found in the United States but have created a widespread fear around the larger 1,200 species order. Another myth is that bats are a common carrier of rabies. Bats, like all mammals, are capable of carrying rabies. However, infection is not widespread and the odds of a bat exposing you to rabies are very low. Know that individual bats who are active during daylight hours and those who are not disturbed when approached by humans are more likely to be infected. Remember, bats are wild animals and should only be handled by trained professionals. The organization Bat Conservation International has more information on bat myths here.

Citations

Chen, Chi-chung and Elizabeth Hsu, Research finds pesticide impairs echolocation ability in bats http://focustaiwan.tw/news/asoc/201701110013.aspx

Godínez-Alvarez, H., Valiente-Banuet, A. and Rojas-Martínez, A., 2002. The role of seed dispersers in the population dynamics of the columnar cactus Neobuxbaumia tetetzo. Ecology, 83(9), pp.2617-2629.International Union for Conservation of Nature, Redlist of Threatened Species: Choeronycteris mexicana   http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/4776/0

Pearson, Gwen, Tequila, Booze, and Bats https://www.wired.com/2014/06/tequila-booze-and-bats/

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, North American Mammals: Choeronycteris mexicana https://naturalhistory.si.edu/mna/image_info.cfm?species_id=43

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Mexican Long-tongued Bat http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/mexlong/

Texas Tech University, National Science Research Library, Mexican Long-tongued Bat http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/tmot1/choemexi.htm

USDA Forest Service, Bat Pollination https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/animals/bats.shtml

What Eats, What Eats a Bat? http://www.whateats.com/what-eats-a-bat

Winter, Y. and von Helversen, O., 2003. Operational tongue length in phyllostomid nectar-feeding bats. Journal of mammalogy, 84(3), pp.886-896.

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

 

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01
May

Infected Mosquito Trial Launched Against Zika and Other Mosquito-Borne Diseases

(Beyond Pesticides, May 1, 2017) The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District released 20,000 male mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacteria near Key West, as a trial strategy to manage mosquitoes that carry Zika and other viruses. The district and others have been exploring new ways to suppress infected Aedes aegypti mosquito populations, which thrive in urban environments and can spread Zika, dengue fever, and chikungunya. It is unclear what impacts, if any, these infected mosquitoes will have on non-target organisms or public health.

The trial is the second U.S. test conducted with the naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, developed by the Kentucky-based company MosquitoMate. The first test occurred in Clovis, California, last year. In September 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which registers mosquito control products, approved and expanded an experimental use permit (EUP) for Wolbachia pipientis-infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes (not to be confused with genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes).  According to the agency, Wolbachia are naturally occurring bacteria commonly found in most insect species, but not in the Aedes aegypti. This strain of Wolbachia is extracted from Aedes albopictus embryos and microinjected into Aedes aegypti embryos. Male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are shipped to testing sites where they are released and mate with wild-type Aedes aegypti females that do not carry Wolbachia. After mating, the bacteria prevents the new embryos from developing properly so the mosquitoes cannot successfully reproduce. In preliminary assessments, EPA concluded that the experimental work initially approved for the EUP in 2015 presented minimal risks to non-target organisms and the environment. However, releasing these mosquitoes into the environment will provide real-world information of the efficacy of this treatment, and may identify unintended environmental consequences or human-related impacts (although this will require long-term study).

The infected mosquitoes were flown in cardboard tubes, similar to ones used in paper towel rolls, from Lexington, Kentucky to Key West. The mosquitoes were released at the Stock Island test site, about 25 acres with residential and commercial properties just north of Key West. The trial is expected to last about three months, with twice-weekly releases.

Genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes have also been approved for testing in the fight against the Zika virus. Keys officials are still considering a separate test of mosquitoes genetically engineered by the British biotech firm, Oxitec, to produce Aedes aegypti offspring that die outside a lab.  In February 2016, Oxitec submitted a draft environmental assessment to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a month later FDA published a preliminary finding of no significant impact in support of the field trial. FDA initially approved a trial in a residential neighborhood near Key West, saying the test would not significantly affect the environment, but outrage from concerned residents forced the district to find a new location.

Last November, residents of the Florida Keys approved the experiment use of GE mosquitoes. Open field trials of GE mosquitoes have been conducted in certain places like Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Panama, and Malaysia. Experiments with Oxitec’s GE mosquitoes call for large numbers of modified males to be released in the wild to mate with female mosquitoes and produce offspring that are unable to develop. To create these autocidal male mosquitoes, the company uses the antibiotic tetracycline to act as a chemical switch, allowing the GE larvae to develop and survive in the lab, rather than die immediately as planned in the wild. Larvae are supposed to die in the wild due to an absence of tetracycline.

Currently, genetically engineered mosquitoes, like those produced by Oxitec, are regulated by the FDA, while modifying mosquitoes through other techniques, such as MosquitoMate’s bacteria, fall under the EPA’s juridiction as pesticides. FDA is seeking public comment on a proposal clarifying which mosquito-related products it regulates and which ones would be regulated by EPA. See information about FDA regulation of the Oxitec mosquito and public comment here. According to the FDA proposal, EPA would regulate any mosquito-related products controlling mosquito populations, while the FDA would regulate products making other claims, such as preventing disease.

Mosquito populations are typically treated using an arsenal of adulticides that include organophosphates like naled and malathion, and pyrethroids like permethrin and sumithrin. These pesticides have been linked to a host of adverse effects, including neurotoxicity, cancer, and reproductive dysfunction. Further, adulticiding has been shown to be the least effective method for reducing mosquito populations for a variety of reasons, and results in pesticide drift affecting human health and non-target organisms like honey bees. For more on pesticides related diseases, visit the Pesticide Induced Disease Database (PIDD).

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 like bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). 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 risky technologies such as toxic pesticides and GE mosquitoes can be avoided.

For additional information and resources on least-toxic mosquito control alternatives, see Beyond Pesticides’ Mosquito Management program page.

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

Source: ABC News

 

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28
Apr

35th National Pesticide Forum Begins Today at University of Minnesota!

(Beyond Pesticides, April 28, 2017) Beyond Pesticides’ 35th National Pesticide forum, Healthy Hives, Healthy Lives, Healthy Land: Ecological and Organic Strategies for Regeneration, begins today and continues until tomorrow night at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in Minneapolis, MN! Walk-in registration begins this afternoon at 4:00pm, and the first session, Pesticides 101, starts at 4:30pm. Speakers during the conference range from distinguished scientists, professors, lawyers, public servants, farmers, and environmental organizers. You won’t want to miss out on this important opportunity to share in efforts to build local, state and national strategies to protect human health and the environment.

Registration is $45 for the general rate and $20 for students, which includes access to all sessions as well as organic food and beverages. In addition to spending time with scientists and experts on the cutting edge of research, and the opportunity to network, we will serve light hors d’oeuvres and organic beer and wine tonight, and organic breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks tomorrow. Again, walk-in registrations are encouraged.

Tonight’s events will include two keynote sessions and a book signing. The speakers are as follows:

  • Jim Riddle, an organic farmer, gardener, inspector, educator, policy analyst, author and avid organic eater. Jim was founding chair of the Winona Farmers Market Association and the International Organic Inspectors Association, (IOIA), and co-author of the International Organic Inspection Manual. Jim served on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Organic Advisory Task Force for many years and was instrumental in passage of Minnesota’s landmark organic certification cost-share program, which now is a Farm Bill program that provides 75% reimbursement for organic certification costs nationwide.
  • Liz Carlisle, PhD, a lecturer in the School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University, where she teaches courses on food and agriculture, sustainability transition, and environmental communication. Recognized for her academic writing with the Elsevier Atlas Award, which honors research with social impact, Liz has also published numerous pieces for general audience readers, in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Business Insider, and Stanford Social Innovation Review.  Recently, she is the author of the book Lentil Underground, which chronicles the sustainable agriculture movement in her home state of Montana. She will be signing copies of Lentil Underground at tonight’s reception.
  • David Oien, a third generation Montana farmer whose grandparents homesteaded on the prairies of northcentral Montana over 110 years ago. David is a co-founder and the President of Timeless Seeds, Inc., a certified organic pulse crop and heritage grain company that is featured in Lentil Underground. Timeless contracts with dozens of organic farmers in Montana and markets its products across America to customers like Blue Apron, Eden Foods, Stanford University Dining Services, high end and farm-to-table restaurants, and hundreds of natural food stores including the Wedge and the Lake Winds Coop stores in the Twin Cities. David has graciously donated lentils and chickpeas from Timeless Seeds, which will be featured in a dish for lunch tomorrow.

