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Daily News Blog

11
Dec

Increased Risk of Parkinson’s Disease Linked to Consumption of Heptachlor Contaminated Milk

(Beyond Pesticides, December 11, 2015) Milk contaminated with the long-banned and toxic organochlorine pesticide heptachlor in Hawaii has been found in the brains of men that were more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study. This study adds to a large body of evidence linking pesticide exposure to Parkinson’s disease.

pineapplefieldResearchers of the study, titled “Midlife milk consumption and substantia nigra neuron density at death” and published in the journal Neurology, collected milk intake data from 1965 to 1968 for 449 men aged 45-68 years withpostmortem examinations from 1992 to 2004. Neuron density was measured in an area of the brain called substantia nigra (SN). As Parkinson’s develops, cells are destroyed in certain parts of the brain stem, particularly in the SN, a crescent-shaped cell mass. Measurements of brain residues of heptachlor epoxide, a heptachlor metabolite that is persistent and more toxic than its parent chemical, were also taken.

“Among those who drank the most milk, residues of heptachlor epoxide were found in 9 of 10 brains as compared to 63.4%…for those who consumed no milk,” the researchers wrote. Neuron density was lowest in subjects who consumed the highest amounts of milk.

The researchers looked at milk because it can bioconcentrate, or accumulate, certain organic pollutants such as organochlorine pesticides. Hawaii is an area that is of particular importance due to excessively high levels of heptachlor epoxide what were reported to contaminate the milk supply during the time that study participants were being followed. Heptachlor was widely used on pineapple plantations and the “green chop,” or tops of the pineapple, were fed to cows. It was widely known that milk was contaminated with elevated levels of helptachlor in the 1980’s. EPA allowed the use of heptachlor on pineapples to continue long after other agricultural uses had been suspended.

Heptachlor was used as an insecticide between 1953 and 1974 as a soil and seed treatment; however, nearly all registered uses of heptachlor have been canceled. Uses continued in Hawaii under an exemption until 1994. EPA has classified heptachlor as a Group B2 probable human carcinogen.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that affects the motor system, resulting in symptoms of tremor, stiffness, or slowing of movement. Organochlorine pesticides may have a role in the causation of Parkinson’s.  In 2013, a study revealed that individuals with a genetic mutation were at increased risk of Parkinson’s disease if they were also exposed to low doses of pesticides. Another study in the journal Cell also provides firm evidence linking pesticides to Parkinson’s disease, as the researchers used pesticides to find the mechanisms by which the disease manifests itself. Beyond Pesticides has worked to increase public awareness of the link between pesticide use and Parkinson’s disease through the Pesticide Induced Diseases Database, which currently features over 100 peer-reviewed studies that have researched the pesticides-Parkinson’s connection.

As the connection between Parkinson’s and pesticide use becomes increasingly clear, pressure will continue to build for practices and methods that exclude pests without the use of hazardous chemicals. Whether in airplanes, farms, gardens, lawns, waterways, inside one’s own home, or the numerous other places where pesticides are often used, there are non-toxic and least-toxic alternatives that do not necessitate the use of hazardous chemicals. For more information on the link between pesticides and Parkinson’s, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database, or read our 2008 Pesticides and You article “Pesticides Trigger Parkinson’s Disease.”

Sources: Neurology; NBC News

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

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10
Dec

Herbicide (Dicamba) Drift Adversely Affects Non-Target Pollinators and Plants

(Beyond Pesticides, December 10, 2015) Researchers at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture published a study, which found that aerial drift of the herbicide dicamba adversely affects non-target plants and pollinator species. Dicamba is a chlorinated benzoic acid herbicide associated with neurotoxicity and reproductive effects. The study used alfalfa crops to track the flowering and floral visitation by insects, specifically pollinators, after applications of sublethal doses of dicamba. The researchers concluded, “Our results suggest that widespread non-target damage from these herbicides may adversely affect pollinator communities.”

downloadBecause dicamba is “frequently responsible for sublethal, off-target damage” to plants and insects, Penn State researchers assessed the most common route of exposure: particle and vapor drift. In its study, Effects of the Herbicide Dicamba on Nontarget Plants and Pollinator Visitation, the research team examined the crop species alfalfa (Medicago sativa), which requires insect pollination to produce seeds, and the native plant species common boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), which is highly attractive to a wide range of pollinator species. The researchers applied a range of sublethal doses of dicamba to the plants, then tracked flowering and floral visitation by insect species. They identified the types of insects visiting the flowers and analyzed pollen quality to determine if herbicide exposure altered pollen quality. “We found that both plant species are susceptible to very low rates of dicamba — just 0.1 to 1 percent of the expected field application rate can negatively influence flowering,” said John Tooker, Ph.D., entomologist and extension specialist at Penn State. “This will lead to higher levels of non-target damage to susceptible crop plants and native, wild vegetation
For non-crop plant species, this drift-induced damage could significantly decrease the pollinator and natural enemy communities that these plants can support,” he explained.

“Because of the challenge of glyphosate-resistant weeds, new types of transgenic crops that are resistant to synthetic-auxin herbicides including dicamba and 2,4-D will be widely planted in coming growing seasons, raising concerns about damage from these drift-prone herbicides,” said Dr. Tooker. Herbicide currently accounts for 50% of pesticide use in the United States. “The expected high rate of adoption of the new transgenic crops will increase dicamba and 2,4-D use by four to eight times.

Dicamba and 2,4-D are synthetic-auxin herbicides, meaning they mimic plant growth hormones, disrupting natural plant processes. According to David Mortensen, Ph.D., professor of weed and applied plant ecology at Penn State, “Synthetic-auxin herbicides are usually used early in the growing season, but with the new transgenic crop varieties coming on the market, these herbicides will be used later when temperatures are warmer and more plant species are leafed out.” This could also increase the possibility that bees encounter these herbicides or the plants affected by them.

Studies like this one are imperative to position the safeguards needed to protect pollinators and the crops dependent on their pollination. According to a 2012 study, pollination services for all crops requiring direct pollination annually exceed $15 billion, and wild bee communities provide nearly $3.5 billion worth of these pollination services. While neonicotinoids (neonics) have been the focus of the pollinator decline discussion, other pesticides have been found to adversely affect pollinators. A recent study conducted by Germans and Argentinian researchers found that honeybees exposed to low doses of glyphosate have a hard time returning home.

Glyphosate used in herbicide-tolerant crops, has resulted in the creation of GE crops resistant to chemicals like dicamba and 2,4-D. Because of glyphosate overreliance, there are at least 29 weed species worldwide that are resistant to glyphosate. Previously, “Roundup Ready” crops were thought to make herbicide application easier; instead, it inadvertently created a resistance that led to new GE crop systems, like Enlist Duo (glyphosate and 2,4-D). Because weeds have mutated to tolerate almost every form of herbicide weed control system sent their way, farmers are experiencing problems with super weeds and, in turn, invest in chemical-intensive systems that harm human health and the environment.

As the crisis in weed resistance escalates, threatening crop productivity and profitability, advocates point to organic agriculture as a solution that protects public health, the environment, pollinators, and farmers’ livelihood. Ecological pest management strategies, organic practices, and solutions that are not chemical-intensive are the most appropriate and long-term solution to managing unwanted plants, or weeds. Additionally, organic agriculture is an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, mechanical production practices, and natural inputs. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, organic farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most genetically engineered organisms have been falsely-marketed as solving. To learn more about organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Program Page.

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

Source: Pennsylvania State University

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09
Dec

Oregon to Consider Stop-Gap Measure to Test for Pesticides on Marijuana

(Beyond Pesticides December 9, 2015) Last week, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) signaled its willingness to address a gap in the regulation of pesticides in marijuana production caused by a lag in the start date of the state’s revised testing program. After new regulations were adopted last month to increase the amount of pesticide residue testing on cannabis required by the state, concerns were raised about the delayed June 2016 start date. The committee that advises OHA on medical marijuana pressured the agency to expedite the rules.

While a final decision is pending, the  stop-gap testing rules would target the most commonly used pesticides in marijuana production and go into effect as early as January. Advocates are urging states to ban registered pesticides, since they are not labeled for use on marijuana and not evaluated for exposure associated with inhalation, ingestion, and dermal absorption, as well as potential environmental contamination. 70,000-plus medical marijuana users, as well as recreational users, within the state will be affected by the regulations.

In November, the state of Oregon updated its rules governing pesticide use to require the mandatory testing of nearly 60 pesticide compounds that are of particular concern.CannabisWEB Under the new rules, all growers will be required to undergo this testing, and failure will result in the untested batch being destroyed. This is a change from prior rules which allowed laboratories to determine on their own what pesticides to include in a screening. This change was deemed necessary in light of The Oregonian findings that some labs had stopped testing for a common pesticide that is included in the new rules because failed samples hurt its business.

Mowgli Holmes, Ph.D., a scientist and founder of Phylos Bioscience, a Portland-based company that performs genetic research on cannabis, serves as a member of the advisory panel to OHA and is one of the biggest advocates for addressing the in-between time created by Oregon’s new regulations. Dr.Holmes has been evaluating the potential dangers associated with the unregulated use of pesticides on marijuana, and in June produced a white paper on the subject entitled “Pesticide Use on Cannabis,” which cites Beyond Pesticides’ report on “Pesticide Use in Marijuana Production.” Last week, Dr. Holmes pushed the health authority to ditch its current requirement that marijuana be tested for four broad classes of chemicals and instead require testing for 10 or 12 of the most commonly used pesticides. He believes that focusing on these dozen or so “bad actors” would push growers of medical marijuana to “wean themselves” quickly from their longstanding practices of pesticide use, as any sample that tested positive for one of the compounds on the list would be “denied clearance for commercial sale,” according to Dr. Holmes’ proposal.

Oregon’s existing rules for pesticide analysis are broad and fail to target the chemicals that chemical-intensive cannabis producers commonly use to control mites, mold and mildew. Currently a cottage industry of marijuana labs, operating without government oversight, can pick and choose which pesticides to include in their routine screenings, often omitting tests for the most commonly used pesticides. This ensures that growers submitting their products for testing can “pass” inspections and place their crop on the market while still being able to claim that the product has been tested for pesticide residue. To address this issue, Dr. Holmes suggests that every transfer of marijuana from grower to dispensary should be accompanied by a certificate produced by the testing lab. He proposes that the certificate includes the names of the pesticides tested, and whether the pesticide was detected and at what level. All of the information would then be available to the state agency that is accrediting marijuana labs.

However, because Oregon Health Authority presently lacks direct enforcement authority over laboratories to ensure reliable testing results, Dr. Holmes concedes that enforcement would likely remain a problem in the proposed transitional testing system, as labs within the state will not fully be accredited until next summer under the new rules. The variation in laboratories standards raises additional problems.

For months, government officials in states that have legalized marijuana have not resolved with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies issues regarding the regulation of pesticides in marijuana production. Quarantines on pesticide-laced cannabis in Denver, Colorado, a warning letter and testimony delivered by Beyond Pesticides, and a recent lawsuit against a major Colorado grower may have encouraged Governor John Hickenlooper to issue an executive order directing state agencies to address public safety concerns related to pesticide-contaminated cannabis.  Additionally agencies within Colorado and Washington State have created and published a list of allowed pesticides on cannabis that have come under scrutiny for their inclusion of pesticides whose use would violate existing federal law, according to safety advocates.

The Organic Approach

While recent moves in Colorado, Oregon, and previously in California represent steps in the right direction, they also contain significant pitfalls and loopholes that allow contaminated cannabis to market where it threatens public health. Beyond Pesticides continues to encourage states to take a stronger approach to regulating this budding industry, so that it blazes an agricultural path that protects its most sensitive at-risk users. Three elements must be passed and enforced in order to do so. They are:
1. A prohibition on the use of federally registered pesticides on cannabis;
2. Allowance of pesticides exempt from federal registration, but not those that are only exempt from tolerances and;
3. Requirements for an organic system plan that focuses on sustainable practices and only 25b products as a last resort.

