• Archives

  • Categories

    • Agriculture (472)
    • Announcements (403)
    • Antibacterial (104)
    • Aquaculture (17)
    • Beneficials (6)
    • Biofuels (5)
    • Biological Control (1)
    • Biomonitoring (14)
    • Cannabis (9)
    • Children/Schools (188)
    • Climate Change (23)
    • Environmental Justice (76)
    • Events (64)
    • Farmworkers (82)
    • Fracking (1)
    • Golf (10)
    • Health care (27)
    • Holidays (24)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (33)
    • International (242)
    • Invasive Species (24)
    • Label Claims (32)
    • Lawns/Landscapes (157)
    • Litigation (237)
    • Nanotechnology (52)
    • National Politics (309)
    • Pesticide Drift (82)
    • Pesticide Regulation (533)
    • Pesticide Residues (54)
    • Pets (14)
    • Resistance (49)
    • Rodenticide (16)
    • Take Action (302)
    • Uncategorized (15)
    • Wildlife/Endangered Sp. (260)
    • Wood Preservatives (20)
Daily News Blog

16
Sep

Despite Evidence of Harm and Lack of Need, USDA Supports Unrestricted Use of Bee-Toxic Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, September 16, 2015) In a letter posted to the federal docket, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that it is opposed to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent proposal to restrict pesticides highly toxic to bees on sites where managed bees are present, saying the measure “has not established the need for such a prohibition.” In its position, USDA cites economic impacts to farmers and lack of a cost/benefit analysis. USDA’s critique of EPA’s proposal contrasts with a decision handed down last week by a federal court that ruled EPA should not ignore risk concerns for bees and rejected the registration of a pesticide known to be highly toxic to bees, highlighting a lack of collaboration and understanding between federal agencies in advancing pollinator protection. USDA communicated its challenge to EPA despite the growing body of science on the hazards of neonicotinoid insecticides and findings in Europe that their restriction does not undermine crop productivity.

beecombLast May, EPA announced a new proposal to temporarily prohibit foliar applications of pesticides that are acutely toxic to bees during plant bloom and when managed bees are on site and under contract. The proposal received a mixed response, with many from beekeeping and environmental groups saying that the proposal does not address the persistent systemic toxicity of these chemicals that remain in soil and plant surfaces for months and even years. USDA, in an August 25, 2015 letter signed by Sheryl Kunickis, director of USDA’s Office of Pest Management Policy, which often works with EPA on pesticide issues, the agency states that it does not agree with the complete prohibition of foliar applications and that EPA “has not established the need to such a prohibition with any analyses of bee kill incidents for crops under contract pollination services.” Additionally, USDA goes on to state that EPA “has not considered the economic impacts this proposal may have on the numerous specialty crop farmers and the rural economies they contribute to across the U.S.” The full letter can be read here.

Ironically, both USDA and EPA are co-chairs of the White House Pollinator Health Task Force established by President Obama in June 2014, which called on all federal agencies to find solutions to reverse pollinator decline. The task force’s final report, released May 2015, outlines several components, such as a focus on increased pollinator habitat, public education and outreach, and further research into a range of environmental stressors, including systemic neonicotinoid pesticides. Although well-intentioned, the plan ultimately works at cross-purposes by encouraging habitat, but continuing to allow pesticides that contaminate landscapes.

USDA points to famers’ use of best management practices (BMPs) to mitigate harm to pollinators, even though BMPS are voluntary and not enforceable. The agency believes farmers have the right to create contracts with beekeepers that would allow the use of a pesticide with recognized risks and acceptable bee losses to the beekeeper. USDA believes without this, grower-beekeeper relations could deteriorate. The use of pesticides, according to the agency, is also critical in response to invasive insect pests like the Asian citrus psyllid and the brown marmorated stink bug.