Tomorrow will include important speakers such as Vera Krischik, PhD, a tenured Faculty in the Entomology Department in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota, David Montgomery, PhD, a MacArthur Fellow and professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington, State Representative Rick Hansen, who represents the areas of West St. Paul, Mendota Heights, and Lilydale, Jeff Lowenfels, author of three award-winning, best-selling books on organic growing, and Jeff Moyer, executive director of Rodale Institute. Check out our full speaker list and schedule for more information.

Organizers:

The 35th National Pesticide Forum is convened by Beyond Pesticides, UMN Institute on the Environment, and Organic Consumers Association. Co-sponsors include: Pollinator Friendly Alliance, Giving Tree Gardens, Humming for Bees, Kids for Saving Earth, Blue Fruit Farm, Students for Sustainability, Birchwood Cafe, Seward Community Co-op, The Beez Kneez, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES), Beyond Pesticides Minnesota, Clean Up the River Environment (CURE), Minnesota Food Association, White Earth Land Recovery Project, Midwest Pesticide Action Center, Pollinate Minnesota, and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA).

Again, it’s not too late to attend the forum – walk-ins are welcome! You can view the full program by clicking here. For more information, visit our forum overview page.

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

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27
Apr

Groups File Amicus in Support of Montgomery County, MD Pesticide Restrictions

(Beyond Pesticides, April 27, 2017) Nine organizations filed an Amicus brief this week in support of a 2015 landmark Montgomery County, Maryland ordinance that restricts the use of toxic pesticides on public and private land within its jurisdiction. The law, intended to protect children, pets, wildlife, and the wider environment from the hazards of lawn and landscape pesticide use, is facing a legal challenge filed in November last year by the pesticide industry group Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE).

The plaintiffs, which include local chemical lawn care companies and a few individuals, allege that the local ordinance is preempted by state law, despite the fact that Maryland is one of  seven states  that has not explicitly taken away (or preempted) local authority to restrict pesticides more stringently than the state.

The law at issue, 52-14 (the Healthy Lawns Act), which restricts the cosmetic lawn care use of toxic pesticides on public and private land, protects over one million people, the largest number to be covered by any local jurisdiction to date. Passing the Montgomery County Council by a vote of 6-3, the bill allows time for transition, training, and a public education program over several years. In limiting the pesticides allowed to be used for turf management, the law defined acceptable materials as those permitted for use in organic production, or identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “minimum risk pesticides” under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Section 25(b).

Although attempts to adopt “explicit” preemption were introduced in the Maryland legislature in the mid-1990s, industry was unsuccessful in gaining enough support, and the state lawmakers never passed legislation expressly preempting local pesticide legislation. Because of this, RISE and its affiliates argue that there is “implied” preemption on the part of the state that would prohibit a local jurisdiction like Montgomery County from taking action to protect its citizens. Their claim hinges on proving that Maryland law establishes a “comprehensive program of state level regulation and licensing of pesticide products and applicators” that implies the state meant to occupy the entire space of pesticide regulation, and left no door open for local jurisdictions to regulate above and beyond state statutes. The lawsuit focuses on Bill 52-14’s restriction of pesticide use on private property, and does not challenge the ordinance provisions that apply to county-owned land.

The groups filing the Amicus include Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, Food and Water Watch, Maryland Pesticide Education Network, Maryland PIRG Foundation, Organic Consumers Association, and Safe Grow Montgomery.

Quotes from Amici Curiae

“It is not just a longstanding right, but a responsibility, of counties in the state to exercise their powers to the fullest to protect the health and wellbeing of their citizens. This lawsuit unfortunately seeks to strip Montgomery, and other counties in the state, of their critical role in the protection of public health,” said Chris Nidel, partner at Nidel & Nace, PLLC, which represents the amici.

“Just as the County championed the right to avoid exposure to harmful second-hand smoke, the County has taken steps to protect the public from repeated cumulative exposure to harmful lawn pesticides by curtailing their routine widespread use. The Montgomery County Council heard from thousands of county residents, businesses, and organizations in strong support of the lawn pesticide restrictions.  The Council also held several hearings to consider evidence of unavoidable exposure, evidence of health and environmental harm, and the inadequacies of state and federal pesticide regulations. This lawsuit is a serious threat to local democracy in Maryland,” said Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin, Safe Grow Montgomery.

“Montgomery County chose to protect its children, pollinators, all wildlife and Maryland’s waterways by its passage of an ordinance restricting the use of  hazardous pesticides on public and private land. Safer landcare practices allow for a healthier, attractive county environment,” said Ruth Berlin, executive director of Maryland Pesticide Education Network.

“Montgomery County did the right thing in passing this law. In children, there is increasing evidence that exposure to these pesticides is especially damaging, even at low, chronic levels,” said Tim Whitehouse, executive director of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility.

“In the absence of federal and state pesticide restrictions that adequately protect children, pets, families, and the environment, and given the availability of sustainable organic practices to manage parks, playing fields and lawns, Montgomery County has exercised its fundamental right, under Maryland and federal law, to limit pesticide use on public and private property within its jurisdiction,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

“Like many communities around the country, the people of Montgomery County decided to exercise their right to protect their environment and loved ones from the harmful impacts of pesticides. Instead of respecting that right, the chemical industry is once again trying to trump the democratic process with their deep litigation pockets. CFS stands with the communities’ right to demand a cleaner environment,” said Sylvia Wu, staff attorney with the Center for Food Safety.

While the outcome of this lawsuit is currently uncertain, the challenge by industry groups highlights the importance of local action when it comes to tightening controls on cosmetic pesticide use. There is movement across the country right now to adopt ordinances that stop pesticide use on public property and, where allowed, private property, as people recognize more and more the dangers associated with toxic pesticide use on their homes and lawns. When used, pesticides move off the target site through drift and runoff, exposing non-target plants, wildlife, and people. Local control of pesticide regulations is crucial to the movement of pesticide reform, something Beyond Pesticides consistently supports through its work in local communities. Contact Beyond Pesticides to help support Montgomery County and similar communities across the country who are fighting to eliminate toxic pesticide use once and for all. For more information on organic lawn care, see  Beyond Pesticides  lawns and landscape program page.

More details about Bill 52-14 and related amendments are available to  read here.

Source: Beyond Pesticides 

All unattributed positions are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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27
Apr

Chemical Companies Knowingly Allowed Carcinogenic Contaminant in Common Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, April 27, 2017) Multinational chemical companies Dow Chemical Company and Shell Chemical Company knowingly sold and marketed fumigants contaminated with a cancer-causing chemical that had a strong propensity to leach into and remain in groundwater, according to a recent report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and a lawsuit against the companies. The contaminant of concern, 1,2,3-trichloropropene (TCP), was a manufacturing by-product found in Dow’s Telone and Shell’s D-D fumigant pesticide products with the active ingredient 1,3-Dichloropropene. The products, used to kill soil-dwelling nematodes, are toxic in their own right, but contained TCP in their formulation from the 1940s until the mid-1980s.

EWG’s report details widespread contamination of drinking water in California’s agricultural regions, with detections found in 562 wells, and 94 public water systems identifying TCP above legal limits. Thirty-seven additional public water systems serving nearly 4 million U.S. residents throughout the country were also found to contain TCP. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has never set maximum contaminant levels for TCP in drinking water, but requires public reporting above the infinitesimally small amount of 30 parts per trillion, roughly six times higher than what the state of California requires. However, even proposed limits of 5 parts per trillion in California, which would represent the lowest in the nation, a cancer risk of 1 in 143,000 would be permitted.

