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Daily News Blog

15
Jan

Sales of Organic Pest Controls Growing

(Beyond Pesticides, January 15, 2016) A new analysis finds that sales of organic pest control products are now on par with their traditional chemical pest controls for U.S. garden retailers, with retailers reporting that the organic options have a higher increase in sales than their chemical counterpart each year. The report, by Greenhouse Grower, an industry publication for the commercial floriculture industry in the U.S., pulls data from several years of Greenhouse Grower’s retail State of the Industry Surveys. The research reflects growing consumer awareness about the hazards of pesticides and viability of organic options, amidst consumer actions encouraging big-box retailers, as well as local hardware stores and garden centers, to eliminate neonicotinoid pesticides (which have emerged as the leading cause of bee declines), and “Make the Switch” from conventional pest control products to organics.

EldredgeMaine-300x169According to Greenhouse Grower, the number of garden retailers responding each year ranges from 216 (in 2014) to 440 (in 2013). The national picture shows that a similar number of retailers are stocking both conventional chemical and organic pesticides, with 78.3% of retailers stocking chemical controls, which is only slightly higher than the 77.93% that carry organics. The report also points out that conventional chemical pest controls still contribute more to the bottom line for retailers, however it is only by a small amount.

In 2014, traditional chemical pest control sales made up 2.55% of total sales, which was up slightly compared to 2013, when retailers reported that these products made up 2.21% of sales. Compare that to organic controls where in 2014, sales made up 2.25% of total sales, which was up compared to 2013, when retailers reported the category made up 1.96% of sales. However, organic controls were much less likely to be reported as having a decrease in sale compared to their chemical counterparts. In contrast, the most common trend retailers reported for organic pest control sales was an increase in sales, while traditional pesticides were one of the highest categories for decreased sales.

Indeed, this news comes as no shock to environmental advocates who have been working to encourage businesses to consider the impact that the products they sell have on the environment, human health, and pollinators. In December, Home Depot, the world’s largest home-improvement chain, announced that it will no longer use neonicotinoid pesticides (linked to bee decline) 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 in April of last year to phase out the sale of products containing neonicotinoid pesticides within 48 months.

Additionally, Beyond Pesticides has been working with forward looking businesses, including Eldredge Lumber and Hardware in York, Maine, which are part of this national trend of clearing their store shelves of harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in favor of organic materials. Eldredge is encouraging consumers to employ alternatives by consciously stocking their shelves with organic compatible products. Efforts by local businesses to stock alternatives and educate consumers on their use is a wonderful example of creating change through grassroots efforts and a bottom-up approach, and offers an alternative to big-box stores focused simply on replacing products. Beyond Pesticides has produced the video Making the Switch, which highlights Eldredge Lumber and Hardware’s efforts to orient its customers towards safer management practices.

“You’re protecting your environment, you’re protecting your family, your children and grandchildren, and your neighbors. Nobody wants to have pesticides drifting into their front or year yard, and people are just loving it, they’re feeding into it. I couldn’t be happier,” says owner Scott Eldredge.

To assist local garden centers and hardware stores in transitioning their customers to organic practices, Beyond Pesticides has crafted the “Well-Stocked Hardware Store,” which provides the products and tools necessary to support a move to healthy, organic landscapes. This guide fits in with Beyond Pesticides’ Model Pesticide Policy and Implementation Plan for Communities, but can be used independently for hardware stores and garden supply centers looking to encourage the use of products and practices that protect the health of their customers, community, and the wider environment.

Take Action: Sign on to our letter to ask True Value and Ace Hardware to join their competitors and eliminate bee-killing pesticides and switch to organic products. Reports of increasing sales of organic pest controls show that consumers care about the products that they use. There are no more excuses — we know it’s possible to get these pesticides off their shelves.

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!

Source: Greenhouse Grower

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

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14
Jan

Bayer Concurs with EPA Findings on Certain Neonicotinoid Hazards to Honey Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, January 14, 2016) Bayer CropScience, revising its stance, has decided to concur with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) preliminary risk assessment of neonicotinoids and acknowledge the finding of harm to honey bees in certain crops. A spokesman for Bayer CropScience said the neonic-selling giant has reviewed the assessment and found it to be “quite good and scientifically sound,” according to a news report. The Guardian is reporting that Bayer will be proposing new protections for pollinators, however the company has not yet announced what the new protections will be. This is a stark turnaround from Bayer’s statement last week, which said EPA’s assessment “appears to overestimate the potential for harmful exposures in certain crops, such as citrus and cotton, while ignoring the important benefits these products provide and management practices to protect bees.”

Last week, EPA released its preliminary honey bee risk assessment for one of the most widely used neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, which is linked to severely declining honey bee populations. The assessment found harmful residues of the insecticide in crops where the pollinators forage and confirmed bees’ widespread and sustained exposure to the highly toxic and persistent chemical through poisoned pollen and nectar. Imidacloprid, like the other chemicals in its class, is not only highly toxic to bees, but a growing number of studies find that even at low levels neonicotinoids impair foraging ability, navigation, learning behavior, and suppress the immune system, making bees more susceptible to pathogens and disease. Three other neonicotinoid risk assessments are expected this year, including clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran.

EPA’s assessment ignores certain risks posed to wild bees and other routes of widespread exposure, such as hedgerows, soil, and water. EPA found that in agriculture crop fields and adjacent fields where imidacloprid is sprayed pose a risk to both bumblebees and honey bees, especially on citrus and cotton. The report also identified a residue level of 25 parts per billion (ppb) for imidacloprid, “which sets a threshold above which effects on pollinator hives are likely to be seen, and at that level and below which effects are unlikely.” This threshold has been grossly overestimated according to numerous reports that point to much lower exposure rates. In 2014, a study published in Ecotoxicology found near-infinitesimal exposure to neonics reduces bees’ ability to gather food.

The risk assessment also fails to analyze neonic-treated seeds, which yield no greater efficiency or benefits to agriculture compared to untreated seeds. This is an area of neonic use that must be addressed given their presence in conventional agriculture. For instance, more than 90% of canola in North America is planted with neonic-treated seeds. Seed treatment raises concerns due to the systemic qualities of neonicotinoids and their persistence in the environment. This requires the analysis of soil, water, and other wildlife, such as birds and aquatic invertebrates, to truly assess the toxic effect of neonics on bees in their totality. In response to loose regulation, Center for Food Safety, representing several beekeepers, farmers and sustainable agriculture and conservation groups, filed a lawsuit in federal court last week charging EPA with a failure to adequately regulate neonicotinoid insecticide seed coatings used on dozens of crops throughout the U.S.

Bayer’s unnamed spokesperson also notes that EPA’s risk assessment “didn’t say [neonicotinoids] are a risk to honeybee colonies.” Not only is Bayer denouncing the possibility that Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is caused by neonics, but it also hints that any report making such claims would be unsound. This statement reflects not the strength of the science, but the weakness of EPA’s assessment, highlighting their reluctance to adequately study neonic effects at the colony level. According to EPA’s report, colony study “was not considered appropriate” even though it “represents a limitation in the risk assessment” claiming that “the uncertainty is not likely to substantially alter the risk conclusions
except when exposure via pollen is extraordinarily high due to nectar.” Considering that exposure levels acceptable to EPA are well above those supported by the scientific community, “extraordinarily high” levels, above 25 ppb, may be unrealistic.

Given the deficiencies in EPA’s report, Bayer’s recent change of heart appears weak. And history has shown their shaky commitment to pollinators. One year ago, EPA registered flupyradifurone, a new pesticide marketed by Bayer as an alternative to neonics that is “safer for bees.” Last year, Bayer donated $100,000 to Project Apis m., a non-profit organization that dedicates itself to enhancing the health of honey bees. Although the donation is directed towards providing additional forage to bees, Bayer continues to fund much larger projects and lawsuits aimed at silencing scientific evidence that blames neonics for colony collapse.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. Farm, beekeeper, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have urged EPA to follow in the European Union’s footsteps and suspend the huge numbers of other bee-harming pesticides already on the market. We suggest an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, and instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of neonicotinoids. See how you can help through Bee Protective.

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

Source: The Guardian

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13
Jan

WA Oyster Growers Request Approval to Spray Neonicotinoid Pesticides in Bay, Despite Public Opposition

(Beyond Pesticides, January 13, 2016) Last Friday, the Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association (WGHOGA) in Washington State sent a 71-page request to the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) asking state regulators to approve a permit to spray neonicotinoid insecticides that are having devastating effects on the ecosystems worldwide. Yet, WGHOGA is pursuing a single-minded approach to chemically control the shrimp that are hurting their oyster crops, while using chemicals that the preponderance of science finds cause ecosystem imbalance.

IOyster_Farmingn April 2015, much to the dismay of activists and concerned local residents, Ecology approved a permit for the use of imidacloprid (a neonicotinoid) to combat a growing native population of burrowing shrimp that threatens valuable shellfish (oyster) beds in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. But, with a nationwide public outcry, the permit was withdrawn in May 2015.

Ecology sent KING 5, a local Washington news agency, the below statement last Friday:

“We received the permit application this morning from the Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association to use imidacloprid on shellfish beds. It will take some time for us to review the 71-page application. On May 3 (2015) the Oyster Growers Association asked Ecology to withdraw their permit. Since then, the state registration to use imidacloprid on shellfish beds has expired. The Washington State Department of Agriculture (DOA) would need to reissue a registration before a new permit from Ecology can be considered. Also since the withdrawal of the permit, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began a risk assessment of using imidacloprid in water, and we are tracking the outcome. We understand the public’s concerns about pesticide use on shellfish beds. Any permit review process will be transparent and open for public review and comment.”