USDA has disagreed with EPA in the past on matters related to pollinator protection. Earlier this year, USDA publicly disagreed with EPA’s findings that neonicotinoid coated seeds provide little to no benefit to farmers. In a letter to EPA, USDA blasted EPA saying farmers should have the ability to use the tools available to manage pests, and that a risk assessment for all crops should have been conducted. At a Congressional hearing in May, USDA voiced its disapproval of U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s decision to restrict the use of neonicotinoids on wildlife refuges. Interestingly, USDA itself has come under fire after reports surfaced that USDA scientists are being harassed and finding their research restricted or censored when it conflicts with agribusiness industry interests.

Bee-toxic pesticides like neonicotinoids have been identified as a main contributing factor to pollinator decline. These pesticides are highly toxic to honey bees, persist for long periods of time in soil and waterways and can contaminate pollen and nectar. A recent study from Harvard University finds that 73% of pollen samples and 72% of honey samples contained at least one neonicotinoid at levels which could result in sublethal harm. And a new European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) report confirms that foliar spraying of neonicotinoids, poses a risk to bees. Further, a report from the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) in the UK provides evidence of confirming the link between neonicotinoid pesticides and continually increasing honey bee colony losses on a landscape level. This 11-year study finds that mortality rates were 10 percent higher for bee colonies that had high levels of exposure to the neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, than for those with low field exposure, confirming a direct link between neonicotinoids and honey bee colony losses at a nationwide level. Visit “What the Science Shows”

USDA believes that there is a lack of bee kill data to support EPA’s proposal, but bee decline has increased in the U.S. over the last several years. While there is little data on wild bees, national reports place managed hive losses at 42.1 percent for 2014/2015, representing the second highest loss to date. EPA’s proposal, while only a temporary protective measure for managed hives, can assist beekeepers in keeping their bees from direct harms from pesticide use. However, the proposal has several limitations including a heavy reliance on state recommended BMPs which are only voluntary, and a continued underestimation of the long-term systemic risks posed by bee-toxic pesticides.

Additionally, arguments that these bee-toxic pesticides are necessary for agriculture have not been proven. 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. According to the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Harvest Report, with 15% of canola harvested, yields are between 3.5 and 3.7 tons per hectare, higher than the normal farm average of 3.4.

The recent federal court ruling that rejected EPA’s registration of the systemic bee-toxic pesticide sulfoxaflor underscores the need to take meaningful action against these pesticides. The court concluded that EPA violated federal law and its own regulations when it approved sulfoxaflor without reliable studies regarding the impact that the insecticide would have on honey bee colonies. The court ruled EPA’s decision to register sulfoxaflor was based on flawed and limited data, and not supported by substantial evidence. Sulfoxaflor is a relatively new active ingredient, registered in 2013, whose mode of action is similar to that of neonicotinoid pesticides even though it has not been classified as a neonicotinoid, and is highly toxic to bees.

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

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

Source: E & E Daily

Share

15
Sep

Harvard Meta-Analysis Ties Childhood Cancer to Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, September 15, 2015) A study released this week in the journal Pediatrics finds that children’s exposure to pesticides in and around the home results in an increased risk of developing certain childhood cancers. Researchers made their findings through a meta-analysis, reviewing 16 epidemiological studies published since 1993 on the link between childhood cancer and pesticide exposure. Based on their findings, the authors of the study suggest “
public health policies should be developed to minimize childhood exposure to pesticides in the home,” and that “[e]very effort should be made to limit children’s exposure to pesticides.”

Harvard School of Public HealthWhile most meta-analytical reviews previously conducted on the link between pesticides and childhood cancer looked at parental exposure or agricultural exposure, the current study from scientists at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health focuses in on residential exposure in and around a child’s home. Authors found that cancer risks were connected most closely to the type of pesticide used and the location where it was applied. For example, while residential herbicide use was associated with an increased risk of leukemia, the link between outdoor insecticide use and childhood cancers was not found to be statistically significant. However, exposure to insecticides inside the home was significantly associated with an increased risk of childhood leukemia and lymphoma.

Researchers note that while the results are cause for concern, more research is needed to further elucidate the connection between pesticide exposure and childhood cancer. “We don’t knjow ‘how much’ exposure it takes, or if there’s a critical window of development,” said Chensheng (Alex) Lu, PhD, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at the Harvard School of Public Health to U.S. News and World Report. “Is the window during pregnancy? Or even before pregnancy? That will take a much deeper investigation,” Dr. Lu continued.