Beyond Pesticides maintains that implementing these three requirements will ensure the sustainable growth of a new agricultural industry, and lead to the protection of public health. For more information and background this important issue, see Beyond Pesticides’ report Pesticide Use in Marijuana Production: Safety Issues and Sustainable Options.

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

Source: The Oregonian

 

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08
Dec

Scientists Find Pesticide Exposure Decreases Lung Function in Children

(Beyond Pesticides, December 8, 2015) Exposure to common agricultural pesticides in early life leads to a measurable decrease in children’s lung functioning, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley. Organophosphate pesticides, a relatively older generation of crop chemicals still widely used on farms in California, have been associated with a broad range of diseases in both children and adults. This latest study adds to calls from health and environmental advocates to eliminate these toxic pesticides in agriculture, and move towards safer, sustainable, and organic management practices.

coughThe higher the rate of organophosphate exposure, the smaller a child’s lung capacity would be, scientists found. The UC Berkeley study traces exposure by looking at pesticide metabolites in urine five times over the course of childhood (6 months to 5 years). Participants were part of the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS), a longitudinal birth cohort study investigating the effects of pesticides and other environmental chemicals on the growth, health, and development of children in California’s Salinas Valley.

For every 10-fold increase in pesticide metabolites measured in a child’s urine, an average of approximately 8% air function within the lungs was lost. “Researchers have described breathing problems in agricultural workers who are exposed to these pesticides, but these new findings are about children who live in an agricultural area where the organophosphates are being used,” said study senior author Brenda Eskenazi, PhD, a professor of epidemiology and of maternal and child health. “This is the first evidence suggesting that children exposed to organophosphates have poorer lung function.”

Scientists determined these results after adjusting for smoking during pregnancy, season of birth, exposure to particulate matter, breast feeding duration, mold and pets at home, distance of a home to a highway, food insecurity, mother’s education, season at which the test was administered, and the child’s height and gender, according to the study.

The authors indicate that the effect of pesticide exposure is equivalent to that seen when children are exposed to secondhand smoke.

“This study adds exposure to organophosphate pesticides to the growing list of environmental exposures – including air pollution, indoor cook stove smoke and environmental tobacco smoke – that could be harmful to the developing lungs of children,” said lead author Rachel Raanan, PhD. “Given they are still used worldwide, we believe our findings deserve further attention.”

Of paramount concern are the health implications for children with similar levels of exposure across the country. “If the reduced lung function persists into adulthood, it could leave our participants at greater risk of developing respiratory problems like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease),” said Dr. Raanan. A separate CHAMACOS study published earlier this year echoed the current findings, showing an association with pesticide exposure and possible asthma in childhood.

Organophosphates are pesticides derived from World War II nerve agents. In addition to being potent neurotoxicants, organophosphates are extremely harmful to the nervous system, as they are cholinesterase inhibitors and bind irreversibly to the active site of an enzyme essential for normal nerve impulse transmission. Although organophosphate use is on the decline in the U.S., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has allowed the continued registration of many of these products. As a result of a lawsuit by environmental groups, the agency recently proposed a rule that would to remove one of the most potent organophosphates, chlorpyrifos, from use in agricultural production. However, EPA is not expected to finalize the rule until December 2016. Health and environmental advocates must remain vigilant of Dow, the pesticides’ manufacturer, and its ability to lobby Congress to protect its profits of children’s health.

Studies have documented that exposure to even low levels of organophosphates during pregnancy can impair learning, change brain function, and alter thyroid levels of offspring into adulthood. The evidence of hazards to children as a result of organophosphate exposure is robust and highly concerning, even for those that do not live in or around agricultural fields, as these chemicals are frequently detected on food.

The most surefire way consumers can avoid exposure to toxic organophosphates and protect children’s health is by supporting organic agriculture. Buying organic not only means that your food is safer, it means that the farmworkers who grow the food we eat and their children are not subject to toxic insult. Find out more about why organic is the right path forward for the future of farming by going to Beyond Pesticides’ organic agriculture webpage.

Source: Berkeley News, Thorax

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

 

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07
Dec

International Case To Be Brought Against Monsanto for Health and Environmental Crimes

(Beyond Pesticides, December 07, 2015) Monsanto will be put on trial for crimes against nature, humanity, and ecocide in The Hague, Netherlands, home to the United Nation’s International Court of Justice. The Organic Consumers Association (OCA), IFOAM International Organics, Navdanya, Regeneration International (RI), and Millions Against Monsanto, joined by dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups announced late last week that they will put the U.S.-based transnational corporation on trial next year on World Food Day, October 16, 2016.

MonsantoCompanyThe announcement was made at a press conference held in conjunction with the COP21 United Nations Conference on Climate Change, November 30 – December 11, in Paris.

Monsanto is the producer of Roundup, a widely-used herbicide that contains the active ingredient glyphosate, a chemical that was recently 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 (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid), a dioxin-containing component of the defoliant, Agent Orange, which was used by the US Army during the Vietnam War and continues to cause birth defects and cancer. Monsanto is also facing numerous personal injury lawsuits over the link between glyphosate exposure and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). Personal injury law firms around the U.S. have found a multitude of plaintiffs and are preparing for what could be a “mass tort” action against Monsanto for knowingly misinforming the public and farmworkers about the dangers of the chemical.

“The time is long overdue for a global citizens’ tribunal to put Monsanto on trial for crimes against humanity and the environment. We are in Paris this month to address the most serious threat that humans have ever faced in our 100-200,000 year evolution —global warming and climate disruption. Why is there so much carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere and not enough carbon organic matter in the soil? Corporate agribusiness, industrial forestry, the garbage and sewage industry and agricultural biotechnology have literally killed the climate-stabilizing, carbon-sink capacity of the Earth’s living soil,” said Ronnie Cummins, international director of OCA (US) and Via Organica (Mexico), and member of the RI Steering Committee, at the press conference.

Relying on the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” adopted by the UN in 2011, an international court of lawyers and judges will assess the potential criminal liability of Monsanto for damages inflicted on human health and the environment. The court will also rely on the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2002, and it will consider whether to reform international criminal law to include crimes against the environment, or ecocide, as a prosecutable criminal offense. The International Criminal Court, established in 2002 in The Hague, has determined that prosecuting ecocide as a criminal offense is the only way to guarantee the rights of humans to a healthy environment and the right of nature to be protected.

For more information about the International Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague, visit http://www.monsanto-tribunal.org/.

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

Source: Organic Consumers Association

 

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04
Dec

Home Depot Announces Phase Out of Bee-Toxic Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, December 4, 2015) Home Depot, the world’s largest home-improvement chain, has announced that it will no longer use neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides (which have emerged as the leading class of pesticides responsible for bee declines) in 80 percent of its flowering plants, and that it will complete its phase-out in plants by 2018. This follows the announcement made by Lowe’s earlier this year to phase out the sale of products containing neonicotinoid pesticides within 48 months.

October_2013_home_depot_logoOn its Eco Options gardening page, Home Depot says the following: “Our live goods suppliers have reduced the number of plants that they treat with neonicotinoids, so that now over 80% of our flowering plants are not treated HomeDepotWinBPwith neonicotinoids. We will continue this decrease unless, 1) it is required by state or federal regulation, or 2) undisputed science proves that the use of neonicotinoids on our live goods does not have a lethal or sub lethal effect on pollinators. Otherwise we will have a complete phase-out of neonicotinoid use on our live goods by the end of 2018.”

“It’s important that retailers begin to make the switch toward safer products for bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. Retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s are “helping consumers break away from a dependency on the use of toxic pesticides in their homes and gardens,” he continued in a statement to Friends of the Earth. These decisions signal a shift in the marketplace away from bee-toxic pesticides, despite the lack of regulatory action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Advocates want to see these actions by two major retailers prompt other significant retail chains to move toward safer alternatives.

Home Depot’s newest commitment to protecting pollinators follows steadfast demands from environmental allies and consumers to take neonicotinoids off of the shelves. Home Depot previously decided to start requiring all nursery plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids to carry a label to inform customers, following a report written last year. The report, Gardeners Beware 2014, shows that 36 out of 71 (51 percent) of garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contain neonicotinoid pesticides. Some of the flowers contained neonic levels high enough to kill bees outright and concentrations in the flowers’ pollen and nectar were assumed to be comparable. Further, 40% of the positive samples contained two or more neonics.

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

The easiest way to ensure that seeds are not treated with neonics is to buy seeds that are certified organic or plants grown with organic practices. While untreated seeds are a step in the right direction, they do not ensure that the seed production practices are protective of bees or that residual chemicals do not contaminate the plant. For example, studies raise concerns over the connection between the use of fungicides and the declining overall health of bee colonies, shining a light on the negative impacts their use has on overall bee health. Seeds and plants that are certified organic, on the other hand, do not permit the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. To assist consumers in making the best choice for pollinator protections, Beyond Pesticides launched its Pollinator-Friendly Seed Directory, a comprehensive list of companies that sell organic seeds to the general public. Toxic pesticides harmful to bees, including neonics, are not permitted in seeds certified organic, which display the USDA Organic label on their packaging. Included in this directory are seeds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

Individual municipalities, encouraged by local interests, have also seen success in taking meaningful action against the use of neonicotinoids. The City of Portland, Oregon recently voted unanimously to ban the use of neonicotinoid insecticides on city-owned property because these pesticides are persistent in the environment, harmful to pollinators, and have been involved in acute bee kills in other areas of the state. Similar actions have been seen in Eugene, Oregon, Skagway (Alaska), Shorewood, Minnesota, Boulder, Colorado and, in Washington State, Thurston County, Seattle, and Spokane. These local actions show the power of communities to protect and conserve their natural resources from the dangers of products containing neonicotinoids

The next step is to encourage other retail chains to follow in the footsteps of localities, and big retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s. True Value and Ace Hardware pride themselves in being leaders in customer satisfaction, so we need to show them that their customers don’t want neonics in their products and on their plants. There are no more excuses — we know it’s possible to get these pesticides off their shelves. It’s time for True Value and Ace Hardware to join their competitors and eliminate neonics. You can encourage this switch by signing onto our letter asking them to show similar leadership and commit to not sell neonicotinoid pesticides.

For more information on how hardware stores can go organic and protect pollinators, see Beyond Pesticides’ video, Making the Switch, and our report on A Well-Stocked Hardware Store!

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

Source: Friends of the Earth

 

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03
Dec

New Bee-Killing Pesticide Approved in EU

(Beyond Pesticides, December 3, 2015) Last month, the European Commission and member states approved the new pesticide flupyradifurone. The department, known as Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety, authorized the approval of the pesticide, which is an insecticide in the chemical class butenolides. Bayer Crop Sciences, the creator of flupyradifurone, touts the insecticide as a “safe” alternative to neonicotinoids (neonics), although both neonics and butenolides are systemic, persistent, and acutely toxic to adult honey bees. Already launched in the United States, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, advocates are pointing to the hasty nature of flupyradifurone’s approval and the lack of scientific research supporting its use.

Gary-Tate-Riverside-CA-Honey-Bee-taking-flight-Riverside-Ca-300x260Flupyradifurone, marketed as “Sivanto prime” in Europe, is approved for use in the EU on sucking pests that feed on fruits and vegetables as well as specialty crops such as hops.  It is also approved for use in seed coatings. The chemical is neurotoxic and can inhibit nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) in the nervous system. Neonicotinoids, widely criticized for their harmful effects on bees, affect the nervous system in the same way.

Matthias Haas, Ph.D., Global Project Manager at Bayer CropScience says, “It combines efficacy and convenience for the grower with excellent safety characteristics and will lead to better quality of produce. When applied at the proposed label rates, Sivanto prime is not associated with any adverse effects on honey bees and bumble bees.”