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

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

The decision to withdraw the permit last May was reached in large part due to vocal public outrage over the plan, as consumers, environmental organizations, and prominent local chefs spoke out against the spraying. According to a news release published by the agency at the time, DOA Director Maia Bellon stated, “One of our agency’s goals is to reduce toxics in our environment. We’ve heard loud and clear from people across Washington that this permit didn’t meet their expectations, and we respect the growers’ response.”

In an article published in the Seattle Times, the largest shellfish producer in country, Taylor Shellfish, announced it would not treat its oyster beds with imidacloprid in response to numerous calls, emails, and social media comments made by its customers. “Our customers spoke loud and clear, and that speaks volumes to us,” said Bill Dewey, spokesman for Taylor Shellfish. Given Taylor Shellfish’s size, it is likely that WGHOGA did not have the resources to move forward with the pesticide application.

Retailers, consumers and environmental organizations were not the only ones to raise concern for the use of imidacloprid. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) voiced many concerns over the application of imidacloprid to the bays. Among them include concerns surrounding the large size of the area to be treated. NMFS believes that the proposed acreage should be reduced because of many unknowns regarding impact to other aquatic and terrestrial biota. Further, NMFS states that the burrowing shrimp are native to the region and play an important role in the natural ecosystem. The agency also voiced concern for the green sturgeon – a “species of concern” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the potential direct and indirect impacts to its food sources in the designated critical habitat. The agency believes that effects and damages will not be limited to the treatment sites. Similarly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) also expressed reservations over imidacloprid use. FWS wrote Ecology expressing its opposition to the imidacloprid permit, citing a lack of scientific information regarding fate and transport, efficacy, persistence, and effects to non-target organisms. It went on to dispute claims that shrimp control improves biodiversity, citing the possibility of significant alterations occurring to the bay’s ecosystem without burrowing shrimp control, disagreeing with Ecology’s conclusion that “no significant adverse impacts” would be expected.

For more information on the environmental impacts of neonicotinoids such as imidacloprid, visit our What the Science Shows page. To learn more about the use of chemicals in Willapa Bay and Greys Harbor, read our Pesticides and You article, Residents Say No To Pesticide-Poisoned Bays.

Source: KING 5, SeattlePi

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

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12
Jan

Campbell Soup Says GE Food Is Safe, Endorses Mandatory GE Labeling to Preempt States with Weak Language

(Beyond Pesticides, January 12, 2016) Late last week in a precedent-setting move, Campbell Soup Company announced its support for federal mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. If such labeling does not come soon, the company also indicated it is prepared to voluntarily label all products it produces that contain GE ingredients. Agri-Pulse reported, “Campbell made clear that it still supported the use of genetic engineering in agriculture but said that there is a need for national labeling standards that would preempt state standards.”

F160471_SpaghettiOs_New_Labels-0091Campbell’s President and CEO Denise Morrison, ““I want to stress that we’re in no way disputing the science behind GMOs or their safety. The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence indicates that GMOs are safe and that foods derived from crops using genetically modified seedsare not nutritionally different from other foods,” Morrison wrote.” Ms. Morrison said that the company is against a patchwork of regulation across the states. In its release Campbell issues a sample label, which states: “Partially produced with genetic engineering. For more information about GMO ingredients visit WhatsinMyFood.com.”

Prior to the announcement, Campbell Soup’s membership to the umbrella group the Grocery Manufacturers Association pitted it against consumer, health, and environmental organizations, and the over 90% of Americans that support mandatory GE labeling and want to know the ingredients in the food they eat. However, in a press release issued by Campbell’s, the company states, “As a result of its decision to support mandatory national GMO labeling, Campbell will withdraw from all efforts led by coalitions and groups opposing such measures.”

While the company continues to assert tired claims that GE crops are critical to “feeding the world,” the change marks the first breaking of ranks among the conventional food industry at a time when Congress is intensely debating the merits of a federal GE food labeling scheme. In July of last year, the House of Representatives passed a bill, HR 1599, aptly referred to as the Deny Americans the Right to Know, or DARK Act, which would preempt (disallow) states from requiring GE labeling, and only allow voluntary labeling by food companies. While the Senate held hearings on the issue in October, it was not included as a rider in an omnibus federal spending bill passed at the end of the year, despite intensive lobbying from the conventional food and chemical industry.

Things have heated up at the federal level after Vermont became the first state to require mandatory GE labeling in 2014. Ballot initiatives in California, Washington State, Oregon, and Colorado were all rejected in close votes after chemical companies poured millions of dollars in TV ads to discredit the efforts. Maine and Connecticut also passed legislation in 2014 on GE labeling, however, these laws contain a “trigger clause” that delays implementation until similar legislation is passed in neighboring states, including one bordering state in the case of Connecticut. Vermont’s policy had been the subject of a legal challenge from the GMA, Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and National Association of Manufacturers; the organizations claimed that current federal law preempted the state from enacting mandatory labeling requirements. However, after Vermont won the legal challenge, industry shifted its strategy to stop the implementation of the law by pushing for passage of the DARK Act.

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

As most GE crops are developed either for herbicide tolerance, or to produce their own insecticide through “plant incorporated protectants,” (PIPs), the problem of pest resistance is significant and growing. EPA’s Office of Pesticide Program indicated to a Senate panel that it registers “plant incorporated protectants,” (PIPs) in 86 GE crops and acknowledged pest resistance problems. Insects that are the target of the engineered plant develop resistance, putting farmers’ crops at risk because of their dependency on the technology. In 2012, Washington State University researcher Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. found that the use of herbicides in the production of three genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops (cotton, soybeans and corn) has increased, contrary to industry claims that biotechnology will reduce pesticide applications. According to a series of studies in the journal Weed Science, at least 21 different species of weeds Monsanto’s “Roundup-Ready” crops, which leads to an increase in pesticide use to try to combat resistance, increasing dependency on a failed system.

As GE technology advances, farmers are increasingly threatened with crop loss, as was the argument made by Texas cotton farmers in 2014 when 3 million acres of GE cotton was threatened by weed resistance to Monsanto’s herbicide-tolerant Roundup. The state of Texas, on behalf of the farmers, requested that EPA allow the use of a triazine herbicide not registered for use on cotton under an emergency exemption (Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act), but EPA denied the request because it said that exposure to triazines, linked to hermaphroditism in frogs, “already show[s] unacceptable risk levels.”

Campbell’s push for mandatory labeling may not explicitly recognize the aforementioned problems with GE crops, as the company reasons that it prefers one federal standard to a variety of state-level requirements, but it does reflect the fact that a growing number of consumers are aware of the unaccounted costs of GE agriculture. This is exemplified through the exponential rise the organic food market. Organic agriculture identifies genetic engineering as an “excluded method” and prohibits its use in certified organic production. In the absence of a mandatory label on GE foods, and for many other reasons, consumers can go organic to ensure their food dollars support a safe, ethical, and environmentally sound food and farming system.

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

Source: Campbell Soup Press Release, ABC News

 

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11
Jan

UK Researchers Find Bee-Killing Pesticide Cocktail in Hedgerows and Wildflowers

(Beyond Pesticides, January 11, 2016) Scientists at Sussex University in the United Kingdom (UK) have found that bumble bees and honey bees are exposed to a harmful chemical cocktail when collecting pollen from wildflowers and hedgerows that border neonicotinoid-treated crops in UK farmland. After testing oilseed rape croplands during blooming season, these chemical cocktails were found to be mixed with fungicides and insecticides, and at concentrations much higher than expected.  According to the Soil Association, which supported the study, “These chemical cocktails could make the impact of neonicotinoids up to 1,000 times more potent than previously realized.” With at least 121 different agrochemicals detected in hive wax and pollen samples in the Unites States, most of which include systemic pesticides, it is becoming increasingly more important to study the synergistic effects of pesticides in and outside of farm land.

hedgerowThe study focused on “determining which mixtures of commonly used fungicides occur alongside neonicotinoids” and found that all individual oilseed rape pollen samples
contained at least six neonicotinoid and fungicide residues. To compare, three neonicotinoid and six fungicides were detected in wildflower pollen samples. While the wildflower contamination was expectedly lower than crop contamination, the rate of bee contamination paints a clearer, albeit alarming picture. In pollen collected from wildflowers outside of the oilseed rape cropland, researchers found that “all pollen samples collected by honey bees were contaminated with a mixture of neonicotinoids and fungicides; a total of 14 compounds in pollen collected during oilseed rape blooming and 10 after the bloom period.” The study also acknowledges that their data “suggest that real-world exposure may often be much higher than this.”

The scientists concluded that the effects of these pesticide cocktails need to be examined, “Our study confirms that bees foraging in arable farmland are exposed to a complex cocktail of neonicotinoid insecticides and fungicides in the pollen they collect
A major challenge which has yet to be tackled is attempting to understand what effects simultaneous exposure to multiple pesticides has upon bees in the field.”

The sampling for this study was conducted in the spring and summer of 2013, before the moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds came into effect in the UK. The current state of wildflower pollen contamination is unknown. This study further supports the European Union’s decision to ban neonicotinoid-treated seeds and supports a continuation of that moratorium moving forward. While industry supporters, like Syngenta and Bayer CropSciences, insist that the ban has caused detrimental effects to farmers, an August 2015 study found that oilseed rape yields actually increased compared to the 5-year average. One month later, a Michigan State University study found that neonicotinoid-treated seeds do not reduce crop damage from pests.

In the U.S., no such moratorium exists, although the recently released imidacloprid preliminary risk assessment from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirms widespread exposure to the widely-used class of pesticides.