According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 15,780 children and adolescents aged 0 to 19 were diagnosed with some form of cancer in 2014. There is growing concern over the association between exposure to environmental chemicals such as pesticides and cancer risks both for children and the population at large. Although agriculture and occupational exposure to pesticides has traditionally been tied to cancer and other pesticide-related illnesses, 16 of the 30 most commonly used pesticides available for use in and around homes have been linked to cancer. Beyond Pesticides keeps track of the latest science linking pesticides to cancer and other health effects through the Pesticide Induced Diseases Database. The category on cancer currently contains hundreds of peer-reviewed studies associating pesticide exposure with a wide variety of cancers.

Children are at particular risk from exposure to pesticides because they take in more of a pesticide than adults relative to their body weight and have developing organ systems that are less able to detoxify chemicals. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a landmark policy statement on Pesticide Exposure in Children. The report discussed how children come into contact with pesticides every day in air, food, dust and soil, and frequently are exposed to pesticide residue on pets and after lawn, garden, or household pesticide applications. The report identified both acute and chronic effects of pesticides, noting that “Children encounter pesticide daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity.”

The authors of both the current meta-analysis and the American Academy of Pediatrics report recommend that governments take steps to reduce and eliminate children’s exposure to pesticides. With a growing market and availability of non-toxic and organic alternatives, replacing bug and weed killers in and around one’s home is becoming easier and easier. Safer practices for common pests can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ ManageSafe toolkit, and alternatives to herbicides can be found through the Lawns and Landscapes webpage.

Beyond Pesticides encourages readers to follow the advice of scientists and researchers, and advocate for safer pest control practices in your community. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ Tools for Change or Children and Schools page for information on organizing on your community. You’ll also find fact sheets like Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix, to help make your case to local leaders and school officials. For additional assistance, call Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450 or email [email protected]

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

Source: Pediatrics, US News and World Report

Share

14
Sep

Court Rejects USDA Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit on Organic Rule Change

(Beyond Pesticides, September 14, 2015) On Thursday September 10, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in a bench ruling, rejected the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit (Case3:15-cv-01690) that challenges the National Organic Program’s (NOP) failure to follow proper legal procedures in making a substantial rule change to the organic standard. This court ruling allows the case to move forward on the proper procedure and the importance of formal notice and public comment regarding the rules for organic food production.

SaveOurOrganicIntegrityThe lawsuit, filed earlier this year by the Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides, and the Center for Food Safety (CFS), challenges the contaminated compost guidance released by USDA, which weakens the long- standing prohibition of synthetic pesticide contaminants. Prior to the new contaminated compost guidance, organic regulations expressly prohibited fertilizers and compost from containing any synthetic substances not included on organic’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. Plaintiffs allege that the USDA’s decision weakens the integrity of organic food production, not only by creating inconsistent organic production standards but also by undermining the essential public participation function of organic policy making under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), federal law that establishes the procedures for public input into federal policy making. Since USDA never subjected the contaminated-compost decision to formal notice and public comment, the plaintiffs argue that USDA failed in its duty to ensure that its regulation is consistent with the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) and the standards set forth for approving the use of synthetic substances.

This lawsuit is not the only noteworthy instance of procedural violations committed by the USDA; another lawsuit brought by 15 farm, consumer and certifier organizations raises a similar procedural challenge to a rule change to the organic sunset process, which regulates synthetic chemical exceptions in organic production. In this case, the agency once again took unilateral action to adopt a major policy change without public process, an action plaintiffs maintain violates one of the foundational principles and practices of OFPA public participation in organic policy making and APA. The decision by the judge to allow the contaminated compost case to move forward signifies a commitment to upholding the procedures outlined in APA and OFPA, which plaintiffs maintain is central to the integrity of food labeled organic in the U.S.