In 2013, the European Commission voted to place a moratorium on three bee-killing neonics. Unfortunately, big agriculture has found legal loopholes in the form of exemptions and nonregulation to continue the use of neonics.

Bee-friendly groups are asking scientists to look at the long-term and synergistic effects of butenolides, so as not to unknowingly place harmful insecticides on the market. This request is not baseless, as it follows the Guidance Document that accompanied the moratorium two years ago. The document addressed proper risk assessment concerning pesticides and bees. Martin Dermine, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe’s bee expert, spoke to the disregard of risk assessment in the EU, “In the meantime, neonicotinoid pesticides like sulfoxaflor and now flupyradifurone are being authorised without a proper risk assessment and despite EFSA’s comments either on their toxicity or on the lack of data to assess their safety.”

In the U.S., flupyradifurone was registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in January of this year. EPA believes flupyradifurone is less toxic than current insecticides on the market, including neonicotinoids. In fact, comparing toxicity values of flupyradifurone and imidacloprid, flupyradifurone is less toxic by the oral route (LD50 3.4ug/bee) than imidacloprid (LD50 0.004ug/bee). EPA believes that in spite of the acute oral toxicity, flupyradifurone has no measurable impact on bee colonies and that there is “compelling evidence” in the chemical’s favor. The agency has concluded, “While the acute oral toxicity study indicates that flupyradifurone is highly toxic to individual adult honey bees, longer-term laboratory-based studies of both larval and adult bees show no adverse effects up to the highest dietary concentration tested.” Environmental groups are asking that EPA and other foreign agencies look more carefully at the long-term effects.

When taking action against bee-killing insecticides like butenolides and neonics, legislators need to know that bees, butterflies, and other pollinators need improved protections from pesticides, given the sharp declines in the population of managed and native bees, birds, and butterflies. The Saving America’s Pollinator’s Act of 2015 remains an avenue for Congress to address the pollinator crisis. Contact your U.S. Representative about this important legislation today. You can also get active in your community to protect bees by advocating for policies that restrict their use. Montgomery County, Maryland recently restricted the use of a wide range of pesticides, including neonics, on public and private property. Sign here if you’d like to see your community do the same!

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

Source: Pesticide Action Network Europe

Photo Source: Gary T, CA

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02
Dec

Embattled Scientist Receives Prestigious Civic Courage Award

(Beyond Pesticides, December 2, 2015) On Monday, Jonathan Lundgren, PhD, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist suspended by the agency for his work on neonicotinoids, received a prestigious national award for civic courage after speaking out on his pesticide research despite what he says is the agency’s effort to “suppress” his work. In October 2015, Dr. Lundgren filed a whistleblower complaint against USDA, citing unprofessional retaliation following the publication of his study linking neonicotinoid insecticides to the decline of monarch butterflies.

jonathan lungdrenDr. Lundgren, Senior Research Entomologist and Lab Supervisor for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), received the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, intended to honor those who “at some personal risk, take a public stance to advance truth and justice, and who challenge prevailing conditions in pursuit of the common good.” This honor comes as Dr. Lundgren is fighting his suspension for publishing research deemed “sensitive” by his USDA superiors. According to USDA, he had made inappropriate remarks in the workplace, and discussed sensitive topics with the press.

In September 2014, Dr. Lundgren filed a complaint citing violations of USDA Scientific Integrity Policy with the Scientific Integrity Office and stating that allegations of his misconduct stemmed from ulterior motives. His case, which is being represented by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), underscores why legal protections for government scientists are sorely needed. PEER argues that language in the current policy actually encourages the suppression of scientific study where large agribusiness corporations’ reputations are at stake. PEER explains that USDA management regularly uses its inadequate Scientific Integrity Policy as reason for suppressing technical work of employees when industry stakeholders disagree with the scientific conclusions.

Earlier this year, Dr. Lundgren published research that shows the adverse effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on monarch butterflies and bees. According to Dr. Lundgren, USDA attempted to hamper his efforts to publish the research and barred him from speaking with the media about his work. The agency also suspended him for 14 days in August for publishing the report, which USDA deemed “sensitive” and for having errors in travel authorization forms related to his presentation of the report. His complaint argues that, “This abrupt onset of actions undoubtedly appears to have been prompted by the scientific activities that are supposed to be specifically safeguarded and encouraged under the USDA Scientific Integrity Policy.”

Dr. Lundgren believes the award could encourage additional dialogue about academic and scientific freedom. “The whole situation has changed my career trajectory as a result of this. I was simply doing my job, but because the science is not convenient, it elicited a pretty severe reaction,” Dr. Lundgren told the Capital Journal in a recent telephone interview. “Hopefully it will open the door so that other scientists are able to have complete and unencumbered freedom to discuss their research and where it fits into the grand scheme of things within the federal government and within university systems as well. Scientific freedom is the same as freedom of speech. If we don’t have it, how can we move forward as a society? If we can’t even discuss certain topics because they’re too controversial, then we’re in serious problems. We’re in for trouble.”

“There was official effort to stop me from talking about science that was creating inconvenient results,” Dr. Lundgren said. “I was sort of forced into filing complaints and standing up for what I thought was right.” Dr. Lundgren received his award Monday at an evening ceremony at the Carnegie Institute Building in Washington, D.C.

His research on the controversial neonicotinoid insecticides is part of a growing body of scientific evidence that finds that this class of pesticides if highly toxic to bees and harms other beneficial species as well including butterflies, birds and aquatic organisms. The widespread use of these chemicals on corn and soybean crops, as well as in home garden products means that they also end up contaminating waterways. For more on neonicotinoids and what you can do, visit our BEEProtective page.

Advocates argue that it is critical that federal scientific agencies tasked with protecting human and environmental health are able to inform the public without repercussions from an industry whose only interest is protecting profits. For more information, see PEER’s pattern of science manipulation at USDA.

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

Source: Capital Journal

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01
Dec

Genetically Engineered Salmon without Labeling Approved by FDA

(Beyond Pesticides, December 1, 2015) Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved, without a labeling requirement, a genetically engineered (GE) salmon designed to grow faster and come to market quicker than other farmed salmon. The fish, dubbed AquAdvantage by its developer, Massachusetts-based biotechnology firm AquaBounty, has been the center of considerable controversy as it represents the first GE animal approved for commercial sale and human consumption. While FDA has declared the fish safe to eat, and AquaBounty argues the fish will help feed the world, opponents stress that the potential adverse effects of the technology have not been properly vetted, and consumers will have no way to tell whether the salmon they purchase at the store is the engineered AquAdvantage product.

GE salmonDraft guidelines
released by FDA when the salmon was approved do not require retailers to inform consumers that the fish is GE. Instead, the agency provided examples of voluntary statements, such as “genetically engineered,” or “This salmon patty was made from Atlantic salmon produced using modern biotechnology,” that producers can consider using. The FDA policy makes it virtually impossible for shoppers wishing to avoid the GE fish to make an informed decision at the point of purchase. While most major food retailers, including Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Whole Foods, Kroger, Costco, Safeway, and Giant Eagle have announced they will not stock GE salmon, top retailer Walmart indicated it was too busy with Black Friday to issue a decision.

In order to avoid the fish at other grocery stores, at this point in time, shoppers can look for country of origin labels as a clue as to whether the salmon is genetically engineered. The salmon will be farm-raised in Panama, so avoiding salmon labeled “farm-raised” or “product of Panama” is a good way to stay avoid the GE product. However, note that processed salmon products, such as pre-packaged salmon burgers, are not subject to the same labeling requirements. Because there is no organic farm-raised salmon, this is a matter where looking for the organic seal will not help consumers avoid a GE food. To assist, the Center for Food Safety has put together a guide to help consumers avoid eating GE fish.

Concerns over labeling are buoyed by the potential for adverse human and environmental impacts resulting from the production of AquAdvantage salmon. Notably, FDA approved the fish under a provision within the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, for “new animal drugs.” Under this clause, FDA considers the growth gene inserted from the eel-like Ocean Pout into the GE salmon to “meet the definition of a drug,” according to the agency’s press release. Further, when applying this provision, companies are not required to disclose application data to the public. While data was disclosed during this process, advocates assert that FDA failed to consider numerous potential adverse impacts, and such a loophole does not bode well for the approval of future GE animals.

FDA asserts that it has determined that approval of the salmon would not significantly impact the environment because of “multiple and redundant measures being taken to contain the fish and prevent escape and establishment in the environment.” Conversely, in acknowledging that escapes can (and do) occur with farm-raised fish, the agency indicates the fish “would be unable to interbreed or establish populations in the wild.” However, a 2012 study from Canadian researchers found that AquAdvantage salmon have the potential to successfully crossbreed with brown trout. The study not only found that GE salmon can crossbreed with brown trout, but also that their GE hybrid offspring could outgrow wild salmon, non-GE hybrid offspring, and even GE salmon. The GE hybrids also out-competed wild salmon and GE salmon in simulated stream environments, further stunting the growth of other fish.

After the decision was announced last month, the Center for Food Safety announced plans to sue FDA in order to stop approval of the AquAdvantage Salmon.

For more information on the human environmental hazards associated with GE technology, and national and local efforts to label GE food, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. While the organic seal does not exist for farmed seafood, controversial regulations are currently in the works. In order to support strong organic standards that provide an alternative to the conventional food market where GE products are not labeled, consumers must participate in the public process surrounding organic production. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong page for the latest on materials to be evaluated by the National Organic Standards Board. And, visit the Save Our Organic program page to ensure the public trust in the organic label is maintained.

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

Sources: Civil Eats, FDA Press Release

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30
Nov

Studies Add to Mounting Evidence of Neonic Dangers

(Beyond Pesticides, November 30, 2015) Last week, two studies were published that link neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticide exposure to detrimental effects in bees and butterflies. The first study, published in the international scientific journal Nature, found that bumblebees exposed to neonics suffered pollination services impairment that reduces their delivery to apple crops. The second study, published in the United Kingdom journal Peer J, used over 1,000 sites cataloged from 1984 to 2012 in the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) database to point to the strong association between neonic use and butterfly population decline.

Eric Stavale This pollinator was taken at Otis Reservoir in Tolland, MA. As he was so busy collecting pollen, I was able to get within inches to snap a few great shots.These studies contribute to the mounting evidence that neonic insecticides are linked to pollinator decline. Neonics have increasingly been the subject of recent studies that highlight a causal relationship between neonic exposure and harmful effects to pollinators, like foraging and reproductive complications. These effects are being identified by scientists all over the world, gradually negating industry criticism of study design.

Andre Gilburn, PhD, and ecologist at the University of Stirling, led the butterfly study. He said, “Our study not only identifies a worrying link between the use of neonicotinoids and declines in butterflies, but also suggests that the strength of their impact on many species could be huge.” While the study authors find that the main cause for butterfly decline is habitat deterioration, they conclude that neonic use is either acting as a proxy for or helping to quantify the agricultural intensification that is contributing to habitat deterioration. They recommend a more intensive look at neonics to determine their widespread toxicity to butterflies.

In other recent studies, glyphosate has been linked to the decline of monarch butterflies, whose sole source to lay their eggs, milkweed plants, are being devastated as a result of glyphosate-resistant genetically engineered crops.

University of Guelph professor, Nigel Raine, PhD, who headed the bumblebee study, said, “Until now, research on pesticide effects has been limited to direct effects on bees themselves.” Dr. Raine’s work points to the synergistic effect on bumblebees in field conditions due to neonic exposure. Recently, French scientists addressed the issue of inconsistent lab and field conditions by analyzing reproductive effects in honey bees in field studies. The results show that harmful effects to individual honey bees can hurt a hive long-term. A study released in October found that neonics severely affect queen bees by decreasing their egg-laying abilities, altering reproductive development and causing death. In February, Scottish scientists discovered that the levels of neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides bees are likely to encounter in the wild impair the pollinator’s brain cells, resulting in colony declines. The results of recent studies and the newest bumblebee study all point to a threat to the overall sustainability of colonies and long-term effects of neonic insecticides.