While neonicotinoid pesticides have continuously been linked to bee population decline, fungicides and the synergistic effects of fungicides and neonicotinoids are only recently coming to light. In June 2015, two studies linked declining bee health to fungicide use. Another June study found a relationship between timing of fungicide applications and wild bee populations. Fungicide applications prior to apple flower blooming resulted in the steepest decline in wild bee abundance and diversity.

While the European Commission and EPA have large decisions to make concerning pollinators, citizens like yourself can help fight against bee-killing pesticides from home. With home-improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s phasing out bee-toxic products, America’s pollinators need your help to encourage other corporate stores to do the same. True Value and ACE Hardware have pollinators on their radar, but need to feel the heat! Click here to tell their corporate headquarters to phase out neonicotinoids and protect pollinators today.

You can also pledge to promote a pollinator-friendly garden in your yard. Beyond Pesticides’ members across the country are spreading the word about pollinator health by proudly displaying Pesticide-Free Zone Signs in their gardens. Whether you use one of our honey bee or ladybug pesticide-free zone signs, or a homemade one, these signs are an effective way to spark a discussion on the hazards of toxic pesticides and bee decline. You can see some of the beautiful, pesticide-free gardens in our 2016 calendar. Click here to purchase a calendar for the New Year!

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

Source: Environmental International

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08
Jan

EPA Must Assess the Indiscriminate Pollinator Poisoning Caused by Neonicotinoids Imparted to Plants from Seeds, Lawsuit Charges

(Beyond Pesticides January 8, 2016) This week the Center for Food Safety, on behalf of several beekeepers, farmers and sustainable agriculture and conservation groups, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday charging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a failure to adequately regulate neonicotinoid insecticide seed coatings used on dozens of crops throughout the U.S. The suit alleges that EPA has illegally allowed millions of pounds of coated seeds to be planted annually on more than 150 million acres nationwide, constituting a direct violation of the registration requirements established by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Absent adequate assessment of the serious ongoing environmental harms associated with coated seed use, as well as failure to require the registration of coated seeds and enforceable labels on seeds bags, this lawsuit demands immediate action to protect beekeepers, farmers and consumers from the harms associated with neonicotinoid coated seeds.

Seed TechnologyNeonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affects the central nervous system of insects, resulting in disorientation, paralysis and death. Neonicotinoid pesticides are tied to recent pollinator declines by an ever-growing body of science. Just this week EPA released a preliminary honey bee risk assessment linking severely declining honeybee populations to the use of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, which, along with clothianidin and thiamethoxam, is commonly used to coat agricultural seeds. This raises huge concerns because neonicotinoids are persistent in the environment, and when used as seed treatments (as well as drench treatments), translocate throughout the plant (thus are systemic), ending up in pollen and nectar and exposing pollinators like bees, birds, and butterflies long after the planting season has ended.

Not only are neonicotinoid coated seeds harmful to pollinators, they also offer little economic value to farmers. 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.” A report by Center for Food Safety that same year assembled the scientific literature that refutes 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 lawsuit seeks to challenge EPA’s reliance on FIFRA’s “treated article exemption,” which, to this point, has been used to allow the pesticide industry to circumvent proper registration and review of neonicotinoid coated seeds. The treated article exemption exempts from regulation “an article or substance treated with, or containing a pesticide to protect the article or substance itself, if the pesticide is registered for such use.” 40 CFR § 152.25. Plaintiffs argue that, due to the systemic nature of neonicotinoids, coated seeds are “pesticide” products under FIFRA and require review by EPA. The lawsuit claims that neonicotinoid coatings are not merely intended to protect the seed before germination, but instead designed to carry the active ingredients via the plants’ circulatory system into every living tissue of the plant, thereby imparting the pest injuring (or pesticide) capability to the plant. In doing so, the lawsuit states, the treated article exemption does not apply to the coated seeds. Plaintiffs allege that exempting coated seeds from FIFRA registration is an ultra vires (beyond legal authority) use of agency power, and that failure to regulate and enforce against this pesticide use under FIFRA is unlawful and a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

The plaintiffs in the case are beekeepers Jeff Anderson, Bret Adee, David Hackenberg, and Pollinator Stewardship Council, farmers Lucas Criswell and Gail Fuller, and public interest and conservation groups American Bird Conservancy, Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network of North America

Efforts to stop the harm that neonicotinoids are causing are ongoing on many fronts. Across the nation, jurisdictions, like Boulder and Lafayette, Colorado, have been banning or limiting neonicotinoids. Last year, Ontario, Canada proposed a plan to reduce the use of neonic-coated corn and soybean seeds by 80%. In 2013, the European Union issued a 2-year moratorium banning neonics. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a ban on neonicotinoid insecticides at all wildlife refuges nationwide by this January. For more information on pollinators and pesticides, see Beyond Pesticides’ BeeProtective page.

The Saving America’s Pollinator’s Act 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: CFS press release

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07
Jan

EPA Data Confirms Honey Bee Exposure to Hazardous Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 7, 2016) A long-awaited U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) preliminary honey bee risk assessment, released yesterday, for one of the most widely used pesticides linked to severely declining honey bee populations confirms harmful residues of the chemical in crops where the pollinators forage, including citrus and other crops. While EPA finds the insecticide imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid or neonic pesticide, at various levels in crops, the assessment confirms bees’ widespread and sustained exposure to the highly toxic and persistent chemical through poisoned pollen and nectar. EPA’s assessment failed to address risks posed to wild bees and widespread exposure through soil and water. [See docket with EPA documents, for which EPA has set a 60-public comment period.]

beehivecheck“We cannot incorporate highly toxic and persistent chemicals into virtually all agricultural crops and ornamental plants without detrimental impacts on large populations of bees, butterflies, and birds and other organisms important to a healthy ecosystem on which life depends,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, a science and advocacy group based in Washington, DC. “Even low level exposures to bees over vast acreage represent an unsustainable threat,” he continued.

Other toxic pesticides in the neonicotinoid class of insecticides have been linked to pollinator decline in over a hundred independent scientific studies. The class is known as systemic pesticides because they are taken up by the vascular system of the plant and then expressed through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets, killing target and non-target organisms indiscriminately. The neonicotinoids are still under EPA review, while the European Union, numerous retailers, and local cities and towns have adopted policies that stop their use. Beyond Pesticides points to a thriving organic industry as the alternative to the neonicotinoids.

The preliminary honey bee assessment confirms that imidacloprid is highly toxic to honey bees, with exposure resulting in reduced numbers of worker bees, less foraging, and delayed development. EPA finds that in agriculture, bees are at risk both in fields and adjacent to fields where imidacloprid is sprayed, especially on citrus and cotton. EPA’s review of available data finds that other bees, like bumble bees, are also at risk. Imidacloprid exposures impact reproduction and colony health.

Nichelle Harriott, Beyond Pesticides’ science and regulatory director, said: “Today’s imidacloprid honey bee assessment confirms much of the existing scientific evidence showing imidacloprid’s toxicity to bees. However, the agency still falls short in fully assessing broader risks to wild bees and other non-target organisms. Time is of the essence and bees and other pollinators cannot wait for EPA to slowly complete these reviews. The agency must take action and suspend imidacloprid and other neonicotinoids to protect pollinators.”

Imidacloprid, like the other chemicals in its class, is not only highly toxic to bees, but a growing number of studies find that even at low levels neonicotinoids impair foraging ability, navigation, learning behavior, and suppress the immune system, making bees more susceptible to pathogens and disease. Recent studies already find that imidacloprid reduces foraging behavior in bumble bees, reduces colony growth, and increases neuronal dysfunction. Long-term sublethal exposures are also linked to chronic behavioral impairment.

According to government statistics, 42 percent of managed honey bees across the country were lost over 2014/2015, representing the second highest loss to date. There have been a number of EPA actions attempting to reduce honey bee exposure to bee-toxic pesticides, including a moratorium on new neonicotinoid uses and products, as well as a proposal to temporarily prohibit foliar applications of pesticides acutely toxic to honey bees during bloom. Due to the systemic nature of many of these pesticides, scientists find that these measures fall short of providing long-term, comprehensive protections for pollinators.

Imidacloprid is one of the oldest neonicotinoids in use and is used in a variety of settings, including agriculture, numerous home and garden products, as well as pet products. The agency notes that the registration review of other neonicotinoids, like clothianidin and thiamethoxam, should be available sometime in December 2016.

See more information on the serious decline of honey and other pollinators at www.beeprotective.org.

Download the press release here.

###

Contact:
Nichelle Harriott,
202-543-5450
[email protected]
Jay Feldman, 202-255-4296
[email protected]
www.beyondpesticides.org

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06
Jan

EPA Rule Clarifies Disclosure Requirement of All Ingredients in Exempt Minimum Risk Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 6, 2016) Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its final rule to clarify the substances on the minimum risk pesticide ingredient list, also known as the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 25(b) List, and revise the way these ingredients are identified on product labels. The new rule require manufacturers to more clearly disclose to state agencies, companies, and the general public the chemical ingredients contained in the 25(b) products. EPA hopes that this will ultimately improve compliance and enforcement.

epa_seal_profilesMinimum risk pesticides, or 25(b) pesticides, are a special class of pesticides that are not required to be registered with EPA because their ingredients, both active and inert, are considered nonhazardous to human health or the environment. They include commonly known botanicals and plants compounds such as cedarwood oil, citronella, corn meal gluten, peppermint oil, sodium chloride and white pepper that can be used for their pesticidal properties. Manufactures of these products are required to fully disclose their ingredient list on product labels, which Beyond Pesticides has long championed for all pesticide products. Currently, so-called inert ingredients, which EPA considers proprietary information and make up the majority of product ingredients in many pesticides, are not disclosed on pesticide product labels. However, there has been a lack of clarity on minimum risk pesticide product labels in the past that has made it difficult for enforcement officials to ensure compliance with the 25(b) criteria, given that the manufacturer uses its own judgment on whether the product meets the exemption requirements.