The simple act of attempting to block a hearing on this procedural raises concerns about USDA commitment to overseeing the USDA organic program in a fair and open manner. The organic program has a long history of providing numerous opportunities for the public to weigh in on allowable practices and materials in organic production and has been central to building public trust in the organic certification program and the USDA certified organic food label. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) was set up by Congress to serve as an independent authority with unique and sole powers over organic standards. The board is intended to safeguard the integrity of the organic food label with independent authorities that operate outside the discretion of the USDA. The proposals of the NOSB, as a part of its ongoing review of practices and materials, are published for public comment twice a year before each meeting of the board.

Consumers, environmentalists, and farmers play a critical role in building and maintaining the integrity of the organic food label. A comment period on current proposals before the board is open now through October 8.

Priority issues before the Fall 2015 National Organic Standards Board

  • Inerts. Beyond Pesticides opposes the proposal to annotate the listings for so-called inert ingredients to allow all chemicals listed on EPA’s Safer Chemical Ingredient List. The Crops and Livestock Subcommittees have proposed an annotation that would abdicate NOSB responsibility for reviewing “inerts.” So-called “inert” ingredients in pesticide products are neither chemically nor biologically inert. They are designed to enhance the pesticidal activity of pesticide products and can have toxic properties that do not meet the standards of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). The NOSB should reject the proposed annotation change. The NOSB should (1) Tell NOP to implement the review plan approved unanimously by the board in 2012, using EPA’s Safer Choice Program as a resource, but not depending on its list (2) amend the listing to remove toxic nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), and (3) amend the list with expiration dates for the remaining classes of “inerts.”
  • Ancillary Substances. Beyond Pesticides opposes all three proposals on ancillary substances –microorganisms, pectin, and yeast — because they are inconsistent with OFPA and with the process adopted by the NOSB for review of ancillary substances. Ancillary substances –those ingredients within ingredients that generally do not appear on labels– must, according to both OFPA and NOSB policy, be reviewed according to OFPA criteria. Instead, the Handling Subcommittee appears to be simply grandfathering in those currently in these products, allowing toxic chemicals like formaldehyde to be added to organic food.
  • Micronutrient Annotation. Beyond Pesticides opposes the annotation change proposed by the Crops Subcommittee (CS) because it encourages the use of synthetic micronutrients without empirical evidence to demonstrate need. While the CS correctly points to methods other than soil testing to document soil deficiency, we disagree with the intention of the CS to allow “proactive” use of synthetic micronutrients, which is inconsistent with the requirement to seek management and nonsynthetic options first.

Each of these issues fit a theme of breaking trust with the organic community, which is why it is so important for the public to help defend organic standards against USDA changes that will weaken the organic food label.

Your Voice Is Needed to Keep Organic Strong

You can go to Beyond Pesticides Keeping Organic Strong webpage to learn more about these and other substantive issues. Again, we ask that you submit a unique, personalized comment on as many issues and materials as you can by the October 8, 2015 deadline. For help crafting your comments, view Beyond Pesticides’ commenting guide.

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

Source: Beyond Pesticides

Share

11
Sep

Federal Court Overturns EPA Approval of New Bee-Killing Insecticide Sulfoxaflor

(Beyond Pesticides, September 11, 2015) On Thursday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unequivocally rejected the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) unconditional registration of the systemic and bee-toxic pesticide sulfoxaflor. The Court concluded that EPA violated federal law and its own regulations when it approved sulfoxaflor without reliable studies regarding the impact that the insecticide would have on honey bee colonies. The Court vacated EPA’s unconditional registration of the chemical, meaning that sulfoxaflor may no longer be used in the U.S. However, while the decision is good news for now, it still leaves the door open for sulfoxaflor’s future use once EPA obtains the necessary information regarding impacts to honey bees and re-approves the insecticide in accordance with law. The case is Pollinator Stewardship Council, American Honey Producers Association, National Honey Bee Advisory Board, American Beekeeping Federation, Thomas Smith, Bret Adee, Jeff Anderson v. U.S. EPA (9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, No. 13-7234). Dow AgroSciences (a Dow Chemical company) joined the case as an intervenor to support EPA.

numerousbeesEPA initially proposed to conditionally register sulfoxaflor and requested additional studies to address gaps in the data regarding the pesticide’s effects on bees. A few months later, however, EPA unconditionally registered the insecticides with certain mitigation measures and a lowering of the maximum application rate, but did so without obtaining any further studies. As a response, in 2013, beekeepers filed suit against EPA, citing that sulfoxaflor as further endangering bees and beekeeping and noting that their concerns were not properly addressed by EPA before registration was granted.