Bumblebees are major pollinators of apples and many other important crops around the world. Together with other wild and managed insects their pollination services to crops are valued at close to $500 billion CDN worldwide every year,” said Dr. Raine, pointing to the serious implications of pollinator decline.

While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned the use of neonics on National Wildlife Refuge Land, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality released new guidelines prohibiting the planting of neonic-treated plants at federal facilities, EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have taken little substantive action. Although EPA recently proposed modest label changes to protect bees from acute pesticide exposure, USDA submitted comments criticizing the agency’s proposed rule, saying that it had “not established the need for such a prohibition.” In fact, USDA has gone as far as suppressing and targeting its own scientists who have linked neonics to bee-toxic effects.

The Saving America’s Pollinator’s Act of 2015 remains an avenue for Congress to address the pollinator crisis. Contact your U.S. Representative and ask them to support this important legislation today. You can also get active in your community to protect bees by advocating for policies that restrict their use. Montgomery County, Maryland recently restricted the use of a wide range of pesticides, including neonics, on public and private property. Sign here if you’d like to see your community do the same!

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

Source: PeerJ, Nature

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25
Nov

EPA Revokes Registration of Toxic Pesticide Central to Genetically Engineered Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, November 25, 2015) In response to a lawsuit filed by environmental groups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday revoked the registration of the toxic herbicide “Enlist Duo,” which contains the cancer causing 2,4-D and is central to future uses of genetically engineered (GE) crops in chemical-intensive agriculture. The marketing of this chemical in genetically engineered agriculture has become integral to the chemical industry’s response to weed resistance to the widely used herbicide glyphosate (Roundup), also identified as cancer causing this year by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

threeenlistsystemcomponentsEnlistDuoherbicideEnlisttraitsEnlistAhead“Instead of looking for genetically engineered silver bullets that result in crop failure, we should be expanding organic agricultural systems that are productive and profitable, protect public health and the environment and slow global climate change,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

Approved by the agency just over a year ago, Enlist Duo is a combination of glyphosate and 2,4-D that Dow AgroSciences developed for use on the next generation of GE crops. EPA stated it is taking this action after realizing that the synergistic effects of the combination of these chemicals is likely significantly more harmful than it had initially believed, and that very small buffer zones it had required are not adequate to protect vegetation.

This action resolves a year-long legal challenge filed by a coalition of conservation groups, including Beyond Pesticides, seeking to rescind the approval of the dangerous herbicide blend, and challenging EPA’s failure to consider the impacts of Enlist Duo on threatened and endangered plants and animals protected under the Endangered Species Act. EPA had approved use of Enlist Duo in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and North Dakota, and had intended to approve it in additional areas in the near future.

Enlist Duo has been marketed as a “solution” for the control of glyphosate-resistant weeds brought on by the widespread use of the chemical on glyphosate-tolerant (Roundup Ready) crops over the last decade. These super weeds now infest tens of millions of acres of U.S. farmland. However, independent and USDA scientists predict that the Enlist Duo “crop system” will only foster resistance to 2,4-D in addition to glyphosate, thus continuing the GE crop pesticide treadmill and escalating the cycle of more toxic pesticides in the environment. Additionally, the health effects of both 2,4-D and glyphosate are well documented. 2,4-D has been linked to soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, and harm to the reproductive system. Glyphosate has been recently classified as a human carcinogen based on laboratory studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March.

As the crisis in weed resistance escalates, threatening crop productivity and profitability, advocates point to organic agriculture as a solution that protects public health, the environment, and farmers’ livelihood. By utilizing ecological pest management strategies, organic practices, and solutions that are not chemical-intensive are the most appropriate and long-term solution to managing unwanted plants, or weeds. Additionally, organic agriculture is an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, mechanical production practices, and natural inputs. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, organic farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most genetically engineered organisms have been falsely-marketed as solving. To learn more about organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Program Page.

The suit was filed by Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety, on behalf of Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Working Group, the National Family Farm Coalition, and Pesticide Action Network North America.

View the decision here.

Download a press release here.

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

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25
Nov

U.S. Virgin Islands to Revamp Pesticide Policies in Wake of Toxic Poisonings

(Beyond Pesticides November 25, 2015) The U.S. Virgin Islands is revamping its pesticide enforcement and training and promoting alternatives in the aftermath of a tragic incident that took place in April of 2015 when a Delaware family, including two teenage sons, were hospitalized after being exposed to an illegal application of methyl bromide, a highly neurotoxic pesticide. Last week in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a joint conference on “Reducing Pesticides in the U.S. Virgin Islands.” As a result of discussions that took place between the more than 100 participants, DPNR has announced plans to promote natural alternatives to toxic pesticides and to draft new applications for commercial and purchase permits related to pesticide application in an effort to increase protections for residents and vacationers from the harmful effects of pesticide poisoning. According to EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck, the full day conference was the first of its kind to take place in the Virgin Islands.  Poison Sign

Methyl bromide is a restricted use pesticide and is not registered for residential use, according to EPA’s 2013 Methyl Bromide Preliminary Workplan (p6). Although mostly banned in the U.S., the fumigant can still be used in certain agricultural and food storage sites under a controversial “critical use exemption” loophole in federal (and international) law. More than six months after the incident, updates on the family report that the two sons still struggle to eat, walk and sit up on their own and the father suffers from severe tremors, struggles to speak, and cannot turn the pages of a book. A pesticide poisoning also took place in Florida this year, causing a ten-year old boy to suffer a traumatic brain injury after his home was treated for termites.

In order to address the deficiencies in their existing laws, DPNR has identified two goals that will be the focus of their efforts. The first is revising the Pesticide Act of 2006 to require regulation that further manages professional applicators throughout the territory. A draft of these revisions is reportedly in the works, and will soon be made available for public comment. Additionally, DPNR will draft new applications for commercial and purchase permits that will require pesticide dealers to keep records and maintain a database to enable DPNR to track the transportation and sale of pesticides into and out of the territory. Measures to make sure applicators receive proper training and are provided necessary resources are also being explored by DPNR.

Though the tightening of regulations may be an important step in preventing the use of dangerous pesticides in the Virgin Islands, it was not the only measure discussed at the conference. According to Ms. Enck, “The focus of the conference was on ‘integrated pest management’,” which she believes “saves money, prevents health damage and eliminates the need for pesticides, which quite often don’t work in the first place.” It is her hope that educating people on safer and natural alternatives will lead to a reduction in the overall use of toxic chemicals, benefiting both human health and the environment over the long run.

While making an effort to incorporate Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in to DPNR’s policies may be a step in the right direction, it is important to note that IPM is a term that is used loosely with many different definitions. A well-defined IPM program should be based on prevention, monitoring, control, and allowed materials, which offers the opportunity to eliminate the use of toxic pesticides. IPM does this by utilizing a variety of methods and techniques, including cultural, biological and structural strategies to eliminate pest-conducive condition, as opposed to chemical-dependent programs. Helpful examples of good and bad IPM policies were highlighted this year when two localities, Evanston, IL and Charlottesville, VA announced IPM programs codifying drastically different approaches to pest management.

For the management of structures and buildings, Beyond Pesticides advocates the use of defined integrated pest management (IPM) as a vital tool that aids in the adoption of non-toxic methods to control pests and facilitates the transition toward a pesticide-free (and healthier) world. It offers the opportunity to eliminate or drastically reduce pesticide use and to minimize the toxicity of and exposure to any products that are used. Sanitation, structural repairs, mechanical and biological control, population monitoring are some IPM methods that can be undertaken to prevent pest problems.

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

Source: Virgin Islands Daily News

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24
Nov

Quebec to Restrict “High Risk” Pesticides to Protect Pollinators and Public Health

(Beyond Pesticides, November 24, 2015) The Canadian province of Quebec has announced plans for a major overhaul of its pesticide laws in order to protect pollinators, public health and the wider environment. Canadian provinces, particularly Quebec and Ontario, have long led the way in crafting common sense pesticide legislation that responds to sound science on the dangers of these chemicals. The proposed reforms will focus on further restricting the most toxic pesticides allowed for use in both agriculture and residential pest control, including atrazine, chlorpyrifos, and the neonicotinoid class of insecticides, which are widely implicated in pollinator declines.

“2000px-Quebec_in_Canada.svgQuĂ©bec has made progress in recent years with respect to responsible pesticide management,” said the Quebec Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change. “However, the time is  right to intensify our efforts and become even more proficient at reducing the risks to health and the environment that are associated with pesticide use, particularly by supervising the use of highest-risk pesticides like neonicotinoids, which have a recognized major effect on bee mortality.”

Quebec’s Pesticide Strategy 2015-2018 is structured to incentivize farmers and home gardeners to choose lower risk pesticides through economic motivators such as levies, permits, and compensation fees. The provincial government is working closely with other public health agencies to create a pesticide risk indicator based on chemical properties to identify “high risk” chemicals that have a disproportionate impact on health and the environment. This strategy is based on the recognition that certain pesticides with the broadest range of public health and environmental effects are not necessarily those that are most often used. “Atrazine and chlorpyrifos are good examples of this,” notes the government’s summary document on its strategy. “These pesticides account for less than 5% of sales but 14% of health risk indicators and 20% of environmental risk indicators.”

Changes for Agriculture

Quebec’s reforms will alter the way pesticides are used in agricultural landscapes in the province. The government notes that 85% of all pesticide sales occur within the agricultural industry. New measures will require farmers to consult with and gain approval from an agronomist in order to apply “high risk” pesticides. This requirement is similar to that put in place in Ontario, where new regulations require farmers to prove the presence of pests before allowing the planting of bee-toxic neonicotinoid-coated seeds. However, Quebec goes further by implementing this requirement across the board for “high risk” pesticides.

When “high risk” pesticides are allowed, the province will require additional restrictions. Specifically, the government plans to increase buffer zones, the distance allowed between the use of “high risk” pesticides and inhabited areas. “By tightening the conditions under which the highest-risk pesticides can be used in agricultural environments, the QuĂ©bec Pesticide Strategy 2015-2018 will offer greater protection to public health, but also to the health of farmers, who are the main users of these products,” said the Quebec Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Pierre Paradis. Groups across Canada joined the Quebec Environment Minister in celebrating the new approach. Sidney Ribaux of the nonprofit environmental group Equiterre noted, “With this pioneering strategy, QuĂ©bec becomes the first jurisdiction in North America to restrict the use of the pesticide atrazine, which has been banned in Europe for more than 10 years. We salute the approach favoured by the government.”

Urban and Residential Environments

In addition to curbing toxic pesticide use in agriculture, Quebec’s strategy aims to reduce the public’s exposure to these pesticides in urban areas. Although Quebec, Ontario, and a number of other Canadian provinces already have strong restrictions on the cosmetic use of pesticides, Quebec plans to go further to protect public health. Objectives include strengthening compliance with pesticide laws, raising applicator certification requirements, increasing buffer zones, and tripling the number of pesticides banned for use in urban areas. The new plan also contains far-reaching measures to protect bees. The government plans to ban the use of all neonicotinoids on lawns and flower beds for aesthetic purposes.

François Reeves, MD, interventional cardiologist at Notre-Dame Hospital, Centre Hospitalier de l’UniversitĂ© de MontrĂ©al, who joined the Quebec Environment Minister in announcing the strategy, said, “The use of pesticides is far from being inconsequential, which is why the implementation of the QuĂ©bec Pesticide Strategy is so important for protecting public health and the biosphere’s insect populations. This strategy will encourage more responsible pesticide management by improving practices and particularly by promoting biopesticides and keeping the use of pesticides in urban environments like lawns and public parks to a strict minimum. This will have the benefits of reducing illness caused by pesticides and stopping the decline of the bee, butterfly and earthworm populations. The massive decline in the number of vital insects imperils the basis of life: plants, trees and food. The entire population will benefit from this Strategy thanks to the positive results achieved by tighter supervision of pesticide use.”