The revisions to the minimum risk pesticide list, announced on December 28, 2015, do not alter the substance of the minimum risk pesticide ingredient lists, according to EPA, but more accurately describe which chemical substances can be used in pesticide products that are exempt from federal pesticide registration requirements. The rule reorganizes the ingredient list (40 CFR 125.25) and adds specific chemical identifiers (CAS numbers) to make clearer the specific ingredients that are permitted in minimum risk pesticide products. This will assist in improving compliance and enforcement oversight of these pesticide products and harmonize labels across manufacturers. EPA is also requiring producer contact information and the use of specific common chemical names in lists of ingredients on minimum risk pesticide product labels.

Further, there have been many producers claiming the 25(b) exemption and market their products as minimum risk while having “inert” ingredients that are not permitted under the exemption criteria. EPA is therefore also codifying the list of “inert” ingredients allowed to be used in these products. The list can be found here. These “inert” ingredients were historically categorized as List 4A under 40 CFR 180.950. However, the list is no longer updated by EPA, but maintained as a resource to partially define the substances that are acceptable under organic standards. EPA does not allow in minimum risk 25(b) pesticides inerts previously listed as 4B, which are more toxic materials and currently allowed in organic production. [Note that the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommended to USDA in 2010 and 2012 that it review all the inerts currently allowed in organic over a five-year period, but has not undertaken a thorough review as the NOSB had intended, so 4B inerts are currently allowed in organic. Beyond Pesticides is working to hold USDA accountable to this NOSB recommendation. See comments. EPA believes that having an inert ingredient list directly in the regulations offers much needed clarity to what is allowed, and will improve the efficiency of inspections because inspectors will not have to look through multiple sources to find the necessary ingredient list. Codifying this inert ingredient list will also make it easier for producers, whether chemical or organic, that use 25(b) products to identify all ingredients, including inert.

Consumers are becoming increasingly wary of products with toxic ingredients, driving a huge shift towards ‘greener’ technologies. Many credit the minimum risk exemption to be a major driver of ‘greener,’ least-toxic product alternatives for pest management, with sales increasing annually. Growing brands such as EcoSmart and CedarCide have created least-toxic pesticide products that are enjoying great commercial success, with many of their products under section 25(b) status. This, coupled with a growing organic market, offers opportunities and challenges for formulators to develop and market least-toxic products with minimum risk pesticides that may be compatible with low hazard standards, such as organic, and consumer expectations.

For more on minimum risks pesticides http://www.epa.gov/minimum-risk-pesticides

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

Source: EPA

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05
Jan

Federal Judge Permits USDA Whistleblower Case to Proceed

(Beyond Pesticides, January 5, 2016) An administrative court judge has agreed to hear a case filed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pollinator researcher who says his firing by the agency was retaliation for his cutting edge research linking neonicotinoid insecticides to declinining monarch butterfly populations, which has drawn national attention and international recognition. Late last year, Judge Patricia M. Miller of the Merit Systems Protection Board denied USDA’s request to dismiss a claim filed by Johnathan Lundgren, PhD, a USDA employee for eleven years with high accolades.

jonathan lungdrenIn April of last year, Dr. Lundgren published a study in The Science of Nature (pdf) that shows that clothianidin, a neonicotinoid insecticide often used to coat seeds, kills monarch butterfly larvae in the laboratory. On August 3, 2015, USDA imposed a 14-day suspension against Dr. Lundgren for submitting the study and for a paperwork error in his travel authorization for his invited presentation about his research to a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as to a USDA stakeholder group, the Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance. The suspension was cut to 14 days from 30 after Dr. Lundgren filed an appeal.

In October 2015, Dr. Lundgren, respresented by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), filed a whistleblower complaint against USDA, claiming it “gave no substantive reason” for denying Dr. Lundgren’s travel request and made “repeated attempts
to impede or deter his research and resultant publications.” Dr. Lundgren’s research on the harm neonicotinoids pose to monarch butterflies reflects a growing scientific consensus that these chemicals present significant risks to declining pollinator populations. However, as stated in the complaint, despite receiving approval for the paper through proper protocols, higher-ups at USDA deemed the research “sensitive,” and claimed that Dr. Lundgren had not received approval to publish the study.

Judge Miller’s ruling is a strong rebuke to an agency that asserted Dr. Lundgren’s complaint was “frivolous” and based on information that was “speculative and unsupported.” USDA and Dr. Lundgren were ordered by the court to convene a status conference on January 6, 2016, to discuss a potential settlement, according to the Washington Post. “We were very pleased to receive Judge Miller’s ruling,” said Laura Dumais, the PEER attorney representing Lundgren to the Washington Post, “as we feel Dr. Jonathan Lundgren has a very strong case.”

In April 2015, PEER filed a petition for rulemaking with USDA, urging the agency to strengthen its Scientific Integrity Policy and adopt best practices used in other federal agencies in order to prevent politicized suppression or alteration of studies. The group claims that at least 10 USDA scientists have been investigated or have faced other consequences as a result of research questioning the safety of certain pesticides. The current policy disallows scientists from “making statements that could be construed as being judgments of or recommendations on USDA or any other federal policy, either intentionally or inadvertently.”

“The job of a government scientist is to conduct research to help guide policy,” said PEER attorney Laura Dumais to the Washington Post, “so prohibiting them from saying anything that could even be ‘construed’ as commenting on policy essentially gives supervisors the right to punish anyone they want, for giving any interview at all. Dr. Jonathan Lundgren’s case is a textbook example of that.”

With science both in and outside of the U.S. pointing to a growing list of impacts from pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) crops, ranging from the decline of bees to the carcinogenicity of the widely used herbicide glyphosate, it is critical that federal scientific agency staff tasked with protecting human and environmental health are able to inform the public without repercussions.

Help us defend independent science by signing this petition to USDA today!

Dr. Lundgren will join Beyond Pesticides for a presentation at the 34th National Pesticide Forum in Portland, ME on April 15-16, 2016. The conference brings together top scientists, policy makers, and public health and environmental advocates to interact, engage in dialogue, and strategize on solutions that are protective of health and the environment. Aaron Blair, PhD, chair at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, another target of chemical industry pressure after a finding that glyphosate is carcinogenic based on laboratory animal studies, will also speak at the Forum.

Reserve your spot today to receive the Early Bird Discount rate ($5 off)! For more information and to purchase tickets, see this webpage.

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

Source: Washington Post

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04
Jan

Study Adds to Evidence of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Intersex Fish

(Beyond Pesticides, January 4, 2016) A study published by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) found large-scale evidence of intersex in smallmouth and largemouth bass in the Northeast United States, an indicator of endocrine disruption. The study, published in the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, looks at 19 U.S. National Wildlife Refuges and is the first reconnaissance survey of this scope. The study found that the prevalence of testicular oocytes across all samples was 85% and 27% for male small- and largemouth bass, respectively.

smallmouthbassIntersex occurs when one sex develops characteristics of the opposite sex. In the case of this study, researchers found testicular oocytes —female eggs found inside male testicles—in male smallmouth and largemouth bass. The
study explains, “The presence of oocytes in the testes of male gonochoristic fish has been used as an indicator of estrogenic exposure.” The source of the estrogen is hard to pinpoint, but pesticides are often cited as a cause given that they widely pollute waterways that fish populate. Those chemicals have properties that disrupt the endocrine system and affect the reproductive system, causing development issues such as testicular oocytes. According to USGS, “Intersex is a global issue, as wild-caught fish affected by endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been found in locations across the world.”

According to the USGS press release for the study, “Estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemicals are derived from a variety of sources, from natural estrogens to synthetic pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals that enter the waterways. Examples include some types of birth control pills, natural sex hormones in livestock manures, herbicides and pesticides.”

While the study did not look for the sources of endocrine disruption, it did paint a picture of how widespread this abnormality really is, encouraging management actions to combat runoff. “It is not clear what the specific cause of intersex is in these fish,” said Luke Iwanowicz, a USGS research biologist and lead author of the paper, in their press release. “This study was designed to identify locations that may warrant further investigation.  Chemical analyses of fish or water samples at collection sites were not conducted, so we cannot attribute the observation of intersex to specific, known estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemicals.”

Last summer, research by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) showed a strong correlation between the occurrence of intersex characteristics on fish, which have been found in the Chesapeake Bay region, and areas of high agricultural use in Pennsylvania.  In addition, a recent report by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) found rare malignant tumors on smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River, a river that flows through the northeast from upstate New York to the Chesapeake Bay. The Susquehanna River is a major source of agricultural runoff containing phosphorous, nitrogen, and sediment pollutants, as well as natural animal hormones in manure. Pennsylvania DEP officials are looking to in-depth studies to identify the sources of the endocrine-disrupting compounds and herbicides likely contributing to the tumors.

This is a step that USGS would like to see taken as well. The study states, “A comprehensive re-evaluation that includes chemical analysis and seasonal snapshots of both sites is necessary to identify the likely cause(s) of elevated plasma vitellogenin in these male smallmouth bass.”

In addition to the Pennsylvania DEP study, other scientists are examining fish as a means of gauging water quality and chemical exposure. In 2008, USGS identified ten contaminants, including atrazine, chlorpyrifos, and endosulfan, responsible for intersex fish in the Potomac River. 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. A November study found that commonly-used pesticides can persist in and impact the species of a waterway long after the chemicals are detectable or monitored by regulators.

Beyond Pesticides continues to fight to prevent water pollution and harmful agricultural practices. Visit our Threatened Waters page and learn how organic land management practices contribute to healthy waters in the article, “Organic Land Management and the Protection of Water Quality.”