In the decision, the Court held that because EPA’s decision to unconditionally register sulfoxaflor was based on flawed and limited data, the EPA’s unconditional approval was not supported by substantial evidence. Additionally, the Agency skirted its own regulations when it ignored risk concerns, even with the reduced maximum application rate, which EPA has done before despite prior reprimands from the Court. The panel vacated the EPA’s unconditional registration because, given the precariousness of bee populations, allowing EPA’s continued registration of sulfoxaflor risked more potential environmental harm than vacating it.

In a pointed message to EPA that should be noticed by all government regulators, Judge N. Randy Smith wrote the following:

“I do not ask the EPA to “explain every possible scientific uncertainty” or instruct the EPA how to improve its analysis. See Lands Council, 537 F.3d at 988. I simply ask the EPA to explain the analysis it conducted, the data it reviewed, and how the EPA relied on the data in making its final decision. Currently, the EPA’s interesting choice of procedure and lack of explanation regarding its analysis call into question the connection between the cited data and the final decision. . .For me, unless I am provided with evidence of the EPA’s basis for its judgment and knowledge, I can only assume it acted with none.”

“Our country is facing widespread bee colony collapse, and scientists are pointing to pesticides like sulfoxaflar as the cause. The Court’s decision to overturn approval of this bee-killing pesticide is incredible news for bees, beekeepers and all of us who enjoy the healthy fruits, nuts, and vegetables that rely on bees for pollination,” said EarthJustice’s lead counsel, Greg Loarie.

Michele Colopy, Program Director of the Pollinator Stewardship Council, added, “The Pollinator Stewardship Council is pleased with the 9th Circuit Court’s Opinion concerning the registration of sulfoxaflor. Our argument, presented by EarthJustice attorney, Greg Loarie, addressed our concerns that EPA’s decision process to unconditionally register sulfoxaflor was based on flawed and limited data, and the 9th Circuit Court agreed with us. We can protect crops from pests and protect honey bees and native pollinators. To do this, EPA’s pesticide application and review process must receive substantial scientific evidence as to the benefits of a pesticide, as well as the protection of the environment, especially the protection of pollinators.”

Sulfoxaflor is a relatively new active ingredient, registered in 2013, whose mode of action is similar to that of neonicotinoid pesticides –it acts on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) in insects. Even though it has not been classified as a neonicotinoid, it elicits similar neurological responses in honey bees, with many believing that sulfoxaflor is the new generation of neonicotinoid. Neonicotinoids, including sulfoxaflor, are “systemic” insecticides, which means that they are sprayed onto plants, which then absorb the chemicals and distribute them throughout the plant, into the tissues, pollen, and nectar. Sulfoxaflor is registered for use on vegetables, fruits, barley, canola, ornamentals, soybeans, wheat and others. Several comments were submitted by concerned beekeepers and environmental advocacy groups, like Beyond Pesticides, that stated that approval of a pesticide highly toxic to bees would only exacerbate the problems faced by an already tenuous honey bee industry and further decimate bee populations. However, EPA dismissed these concerns and instead pointed to a need for sulfoxaflor by industry and agriculture groups to control insects no longer being controlled by increasingly ineffective pesticide technologies.

EPA states in court documents that the benefits of sulfoxaflor –like the potential to replace older and more toxic pesticides and a lower needed dose– outweigh the risk to pollinators. In registration documents, EPA also notes that none of the objections to sulfoxaflor registrations point to any data “to support the opinion that registration of sulfoxaflor will pose a grave risks to bees,” even though the agency itself acknowledges that sulfoxaflor is highly toxic to bees. The agency states that even though sulfoxaflor is highly toxic to bees it does not demonstrate “catastrophic effects” on bees from its use. While sulfoxaflor exhibits behavioral and navigational abnormalities in honey bees, EPA downplays these effects as “short-lived.” Dow AgroSciences, which developed and commercialized sulfoxaflor, intervened on behalf of EPA in the suit.