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. While there is certainly further steps that can be taken to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, Quebec’s new approach makes significant strides towards a safer, sustainable agriculture and landscapes. Regulators in the U.S., particularly in states and localities, should watch the experience of Canadian provinces and aim to follow this health protective path. In the meantime, U.S. residents can encourage these actions by buying organic, and advocating for a pesticide free community like Montgomery County, Maryland, which recently enacted Canadian style restrictions on the cosmetic use of pesticides harmful to pollinators, public health, and the wider environment.

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

Source: Canadian Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, and the Fight Against Climate Change

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23
Nov

Pesticides Bound to Particles and Not Detectable in Water Harm Aquatic Organisms

(Beyond Pesticides, November 23, 2015) Commonly-used pesticides can impact aquatic species over multiple weeks, even when chemicals are no longer detectable in water nor monitored by regulators, according to new research. The study, titled A long-term assessment of pesticide mixture effects on aquatic invertebrate communities, published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, investigates the long-term effects on aquatic invertebrate communities of commonly-used insecticides: two pyrethroids (permethrin and lambda-cyhalothrin) and an organophosphate (chlorpyrifos). Pesticide applications were based on environmentally relevant concentrations and lethal concentrations (a concentration required to kill a certain percentage of animals tested) ranging from 10% (LC10) to 50% (LC50). Researchers made repeat applications in order to mimic runoff events in a multiple grower or homeowner watershed. The results indicate that insecticide mixtures continue to impact natural systems over multiple weeks, even when bound to particles and no longer detectable in water. Combinations of indirect and direct effects caused consequences across the food chain. Pyrethroids rapidly dissipated from the water column, whereas chlorpyrifos was detectable even six weeks after application.

Digital StillCamera“The effects we observed indicate that many species were affected at a sublethal level,” said Simone Hasenbein, Ph.D., lead author of the study tells Phys.org. “Thus, populations exposed to low concentrations of pesticides could  be even more sensitive to other abiotic or biotic factors, such as invasive species, or changes in salinity or temperature leading to a magnification of multi-stressor situations.”

Over half a billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the U.S., mostly in agriculture and to reduce insect-borne disease, but some of these pesticides are occurring at concentrations that are identified by the government as a concern for aquatic life. The potential for adverse effects on aquatic life is likely underestimated in these results because resource constraints limit the scope of monitoring to less than half of the more than 400 pesticides currently used in agriculture each year and monitoring focuses only on pesticides dissolved in water.

Already, nearly 2,000 waterways are impaired by pesticide contamination and many more have simply not been tested. A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report from last year finds that levels of pesticides continue to be a concern for aquatic life in many of the nation’s rivers and streams in agricultural and urban areas. The study, which documents pesticide levels in U.S. waterways for two decades (1992-2011), finds pesticides and their breakdown products in U.S. streams more than 90 percent of the time. Known pesticide water contaminants, such as the herbicides atrazine, metolachlor, and simazine, continue to be detected in streams more than 50 percent of the time, with the insecticide fipronil being the pesticide most frequently found at levels of potential concern for aquatic organisms in urban streams. The report also found that for urban areas, 90 percent of the streams exceeded a chronic aquatic life benchmarks.

Aquatic organisms like algae and fish face numerous risks from pesticide exposures, even at low levels. In fact, USGS scientists identified pesticides as one of the contaminants the Potomac River linked to intersex-fish (male fish producing eggs) observed there. Atrazine, one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world, has been shown to affect reproduction of fish at concentrations below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) water-quality guidelines. Concentrations of atrazine commonly found in agricultural streams and rivers have been associated with a reduction in reproduction and spawning, as well as tissue abnormalities.

Last year, EPA finalized a settlement to restore no-spray buffer zones around waterways to protect imperiled salmon and steelhead from five toxic pesticides. The settlement follows litigation filed by Earthjustice, representing the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, and Defenders of Wildlife, back in 2010 that called for EPA adoption of reasonable fish protections from the insecticides. More recently, EPA proposed to revoke all food tolerances for chlorpyrifos (also known as Dursban). If EPA’s rule is finalized, chlorpyrifos would be effectively eliminated from use in agriculture 15 years after residential uses were discontinued. However, other non-food uses, including golf courses, turf, green house and mosquito control are not affected by this decision and will remain.

Water quality criteria for the protection of aquatic life and human health in surface water are set for only a handful of pesticides. In 2012, EPA added new health and environmental benchmarks for acute pesticide effects, however, benchmarks are notoriously limited in fully assessing risks because of ongoing deficiencies in analyzing the complexities associated with chemical exposure, specifically a failure to evaluate the effects of chemical mixtures, synergistic effects, and health effects associated with consistent low-dose exposure. If benchmarks are exceeded, the state or local water municipality can consider how frequently the benchmarks are exceeded and the magnitude of the exceedance in other samples. Exceeding the benchmark consistently means that aquatic life and human health may be at risk from continued exposures.

Clean water is essential for human health, wildlife, and a balanced environment. Check out Beyond Pesticides’ Threatened Waters webpage for more information.

Source: Phys.org; Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry

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

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20
Nov

French Researchers Solve Discrepancy in Bee-Killing Neonic Studies

(Beyond Pesticides, November 19, 2015) French scientists say that they have found the “missing link” between laboratory studies and field studies that assess the adverse effects of neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides on bees. The study, published in Royal Society Journal Proceedings B, evaluates the effects of neonics on honey bees in field trials. After 15 years of research into the effects of neonicotinoids on bees, researchers had identified a gap between the results of toxicity assessments on individual bees in the laboratory and  impacts seen at the colony level in the field. The new two-year study made two discoveries: First, they found that field exposure to thiamethoxam combined with imidacloprid contamination is associated with a significant excess mortality in individual free-ranging bees. Second, while colonies appeared to be able to compensate for the excess mortality and preserve population size and honey production, this was done at the expense of a change in brood laying patterns. Thus, this study provides an explanation for the “missing link” in the discrepancies between labs studies and field studies, where the former establishes harmful and fatal effects that had yet to be replicated in real-life conditions. Because the bees responded to the increased mortality with selective population regulation, the proportion of male bees declined significantly, representing an abnormality with potentially widespread impacts for the health of honey bee colonies.

#beeprotective-1Researchers found that “there was a change in the way reproductive effort was allocated between female (worker) brood and drone (male disperser) brood. During flowering, the most exposed colonies tended to invest more in worker brood production at the expense of drone brood production. Drones are more costly to produce and maintain than workers, among others because they do not participate to the foraging task force.” Because male drone bees are only necessary for mating, their decreased population proportion is temporarily beneficial for maintaining honey flow, yet detrimental to long-term colony sustainability. A study led by Geoff Williams, MD, Ph.D, at the University of Bern in Switzerland found that queens exposed to noenics were more likely to not lay worker eggs, a key indicator of queen health and mating success. In light of this recent study, it may be inferred that individual bee mortality due to neonicotinoid insecticides results in an adverse positive feedback response from the queen that causes detrimental effects on the long-term success of the colony.

Christopher Connolly, Ph.D. of the University of Dundee explained that, “It is important to remember that all other insect pollinators do not possess the enormous buffering capacity of honeybees and are therefore more acutely at risk to the impact of pesticides.” He also said that the study identifies, “

The French scientists had to obtain special permission from the French Food Safety Agency, ANSES, to use rape (canola) seeds treated with thiamethoxam; their use is currently prohibited on flowering crops within the European Union. “These systemic insecticides,” explains the scientists, “which now represent about 30% of insecticide use worldwide, pose a particular risk for pollinators, because once the active substance has been taken up in the plant, its residues translocate to the pollen and nectar collected by foragers throughout flowering.”

In addition to thiamethoxam, researchers discovered an unexpected and substantial concomitant exposure to imidacloprid at residue levels high enough to adversely affect bees. In France, this neonic is still currently used to treat seeds for crops such as wheat, barley, and sugar beet, but had not been used on rapeseed. In January, imidacloprid was found to cause mitochondrial dysfunction in bumble bees, which then negatively impacts navigation and foraging skills. The contamination of imidacloprid in current study where it was not purposefully applied points to its ability to persist in nature for long periods of time. That persistence not only exposes bees to the harmful effects of imidacloprid alone, but also a potentially synergistic combination of neonics that have unknown effects. The discovery of this chemical in the nectar of rapeseed crops concurs with the substantial re-uptake of neonicotinoid residues recently reported in pollen and nectar samples from wild flowers in field margins (where wild flowers at sometimes contained even higher concentrations than in the flowering crop itself).

Scientists concluded that “more detailed studies on the environmental fate of neonicotinoid residues are urgently needed to properly control for potential confounding effects or synergistic effects between different active substances.” While this statement speaks to the need for more studies to determine specific mechanisms regarding how neonics impact pollinators, it also gives weight to existing studies showing significant harm. In 2013, scientists at Royal Holloway University of London determined that low-level exposure to imidacloprid causes chronic sublethal stressors that lead to colony collapse. That year, a study by David Goulson, Ph.D, of the University of Sussex, also found that the soil half-life of the most commonly used seed treatments can range from 200-1000 days, resulting in  wide ranging ecological damage.

In the U.S., action at the federal level has done little to take the sting out of pollinator declines. Despite the announcement of a coordinated National Pollinator Health Strategy this May, federal agencies continue to exhibit widely different approaches on how to address pollinator declines. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned the use of neonics on National Wildlife Refuge Land, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality released new guidelines prohibiting the planting of neonic-treated plants at federal facilities, EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have taken little substantive action. Although EPA recently proposed modest label changes to protect bees from acute pesticide exposure, USDA submitted comments criticizing the agency’s proposed rule, saying that it had “not established the need for such a prohibition.” In fact, USDA has gone as far as suppressing and targeting its own scientists that have linked neonics to bee-toxic effects.

The Saving America’s Pollinator’s Act of 2015 remains an avenue for Congress to address the pollinator crisis. Contact your U.S. Representative and ask them to support this important legislation today. You can also get active in your community to protect bees by advocating for policies that restrict their use. Montgomery County, Maryland recently restricted the use of a wide range of pesticides, including neonics, on public and private property. Sign here if you’d like to see your community do the same!

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

Source: The Royal Society: Proceedings B

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19
Nov

Skip the Toxic Turkey This Thanksgiving Season!

(Beyond Pesticides, November 19, 2015) Thanksgiving offers an opportunity for family and friends to eat, drink and be thankful for the bounty of the organic harvest. Unfortunately, conventional Thanksgiving meals are more common, which include a host of pesticides, genetically engineered foods, and can affect the health of consumers and agricultural workers alike. Read below to find out why now, more than ever, it’s important to go organic, and how you can combat the shortcomings of conventional agriculture with an organic Thanksgiving Day feast.


Now, more than ever, it’s important to go organic.

  1. The most widely used weedkiller, glyphosate, has been classified as a probable carcinogen to humans, based on laboratory animal studies.

ThanksgivingHomeGlyphosate, produced and sold as Roundup by Monsanto, is touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by EPA and industry and is widely used in food production and on lawns, gardens, parks, and children’s playing fields. However, IARC’s recent classification of glyphosate as a Group 2A “probable” carcinogen finds that glyphosate is anything but safe. According to IARC, Group 2A means that the chemical is probably carcinogenic to humans based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. The agency also notes that glyphosate caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells. Further, epidemiologic studies have found that exposure to glyphosate is significantly associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL).