As a result of the widespread contamination in California, 33 communities in the San Joaquin Valley are suing Dow and Shell for this contamination. Their lawsuit aims to have the companies clean up the chemical from their water supply, alleging the companies knew full well about the health impacts of contaminants in their product yet opted to save money by ignoring documented risks. A 1983 internal Shell memo cited in EWG’s report indicates that the company saved $3.2 million in “cost avoidance” annually by neglecting to properly dispose of TCP. While the companies indicate they are not at fault because their products were approved for use by EPA and the state of California, the report indicates the companies have quietly settled with a number of communities without fully admitting guilt.

Issues of pollution and contamination learned long after the fact regarding pesticide use is far too common in the United States. Past formulations of the herbicide 2,4-D were known to be contaminated with the chemical 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), a highly potent human carcinogen. Although new technologies aimed to eliminate TCDD from occurring as a by-product in the manufacturing process, EPA indicates is has little data on current contamination levels, meaning the threat still remains for the commonly used herbicide. Likewise, the antibacterial chemical triclosan, which was recently eliminated from consumer soap products, has been found to breakdown into toxic carcinogens like chloroform and 2,8-dichlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (2,8-DCDD).

Groundwater contamination is also a historical and frequent concern with conventional pesticide use. The herbicide atrazine has been a particular concern in recent years. In 2012, the chemical’s manufacturer, Syngenta, reached a $105 million settlement with community water systems in 45 states in order to pay for the cleanup of this chemical in their water supply. And as evidenced by a recent report on widespread contamination of neonicotinoid insecticides in the nation’s drinking water, another emerging threat for community water systems may be on the horizon.

As EWG’s report and recent evidence shows, the chemical industry has learned no lessons from its past experiences, and shows no evidence of acting responsibly to protect or improve public health. Given evidence of serial contamination and coverups, it behooves concerned individuals to support food production systems that do not rely on the regular use of these toxic pesticides. By purchasing organic at the grocery store, you support an agricultural system that aims to rely on natural and ecological pest management, and use even least-toxic pesticides as a last resort. Soil is not fumigated to become sterile, but improved to promote microbial diversity and build resiliency from pests and diseases. Learn more about the benefits of supporting a safer agriculture system through Beyond Pesticides’ Why Organic webpage.

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

Source: Environmental Working Group

 

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26
Apr

NOSB Decides on Organic Livestock, Delays Hydroponics Decision

(Beyond Pesticides, April 26, 2017) Last week, at its spring meeting in Denver, Colorado, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted unanimously to recommend that the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule become effective immediately. This recommendation was originally made by the NOSB in 2011, and requires organic meat and poultry producers to allow animals to “exhibit natural behavior, such as the ability to sit, walk, stretch and stand without touching other animals or the sides of their pen, as well as having free and clear access to the outside.” Decisions were also made regarding a wide range of materials and practices, including synthetic additives in infant formula, mulch, sanitizers, and disinfectants. A decision on hydroponic growing methods and their eligibility for organic certification ultimately ended up being delayed again at the spring meeting, with no formal vote or action being taken.

At the meeting, Beyond Pesticides maintained its position on hydroponics, aeroponics, bioponics and aquaponics methods, stating that it should not be considered eligible for organic certification. Organic production depends upon the “Law of Return,” which together with the rule “Feed the soil, not the plant,” and the promotion of biodiversity, provide the ecological basis for organic systems. These hydroponic growing systems are not consistent with these principles in organic production and therefore should not be eligible as certified organic.

Beyond Pesticides pressed the board on a number of issues, including the
“unconscionable delay” on reviewing inert ingredients (which are not be disclosed on product labels) and requesting replacements of approved non-active ingredients in pesticide products. In addition to the delay in reviewing inert ingredients, the board must move ahead with an action plan for contaminated inputs (such as pesticide residues) in organic production, which was last addressed by the NOSB two years ago. The problem of contaminated water resources only adds to the problems already identified, including antibiotics in manure, pesticides in lawn waste, and others. Beyond Pesticides urged the NOSB to devote resources to furthering the plan and its implementation, including the development of a discussion document on water contaminated by oil and gas production. You can find details about Beyond Pesticides’ positions on the Keeping Organic Strong page.

Prior to the meeting, the committee proposals were posted online and opened for public comment. Following the democratic spirit inherent in the organic law, the board is required to take the voiced concerns of the public into consideration in making its decisions. There were over two thousand comments submitted to the board for this meeting. Many of the comments received concerned one of two issues: hydroponic growing methods and their eligibility for organic certification, and sanitizers and disinfectants, including calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, and sodium hypochlorite.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service oversees the National Organic Program (NOP) and the NOSB. The NOSB includes four producers, two handlers, one retailer, three environmentalists, three consumers, one scientist and one certifying agent. The board is authorized by the Organic Foods Production Act and makes recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture regarding the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for organic operations. The Secretary may not allow synthetic substances in organic production and processing unless recommended by the NOSB, in accordance with standards including no adverse effects, compatibility with organic production, and essentiality (deterination of necessity). The NOSB also may provide advice on other aspects of the organic law implementation. For more information on the history of organic agriculture and why it is the best choice for your health and the environment, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food Program Page.

Sources: FoodDive, Cornucopia

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

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25
Apr

Study Finds Substantial Risks to Honey Bees During and After Crop Pollination

(Beyond Pesticides, April 25, 2017) Past use of agricultural pesticides puts honey bees at risk across multiple growing seasons, according to research from scientists at Cornell University in New York. According to lead author Scott McArt, PhD, “Our data suggest pesticides are migrating through space and time.” Honey bees, which over the past decade have experienced unsustainable declines over 40% each year, are at great risk from exposure to a range of pesticides, chiefly the neonicotinoid class of insecticides. This new research adds to calls from beekeepers, environmental groups, and progressive farmers to transition agriculture away from pesticide-dependent practices.

Cornell researchers conducted a massive study that analyzed both the pollen source and pesticide residue found therein for 120 experimental hives placed near 30 apple orchards in New York State. The landscapes surrounding each orchard were classified based on the amount of natural area or agricultural land that was present. Scientists analyzed risk to honey bees by collecting information about pesticide use during the growing season as well as the amount of pesticide contamination in “beebread,” pollen tightly packed unto pellets by bees used as food or in the production of royal jelly.

“Beekeepers are very concerned about pesticides, but there’s very little field data,” said Dr. McArt in a press release. “We’re trying to fill that gap in knowledge, so there’s less mystery and more fact regarding this controversial topic.”

Results showed that while nearly every colony collected apple pollen, it comprised a relatively small percentage of total forage – roughly 9% of total pollen on average out of the 120 hives. The most frequently sought pollen was buckthorn, which was also found in nearly every hive, but averaged 39% of the total quantity collected.

While the amount of land used for apple production correlated with higher numbers of pesticides found in beebread, that data point alone does not indicate a higher risk to pollinators. In this case, the type of pesticide detected made a difference. Consistent with current agricultural practices, significant quantities of fungicides are used on apple crops. However, researchers determined that insecticides put honey bees in greatest danger. In fact, most of the insecticide load in colonies was determined to be from pesticide applications made in prior years. In 28 out of 30 orchard sites, pesticides not sprayed during that year are detected, totaling 64% of total pesticides found, with roughly 2.8 novel pesticides discovered at each site. The researchers indicate that this is consistent with trends found in other studies, which have shown wildflowers and field margins to contain high levels of pesticides years after these chemicals were applied.

Overall, 17% of colonies have pesticide levels so high they present an acute hazard to honey bees, while 73% contain residues that indicate a chronic exposure risk. Ultimately, researchers determined that neonicotinoids as well as a range of other insecticides present significant risks to pollinating honey bees.