The case is one of a number of pending legal cases on EPA’s pesticide decisions under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the law that prohibits the use or sale of pesticides that lack approval and registration by the EPA, including one submitted March 2013 by Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Food Safety, beekeepers, and other environmental and consumer groups challenging the agency’s failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. That lawsuit challenges EPA’s oversight of the neonicotinoid insecticides –clothianidin and thiamethoxam– which have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees, as well as the agency’s registration process and labeling deficiencies, and seeks suspension of the registrations.

Despite the continued decline in bee and pollinator populations across the U.S., EPA has since registered two other systemic chemicals, cyantraniliprole and flupyradifurone. Cyantraniliprole is noted by EPA as “highly toxic on acute and oral contact basis” to bees, while flupyradifurone, a new systemic, butenolide insecticide from Bayer CropScience approved just this year, is found to be “highly toxic to individual adult honey bees.” Adding these new bee toxic chemicals into the environment will mean that bees and other non-target organisms will be exposed to mixtures of chemicals that are not only highly toxic, but have yet to be evaluated for their combined or synergistic effects with other bee-toxic substances, and possibly compounding the already dire plight of pollinators, highlighting fundamental flaws in the way in which these and other pesticides are regulated under FIFRA. Additionally, actions taken by EPA to reduce neonicotinoid use have been too narrow in scope. For example, EPA’s announcement earlier this year to suspend new uses of neonicotinoids fails to address neonicotinoids already on the market, as well as neonicotinoid-like pesticides like sulfoxaflor.

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: EarthJustice, CommonDreams

 

Share

10
Sep

California to List Glyphosate (Roundup) as Cancer-Causing

(Beyond Pesticides, September 10, 2015) Last week, California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced that it intended to list glyphosate (Roundup) and three other chemicals as cancer-causing chemicals under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65). Glyphosate is a phosphanoglycine herbicide that inhibits an enzyme essential to plant growth. Under California law, Proposition 65 requires that certain substances identified by the International View postAgency for Research on Cancer (IARC) be listed as known cancer-causing chemicals.

roundupIn March, a study by the IARC classified glyphosate as a Group 2A material, which means that the chemical is carcinogenic based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. The agency considered the findings from an EPA Scientific Advisory Panel report, along with several recent studies in making its conclusion. However, industry supporters of glyphosate all over the globe are conducting their own studies to attempt to prove that it is not a carcinogen. These studies, like one by German Federal Institute for Risk Assessments (BfR), are based almost solely on industry science and classified industry reports, each of which might not consider critical variables. With more glyphosate-focused studies being released, the growing evidence is becoming hard to ignore.

While its creator Monsanto maintains that glyphosate is “safe for human health” and claims that the IARC’s conclusion was “reached by selective ‘cherry picking’ of data and agenda-driven bias,” many recent studies prove otherwise.

Following the carcinogenic classification by the IARC, a research study published in the journal Environmental Health links long-term, ultra-low dose exposure to glyphosate in drinking water to adverse impacts on the health of liver and kidneys. The study focuses on Glyphosate-based Herbicides (GHBs), rather than pure glyphosate, unlike many of the studies that preceded it. Pediatrician Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., and researcher Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., recently released a prospective article on the effects of glyphosate and GE crops. In this article, they highlight the flaws of past glyphosate studies and conclude that they only considered pure glyphosate “despite studies showing that formulated glyphosate that contains surfactants and adjuvants is more toxic than the pure compound.” Their article also pointed to the ecological impacts of widespread glyphosate use, like the damage it has had on the monarch butterfly and other pollinators. Last year, the Center for Biological Study and Center for Food Safety filed a legal petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the monarch butterfly. Their press release explains the dramatic 90 percent decline over the last 20 years:

The butterfly’s dramatic decline is being driven by the widespread planting of genetically engineered crops in the Midwest, where most monarchs are born. The vast majority of genetically engineered crops are made to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, a uniquely potent killer of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food. The dramatic surge in Roundup use with Roundup Ready crops has virtually wiped out milkweed plants in midwestern corn and soybean fields.