  1. Genetically Engineered (GE) crops and herbicide-resistant weeds are increasing.

2,4-D Enlist DuoÂź, a new 2,4-D and glyphosate formulated product to be exclusively used on GE 2,4-D tolerant crops, was registered in October 2014. In response to Enlist Duo’s registration, new 2,4-D tolerant crops were approved for U.S. cultivation by USDA in April 2015. Over 70% of all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are altered to be herbicide-tolerant. Increased planting of herbicide-resistant GE crops has led to a dramatic increase in herbicide use. The over use of herbicide-resistant crops has also led to “super weeds,” and the destruction of pollinator habitat.

According to GMO Inside, some common GE foods used during Thanksgiving include: Campbell’s Tomato Soup, Wesson Canola Oil, Bruce’s Yams, Hershey Milk Chocolate, Pepperidge Farm Crackers, Kraft Classic Ranch Dressing, Rice-a-Roni chicken flavored rice, Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce, and Kraft’s Stove Top Stuffing.

  1. Appropriate responses and protective measures by federal agencies are limited at best, especially when it comes to consumer health, pollinator health and agricultural worker protections.

Consumer Safety

According to a 2014 Government Accountability (GAO) report, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not test food for several commonly used pesticides with established tolerance levels –including glyphosate, one of the most commonly used pesticides in the U.S. This and other disturbing findings documented in GAO’s report, Food Safety: FDA and USDA Should Strengthen Pesticide Residue Monitoring Programs and Further Disclose Monitoring Limitations, sounds an alarm that GAO initially sounded in the 1980’s in several reports that identify shocking limitations of FDA’s monitoring of pesticide residue violations in food.

Pollinator Health

On May 19, 2015, the White House released its much awaited plan for protecting American pollinators, which identified key threats, but fell short of recommendations submitted by Beyond Pesticides, beekeepers, and others who stress that pollinator protection begins with strong regulatory action and suspension of bee-toxic pesticides. A major component of the federal plan is the creation and stewardship of habitat and forage for pollinators. Although well-intentioned, the Strategy ultimately works at cross-purposes by encouraging habitat, but continuing to allow systemic pesticides that contaminate plants ssand causing indiscriminate poisoning of pollinators. Without restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids, pollinator habitats are pesticide-contaminated and provide no real safe-haven for bees and other pollinators.

Farmworker Protection

On September 28, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally released its new regulation regarding farmworker pesticide safety, revising the Agricultural Worker Protection Standards (WPS), which are designed to provide protections from pesticide exposure to farmworkers and their families. Farm work is demanding and dangerous physical labor. As the scientific literature confirms, farmworkers, their families, and their communities face extraordinary risks from pesticide exposures. Application and pesticide drift result in dermal, inhalation, and oral exposures that are typically underestimated. In Beyond Pesticides’ comments to EPA, Beyond Pesticides made clear that the exemption, incorporated in WPS, for farmworkers that results in their children’s exposure to dangerous chemicals is unacceptable.

How can you combat the shortcomings of conventional agriculture? Go Organic.

Our food choices have a direct effect on the health of our environment and those who grow and harvest what we eat.  That’s why food labeled organic is the right choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, protection of farmworkers and farm families, and stewardship of the earth. USDA organic certification is the only system of food labeling that is subject to independent public review and oversight, ensuring that the toxic, synthetic pesticides used in chemical-intensive agriculture are replaced by management practices focused on soil biology, biodiversity, and plant health. This eliminates commonly used toxic chemicals in the production and processing of food that is not labeled organic–pesticides that contaminate our water and air, hurt biodiversity, harm farmworkers, and kill bees, birds, fish and other wildlife.

To help better explain the urgent need for a major shift to organic food consumption, Beyond Pesticides has developed its Eating with a Conscience database, which evaluates the impacts on the environment and farmworkers of the toxic chemicals allowed for use on major food crops

Fortunately, the majority of common Thanksgiving products can easily be substituted with organic counterparts. Canned yams, for instance, often contain GE ingredients, but can be replaced by fresh organic yams. Another staple, like Pepperidge Farm Crackers, can be substituted with organic crackers like Mary’s Gone Crackers or Nature’s Pathway Crackers. Consider substituting GE cranberry sauce with home-made jellies made with organic cranberries and fair trade sugar. Organic jellied cranberries, such as Tree of Life or Grown Right, are fast alternatives. Finally, pre-made stuffing, like Kraft’s Stove Top stuffing, can be replaced with homemade stuffing or organic stuffing mix from Arrowhead. Simply Organic has tons of organic recipes posted to their website if you need more ideas.

The turkey is the symbol of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. However, turkeys are often fed grains treated with pesticides, medicated with antibiotics, and engorged with steroids and hormones. Additionally, turkeys are often fed an inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, which is used to promote growth and for pigmentation. In order to avoid all these, your best bet is to invest in an organic free-range turkey.

While the organic label dramatically increases protection for consumers and agricultural workers from exposure to toxic pesticides, it also creates important benefits for environmental restoration. Research from the Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial¼ (FST) has revealed that organic, regenerative agriculture actually has the potential to lessen the impacts of climate change. This occurs through the drastic reduction in fossil fuel usage to produce the crops (approximately 75% less than conventional agriculture) and the significant increase in carbon sequestration in the soil.

Eating organic is a first step as committed consumers, but we still must protect the true core values and principals of the organic label, as they are meant to be.

This Thanksgiving, you can avoid exposure to harmful chemicals like glyphosate, steer away from genetically engineered food, and protect your family, pollinators, and farmworkers from the shortcomings of federal agencies by striving for a 100% organic, healthy meal.

And don’t stop there!

It is important every day of the year to look towards organic to keep your family and friends safe from toxic chemicals. You can continue to fight for the well-being of organic by helping to defend organic standards against USDA changes that will weaken public trust in the organic food label. Organic practices follow tough standards that do not compromise the health of people and the planet. Let’s grow the organic food label as a symbol that honors this tradition. To learn more, visit Beyond Pesticides Save Our Organic webpage.

Best wishes for a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!

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

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18
Nov

New Finding Says Glyphosate (Roundup) not Carcinogenic? Not so Fast

(Beyond Pesticides, November 18, 2015) Last week, the European Union’s (EU) European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) announced its determination that the popular herbicide glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.” This is in direct contrast with findings released earlier this year by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which classified glyphosate a ‘probable carcinogen.’ However, these seemingly conflicting conclusions from these premier scientific agencies are put into perspective by knowing that EFSA’s report is limited in that it reviewed glyphosate alone, unlike IARC which reviewed glyphosate and its formulated products (Monsanto’s Roundup) which are more relevant for evaluating risks to human health.

In light of the March 2015 IARC findings –listing glyphosate as a probable carcinogen due to sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity based on laboratory studies, the European Commission requested EFSA consider glyphosate’s rndupflikrpotential carcinogenicity. In its report released November 12, 2015, EFSA concludes that “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential..”

However, the agency notes that there are “several reasons explaining the diverging views” from IARC’s earlier conclusion. The most important difference is that IARC’s review was more comprehensive in that it not only assessed glyphosate but also glyphosate-based formulations (such as Roundup product formulations), while EFSA focused on the pure active ingredient only. This is an important distinction since glyphosate formulations like Roundup are available to consumers and is widely used on crops throughout the U.S. and Europe. These formulations (which can contain 99 percent of “other” undisclosed ingredients), from a public health standpoint, are most relevant to human health.

Further, EFSA notes that the “toxicity of the formulations should be considered further” as studies that evaluated glyphosate formulations did find positive results of genotoxicity both in vitro and in vivo. EFSA also notes that other toxic outcomes, such as long-term toxicity and carcinogenicity, reproductive/developmental toxicity and endocrine disrupting potential of glyphosate formulations, should be clarified and addressed further.

“This is important,” continues EFSA in its backgrounder factsheet, “because although some studies suggest that certain glyphosate-based formulations may be genotoxic (i.e., damaging to DNA), others that look solely at the active substance glyphosate do not show this effect. It is likely, therefore, that the genotoxic effects observed in some glyphosate-based formulations are related to the other constituents or ‘co-formulants.’” See EFSA’s factsheet on its finding here. Just this past summer, one scientist who was a part of IARC’s expert panel reviewing glyphosate spoke of glyphosate’s genotoxic potential, saying that the herbicide can damage human DNA, which could result in increased cancer risks.

This corroborates mounting scientific evidence that has long found glyphosate-formulated products to be more toxic than the active ingredient glyphosate alone. Roundup formulations can induce a dose-dependent formation of DNA adducts (altered forms of DNA linked to chemical exposure, playing a key role in chemical carcinogenesis) in the kidneys and liver of mice. Human cell endocrine disruption on the androgen receptor, inhibition of transcriptional activities on estrogen receptors on HepG2, DNA damage and cytotoxic effects occurring at concentrations well below “acceptable” residues have all been observed. A 2008 study confirmed that the ingredients in Roundup formulations kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells, even at very low concentrations, and causes total cell death within 24 hrs.

EFSA also proposed a new safety measure to limit glyphosate residues in food. EFSA set an acute reference dose of 0.5 mg per kg of body weight, the first time such an exposure threshold has been applied for glyphosate. EFSA’s assessment will be used by the European Commission in deciding whether to keep glyphosate on the European Union’s list of approved active substances.

The EU’s EFSA and WHO’s IARC take different approaches to the classification of chemicals. The EU scheme –assesses each individual chemical, and each marketed mixture separately. IARC assesses generic agents, including groups of related chemicals, as well as occupational or environmental exposure, and cultural or behavioral practices.

EFSA’s full report can be found here.

Glyphosate, produced and sold by Monsanto, is touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by industry. But recent research links chronic, ultra-low dose exposure to glyphosate in drinking water to adverse impacts on the health of liver and kidneys. Previous epidemiologic studies have found that exposure to glyphosate is significantly associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL), even though these studies have been discounted. In addition to impacts on human health, glyphosate has been linked to adverse effects on earthworms and other soil biota, as well as shape changes in amphibians. The widespread use of the chemical on genetically engineered glyphosate-resistant crops has led it to be implicated in the decline of monarch butterflies, whose sole source to lay their eggs, milkweed plants, are being devastated as a result of incessant use of glyphosate.

Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, is currently facing personal injury lawsuits that cite the link between glyphosate exposure and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL). Personal injury law firms around the U.S. have found a multitude of plaintiffs and are preparing for what could be a “mass tort” action against Monsanto for knowingly misinforming the public and farmworkers about the dangers of the chemical.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently reviewing the human and ecological risks of glyphosate. The agency has said that its preliminary assessment of the chemical is scheduled to be released this year. Given the mounting evidence of glyphosate’s hazards environmental groups, like Beyond Pesticides, are urging localities to restrict or ban the use of the chemical. Tracy Madlener, a mother of two, who got her neighborhood in Laguna Hills, California to eliminate the use of the widely-used weedkiller. Beyond Pesticides promotes these actions and many more through our Tools for Change page. 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. See Beyond Pesticides’ article Glyphosate Causes Cancer and sign the petition to ban glyphosate.

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

Source: EFSA

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17
Nov

Colorado Governor Calls Pesticide-Tainted Cannabis “A Threat to Public Safety,” Oregon Updates Regulations

(Beyond Pesticides, November 17, 2015) Last Thursday, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper issued an executive order directing state agencies to address public safety concerns related to pesticide-contaminated cannabis. The next day, the state of Oregon adopted new rules strengthening its requirements for laboratory testing of cannabis for pesticides. The state-level action on pesticide-tainted cannabis is viewed as responsive to an ongoing public health threat. However, safety advocates say steps are needed to ensure that cannabis users, particularly medical patients with cancer, seizures, or other immune compromising diseases, are safe from toxic chemicals.