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

Source:  U.S. Geological Survey

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24
Dec

A Year of Victories Inspire Action for Challenges in the New Year

(Beyond Pesticides, December 24, 2015) Beyond Pesticides would like to thank our members and supporters for making 2015 a year of historic victories in advancing sustainable and organic land and building management. As our Daily News takes a holiday break, returning Monday, January 4, 2016, we hope you will join us in reflecting on the progress made this year, and the challenges that still lie ahead.HolidayCard2016Peace

As members and supporters of Beyond Pesticides, we know you share the same sense of momentum and accomplishment that the staff and board feel at the close of 2015. We would like to deeply thank you for aligning with Beyond Pesticides’ mission, whether through talking to friends and coworkers about pesticide concerns, work in your local community, defending organic through public comments, joining us at our 33rd National Pesticide Conference, signing important petitions, or supporting our numerous other program areas. We look forward to working with you to grow our voice in 2016, and reach more individuals, local and state governments, and businesses with the knowledge and technical expertise that will support a transition in pest management practices that no longer utilize toxic products and adopt a sustainable and organic approach. Your tax-deductible year-end donation will continue to fuel this positive change into 2016.

Local Policy Victories

In a watershed moment for the movement against toxic pesticide use, Montgomery County, Maryland successfully passed the strongest restrictions on public and private cosmetic pesticide use in the United States, expanding upon the trail blazed by Takoma Park, MD in 2013, and Ogunquit, ME in 2014. The absence of regressive state-level preemption laws enabled these communities to extend their policies to restrict toxic pesticide use on private property.52-14 passed

However, even in communities subject to state-level preemption, local governments made tremendous strides towards protecting the health of their residents, pollinators, water quality, and the wider environment. A long list of new pollinator protective policies were passed throughout the country, from Boulder, Boulder County and Layfayette, CO, to Thurston County, WA, to Plattsburg, NY, to Portland, OR and Minneapolis, MN. Minneapolis’ resolution stands out as it aimed to encompass the holistic changes in pest management practices necessary to truly protect pollinators and public health by moving the city not only towards becoming neonicotinoid-free (the insecticides linked to pollinator decline), but also organic on its public spaces. Reno, Nevada is also working in this direction, officially approving a pesticide-free parks program aimed at improving the health of its residents and local environment.

And at the state level, Connecticut’s move to expand its forward-thinking restrictions on pesticide use on school playing fields to all playgrounds in the state highlights the imminent threat unnecessary pesticide use poses to children, who are uniquely susceptible to their impacts.

>>Help us continue to build momentum towards comprehensive pesticide restrictions in your community by Signing Your Support for a Pesticide-Free Community.

Changing the Marketplace

MakingtheSwitchvideoJPGAs more and more communities transition to pollinator-friendly and organic pest management practices, it is critical that home and garden retailers support and facilitate these changes by phasing out and eventually eliminating their stock of toxic products. Beyond Pesticides’ Making the Switch video highlights Eldredge Lumber and Hardware in York, Maine, which is supporting Ogunquit’s organic pesticide policy by enabling its customers to reorient their approach to pest control. To help other hardware stores replicate this forward-thinking and financially sound approach, we also crafted a resource for new products and practices through The Well-Stocked Hardware Store. 

HomeDepotWinBPAnd slowly but surely, big-box retailers are beginning to take this line of responsible action. In April, Lowe’s announced it would phase-out the sale of neonicotinoids and neonic-coated plants by 2018, and move towards stocking more organic alternatives in its stores. In December, after making a commitment to labeling plants pre-treated with neonics, Home Depot announced it was following Lowe’s in phasing out these bee-toxic products. True Value and ACE’s corporate headquarters still need to feel the heat; help us urge them to Act Now!

Rejecting Chemical-Dependent Agriculture by Promoting and Defending Organic

Beyond Pesticides continues to celebrate the growth of organic agriculture as the only viable, economical alternative, which is verifiable, to chemically dependent cropping systems. Our strategic victories in moving organic agriculture forward are part of a twofold strategy. First, we work to highlight and reject the deficiencies in conventional and genetically engineered (GE) agriculture, which relies on the ever increasing use of new and more toxic pesticides which is advanced by Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences. In a lawsuit filed with health and environmental allies we successfully challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of Enlist Duo, a toxic cocktail of carcinogenic glyphosate and 2,4-D on the basis of untested synergistic impacts. Second, we fight to defend the integrity built into the organic label by decades of dedicated advocates and policymakers. In September, we successfully fended off a motion to dismiss a legal challenge against a USDA rule allowing the contamination of organic compost with toxic synthetic pesticides.

Our efforts to defend organic aren’t limited to traditional crops. As more and more states allow medical and legal cannabis, Beyond Pesticides is working to orient the budding industry on a sustainable, organic trajectory. After public testimony and letters to the Governor of Colorado on the dangers of pesticides use on marijuana, an executive order declared pesticide-tainted cannabis “a threat to public safety,” and subject to quarantine.

>>Please continue to support our efforts to defend the organic label by going to Save Our Organic, and providing a public comments when it comes time for the spring National Organic Standards Board meeting.

Promoting Sound Science on Pesticide Hazards

LouisGuilletteFlyer3Underlining all of our victories is the work performed by the dedicated independent scientists whose studies point to hazards not analyzed or simply not considered under the EPA’s current pesticide regulatory framework. At the 33rd National Pesticide Forum this year, keynote speakers Tyrone Hayes, PhD, and Lou Guillette, PhD (skip to time stamp: 20:31) presented their latest research on endocrine disrupting chemicals and their impact to wildlife. The environmental community continues to mourn the loss of Dr. Guillette. There is no denying the incredible importance his magisterial studies on Lake Apopka alligators contributed to our understanding of pesticide hazards.

roundupSound, independent science is continuously under attack from the pesticide industry. Soon after an international panel of researchers under the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer determined that glyphosate was carcinogenic based on studies in laboratory animals, Monsanto and other chemical companies launched attacks against the agency, eventually going as far as convening its own panel of “experts,” in a failed attempt to show the safety of its flagship product. Aaron Blair, PhD, a National Cancer Institute researcher (retired), chair of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) evaluation panel that found glyphosate (Roundup) to be a carcinogen will be speaking at Beyond Pesticides’ 34th National Pesticide Forum in Portland, Maine in April 2016.

Bayer and Syngenta, the major manufactures of neonicotinoid insecticides continue to dismiss independent science linking their products to pollinator declines. Despite a large and continuously growing body of research, and an acknowledgement from the White House that these long-lived systemic chemicals cause harm to bees, these companies continue reap enormous profits while beekeepers and our food supply suffers. And they use their influence in the government to attack scientists that threaten these profits. Jonathan Lundgren, PhD, filed a whistleblower complaint against the USDA for unprofessional retaliation following the publication of a study linking neonicotinoid insecticides to the decline of monarch butterflies. Yet in the face of such persecution, the Beyond Pesticides and the environmental community will continue to rise of in defense of independent scientists. In late 2015, Dr. Lundgren was awarded 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.” We look forward to hearing Dr. Lundgren speak at our 34th National Pesticide Forum.

>>Help us help independent scientists by signing this petition against USDA’s industry-influenced retaliatory tactics.

Happy Holidays and New Year

Our victories must be continuously defended from the chemical and pesticide industry. As we celebrate state and local victories, we must continue to push for more while making ourselves aware of intentions to roll them back through undemocratic preemption language in these states. As we cheer marketplace changes, we must understand that faster progress and broader changes are necessary from stores both large and small. And as we work against chemical dependent agriculture and promote organic, we must also be ready to defend the certification system from an industry that wishes to weaken its meaning while maintaining the premium prices organic food demands.

Thank you again for joining with us together this year to make these victories happen. We hope you’ll take some time this holiday season to celebrate these accomplishments, and come together with us next year, refreshed, and ready for the new challenges, and new victories that lie ahead.

Best wishes for the New Year!

WinterHomePage2016

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23
Dec

Native Bee Populations on Decline on U.S. Farms

(Beyond Pesticides, December 23, 2015) Native bees are on the decline in some of the major agricultural regions in the United States, according to a new study. The study scientists produced the first national map of bee populations and identified numerous trouble areas. Since 2006, honey bees and other pollinators in the U.S. and throughout the world have experienced ongoing and rapid population declines. The continuation of this crisis threatens the stability of ecosystems, the economy, and food supply, as one in three bites of food are dependent on pollinator services.

Gary-Tate-Riverside-CA-Honey-Bee-taking-flight-Riverside-Ca-300x260-300x260The study, titled Modeling the status, trends, and impacts of wild bee abundance in the United States and published in the journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Science, for the first time aims to assess the status and trends of wild bees and their potential impacts on pollination services across the U.S. and found that between 2008 and 2013 bee abundance declined across 23% of the nation’s land area. The decline is generally associated with conversion of natural habitats to row crops. The researchers also list pesticide use, climate change, and disease as other threats to wild bees. The researchers specifically cited 139 counties as especially worrisome, with wild bee numbers decreasing while farmland for crops dependent on such pollinators is increasing. The counties include agricultural regions of California such as the Central Valley, as well as the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas and the southern Mississippi river valley.