“We found risk was attributed to many different types of pesticides. Neonicotinoids were not the whole story, but they were part of the story.” Dr. McArt said in a press release. “Because neonicotinoids are persistent in the environment and accumulate in pollen and nectar, they are of concern. But one of our major findings is that many other pesticides contribute to risk.”

Results of this study are consistent with past research from Cornell University. A study published in 2015 focused on wild pollinators and found that as the number of pesticide applications increased, wild pollinator numbers subsequently decreases. While this current study calculated risk based on lab-derived toxicity data, the prior study found empirical evidence of lower numbers of wild pollinators when fungicide applications are made before bloom, and insecticide applications are made after bloom occurs. It follows that while fungicides may present a lower toxicological risk on paper, their influence in real-world conditions, where these fungicides are likely to be combined with other pesticides, indicates their effects may be more significant than previously assumed.

Concerned individuals can join in the protection of pollinators by encouraging their local and state officials to enact strong policies that protect these critical species. With one in three bites of food dependent on crop pollination, including nutrient dense foods like apples and almonds, urgent action is needed now. Learn more about how you can get involved by visiting Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage.

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

Source: Cornell University PR, Scientific Reports

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24
Apr

Dow Urges Trump Administration to Ignore Pesticide Impacts on Endangered Species

(Beyond Pesticides, April 24, 2017) After contributing $1 million to Donald Trump’s presidential festivities, pesticide maker Dow Chemical Co. is asking the Administration to set aside previous findings of federal scientists across multiple agencies that confirm the risks that organophosphate pesticides pose to about 1,800 critically threatened or endangered species. This comes after the Administration abandoned plans to restrict the brain-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos, also an organophosphate pesticide created by Dow, despite mountains of evidence that show the chemical’s neurotoxic impacts on children’s brains.

In letters sent to government officials, lawyers for Dow urge Administration officials and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set aside “biological evaluations” that detail how three highly toxic organophosphate insecticides –chlorpyrifos, malathion and diazinon– harm nearly all 1,800 threatened and endangered animals and plants, claiming the process to be “fundamentally flawed.”

Federal agencies tasked with protecting endangered species –EPA, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture– have worked for years to identify the risks posed by pesticides to threatened and endangered species under to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under Section 7 of ESA, states that any agency action must find that it “is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of habitat.” In January 2017, federal scientists determined that chlorpyrifos and malathion are likely to harm 97 percent of endangered species nationwide, while diazinon was found to harm 79 percent of protected species. More than 10,000 pages indicate the three pesticides under review pose a risk to nearly every endangered species studied. According to EPA’s release on the subject back in January, this is the “first-ever draft biological evaluations analyzing the nation-wide effects” of these registered chemicals on endangered species after decades of widespread use. The agencies were close to finalizing their assessments, which were expected to result in new restrictions on how and where the highly toxic pesticides can be used. The assessments are required as part of a legal settlement in 2014 with the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation organizations. In accordance with the legal settlement, these biological opinions must be finalized by December 2017.

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

Chlorpyrifos, malathion, and diazinon organophosphates derived from World War II nerve poisons are a common class of pesticides. This class of pesticides affect neurodevelopment, weaken the immune system, and impair respiratory function, among other severe health risks. Organophosphates are a widely used in agricultural, with millions of pounds applied yearly across the country, and are acutely toxic to bees, birds, mammals, aquatic organisms and certain species of algae at low doses.  Once present in the environment, organisms that come into contact with the pesticides will have difficulty performing basic survival and reproductive functions.

Because of the neurological effects on children, on June 8, 2000, EPA announced an agreement it had reached with Dow AgroSciences that phased out most home uses of the commonly used insecticide. With the exception of uses on tomatoes, agricultural uses were allowed to continue under the decision

After years of refusing to comply with mandates to protect endangered species from the impacts of pesticides, EPA began consultations with other federal agencies following a two-year review by the National Academy of Sciences. A stakeholder-engagement process that allowed in-depth involvement by the public and industry and provided opportunities for comment on the draft assessments. Industry provided extensive comments, many of which were ultimately rejected by the federal government because they were simply incompatible with the legal requirements of the Endangered Species Act. While all three chemical’ impacts are ubiquitous, and are currently allowed for use in agriculture, chlorpyrifos and malathion’s impact is broader due to their use as mosquito adulticides. EPA’s analysis required consideration of both direct impacts through dietary exposure as well as indirect impacts through prey. Adverse effects w ere far reaching, ranging from aquatic mammals like sea lions, to cave-dwelling spiders, and numerous listed birds.

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, as a default, prohibits the use of toxic synthetic pesticides by law (unless subject to rigorous health and environmental standards and recommended by the National Organic Standards Board) and requires a systems-based approach that is protective of health and the environment. This approach never allows the use of highly toxic synthetic pesticides, such as the 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.

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

Source: USA Today, Center for Biological Diversity

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21
Apr

One Week Until the 35th National Pesticide Conference: Healthy Hives, Healthy Lives, Healthy Land

(Beyond Pesticides, April 21, 2017) We are one week away from our 35th National Pesticide Forum, Healthy Hives, Healthy Lives, Healthy Land: Ecological and Organic Strategies for Regeneration! Don’t miss out on an opportunity to listen to and interact with a range of grassroots advocates, scientists, and policy makers. The 35th National Pesticide Forum, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, runs from the afternoon of April 28 through the evening of April 29. Registration, which is $45 for the general rate, and $20 for students, includes access to all sessions as well as organic food and beverages. In addition to spending time with scientists and experts on the cutting edge of research, and the opportunity to network, we will serve light hors d’oeuvres and organic beer and wine Friday night, and organic breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks on Saturday. Walk-in registrations will be welcome, but to ensure that we have enough food and drink, we encourage you to REGISTER TODAY!

Learn from Leading Experts:

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

  • Mayor Betsy Hodges is the mayor of Minneapolis, and has taken important steps to protect monarch butterflies and bees in the city. A member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, she represented Ward 13 on the Minneapolis City Council from January 2006 until January 2014. Hodges was reelected to the city council in the 2009 Minneapolis municipal elections. Hodges won the 2013 Minneapolis mayoral election and was inaugurated on January 2, 2014.
  • State Representative Rick Hansen (52A) is in his seventh term at the Minnesota House of Representatives, representing the areas of West St. Paul, Mendota Heights, and Lilydale. Rep. Hansen graduated from Upper Iowa University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and graduated with a Master of Science degree in Soil Management from Iowa State University. Rep. Hansen is the DFL-Lead on the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance. Rep. Hansen has authored nation leading legislation on pollinator and environmental protections.
  • Jeff Lowenfels is the author of two award-winning, best-selling books on organic growing, farming and gardening. His third book, Teaming with Fungi: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to Mycorrhizae was published early this year. Jeff Lowenfels is a national leader in the organic gardening/sustainability movement. He is a past president of the Garden Writers of America, a GWA Fellow and was inducted into the GWA Hall of Fame in 2005, the highest honor a North American garden writer can achieve.
  • Kim Richman, JD is an accomplished trial attorney in both state and federal courts, with experience litigating dozens of trials to verdict in New York City, as well as negotiating class action settlements across the nation. Mr. Richman’s cases address law and policy issues ranging from public health and sustainability to protecting animal rights and civil liberties. The Richman Law Group has litigated on behalf of Beyond Pesticides for a number of cases, including a lawsuit against General Mills for misleading the public by labeling their Nature Valley granola bars “100% natural” even though glyphosate residues have been found in the bars.

Check out our full speaker list and schedule for more information.

Organizers:

The 35th National Pesticide Forum is convened by Beyond Pesticides, UMN Institute on the Environment, and Organic Consumers Association. Co-sponsors include: Pollinator Friendly Alliance, Giving Tree Gardens, Humming for Bees, Kids for Saving Earth, Blue Fruit Farm, Students for Sustainability, Birchwood Cafe, Seward Community Co-op, The Beez Kneez, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES), Beyond Pesticides Minnesota, Clean Up the River Environment (CURE), Minnesota Food Association, White Earth Land Recovery Project, Midwest Pesticide Action Center, Pollinate Minnesota, and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA).