Governor Hickenlooper’s Executive Order

As a result of a number of quarantines on pesticide-laced cannabis in Denver, a warning letter and testimony delivered by Beyond Pesticides, and a recent lawsuit against a major Colorado grower, pressure has been building on

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the state to address this issue. In the executive order (EO), the governor acknowledges that because of cannabis’ status as a schedule 1 narcotic under federal law, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has “neither assessed the potential health hazards posed by treating marijuana with pesticides, nor has it authorized the application of any pesticide specifically for use on marijuana.” The EO notes that it is a violation of both state and federal law to use pesticides in a manner inconsistent with a pesticide label, and proclaims that off-label pesticide use that contaminates a crop “constitutes a threat to the public safety.” It further directs state agencies tasked with overseeing state cannabis policy to use “all existing investigatory and enforcement authorities established by law to protect against threats to the public safety posed by contaminated marijuana including, but not limited to, placing contaminated marijuana on administrative hold and destroying contaminated marijuana pursuant to existing law.”

Governor Hickenlooper’s move raises the issue in the public eye, and encourages state agencies to conduct inspections and take enforcement action when pesticide contamination is detected, rather than leaving individual localities, such as Denver, to take the lead on oversight. However, despite the governor’s acknowledgment that off label pesticide use is illegal on cannabis crops, his Statewide Marijuana Pesticides Policy Statement allows the use of certain pesticides under arbitrary conditions, such as when the label allows use on “unspecified crops and/or plants.” This is contrary to the policy position taken by Beyond Pesticides and health advocates. Beyond Pesticides has notified states that have legalized marijuana use that, because no pesticide has ever been registered for use on cannabis by EPA, the only allowable pesticide products for cannabis production are those classified as exempt from federal registration under 25(b) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Colorado is currently in the process of updating its rules and may make this contradictory policy official. Beyond Pesticides has notified the state that it would consider any allowance of registered pesticides to be a violation of FIFRA.

Oregon’s New Regulations

Last week, the state of Oregon updated its rules governing pesticide use to require the mandatory testing of nearly 60 pesticide compounds that are of particular concern. All growers will be required to undergo this testing, and failure will result in the untested batch being destroyed. This is a change from prior rules which allowed laboratories to determine on their own what pesticides to include in a screening. The Oregonian reports that some labs had stopped testing for a common pesticide that is included in the new rules because failed samples hurt its business.

While the state’s list includes a number of toxic pesticides, The Oregonian also reports that growers are already looking for products outside of the list, and it is likely that the products they are searching for are not those exempt from federal registration. Moreover, the new rules raise the current allowable level of .1 parts per million for any pesticide residue and creates individual action levels for each pesticide compound. Oregon has yet to create a list of allowed pesticides on cannabis like Colorado and Washington State have done. Thus, it remains to be seen whether this list of pesticides to be laboratory tested will result in safer practices, if growers are already looking to potentially more toxic alternatives.

The Organic Approach

While recent moves in Colorado, Oregon, and previously in California represent steps in the right direction, they also contain significant pitfalls and loopholes that allow contaminated cannabis to market where it threatens public health. Beyond Pesticides continues to encourage states to take a stronger approach to regulating this budding industry, so that it blazes an agricultural path that protects its most sensitive at-risk users. Three elements must be passed and enforced in order to do so. They are:
1. A prohibition on the use of federally registered pesticides on cannabis;
2. Allowance of pesticides exempt from federal registration, but not those that are only exempt from tolerances and;
3. Requirements for an organic system plan that focuses on sustainable practices and only 25b products as a last resort.

Implementing these three requirements will ensure the sustainable growth of a new agricultural industry, and lead to the protection of public health. For more information and background this important issue, see Beyond Pesticides’ report Pesticide Use in Marijuana Production: Safety Issues and Sustainable Options.

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

Source: The Oregonian, The Denver Post

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16
Nov

Bayer Will Pay Fines for Fungicide Damage to Wine Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, November 16, 2015) Bayer CropScience, the manufacturer of neonicotinoid pesticides that are linked to severe decline in pollinator populations, is expected to pay fines to multiple countries in Europe for wine grape damages associated with another of its pesticides. Citing “atypical symptoms” resulting from the use of a relatively new fungicide, Bayer initially sent out a warning to wine growers to cease use of their product. Now, Bayer is collecting data and assessing how much it will offer to wine growers for the damages its product has caused.

European grape growers, including vineyards in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Switzerland, have reported deformed leaves and lower yields after using Moon Privilege, also known as Luna Privilege in some

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markets, from the German company’s CropScience unit. In Switzerland, losses are estimated at 80 million Swiss francs ($83.73 million), as reported by marketing group Swiss Wine to Reuters. Swiss Wine’s general secretary estimates harvest losses totaling 6.65 million kilos (14 million pounds) of grapes in 2015, or about 4.85 percent of 2014’s crop. It is also estimated that wine makers have lost approximately six million bottles of wine, with Pinot Noir grapes and Chasselas, a white wine grape, hardest hit. Switzerland’s Federal Office of Agriculture suspended its approval of Moon Privilege in wine growing in July.

“Bayer will on a voluntary basis compensate affected wine growers which have used the Moon Privilege/Luna Privilege fungicide last year,” a Bayer spokesman said to Reuters, adding that no “clear cause” has been determined.

In addition to the possibility of crop damage and subsequent monetary loss from the use of pesticides, vineyard workers, owners, and their families can suffer from health effects caused by the prophylactic use of these toxic chemicals. The active ingredient in Luna Privilege fungicide, fluopyram, is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a likely carcinogen to humans. Fluopyram also affects the liver, and has led to liver tumors in rats at high doses. Thyroid effects have also been observed. Even consumers can be wary of conventionally grown wine grapes. An examination of 300 French wines in 2013 found that 90 per cent contained traces of the chemicals most commonly used to treat vines. Thirty-three chemicals found in fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides showed up in wines, and every wine showed some detectable trace of chemicals. (The study can be found here in French.)

Unfortunately, there are no EU toxicity limits for bottled wine, only for wine grapes before fermentation. Other reports have also identified several pesticide residues in wine. The health impacts of pesticide exposure to vineyard farmworkers is also a concern. According to a PAN-Europe report, “Published scientific analysis suggests that those exposed to pesticides in grape production suffer a higher incidence of allergic rhinitis, respiratory problems, cancers, and chromosomal and nuclear abnormalities, as well as lower neurological capacities.”

Some vineyard owners are taking a stand against the use of pesticides in wine production. Emmanuel Giboulot, an organic winemaker in Burgundy, France, is part of a gathering movement that says the French wine industry’s excessive use of pesticides and fungicides has undermined its own argument that good or great wine can only flow from “terroir” –or natural conditions of soil or climate. Mr. Giboulot refused to comply with a government order mandating vineyards be sprayed to control flavescence dorĂ©e disease, citing that it was not an immediate threat in his region, and that pesticides posed more harm than good. His resolve against systemic pesticide spraying won broad support across the globe, and his conviction was overturned.

Despite fines, safety procedure overhauls, and lengthy trials, chemical and pesticide manufacturing and use still poses hazards for workers, nearby residents, consumers, and crop damage. Decreasing marketplace demand for noxious chemicals in favor of least-toxic biopesticides, organic, and sustainable alternatives on farms, will reduce the need to produce these chemicals. Like Mr. Giboulot, vineyard owners and workers can turn towards organic agriculture to protect themselves from the harmful effects of toxic pesticides. The organic wine market has grown –the share of organically produced French wines rose from 2.6 percent in 2007 to 8.2 percent by the end of 2012. According to the New York Times, contamination of organic vineyards from neighboring areas continues to threaten the industry. In the U.S., only wine made with organic grapes and naturally occurring sulfites can be labeled as organic wine.

For more information on ways to ensure that organic production continues to represent a production system that protects public health, the environment,  biodiversity, water quality, and enhancement of soil fertility practices that eliminate the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that contribute to global climate change.

Source: Reuters

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

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13
Nov

Sound Waves Disrupt Mating of Pest in Orange Groves

(Beyond Pesticides, November 13, 2015) Research finds that sound waves could combat the Asian citrus psyllid, an insect that has been devastating Florida orange groves, and possibly reduce the need for pesticides. The Asian citrus psyllid carries a bacteria that causes “citrus greening,” an incurable disease with symptoms that include yellow shoots, uneven discolored patches, and deficiencies with the production of chlorophyll, green pigment found within plants. To stem the spread of the disease –which is responsible for an estimated $3.63 billion in lost revenue from orange juice for the state of Florida from 2006-2012– researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and University of Florida (UF) are developing vibration traps that hijack psyllid mating calls to locally bring their populations under control.

citrus greening“We’re trying hard to cut down on use of pesticides in orange groves, partly because we are worried they’ll build up resistance to pesticides, and that will make things even worse,” said Richard Mankin, Ph.D., a research entomologist with USDA. He presented findings on acoustic disruption at the meeting of the American Acoustical Society last month in Jacksonville.

When a male Asian psyllid is looking for a mate, he situates himself on a twig and alerts females by buzzing his wings to send vibrations along adjacent leaves and branches. To disrupt that activity, researchers created a device containing a buzzer and a microphone wired to a microcontroller. The device detects the incoming male call and emits a fake female response call through the buzzer before any neighboring psyllids can answer. When the male bug comes near the device, he gets snagged and immobilized on an adhesive surface. In lab tests, the insects subjected to the noise were four times less likely to find a mate than other psyllids.

USDA has pushed for alternative methods in combatting citrus greening in the past. In 2014, USDA broadened the use of tiny parasitic wasps, Tamarixia radiata. The agency is already committed to provide $1.5 million dollars to the T. radiata breeding and release program in California, Texas, and Florida. Congress also allocated more than $125 million dollars over the next five years to fund more research on containing the spread of the Asian citrus psyllid.

In addition to threatening the citrus industry, the disease has caused significant difficultly between beekeepers and citrus farmers who are combating the spread of the psyllid with toxic chemicals. Local beekeepers are worried over the increasing use of harmful neonicotinoid pesticides, a class of chemicals linked to the worldwide bee decline, and citrus growers are concerned about the increasing population of Asian citrus psyllids.

The proven effectiveness of biological agents such as parasitic wasps, as well other alternative measures such as sound waves, show that the use of lethal pesticides is unnecessary. Additionally, farm operations that are USDA certified organic already avoid the use of toxic chemicals by implementing organic systems plans that can include biological pest management. To learn more about the policies and management strategies of organic agriculture, please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong page.

Source: Takepart

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

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12
Nov

Native Bees Found to Have Residues of Pesticides Linked to Their Steep Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, November 12, 2015) The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently performed the first-ever study of pesticide residues on native bee populations and found that they are exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides, as well as other pesticides, at significant rates. This study digs deeper into a question that was previously considered by a researcher who studied chemical-intensive apple orchards and linked a steep decline in wild or native bees to the application of pesticides. The USGS study broadens understanding about the effects of toxic pesticides to native bee species, expanding field research that has principally focused on managed honey bee populations.

The study tested for 122 different pesticides including bifenthrin, atrazine and chlorpyrifos, a chemical for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed to revoke all food tolerances in response to a court-ordered deadline. According to study findings, 72% of bees tested positive for pesticide residues, raising concerns for the potential for unintended pesticides exposures where land uses overlap or are in proximity to one another. Eric Stavale This pollinator was taken at Otis Reservoir in Tolland, MA. As he was so busy collecting pollen, I was able to get within inches to snap a few great shots.

Residues of pesticides found in bees in the study include thiamethoxam, clothianidin, and imidacloprid, all of which are highly toxic neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals that have been linked to the global decline in bee populations by a large body of science. Neonicotinoids are especially harmful to honey bees, causing adverse effects on their ability to perform basic tasks necessary for survival, such as foraging and reproduction, as well as cause overall population decreases, findings that scientists fear may translate to native bee populations. Neonicotinoids also contaminate over half of urban and agricultural streams across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, according to a recent study by USGS that expands on a previous USGS report that found the chemicals to contaminate Midwest waterways.