Earlier this year, researchers at Cornell University found that as the use of pesticides on apple orchards in New York State increased, the abundance of wild bees declined significantly. The researchers analyzed wild bee populations on 19 apples orchards across the state of New York between 2011 and 2012. Data was broken down by class of pesticide (fungicide, insecticide, herbicides), and timing of applications (before, during, and after flower bloom). Researchers also analyzed the percentage of natural areas within the surrounding landscape. Wild bee numbers declined significantly as pesticide use increased, but the overall impact of pesticides on wild bees was found to be highest in generations following pesticide exposure, indicating that pesticides affect bee reproduction or offspring. Further, researchers found that fungicides, widely regarded as having low toxicity to bees, had a measurable impact on wild bee abundance. “High and repeated exposure was the likely explanation” for this finding, according to the study. Fungicide applications prior to apple flower blooming resulted in the steepest decline in wild bee abundance and diversity. This result indicates that wild bees are visiting orchards before apple trees begin to bloom. Further, researchers found insecticide applications affected bees the mostly after bloom occurred. The authors explain that, while honey bees are placed in orchards for a short time during bloom, wild bees are more frequently exposed to chemical pesticides because they continue to forage in and around apple orchards before and after the bloom period.

In this latest study, the counties grew crops such as almonds, pumpkins, squashes, blueberries, watermelons, peaches and apples that are highly dependent on pollinators, or had large amounts of less-pollinator-dependent crops including soybeans, canola and cotton.

According to US News, Taylor Ricketts, Ph.D., director of the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, said the 139 counties represent 39% of the pollinator-dependent crop area of the United States and most likely will face inadequate pollination in the future. “Wild bee declines may increase costs for farmers and, over time, could even destabilize crop production,” Dr. Ricketts said.

Their decline may prompt greater dependence on commercial honeybee colonies for pollinating crops, but honeybee numbers also are falling, added Gund Institute researcher Insu Koh, PhD, the lead author of the study.

“Our results highlight the need for strategies to maintain pollinator populations in farmland, and the importance of conservation programs that provide flowering habitat that can support wild bees and other pollinators,” said Michigan State University entomologist Rufus Isaacs, who heads the U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded Integrated Crop Pollination Project.

The study follows a 2014 memorandum by Barack Obama creating a task force to study pollinator losses. The task force in May called for preserving wide swathes of pollinator habitats, yet falls 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.

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 neonicotinoids, on public and private property. Sign here if you’d like to see your community do the same!

Sources: US News, PNAS

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

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22
Dec

Save the Date: Esteemed Researchers Join Lineup of Speakers at 34th National Pesticide Forum

(Beyond Pesticides, December 22, 2015) Beyond Pesticides is pleased to announce the 34th National Pesticide Forum, which will be held April 15th-16th, 2016 at the University of Southern Maine, in Portland, ME. Leading scientists on the lineup of speakers for the upcoming forum include: Aaron Blair, Ph.D., a National Cancer Institute researcher (retired), author of more than 450 publications on occupational and environmental causes of cancer, and the overall chair the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) evaluation panel that found glyphosate (Roundup) to be a carcinogen; and Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., a top U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist who received a prestigious national award for civic courage (Entomologist in the Crosshairs of Science and Corporate Politics) for his work on neonicotinoids and pollinator decline in the face of agency attempts to suppress his work.

SavetheDateImage3Beyond Pesticides is collaborating with local groups, including the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), Toxics Action Center, and Protect South Portland, as well as other local environmental and human health advocacy organizations. The 34th National Forum provides an opportunity for grassroots advocates, scientists, and policy makers to share our efforts and build local, state and national strategies for strength and growth. This year’s conference will focus on the adoption of policies to protect human health and the environment, and organic land and building management strategies. The conference brings together top scientists, policy makers, and public health and environmental advocates to interact, engage in dialogue, and strategize on solutions that are protective of health and the environment.

Register Today

Reserve your spot at the 2016 Forum and get the Early Bird Discount rate ($5 off). Registration starts at $45 and includes access to all sessions as well as organic food and beverages. In addition to access to amazing speakers and networking opportunities, we will serve light refreshments and organic drinks Friday night, and organic breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks on Saturday. Scholarships are also available. For more details about registration, click here.

Featured Speakers

Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Entomologist and Lab Supervisor for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in South Dakota. Until recently, Dr. Lundgren worked for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for eleven years with great success, and his cutting edge research has drawn national attention and international recognition. In April 2015, Dr. Lundgren published a study in The Science of Nature demonstrating that clothianidin, a neonicotinoid seed treatment, kills monarch butterfly larvae in the laboratory. On August 3, 2015, USDA imposed a 14-day suspension against Dr. Lundgren for submitting the Science of Nature study and for a paperwork error in his travel authorization for his invited presentation about his research to a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as to a USDA stakeholder group, the Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance. Previously, Dr. Lundgren filed a complaint of violations of USDA Scientific Integrity Policy with the Scientific Integrity Office stating that allegations of his misconduct stemmed from ulterior motives.

Aaron Blair, Ph.D., is chair of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Working Group, a branch of the World Health Organization that announced its finding that one of the world’s most popular pesticides, glyphosate (Roundup), is a human cancer causing agent based on laboratory animal studies. He ran the National Cancer Institute’s Occupation Studies Branch and is the author of over 450 publications on occupational and environmental causes of cancer. He has received the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Award, the PHS Special Recognition Award, NIH Merit Award, the DHHS Quality of Work Life Award, the University of North Carolina H.A. Tyroler Distinguished Alumni Award, the John Goldsmith Award for Outstanding Contributions to Environmental Epidemiology from the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology, and The Harriet Barr Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Public Health Alumnus Association of the University of North Carolina and the NIH Director’s Award for the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill Study. He has served on numerous review groups for IARC, EPA, and other agencies and organizations.

Stay Tuned…
Check back as we add information about speakers and sessions at the upcoming conference.

If your group is interested in co-sponsoring the 34th National Pesticide Forum, please email us.

If you would like more information about the conference, please email [email protected], or call 202-543-5450.

Videos from Last Year’s Conference
See Beyond Pesticides’ Youtube page for videos of all the speakers, panels, and workshop discussions from the 33rd National Pesticide Forum! Check out our past conferences here.

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21
Dec

Senate Passes Bill to Overhaul Toxics Law with Multiple Flaws

(Beyond Pesticides, December 21, 2015) Last week, the U.S. Senate passed legislation (S.697, Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act) by unanimous consent to update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, the national law that regulates industrial chemicals. Before the bill becomes law, it must go to conference committee to iron out the differences of a much different version of the bill approved in June by the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 2576, TSCA Modernization Act of 2015). If the differences are reconciled and passed by both Houses of Congress, it will then go to President Obama for signature.

Capitol-SenateMike Belliveau, executive director of Environmental Health Strategy Center in Maine, in a press release, issued the following statement in response to the Senate action: “Although improved, the Senate bill remains badly flawed. In a shameful give-away to chemical manufacturers and other multinational industries, the Senate bill would actually weaken current law.” The House bill lacks the same flaws that appear in the Senate bill. The House bill does not give a free pass to toxic toys or take away (preempt) the authority of the states to regulate these toxic materials.

The serious problems with the Senate bill include the following:

  • The legislation makes it more difficult for EPA to identify and intercept imported products containing a toxic chemical.
  • States will be blocked (preempted) from taking action while EPA studies a chemical, potentially delaying urgent public health interventions.
  • The “low priority” category requires EPA to greenlight some chemicals without a thorough safety review.
  • There are numerous requirements placed on EPA at industry’s behest that divert scarce resources from the core purpose of identifying and restricting chemicals that cause harm.

Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides commented on the bill: “We know from our experience with pesticide regulation that when it comes to restricting uses of toxic chemicals, it is absolutely critical to preserve the right of states to adopt more stringent standards than the federal government. Historically, it very often is the action of states that has lead the way in protecting health and environment, with federal regulation following. Because of this, it is an absolute bottom line to ensure that states have the authority to adopt standards more protective than the federal government without any strings attached, since reviews can go on for extended periods of time. In the pesticide arena, without this right, the nation may have taken years longer or never in the end have banned the use of DDT, DBCP, 2,4,5-T, EDB, and chlordane.”

In 2011, the first version of a TSCA overhaul bill, titled the Safe Chemicals Act, was introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg. That bill would have instituted a risk assessment methodology, similar to the one used on pesticides today, which, in theory, requires chemical companies to prove that their products are “safe” for human health and the environment before allowed into commerce. In reality, EPA’s risk assessment fails to look at chemical mixtures, synergistic effects, certain health endpoints (such as endocrine disruption), disproportionate effects to vulnerable population groups, and regular noncompliance with product label directions. In the end risks may be allowed that are unnecessary, given the availability of less or non-toxic alternatives. These deficiencies contribute to its severe limitations in defining real world poisoning, as captured by epidemiologic studies in the database. Beyond Pesticides has long criticized the risk assessment methodology used by EPA under pesticide law, encouraging an alternatives assessment which creates a regulatory trigger to adopt alternatives and drive the market to go green.

Then, in 2013, Senator Lautenberg partnered with Senator David Vitter to introduce S.1009, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA). In August 2013, nine state Attorneys General sent a letter to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee expressing their “deep concerns about unduly broad preemption language proposed in S.1009.” The proposed bill would have amended TSCA, which in its current form requires no testing of chemicals, including intermediate chemicals and so-called inert and often highly toxic ingredients used in the production of pesticides (pesticide use is regulated under a separate law, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act).

Manufacturers are only required to provide the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with 90 days premarket notification before a new chemical is introduced for public consumption. Even after entering the market, the testing and regulation thresholds for these chemicals are grossly inadequate. The major downfalls of TSCA are that testing is not done unless health effects are reported and an investigation is opened. Even then, the chemicals will not be regulated unless the contaminated product is produced in significant amounts, enters the environment in a substantial quantity or if there is significant human exposure.