Again, it’s not too late to register. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to share efforts in building local, state and national strategies for strength and growth. If you have a question or concern, call 202-543-5450 or email info@beyondpesticides.org.

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

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20
Apr

International Legal Opinion Details Monsanto’s Violation of Human Rights

(Beyond Pesticides, April 20, 2017) On Tuesday, the judges presiding over the International Monsanto Tribunal presented their legal opinion, delivering conclusions on the multinational corporation’s impact on issues ranging from human rights, food access, environmental health, to scientific research. In addition to Monsanto’s impact on human rights, the judges concluded that if ecocide were recognized as an international criminal law, the corporation would possibly be found guilty. According to the Organic Consumers Association’s press release, one of the organizing groups behind the creation of the Tribunal, “It is likely that the [legal] conclusions will lead to more liability cases against Monsanto and similar companies. This will shine a light on the true cost of production and will affect Monsanto (Bayer) shareholder value in the long run.”

The international judges determined that, based on a legal analysis of the questions asked, Monsanto has engaged in practices that have negatively affected the right to a healthy environment, to food, and to health. In addition to these infringement of rights, Monsanto has had a negative effect on the right to freedom indispensable for scientific research with “conduct such as intimidation, discrediting independent scientific research, [and] suborning false research reports.” In the third part of its advisory opinion, the Monsanto Tribunal interprets the “widening gap between international human rights law and corporate accountability” and calls for both the UN and non-state authoritative bodies to protect international human and environmental rights law.

The International Monsanto Tribunal was established by the Monsanto Tribunal Foundation as an initiative of civil society groups to put Monsanto on trial for crimes against nature and humanity, and ecocide, and to hold the corporation accountable for these violations. The legal opinion delivered on Tuesday came after the judges heard testimony from experts, witnesses, and victims beginning in October 2016 in The Hague, Netherlands, home to the UN International Court of Justice.

Relying on the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” adopted by the UN in 2011, the five international judges assessed the potential criminal liability of Monsanto for damages inflicted on human health and the environment. The court also relied on the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2002, and considered whether to reform international criminal law to include crimes against the environment, or ecocide, as a prosecutable criminal offense.

Monsanto is the producer of Roundup, a widely-used herbicide that contains the active ingredient glyphosate, a chemical that is classified as a cancer-causing agent based on laboratory studies by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO). The corporation has developed and produced many other toxic chemicals, including: Lasso, an herbicide that is now banned in Europe; PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl), one of the 12 Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) that affect human and animal fertility; and 2,4,5 T, a dioxin-containing component of the defoliant, Agent Orange, which was used by the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and continues to cause birth defects and cancer.

This international legal opinion follows on the heels of the lawsuit filed last week by Beyond Pesticides and Organic Consumers Association against Monsanto for misleading the public by labeling its popular weedkiller Roundup as “target[ing] an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets.” The lawsuit charges that Monsanto’s statement is false, deceptive, and misleading because the enzyme targeted by glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is, in fact, found in people and pets. Plaintiffs claim that Monsanto benefited monetarily from this false advertising campaign, as the company knew and intended that consumers would pay more for weed killer products claiming not to target people or pets, furthering Monsanto’s private interest of increasing sales of Roundup and decreasing the sales of competing weed killer products that are truthfully marketed.

The mounting evidence of glyphosate’s hazards, as well as documentation of Monsanto’s collusion with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials, is piling up and environmental groups, like Beyond Pesticides, are urging localities to restrict or ban the use of the chemical. Beyond Pesticides promotes these actions and many more through the Tools for Change webpage. Consumers can also avoid glyphosate exposure by buying and supporting organic food and agriculture. Beyond Pesticides has long promoted the importance of organic in a sustainable food system, and works to promote the widespread transition of conventional farmland to organic production. To find out more about the work Beyond Pesticides is doing on organic integrity, check out Keeping Organic Strong, or to see all the reasons to go organic, visit Eating with a Conscience.

Sources: teleSUR, Phys.org

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

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19
Apr

Illinois Judge Stops Construction to Protect Endangered Rusty Patch Bumblebee

(Beyond Pesticides, April 19, 2017) Local activists in Illinois were handed a victory on Monday when a judge granted a temporary restraining order to shut down a construction project due to the presence of the rusty patch bumblebee, a recently listed endangered species. The group Stop Longmeadow, in reference to the Longmeadow Parkway Bridge Corridor project, filed the lawsuit, Case: 1:16-cv-05435, based on the fact that the rusty patch bumblebee has been found in the Brunner Forest Preserve, which borders 5.6 miles of the corridor project.

Defendants, including the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, argue that the scheduled construction will not affect bumblebee habitat. The court rejected their position, however, siding in the plaintiffs by finding “the balance of harms weighs in favor of the plaintiffs and against the public’s interest in reduced traffic congestions.”

The restraining order was issued by Judge Sharon Coleman in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division. Based on the evidence presented by the plaintiff’s motion, Judge Coleman reasoned that “a brief stay to the project is warranted.” She went on to point out that, contrary to the defendant’s argument, the plaintiffs did not delay in seeking relief, given the quick turnaround between the decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list the bumblebee on March 21, 2017, and the notice by the county released on April 11, 2017, stating that work would begin on the construction project six days later on April 17. The restraining order is in place until April 28, 2017, when plaintiffs are expected to have submitted a motion for preliminary injunction with additional support for their position as well as notified the federal defendants under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to the judge’s order.

“We understand there are no guarantees but those of us fighting it believe it is the right thing to do and we are not giving up hope,” said Jo Ann Fritz, a supporter of the Stop Longmeadow movement. “We are being vigilant and we are determined,” she continued, showcasing the resolve of local protestors to demand the government protect endangered species and their habitat.

According to the motion, plaintiffs argue that, “The Longmeadow Project has significant and permanent ramifications to not only the local population of the bee, but on the nationwide survival of the species itself.” This is likely true as, according to FWS, the rusty patched bumble bee was once widespread across the U.S. and parts of Canada, but declined dramatically in the 1990s. An article published in the Washington Post states that, “The rusty patched bumblebee was so prevalent 20 years ago that pedestrians in Midwestern cities had to shoo them away.” Since then, their populations have dwindled and their overall decline is estimated at 91 percent.

The listing of the rusty patch bumblebee as an endangered species is significant, marking the first bumblebee species, and first bee overall in the continental U.S., to officially be declared endangered by FWS. This is important to groups like Beyond Pesticides because it requires that this bumblebee and the ecosystem in which it lives must be taken into consideration in all EPA allowances of pesticide use.

In October 2016, FWS listed seven species of bees as endangered in Hawaii. In its news release outlining the decision to list, FWS stated, “Causes of the decline in rusty patched bumble bee populations are believed to be loss of habitat; disease and parasites; use of pesticides that directly or indirectly kill the bees; climate change, which can affect the availability of the flowers they depend on; and extremely small population size. Most likely, a combination of these factors has caused the decline in rusty patched bumble bees.” There is substantial research demonstrating that neonicotinoid insecticides, working either individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of bees and other pollinators.

A victory in Illinois would not be the first time a large-scale construction project has come to a halt under the provisions of the ESA. In the 1978 landmark Supreme Court decision Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill, the court sided with environmentalists and upheld an injunction under the ESA that prevented the Tennessee Valley Authority from finishing the Tellico Dam, based on findings the operation of the dam would wipe out snail darter habitat. The snail darter was listed as an endangered species after the Tellico Dam project had begun, and even though the U.S. government continued to provide funding for the project after the listing, according to the court it did not render the project exempt from the ESA. This case set the precedent for the court’s willingness to enforce the ESA, a tradition that is mirrored by Judge Coleman’s decision in this case to grant a temporary injunction in order to protect the rusty patch bumblebee.