The most common pesticide detected is the neonicotinoid insecticide thiamethoxam, which is found in 46 percent of the composite bee samples. Thiamethoxam, specifically, is used as a seed coating on a variety of different crops, a practice that has been found to have no role in reducing crop damage from pests, despite manufacturer claims touting the benefits of its use.

In 2014, EPA released a memorandum concluding that soybean seeds treated with neonicotinoid insecticides provide little or no overall benefits in controlling insects or improving yield or quality in chemical-intensive soybean production. The memo states, “In studies that included a comparison to foliar insecticides, there were no instances where neonicotinoid seed treatments out-performed any foliar insecticide in yield protection from any pest.” Also published last year was a report by Center for Food Safety refuting claims that neonicotinoids bring greater benefits than costs to farmers. In the report, researchers analyzed independent, peer-reviewed, scientific literature and found that the benefits of prophylactic neonicotinoid use via seed treatments are nearly non-existent, and that any minor benefits that did occur were negated due to honey bee colony impacts, reduced crop pollination by honey bees, reduced production of honey and other bee products, loss of ecosystem services, and market damage from contamination events. Furthermore, preliminary reports out of the UK find that the country is poised to harvest higher than expected yields of canola in its first neonicotinoid-free growing season since the European moratorium on neonicotinoids went into place in 2013.

The study also identified the presence of traditional agricultural operations as a factor in whether or not native bees tested positive for pesticide exposure. “We found that the presence and proximity of nearby agricultural fields was an important factor resulting in the exposure of native bees to pesticides,” said USGS scientist Michelle Hladik, Ph.D, the report’s lead author. “Pesticides were detected in the bees caught in grasslands with no known direct pesticide applications.” These bees were determined to have at least one of the pesticides measured, which indicates they are potentially exposed to pesticides applied to nearby agricultural areas. Pesticide concentrations and detections are generally less in bees collected in grasslands with a smaller percentage of active agriculture within one kilometer, which is the maximum foraging distance for native bees. As a result, it seems that the land cover surrounding the agricultural fields could be an important factor for consideration in conservation planning.

Farmers increasingly understand the benefits of employing hedgerows, which have been found to be an effective barrier against spray drift as well as reduce pesticide use by promoting biodiversity and providing habitat for natural pest predators. For more information on hedgerows and their numerous benefits, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticides and You article Hedgerows for Biodiversity: Habitat is needed to protect pollinators, other beneficial organisms, and healthy ecosystems.

It is important to note that the study performed by USGS was a reconnaissance study, making it an important first step, but not the last, in understanding the exposure of native bee populations to pesticides in relation to the surrounding landscape. Its preliminary findings will be used to design more focused research on exposure, uptake and accumulation of pesticides relative to land-use, agricultural practices and pollinator conservation efforts on the landscape, an important step for the approximately 4,000 native species of bees in the U.S. Native bees are responsible for pollinating native plants like cherries, blueberries and cranberries, and were here long before European honeybees were brought to the country by settlers. Many native bees are also efficient crop pollinators, a role that may become more important if honey bees continue to decline.

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

Source: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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

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10
Nov

Pesticide Exposure Linked to Abnormal Sperm Development

(Beyond Pesticides, November 10, 2015) Exposure to organochlorine chemicals, such as DDE and PCBs, is linked to increased rates of sperm abnormalities that may lead to fertility problems, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. This is the latest study in a long line of research implicating endocrine (hormone)-disrupting chemicals in reproductive diseases.

P_endocrine-systemResearchers investigated this issue by observing the blood serum and sperm quality of 90 men, aged 22-44, participating in health studies in the Faroe Islands, an archipelago under Denmark’s control that is located between Iceland, the UK and Norway. Faroe islanders consume a high seafood diet that often consists of pilot whale, integral historically as a food source for the Faroese people. However, this practice exposes the Faroese to higher than average levels of environmental contaminants. For the study, data on umbilical cord blood and blood serum at age 14 was available for 40 of the participants, allowing a researchers to measure lifetime impacts.

Faroese participants were screened for sperm aneuploidy, a condition which usually involves an abnormal number of X or Y chromosomes in sperm, and is suspected as contributing to congenital abnormalities and up to 50% of early pregnancy losses. Results found that adult concentrations of DDE and PCBs in participants was associated with increased rates of aneuploidy. Concentrations of the organochlorine chemicals at age 14 were significantly correlated with increased rates of aneuploidy at adult age, however the link between concentrations in umbilical cord blood and adult aneuploidy was not significant.

“Exposure to these chemicals in adolescence may lead to reproductive problems years later,” said Melissa Perry, ScD, MHS, chair of the Environmental and Occupational Health program at George Washington University and lead author of the study in a press release,

DDE (dichlorodiphenyldicholorethylene) is the breakdown chemical of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), an organochlorine pesticide that was banned in the U.S. in 1972, following a massive environmental movement spurred by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which documents the adverse environmental effects resulting from the indiscriminate use of pesticides. DDT was widely used to control mosquitoes for malaria abatement, and in agriculture. Despite the fact that DDT was banned in the U.S. 43 years ago, concentrations of this DDE have remained alarmingly high in many locations, including surface waters, the Arctic, and even some U.S. towns and national parks. DDT, DDE, PCBs and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are known to resist environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes.

“DDT and other pesticides like it continue to linger in our environment and contaminate our food,” said Dr. Perry to NY Daily News. A study published in 2015 found that long banned but persistent pesticides like DDT may reemerge as a result of soil erosion in agricultural fields. However, a large source of exposure to these chemicals is through eating meat. This is because many POPs are also known to bioaccumulate and biomagnify, increasing in concentration as they move up the food chain from prey to predator. “Most people can reduce their exposure to PCBs and DDT by cutting back on foods that are high in animal fats and choosing fish wisely,” said Dr. Perry in a press release.

DDT and DDE have been linked to a number of reproductive and endocrine diseases. A 2013 study found that exposure to DDT and a range of other pesticides was linked to decreased sperm quality. A two-part French study published in 2014 found that sperm quality in French men had decreased 30% over the past 16 years as a likely result of chemical exposure, with the implication that these similar results would be seen in other areas of the world. Research shows women have also been impacted by exposure to POPs. A study published early this year found that exposure to POPs is associated with an earlier start to menopause. Another study published in June found that in utero exposure to DDT was directly linked to breast cancer later in life. Lastly, DDT has been shown to cause adverse impacts that span generations. A study published in 2013 by Michael Skinner, PhD, found that exposure to DDT contributed to obesity three generations down the line.

The results of this and numerous other studies confirm that relying on the same risk-based approach to regulating toxic chemicals that allowed the widespread use of DDT and other POPs is simply unacceptable. “This study, and others like it, suggest that any decisions about putting biologically active chemicals into the environment must be made very carefully as there can be unanticipated consequences down the road,” said Dr. Perry. Beyond Pesticides urges regulators at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strongly consider the data and conclusions developed by independent scientists. As EPA continues to allow pesticides to market that pose unacceptable risks to the environment given widely available organic and natural alternatives, local residents must stand up in opposition, and start at the community level to get unnecessary toxins out of their environment.

To read more about an alternative approach to regulating toxic pesticides, and to see more studies linking pesticide exposure to common diseases, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database.

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

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives, George Washington University Press Release.

 

 

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09
Nov

USDA Continues to Suppress Independent Science on Bee-Killing Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, November 09, 2015) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cancelled a webinar on the presence of neonicotinoids in waterways in the Prairie Pothole region, according to the government watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). PEER states that the cancellation is “another example of USDA interfering with the release of new science-based information about adverse effects linked to neonicotinoid (neonics) pesticides.” As a result, PEER continues, “Growing ecological risks posed by the most widely used insecticides in North America will likely not be considered in developing USDA policies, planning or management practices.” Neonicotinoids are a controversial class of chemicals that have been linked to the global bee decline by a rapidly growing body of scientific literature.

usdaA webinar, titled Pesticides and Potholes: Understanding the Risks of Neonicotinoid Insecticides to Aquatic Ecosystems in Prairie Canada and Beyond, was supposed to take place June 24, 2014, according to PEER. Instead, the online event was cancelled by Wayne Honeycutt, Ph.D., the Deputy Chief for Science and Technology at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

The online event would have featured Christy Morrissey, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, School of Environment and Sustainability, whose research includes studying the fate of neonicotinoids in wetlands as they affect aquatic insects and birds in agricultural ecosystems in the Prairie Pothole region, which covers the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa. The region is one of the world’s most important wetland region and is home to more than half of North America’s migratory waterfowl. NRCS devotes considerable resources to wetland restoration in the region. Yet, drainage from surrounding cropland carries increasing amounts of ultra-potent neonics that threaten the health of the region’s aquatic systems.

A companion webinar on the efficacy of neonicotinoid seed coatings and practices to minimize adverse impacts on pollinators and other non-target organisms was also called off. The cancelled webinars were part of a series addressing priority training needs identified by NRCS and partner biologists.

“I am sorry to disappoint you, but I determined that these topics were not appropriate for an NRCS sponsored webinar,” Dr. Honeycutt wrote in an email to William Hohman, Ph.D., the Fort Worth, Texas-based NRCS biologist who organized the webinar. PEER published the email online, as well as internal emails from NRCS conservation staff expressing the need for training that stand in stark contrast to Dr. Honeycutt’s cancellation of the event.

An NRCS official refuted the idea that the webinar was cancelled to hide information on neonicotinoids, saying the online presentation is “inappropriate” since it was not developed by USDA and did not meet the scientific research criteria for an NRCS webinar.

The studies to be presented in the webinar were “not fully research-based,” said the official.

“Neonics are apparently a taboo topic for USDA scientists to discuss,” PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said in a statement. “This episode suggests political science essentially trumps biology, agronomy and every other discipline inside today’s USDA.”

USDA has a long and notorious history in its attempts to quash science and scientists whose research does not fall in line with the agency’s paradigm.  Last week, USDA entomologist Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D. was suspended out of what he believes is retaliation for research on a neonicotinoid pesticide’s effect on monarch butterflies. In April, PEER filed a petition for rulemaking, seeking to strengthen USDA’s Scientific Integrity Policy. PEER argued that language in the current policy actually encourages the suppression of scientific study where large agribusiness corporations’ reputations are at stake. PEER explains that USDA management regularly uses this provision as reason for suppressing technical work of employees when industry stakeholders disagree with the scientific conclusions reached.

Neonicotinoids are a highly pervasive environmental contaminant. A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study last year found high levels of neonicotinoids in Midwestern waterways, where agricultural intensity is strong. Another USGS study found that neonicotinoids contaminate over half of urban and agricultural streams across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Neonicotinoids have become the fastest growing class of insecticides in agriculture. They are now the most widely used class of insecticide chemicals and are registered in more than 120 countries. Studies continue to question the efficacy of these chemicals in pest control, showing no yield increases as a result of their use. Beyond food production, neonics are frequently detected in nursery plants sold at big box home and garden centers throughout the United States. And recent research also produced by the Harvard School of Public Health finds these chemicals to be ubiquitous in our environment during flowering season, present in a vast majority of pollen samples taken throughout the state of Massachusetts.

The impacts these chemicals have on birds (a single kernel of neonic-coated corn is enough to kill a songbird), honey bees, wild pollinators, and other beneficial organisms are clear and has been well-researched. Large-scale use of neonicotinoids can also alter and harm aquatic communities. Aquatic invertebrates, which play an important role in ecological diversity, are especially susceptible – neonicotinoids can exert adverse effects on survival, growth, emergence, mobility, and behavior of many sensitive aquatic invertebrate taxa.

With independent science both in and outside of the U.S. pointing to a growing list of impacts from neonicotinoid pesticides, advocates argue that it is critical that federal scientific agencies tasked with protecting human and environmental health be able to inform the public without repercussions from an industry whose only interest is in protecting profits. For more information, see PEER’s pattern of science manipulation at USDA. To see the history of industry influence in federal agencies, visit this link to Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News blog.

Source: E&E News (subscription required); PEER

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

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