Similarly to previous versions of TSCA overhaul bills, the current form that has just passed through the Senate takes away states’ rights to prohibit dangerous chemicals, also known as state preemption. According to the Environmental Health Strategy Center’s press release, the Senate bill “takes away states’ rights in a manner unprecedented in the history of federal environmental policymaking.  It blocks states like Maine and California from restricting dangerous chemicals after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency simply begins to study a chemical’s danger.  That means that known dangerous chemicals will remain unattended at any level of government for years.  Even though the federal government hasn’t yet acted on a high priority chemical, states will be banned from taking action.”

The Senate bill would prevent states from regulating chemicals months or even years before a single protective federal regulation becomes effective, leaving an enormous gap in chemical safety protections and exposing human health and the environment to undue harm. State authorities, public health groups, and environmental advocates alike have cause for concern. Lobbying for preemption laws is a tried and true practice of the chemical industry. Arguing under the guise of coherence and a unified national approach, chemical industry leaders would prefer weaker, uniform standards that fail to account for localized needs and sensitive populations.

Beyond Pesticides continues to fight for strong, public protections against chemicals in our homes and environment and any form of legislation that would diminish the right of communities and individuals alike to establish protective laws, regulations, and standards in the face of involuntary exposure.

Source: Environmental Health Strategy Center’s Press Release; Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Press Release

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

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18
Dec

Herbicides and Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Linked to Decline of Smallmouth Bass

(Beyond Pesticides, December 18, 2015) One of the most likely causes for the population decline of smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River are endocrine-disrupting compounds and herbicides, concludes a multi-agency, multi-year study of one of the most complex river systems in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), along with nearly 50 participants and six partner agencies, released findings on Monday that narrow the likely causes from an initial field of 14 candidates to two. PFBC also found that pathogens and parasites are probable contributing factors.

bass-cancerFollowing a smallmouth bass (SMB) population crash in 2005, and additional observed maladies, such as tumors and lesions on SMB, the team used ground-breaking monitoring strategies to collect more than 30,000 water quality records annually, along with review of existing research to isolate the possible causes keeping young-of-the-year (YOY) SMB from growing to adulthood. The study provides evidence to what Beyond Pesticides suspected back in May, when PFBC confirmed that a rare malignant tumor was found for the first time on a SMB caught by an angler back in the summer of 2014. Though the findings at the time did not point to a specific cause for the cancer found on the SMB, agricultural pesticides, particularly endocrine disrupting chemicals, that have been found in the watershed, likely play a part in the rampant disease issues in SMB in the Susquehanna River.

The next step is to focus on identifying the sources of the endocrine-disrupting compounds and herbicides, and what is causing the increased prevalence and lethality of the pathogens and parasites in smallmouth bass, including monitoring in the tributaries of the Susquehanna.

“We know where the herbicides are being applied most heavily and we know that exposure to them is depressing the immune systems of the bass,” said Fish and Boat Commission executive director John Arway to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We’re inching closer, but the DEP is still not willing to say it’s the [farm] nutrients reaching the river.”

The Susquehanna River flows from upstate New York, south through Pennsylvania’s agricultural middle, and Maryland, and is the largest source of fresh water entering the Chesapeake Bay. It’s also a major source of agricultural runoff containing phosphorous, nitrogen and sediment pollutants, and natural animal hormones in manure, which could disrupt bass reproduction.

“This study does not identify a single smoking gun,” said John Quigley, DEP Secretary, in a press release. “But it does point the way toward likely causes, which we will continue to pursue. On top of that, through this study, DEP staff developed new approaches to monitoring this complex system, dramatically increasing our water quality monitoring capacity in the Susquehanna River, and providing tools that we can use to ensure fishable, drinkable water statewide.”

Details of the study, a webinar to present the findings of the study, and the full report can be found here.

Last summer, research by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) showed a strong correlation between the occurrence of intersex characteristics on fish, which have been found in the Chesapeake Bay region, and areas of high agricultural use in Pennsylvania. Three species of fish were examined in three separate watersheds in the state to assess whether characteristics caused by hormones and hormone-mimicking compounds, such as immature eggs in male fish, were present. In aquatic environments, the presence of these intersex characteristics is widely used as a biomarker for assessing exposure to estrogenic chemicals, as well as anti-androgenic chemicals which inhibit development of male characteristics. Male smallmouth bass from all sites sampled had immature eggs in their testes; however, SMB in the Susquehanna drainage had a significantly higher prevalence and severity of these effects than sites in the Ohio drainage. When compared with the percentage of agricultural land use, which is higher in the Susquehanna, a link was established.

Fish and other aquatic organisms face numerous risks from pesticide exposures, even at low levels. In fact, USGS scientists identified pesticides as one of the contaminants in the Potomac River linked to intersex fish 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.

In fish and humans, endocrine disrupting effects include direct effects on traditional endocrine glands, their hormones and receptors, such as estrogens, anti-androgens, and thyroid hormones, as well as signaling cascades that affect many of the body’s systems, including reproductive function and fetal development, the nervous system and behavior, the immune and metabolic systems, the liver, bones and many other organs, glands and tissues. Hundreds of scientific articles have been published across the globe demonstrating how a broad selection of chemicals can interfere with the normal development at all ranges of exposure. Scientists discovered effects for some widely used chemicals at concentrations thousands of times less than federal “safe” levels of exposure derived through traditional toxicological tests. Whatever the exposure level, neither fish nor human are protected from most endocrine-disrupting chemicals present in our waterways.

Beyond Pesticides continues to fight to prevent water pollution and harmful agricultural practices. Visit our Threatened Waters page and learn how organic land management practices contribute to healthy waters in the article, “Organic Land Management and the Protection of Water Quality.”

Sources: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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

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17
Dec

Records Show Suspended Oregon Pesticide Spray Company Continues Operations

(Beyond Pesticides, December 17, 2015) On September 25, Applebee Aviation’s license to spray pesticides commercially was suspended for one year, after an employee complained of chemical exposure and violated worker protection rights. After Applebee Aviation’s one-year suspension was issued, it continued to operate and illegally sprayed at least 16 sites, according to reports. Two of those sites were public parks, 71 acres in total, overseen by the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF).

helicopterA series of back-and-forth communications between the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Applebee Aviation has resulted in a restraining order, $180,000 in fines, a five-year license revocation, and over 800 acres of state
and private land illegally sprayed. According to recent investigations, ODF knew about the license revocation before Applebee Aviation illegally sprayed state forests.

In April 2015, Applebee Aviation employee Darryl Ivy, a truck driver, spent 17 days on a spray crew in Oregon timber country. During that time, he and his crew were routinely exposed to aerial sprays. Mr. Ivy took shelter in his truck while a “milky chemical mixture” rained overhead and stained his vehicle. In the emergency room, Mr. Ivy’s urine showed elevated levels of the herbicide atrazine, a known endocrine disruptor. He suffered from sores and rashes and was spitting up blood. Before going to the hospital, however, Mr. Ivy managed to capture videos and photos of the spraying. Those videos were submitted to the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) and the Department of Agriculture (ODA), which on September 25, fined Applebee $8,850 and $1,100 respectively, citing a total of 22 “serious violations” related to herbicide exposure. According to the OSHA report, “The company did not provide emergency eye wash or decontamination, proper information and training, or protective equipment.”

In the 16 days that followed the suspension, it has been reported that Applebee illegally sprayed 16 different sections of forest, including a state park spray overseen by Charlie Moyer, a department district forester. According to the report, the sprays were authorized by Applebee Aviation owner, Michael Applebee, who directed his employees to disregard the suspension. State attorneys representing the Department of Agriculture responded by obtaining a restraining order against Applebee to prevent further violations.

According to a local radio station, “On October 7, just after 11 a.m., Lisa Arkin of the anti-pesticide group Beyond Toxics sent an email to agriculture and forestry officials asking why Applebee Aviation was still listed on upcoming forestry jobs. Ms. Arkin copied several state legislators and the governor’s office on the message. ‘It doesn’t seem like the right hand knows what the left hand is doing,’ Ms. Arkin later said in a phone interview.”

On November 5, ODA revoked Applebee Aviation’s commercial pesticide operator license and fined the company and its owner a total of $180,000. “Issuing $180,000 in civil penalties and five-year license revocations against Applebee Aviation underscores how serious the Oregon Department of Agriculture considers the violations that have taken place,” says ODA Director Katy Coba.

“We take all violations of the state’s pesticide law seriously. The fact that this operator knowingly and willfully continued to conduct pesticide applications 16 times after receiving a suspended license shows contempt for state regulations and our department. We cannot and will not tolerate such disregard for the law by which all pesticide operators are expected to live by.”

Michael Applebee told local media that he was being used as a scapegoat. “People from Eugene south do not like pesticides,” Mr. Applebee said. “If there’s a problem with pesticides and people don’t want it, we should figure out what to do about it — not beat down on Mike Applebee.”

Now, media, environmentalists, and lawmakers are looking to recent investigations, which found that ODF officials knew Applebee had lost its license before state and private land were sprayed. According to the ongoing investigation, notification of the suspension seems to have been delayed or forgotten. Reports are unclear as to whether state agencies notified state officials by phone or emails and whether the timing of that communication resulted in illegal sprays.

Applebee Aviation is the center of multiple investigations. Since 2010, Applebee Aviation has had 15 complaints filed against it, more than any other chemical applicator in the state. In August, an Applebee Aviation chemical delivery truck crashed and spilled 500 gallons of water containing glyphosate residue as well as diesel fuel just off Highway 199 in Northern California, along the Smith River. Mr. Ivy had previously reported to authorities that Applebee did not properly maintain the brakes and pesticide tank seals on their trucks. In November, a fifth Applebee Aviation helicopter in five years crashed during a Christmas tree harvesting operation.