While attacks against ESA listings are likely to become more frequent over the next several years, it is critical that the public is educated on the importance of wild pollinators, both to agricultural productivity and for their intrinsic value. Indeed, there is a strong argument that it would cost more to not protect species like the rusty patch than to allow them to go extinct. A 2016 UN report warning of shortages in global food supplies should pollinator numbers decline any further estimates that pollinators worldwide contribute between $235 and $577 billion in agricultural productivity annually.

Help Beyond Pesticides show appreciation for both wild and managed pollinators by taking local action. Get involved at the community level to pass policies that protect imperiled pollinators. Right now, without federal protection, the Rusty Patched Bumblebee needs concerned communities throughout the country to step in and makes changes that give it a fighting chance. Use our resources and educational materials, including our BEE Protective doorknob hangers to get the word out. And be sure follow Beyond Pesticides’ ongoing series celebrating unsung wild pollinator heroes through the Polli-NATION campaign.

Source: Chicago Tribune, Northwest Herald, US DOJ

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

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18
Apr

Anchorage, Alaska Passes Law Restricting Toxic Pesticide Use in Public Spaces

(Beyond Pesticides, April 18, 2017) Last week, the Assembly of Anchorage, Alaska voted 10-1 to pass AO2017-59, an ordinance instituting a pesticide-free program on public parks, lands, and properties. The measure codifies and strengthens important protections for public health, particularly children’s health, water quality and the wider environment from the hazards of toxic pesticide use. “Parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles should not have to worry whether their child will be exposed to a harmful pesticide that could have long-term health consequences when they visit public parks to enjoy the great Alaska outdoors,” stated Pamela Miller, executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), which helped galvanize community support for the measure.

The new law, introduced by Assembly chair Elvi Gray-Jackson and vice chair Dick Traini, was the product of months of community stakeholder meetings and input. “That’s the way I like to do business in this community,” Ms. Gray-Jackson said to KTUU on the night the bill was passed. “Bring all the stakeholders together and have them work it out so we don’t waste a lot of time at this level.”

Like recent policies passed in Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, MD and South Portland, ME, the law establishes a list of “allowed” and “non-allowed” pesticides, ensuring that toxic synthetic pesticides will only be used as a last resort in the event of a significant threat to public or ecological health. To accomplish this goal, the ordinance emphasizes and requires preventive measures as the best defense against pest problems. This includes guiding landscape practices based on a soil test, planting native vegetation, and cultural practices, such as lawn aeration and dethatching, selective pruning, and appropriate watering. Cultural, mechanical, and biological means are considered first, even before the use of least-toxic products. However, the “allowed” list does not leave land managers without effective tools, as the list of products compatible with organic landscape management shows.

Given that the city currently uses few pesticides on turf and many other public lands due to the area’s short growing season, stakeholder discussions focused pointedly on the impact of invasive species, an issue of mounting concern. Despite the threat, the ordinance does not provide a blanket exemption for toxic pesticide use on invasives. Land managers must attempt to control these species without pesticides, and then only after these practices have been deemed inadequate make a written appeal for more toxic products to local the Department of Health, which may approve or deny the request.

In addition to codifying safer practices, in the event that more toxic pesticides are used, the ordinance requires the posting of notification signs 48 hours before an application, and remain in place 72 hours after. The law also requires that a list of approved applications of toxic pesticides is made available through the municipality’s website each year.

Anchorage is the latest locality to take action to protect children and other vulnerable residents from the harmful effects of pesticides. Despite assurances of safety “when used as directed,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s process for registering toxic synthetic pesticides leaves data gaps and liabilities that are simply not in line with the values and goals of a growing number of communities.

“This is an important victory for the health of our community and our children,” stated Samantha Englishoe, a board member of ACAT, a lifelong Anchorage resident, nursing school student, and aunt to an active two-year old said in a press release. “Pesticides disrupt our endocrine systems, harm the developing brain and immune system of children, and affect human development and reproduction, and are associated with certain cancers, including pediatric cancers.”

If you’re interested in getting active in your community to fight for an organic or pesticide-free policy, click here to sign the petition today. We’ll send you resources and strategies that you can use to win protections for children, pets, pollinators, wildlife, and water quality. Without action from local residents, states and localities will continue to rely on an increasingly politicized and underfunded EPA for their safeguards from toxic chemicals. For more on how to get involved in your community, contact Beyond Pesticides at info@beyondpesticides.org or 202-543-5450.

Source: ACAT Press Release, KTUU

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

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17
Apr

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Finds Residues of Glyphosate in One-Third of Food Products Tested

(Beyond Pesticides, April 17, 2017) The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) published a report on glyphosate testing last week, finding traces of the chemical in about one-third of food products and residue levels above the acceptable limits in almost four percent of grain products. These findings come on the heels of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to abandon plans for testing the U.S. food supply for glyphosate residues. In light of this, Beyond Pesticides is again urging USDA to test for glyphosate residues in U.S. food.

According to the CFIA report: “In 2015-2016, 3188 samples of domestic and imported food products were collected and tested for glyphosate residues in three programs:

  • Testing of 482 samples of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables as part of the National Chemical Residue Monitoring Program (NCRMP);
  • Retail survey of 2497 samples of grains (barley, buckwheat, and quinoa), beverages, bean, pea, lentil, chickpea and soy products;
  • A survey of over 209 retail samples of infant foods as part of the 2015-2016 Children’s Food Project.”

Out of the 3,188 products tested, glyphosate residues are detected in 29.7% of samples. The highest number of samples with residues detected occur in bean, pea and lentil products, at 47.4%. Of those bean, pea, and lentil samples, 0.6% have residues higher than allowed by Health Canada’s Maximum Residue Limit (MRL). The second highest number of samples found to have glyphosate residues occur in grain products, at 36.6%. Out of those grain samples, 3.9% have residues higher than allowed by the MRL. Even though samples are found that exceed the MRL, Health Canada has determined that none pose a health or safety risk. Many scientists, environmentalists, and concerned citizens disagree, pointing to the extensive science demonstrating the harm of glyphosate exposure, even at low levels.

Glyphosate became a focus of media attention following the 2015 World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classification of glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen.” In addition to IARC’s findings, previous studies have linked the toxicant to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. One study finds that chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate  leads to adverse effects to 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 “acceptable” residues have all been observed.

Even more concerning is the fact that Monsanto, the producer of Roundup (glyphosate), may have colluded with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fight the IARC cancer classification for glyphosate. According to the New York Times, unsealed court documents “include Monsanto’s internal emails and email traffic between the company and federal regulators [and] suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics.” Monsanto has made several other efforts to muddle the science showing glyphosate causes harm.

While federal oversight and regulation lags behind, environmental groups, like Beyond Pesticides, are urging localities to restrict or ban the use of glyphosate and other unnecessary toxic pesticides. Beyond Pesticides promotes these actions and many more through the Tools for Change webpage. This page is designed to help activists and other concerned citizens organize around a variety of pesticide issues on the local, state, and national level. Learn how to organize a campaign and talk to your neighbors about pesticides with our factsheets.

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

Source: Safeguarding with Science: Glyphosate Testing in 2015-2016; CBC News

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

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16
Apr

Court Grants Temporary Injunction to Endangered Protect Rusty Patch Bumblebee Habitat

(Beyond Pesticides, April 19, 2017) Local activists in Illinois were handed an exciting victory on Monday when a judge granted a temporary restraining order to shut down a construction project due to the presence of the rusty patch bumblebee, a recently listed endangered species. The group Stop Longmeadow, in reference to the Longmeadow Parkway Bridge Corridor project, filed the lawsuit, Case: 1:16-cv-05435, based on the fact that the rusty patch bumblebee has been found in the Brunner Forest Preserve, which borders 5.6 miles of the corridor project.

The defendants, including the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, argue that the scheduled construction will not affect bumblebee habitat. The court rejected their position, however, siding in the plaintiffs by finding “the balance of harms weighs in favor of the plaintiffs and against the public’s interest in reduced traffic congestions.”

The restraining order was issued by Judge Sharon Coleman in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division. Based on the evidence presented by the plaintiff’s motion, Judge Coleman reasoned that “a brief stay to the project is warranted.” She went on to point out that, contrary to the defendant’s argument, the plaintiffs did not delay in seeking relief, given the quick turnaround between the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list the bumblebee on March 21, 2017, and the notice by the county released on April 11, 2017, stating that work would begin on the construction project six days later on April 17. The restraining order is in place until April 28, 2017, when plaintiffs are expected to have submitted a motion for preliminary injunction with additional support for their position as well as notified the federal defendants under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to the judge’s order.

“We understand there are no guarantees but those of us fighting it believe it is the right thing to do and we are not giving up hope,” said Jo Ann Fritz, a supporter of the Stop Longmeadow movement. “We are being vigilant and we are determined,” she continued, showcasing the resolve of local protestors to demand the government protect endangered species and their habitat.

According to the motion, plaintiffs allege that, “The Longmeadow Project has significant and permanent ramifications to not only the local population of the bee, but on the nationwide survival of the species itself.” This is likely true as, according to FWS, the rusty patched bumble bee was once widespread across the U.S. and parts of Canada, but declined dramatically in the 1990s. An article published in the Washington Post states that, “The rusty patched bumblebee was so prevalent 20 years ago that pedestrians in Midwestern cities had to shoo them away.” Since then, their populations have dwindled and their overall decline is estimated at 91 percent.

The listing of the rusty patch bumblebee as an endangered species is significant, marking the first bumblebee species, and first bee overall in the continental U.S., to officially be declared endangered by FWS. In October 2016, FWS listed seven species of bees as endangered in Hawaii. In its news release outlining the decision to list, FWS stated “Causes of the decline in rusty patched bumble bee populations are believed to be loss of habitat; disease and parasites; use of pesticides that directly or indirectly kill the bees; climate change, which can affect the availability of the flowers they depend on; and extremely small population size. Most likely, a combination of these factors has caused the decline in rusty patched bumble bees.” There is substantial research demonstrating that neonicotinoid insecticides, working either individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of bees and other pollinators.

A victory in Illinois would not be the first time a large-scale construction project has come to a halt under the provisions of ESA. In the 1978 landmark Supreme Court decision Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill, the court sided with environmentalists and upheld an injunction under the ESA that prevented the Tennessee Valley Authority from finishing the Tellico Dam, based on findings the operation of the dam would wipe out snail darter habitat. The snail darter was listed as an endangered species after the Tellico Dam project had begun, and even though the U.S. government continued to provide funding for the project after the listing, according to the court it did not render the project exempt from the ESA. This case set the precedent for the court’s willingness to enforce the ESA, a tradition that is mirrored by Judge Coleman’s decision in this case to grant a temporary injunction in order to protect the rusty patch bumblebee.

While attacks against ESA listings are likely to become more frequent over the next several years, it is critical that the public is educated on the importance of wild pollinators, both to agricultural productivity and for their intrinsic value. Indeed, there is a strong argument that it would cost more to not protect species like the rusty patch than to allow them to go extinct. A 2016 UN report warning of shortages in global food supplies should pollinator numbers decline any further estimates that pollinators worldwide contribute between $235 and $577 billion in agricultural productivity annually.

Show appreciation for both wild and managed pollinators by taking local action. Get involved at the community level to pass policies that protect imperiled pollinators. Right now, without federal protection, the Rusty Patched Bumblebee needs concerned communities throughout the country to step in and makes changes that give it a fighting chance. Use our resources and educational materials, including our BEE Protective doorknob hangers to get the word out. And be sure follow Beyond Pesticides’ ongoing series celebrating unsung wild pollinator heroes through the Polli-NATION campaign.

Source: Chicago Tribune, Northwest Herald, US DOJ

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

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14
Apr

Report Documents Threats to Aquatic Life, Calls for Phase-Out of Neonicotinoid Use

(Beyond Pesticides, April 14, 2017) – As pollinators nationwide suffer severe declines tied to widespread exposure to pesticides, particularly a family of insecticides known as neonicotinoids, a new report details the chemicals’ dramatic impacts on aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity. This report coincides with findings of neonicotinoids in drinking water.

The new report, Poisoned Waterways, documents the persistence of neonicotinoids in U.S. waterbodies and the danger they cause to aquatic organisms, resulting in complex cascading impacts on aquatic food web. The report supports previous calls for the restriction of neonicotinoid pesticides, given their high toxicity to bees, and now aquatic life.

In an early 2017 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) risk assessment on one of the most widely used neonicotinoids, the agency reported levels in streams, rivers, lakes and drainage canals that routinely exceed acute and chronic toxicity endpoints derived for freshwater invertebrates.

Poisoned Waterways reviews the current scientific literature on the effects of neonicotinoids in waterways and the life they support. Not only are these insecticides, which include, imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam, regularly detected in waterbodies in the U.S., they are found at levels that harm sensitive aquatic organisms. Aquatic insects and crustaceans are highly vulnerable, with the mayfly identified as the most sensitive. The report finds that impacts on certain aquatic species can have cascading effects on food webs and healthy ecosystem function. These impacts occur at low levels, and can result in decreased species abundance, altered predator-prey relationships, and reduced nutrient cycling. Impacts to other wildlife that depend on these species raises serious cause for concern.

“The pervasive presence of neonicotinoids in waterways can have such profound and long-lasting impact on our aquatic ecology that has so far been overlooked,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “the science shows that these pesticides are highly toxic to a range of aquatic species, even at low levels,” he continued.

“With new findings of neonicotinoids in drinking water, it is imperative that action be taken to restrict the contamination of our waters by these persistent chemicals,” said one of the study’s authors, Nichelle Harriott, science and regulatory director of Beyond Pesticides.

The report also highlights current regulatory failures of EPA aquatic standards, which continue to underestimate risks to sensitive species due to a reliance on test protocols that do not reflect real-world exposures or susceptibilities. Further, the impacts of chemical mixtures and synergistic interactions are not considered. Aquatic standards, which continue to underestimate risks to sensitive species due to a reliance on test protocols that do not reflect real-world exposures or susceptibilities. Further, the impacts of chemical mixtures and synergistic interactions are not considered.

The report also highlights current regulatory failures of EPA aquatic standards, which continue to underestimate risks to sensitive species due to a reliance on test protocols that do not reflect real-world exposures or susceptibilities. Further, the impacts of chemical mixtures and synergistic interactions are not considered.

In light of the report’s findings and regulatory shortcomings, Beyond Pesticides is calling for the suspension of neonicotinoids. Recently, Canada proposed to phase-out uses of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, citing risks to aquatic life.

Neonicotinoids are one of the most widely used pesticides in the world. They are systemic pesticides that have the ability move through the plants vascular system and are expressed through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets.  These pesticides, which include imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran, acetamiprid, and clothianidin have been found by a growing body of scientific literature to be linked to pollinator decline in general.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action in the U.S. to protect these beneficial organisms, it is left up to us to act. You can pledge to stop using neonicotinoids and other toxic pesticides. Sign the pollinator protection pledge today. Beyond Pesticides also advocates the adoption of organic land management practices and policies by local communities that eliminate the use of toxic pesticides in our environment.

The report can be found at http://bit.ly/2pba2mL

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

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13
Apr

Study Shows Women and Education Reduce Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, April 13, 2017) With pesticide use rising in Southeast Asia, a new study is highlighting the importance of education and social dynamics in driving farmers’ decisions to spray. When women oversee agricultural pesticide use, according to the study, these farms use approximately 42% less pesticide than other farms. The research, published in Science of the Total Environment this month, aims to provide insight on methods that may be used to intervene and reduce pesticide dependence. The investigation comes at a critical time, as international bodies like the United Nations indicate that rampant pesticide use has the potential to negatively impact human rights, especially in developing countries.

In Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, pesticide imports are growing at an annual rate of 61%, 55%, and 10%, respectively. These trends have international implications, as food imported from these countries is subsequently found contaminated with pesticides, with for example, 33% of crops imported to the European Union from Vietnam containing pesticide residue above maximum acceptable limits.

To uncover the factors driving increased pesticide use in the region, researchers queried 900 vegetable farming households on their knowledge, attitude, and practices. Knowledge included understanding about best practices in agriculture, such as the difference between pest and beneficial insects. Attitudes were related to views regarding the effectiveness of pesticides and their potential health impacts. Practices are related to farmers’ agricultural use of pesticides, including how much product was purchased, the type of pesticide, and how much and how often products were sprayed.

When shown pictures of common insects, farmers were better able to identify pests, at a rate of 69%, than beneficial bugs, which were only identified correctly 23% of the time, on average. Under 50% of farmers were aware that honey bees, earthworms, and spiders were beneficial for their crops. Less than 5% of farmers on average knew that lacewings and ladybird larvae were beneficial. Analysis showed that farmers with a good ability to identify insects sprayed 48% less pesticides.

While 59% of farmers were aware that pesticides could have a dangerous impact on health, researchers found a number of prevalent mistaken beliefs. Though on average 86% of farmers worried about getting cancer from applying pesticides, 68% thought a pesticides’ toxicity could be determined through smell, 31% believed herbicides are not risky for humans, and 17% believed drinking alcohol after applying pesticides eliminated any side effects.

An average of 79% of farmers also thought that mixing multiple pesticides together would increase their effectiveness, and 66% thought that “good pesticides” were those that killed all insects immediately. Interestingly, researchers did not find a strong association between knowledge of pesticide health hazards and a decrease in their use. However, farmers that believed pesticides were necessary and effective used 66% more than their peers.

Social factors also provided insightful results. Despite a general belief that pesticide spraying was a man’s job, 49% of women in Vietnam oversaw pesticide use, as well as 38% in Laos and Cambodia. When this was the case, these farmers sprayed roughly 42% less pesticide than other farms. Furthermore, when farmers pursued advice from neighbors they used 48% less pesticides. Researchers determined that pesticide retailers had one of the more significant impacts on pesticide use. When farmers looked mainly to pesticide shopkeepers for advice on controlling pests, their use was 251% higher than the average farm surveyed.

This research provides a number of routes through which government and civil society can make an impact and slow pesticide use. By building awareness and the ability to identify insect pests, more farmers will be likely to take advantage of natural pest control, rather than work to indiscriminately kill all the insects in their fields. By further empowering women to engage in pest management decisions, farms will likely apply less chemicals. And by building local knowledge-sharing capacity, farmers will be more likely to turn to their neighbors than to pesticide applicators.

Despite a general belief by farmers than pesticides were necessary, an average of 82% reported that organic agriculture is a good alternative to conventional agriculture. As researchers explain, slow adoption of non-toxic alternative pest management practices, biopesticides, and ecological management was likely a result of availability of products and government support for these programs. By encouraging broader adoption of ecological and organic pest management practices, there is the potential for significant progress in reducing hazardous pesticide use.

It is important to note that these trends are not confined to developing countries. A major point of concern among authors in a recent French study which found that pesticides do not increase farmer profits, indicated that much of the advice farmers received regarding pest control came from pesticide companies. Farmers had little access to alternative information, the researchers noted.

Despite the structural barriers, organic agriculture continues to represent a viable, scalable path forward for both the developing and developed world. Consumers can play an important role in facilitating this needed change by voting with their wallet. Purchase organic products whenever possible to support a system that restricts toxic pesticide use, and encourages alternative pest management practices that aim to foster rather than eliminate ecological and natural pest services.

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

Sources: ScienceDirect, PhnomPenhPost

 

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12
Apr

Maryland Passes Ban of Bee Toxic Pesticides on State Managed Pollinator Habitat

(Beyond Pesticides, April 12, 2017) Earlier this week, the Maryland General Assembly took action to protect pollinators found in designated state pollinator habitat by passing SB 386/HB 830, Pollinator Habitat Plans- Plan Contents- Requirements and Prohibition, with bipartisan support. With this bill, the legislature will require pollinator habitat plans developed by any state agency to be as protective of pollinators as the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s managed pollinator protection plan requires. This translates to prohibiting, with some exceptions, the use of neonicotinoid pesticides or neonicotinoid-treated seeds or plants on state land designated as pollinator habitat. The bill’s passage represents the third major legislative victory to protect bees and other pollinators coming out of Maryland in the past year.

Last spring, in a historic move, the Maryland legislature voted to become the first state in the nation to ban consumers from using products containing neonicotinoid pesticides, a class of bee-toxic chemicals that has been linked to the startling decline in bees and other pollinators around the world. The Maryland Pollinator Protection Act (Senate Bill 198/House Bill 211), which also received bipartisan support, stipulates that consumers will not be allowed to buy pesticide products containing neonicotinoids starting in 2018. However, the legislation’s reach does not extend to farmers, veterinarians, and certified pesticide applicators, who will still be permitted to apply the chemicals. The Maryland Pollinator Protection Act became law without Governor Larry Hogan’s signature.

“We are thrilled that Maryland is doing even more to protect our bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinators, which are so crucial to our food supply and environment,” said Bonnie Raindrop, legislative chair of the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, when asked about the most recent bill passing. “Having just lost all of my bee hives over the winter, I can say firsthand that the threat is real, and we need to do all we can to protect these essential creatures.”

The bill that passed this week serves as an amendment to the Pollinator Habitat Plans law, passed in 2016, and requires the State Highway Administration and Maryland’s Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Services to establish a pollinator habitat plan for any lands they own or manage. Because habitat loss is one factor, along with pesticide use and disease, contributing to pollinator declines, providing comprehensive guidance and oversight to the state agencies charged with protecting pollinators is an important step in improving pollinator health. The amendment seeks to ensure that designated state pollinator habitats are not maintained using pesticides labeled as toxic to pollinators, a requirement that was not outlined in the original bill. The bill allows exceptions for public health emergencies and gives state agencies freedom to designate which of their lands are protected pollinator habitat and which are not. Environmental activists who worked on getting the amendment passed felt it was a necessary technical clarification to uphold the intent of the original law.

“Keeping state pollinator habitats free of certain toxic pesticides will help bees and other pollinators survive and thrive in our state,” said Ruth Berlin, executive director of the Maryland Pesticide Education Network. “We had to make sure that state pollinator habitats would not end up harming the very species we were trying to protect. We are so thankful to all our legislative champions, and we look forward to Governor Hogan signing the bill into law.”

The bill now moves to Governor Larry Hogan’s desk to be signed in to law, a necessity that is not without challenge. Last year after lawmakers approved the Pollinator Protection Act, there was still some fear by activists that the bill could be killed with a veto from the state’s republican governor, who remained skeptical of the connection between neonicotinoid pesticides and pollinators despite an overwhelming amount of research demonstrating that neonicotinoids play a critical role in the ongoing decline of bees and other pollinators. However, instead of vetoing the legislation the governor left the bill unsigned, allowing it to become law without his outright support.

Maryland bees continue to die at alarming rates. Maryland beekeepers lost 56 percent of their hives last year, which follows a 61 percent loss in 2015. Experts say annual losses beyond 15 percent are unsustainable for beekeepers. The federal government has taken similar precautions against toxic pesticides. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service phased out neonic use, and it is now prohibited on national wildlife lands. The National Pollinator Health Strategy, which provides guidance for designed landscapes, advises that “chemical controls that can adversely affect pollinators should not be applied in pollinator habitats” and federal facilities use seeds and plants that do not contain systemic insecticides.

To ensure that the most recent pollinator legislation becomes law, if you are a Maryland resident click here to email Governor Larry Hogan and ask him to support the Pollinator Habitat Plans- Plan Contents- Requirements and Prohibition bill.

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

Source: Smart on Pesticides Maryland Press Release

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

 

 

 

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