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

Source: Oregon Public Broadcasting, EarthFix

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16
Dec

Congressional Funding Available to Expand Organic Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, December 16, 2015) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the availability of funding to support initiatives aimed at improving organic agriculture. The funding, in the form of grants totaling $17.6 million, is to support research and outreach activities to help organic growers, producers and processors find innovative ways to advance organic agriculture. Organic agriculture has grown tremendously over the last decade to a $35 billion dollar industry to become the fastest growing sector of agriculture.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement last week that the grants, made available through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) –a program that is administered by USDA’s downloadNational Institutes of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, will aid farmers and ranchers with whole farm planning by delivering “practical research-based information and will improve the ability of growers to develop organic system plans” as required for certification under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). Applications are due March 10, 2016. Please see the request for applications for specific program requirements.

“Over the past six years, USDA has strengthened programs that support organic producers as they grow, thrive and respond to increasing consumer demand for organic products,” said Secretary Vilsack. “The projects funded through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative will help identify innovative solutions to critical challenges facing organic agriculture, ultimately strengthening local markets, improving rural economies and expanding access to healthy food for Americans.”

According to the press release issued by NIFA, the purpose of the OREI program is “to fund high-priority research, education, and extension projects that enhance the ability of producers and processors who have already adopted organic standards to grow and market high quality organic products. Priority concerns include biological, physical, and social sciences, including economics.” Previous grants, amounting to $19 million in 2013 and $14 million in 2012, included projects investigating the ecological role of wild birds on vegetable farmers, providing owners with practical, science-based recommendations for wild bird management. Other projects focused on looking at the cost and benefits of cover crop mixtures, and undergraduate organic education for next generation growers and researchers.

Reports cite that consumption of organic products has continued to increase at a monumental pace, and according to a 2014 Gallup poll, nearly half of all U.S. adults “actively” seek to add organic food to their diets. Recent studies have found health benefits associated with eating an organic diet, including higher levels of nutrients and antioxidants in organically grown produce, and better quality milk.  In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) weighed in on the organic food debate recognizing that lower pesticide residues in organic foods may be significant for children. The Academy also noted that choosing organic is based on larger environmental issues, as well as human health impacts like pollution and global climate change.

However, the integrity of organic has been under threat. A recent legal suit filed earlier this year by Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety and Center for Environmental Health challenged the National Organic Program’s (NOP) failure to follow proper legal procedures in making a substantial rule change that allows contaminants in compost. Similarly, another lawsuit brought by 15 farm, consumer and certifier organizations raised a similar procedural challenge to a rule change to the organic sunset process, which regulates synthetic chemical exceptions in organic production. In that case, USDA took unilateral action to adopt a major policy change without public process, an action plaintiffs maintain violates a foundational principle and practice of OFPA public participation in organic policy making and the standards of the Administrative Procedure Act. See Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage to learn more about these and other issues.

Beyond Pesticides advocates in its organic food program and through its Eating with a Conscience (EWAC) website choosing organic because of the environmental and health benefits to consumers, workers, and rural families. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page.

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

Source: NIFA Newsroom 

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15
Dec

Montreal, Canada Proposes “Complete Ban on Neonics”

(Beyond Pesticides, December 15, 2015) Last week Montreal, the largest city in Canada’s Quebec province, announced plans for an all-out ban on the use of bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides. The new regulations represent the strongest move against this neurotoxic class of insecticides by any government entity to date. Environmental and health advocates are praising the ban as a sign that more and more localities in North America are finding these chemicals unnecessary to manage pest problems, and not worth the risk to pollinators and other wildlife.

Montreal’s regulations provide for a complete ban, “without exception,” on the use of neonicotinoids outside of buildings on City land. Prior to the new rules, private citizens and businesses could obtain a temporary permit for Montrealthe use of neonicotinoids in the case of an infestation, however, the permit will no longer be available and citizens will be encouraged to employ alternative practices or products. The ban will also apply to golf courses and properties in the City used for agricultural and horticultural purposes.

“By adopting a regulation that prohibits the use of such pesticides in Montreal, our Administration places the health of its citizens, the quality of life of its neighborhoods and the preservation of biodiversity, natural environments and green spaces in the center of its concerns,” said RĂ©al MĂ©nard, head of sustainable development, environment, large parks and green spaces for Montreal. “This tighter control of pesticides will, among other to better protect bees and other pollinators.”

Montreal’s move follows a major overhaul of pesticide laws announced in late November 2015 by Quebec province. Quebec acted to restrict the use of “high risk” pesticides such as neonicotinoids, atrazine, and organophosphates in both agriculture and urban and residential environments.

As the science linking neonicotinoids to the decline of honey bees and other wild pollinators continues to strengthen, more and more governments are taking action to reduce or eliminate their use in pest management. In the U.S., local governments in Minneapolis, MN, Lafayette and Boulder, CO, Portland, OR, Montgomery County, MD, and numerous other locations have restricted or eliminated the use of neonicotinoids on public and/or private property. Like Montreal, these localities are not simply aiming to replace neonicotinoids with another toxic pesticide, but alter their pest management approach by putting an emphasis on prevention, monitoring, and cultural, mechanical and biological controls if pest problems do get out of hand.

Montreal’s new regulations reveal that neonicotinoids are simply not necessary in settings long considered a third rail for pesticide regulation in the U.S.: golf courses and agriculture. 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.” 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 a European moratorium on neonicotinoids went into place in 2013. In golf, grubs are often the target of neonicotinoids, but a growing number of alternative products and practices continue to be developed.

Take Action:

Grassroots change happens when committed individuals come together for the common good. Help push for restrictions on neonicotinoids and other toxic pesticides in your community. To become active, contact Beyond Pesticides for resources and factsheets available to help you organize and reach your local elected officials. Give us a call (202-543-5450) or email ([email protected]) for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to have a positive impact on local pollinators.

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

Source: City of Montreal Press Release

 

 

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14
Dec

DuPont and Dow Merge to Become Biggest Pesticide Conglomerate

(Beyond Pesticides, December 14, 2015) Chemical giants DuPont and Dow Chemical Companies announced that their boards of directors unanimously approved a merger of their companies through an all-stock deal, valuing the combined market capitalization at $130 billion. According to the Washington Post, “The combined company, analysts said, would be the world’s largest seed and pesticide conglomerate, controlling 17 percent of global pesticide sales and about 40 percent of America’s corn-seed and soybean markets.”

dowdupontThe press release, states “The combined company will be named DowDuPont. The parties intend to subsequently pursue a separation of DowDuPont into three independent, publicly traded companies through tax-free spin-offs. This would occur as soon as feasible, which is expected to be 18-24 months following the closing of the merger, subject to regulatory and board approval.” The merger could revive attempts at consolidation between other big companies in the agrochemical industry.

After the DowDuPont merger closes, the three businesses that the boards intend to separate are:

Agriculture Company: “Leading global pure-play agriculture company that unites DuPont’s and Dow’s seed and crop protection businesses.” Revenue: $19 billion.

Material Science Company: “A pure-play industrial leader, consisting of DuPont’s Performance Materials segment, as well as Dow’s Performance Plastics, Performance Materials and Chemicals, Infrastructure Solutions, and Consumer Solutions … operating segments.” Revenue: $51 billion.

Specialty Products Company: “The businesses will include DuPont’s Nutrition & Health, Industrial Biosciences, Safety & Protection and Electronics & Communications, as well as the Dow Electronic Materials business.” Revenue: $13 billion.

Reuters, in its analysis of the merger, stated that, “The merger puts further pressure on rivals such as Germany’s BASF SE and Bayer AG to consolidate as falling crop prices curb sales. It could also prompt a renewed flurry of takeover bids for European rivals, with Syngenta AG the most likely target. Analysts have said a Dow-DuPont tie-up might push Monsanto Company to take another shot at Syngenta after the U.S. company abandoned a $45 billion offer for the Swiss company in August.” Many of these big agricultural companies have been struggling to cope with falling demand for farm chemicals due to falling crop prices and a strong dollar, and may believe that a merger will provide longer-term security.

However, for the billion-dollar agrochemical industry, a merger is likely to only provide short-term stability, increase the wealth of top executives, and raise the cost of food, as the new corporation will create a near monopoly that will allow it to increase prices. In the long-term, the market will reveal that relying on the promotion of chemical-intensive agricultural practices is not a sustainable business practice. Chemical-intensive (or conventional) agriculture depends on chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides that have been shown to reduce soil organic matter and decrease the diversity of soil biota. These chemical inputs contaminate waterways leading to eutrophication and “dead zones,” where nothing is able to live or grow. Eventually, as chemical intensive agriculture depletes organic matter in the soil and there is nothing left with which to grow food or sustain life, chemical inputs will become obsolete. Sustainability advocates say that the only way that the agricultural industry can create a sustainable business model is to produce products that are compatible with organic agriculture.

While some argue that organic is too expensive, the simple fact is that chemical companies are able to externalize the social cost of their products in the form of eutrophication, soil erosion, harm to wildlife, healthcare costs to consumers, and numerous other adverse effects. Some researchers calculate the adverse impacts to health and the environment to be as much as $16.9 billion a year. (Tegtmeier and Duffy 2004) If consumers paid the true cost of conventional food production, prices for conventionally grown goods would certainly be more expensive than organic products, which are certified through a process that protects human health and the environment.

Good organic practices work to build the soil and maintain an ecological balance that makes chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides obsolete. Claims that organic agriculture cannot feed the world because of lower yields are contested by scientific studies showing that organic yields are comparable to conventional yields and require significantly lower inputs. Organic agriculture advocates say that it is not only necessary in order to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals, but to ensure the long-term sustainability of food production.

For further information, check out our webpages on Organic Agriculture.

Source: Reuters, NPR, DowDuPont Press Release

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

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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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