Ecological effects like these are just a fraction of the environmental variables that should be considered when looking at the effects of glyphosate.

Joining glyphosate on the Proposition 65 list is malathion, parathion, and tetrachlorvinphos. A California Environmental Health Tracking Program (CEHTP) report, titled Agricultural Pesticide Use near Public Schools in California, finds that 36 percent of public schools in the state have pesticides of public health concern applied within a quarter mile of the school, including malathion and parathion. Malathion, which is also classified as a Group 2A material by the IARC, is a nonsystemic, widespectrum organophosphate nerve poison that causes numbness, tremors, nausea, incoordination, blurred vision, difficulty breathing or respiratory depression, and slow heartbeat, among others. Parathion and tetrachlorvinphos are also organophosphates that attack the nerve system, particularly in young children, causing neurological damage.

The mounting evidence of glyphosate’s hazards is piling up and environmental groups, like Beyond Pesticides, are urging localities to restrict or ban the use of the chemical. California’s glyphosate listing is certainly a step in the right direction; however, it will need to take further steps toward a restriction or ban to make significant changes. Being the number one agricultural producing state, California’s action may help to move glyphosate out of the market.

 Currently, the best way to avoid glyphosate and other harmful pesticides is to support organic agriculture and eat organic food. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for organic management practices as a means to foster biodiversity, and research shows that organic farmers do a better job of protecting biodiversity than their chemically-intensive counterparts. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and biotechnology, responsible organic farms focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and other beneficial insects, and only resort to judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective.

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

Source: California Environmental Protection Agency

Share

09
Sep

Ten-Year-Old Suffers Traumatic Brain Injury After Home Treated with Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides September 9, 2015) A young Florida boy and his family are reeling after a routine termite treatment resulted in a devastating outcome. Ten-year-old Peyton McCaughey of Palm City, Florida has been in the hospital for weeks following a severe reaction to chemicals used to fumigate his family’s home. According to news reports, the fumigation was performed by Sunland Pest Control, a subcontractor of Terminix. The Florida Department of Agriculture has since issued a “Stop Work Order” while it investigates the company in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state Department of Health.

PeytonAfter returning to their home hours after the Terminix subcontractor told them it was safe to enter, the whole family became very ill. While the parents and the 7-year-old daughter recovered, the young boy’s condition continued to worsen. “He was having some uncontrollable muscle movements, couldn’t stand up, couldn’t speak, so they took him to a local walk-in and the doctor quickly recognized it was probably poisoning from a treatment,” said Peyton’s uncle, Ed Gribben. Current reports indicate that the boy has likely suffered brain damage and has lost all muscle control, rendering him unable to stand or speak. He remains in a hospital in Miami weeks after the initial exposure took place.

A Terminix spokesman, while making clear that the incident is still under review, did state that the gas normally used for this type of fumigation (intended to target termites) is sulfuryl fluoride. When asked to comment, Shan Yin,M.D., MPH, the medical director of the Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center, said that while acute pesticide poisoning is rare, exposure to this application of sulfuryl fluoride, an odorless gas, can lead to symptoms including dizziness, headache and vomiting in even the most mild cases. “In severe cases,” Dr. Yin said, “it can cause seizures and can cause neurologic symptoms.”

Sulfuryl fluoride is an inorganic chemical often used for the fumigation of closed structures and their contents, such as domestic dwellings, garages, barns, storage buildings and commercial warehouses, just to name a few. It is intended to target termites, powder post beetles, bedbugs, and other pests. Sulfuryl fluoride is a dangerous chemical which has been linked to cancer as well as neurological, developmental, and reproductive damages. More information about sulfuryl fluoride and its more potent cousin methyl bromide, another industry favorite, can be found on our factsheet about structural fumigants.

In addition to promoting alternative fumigants for pest control, Beyond Pesticides has also been involved with efforts to remove sulfuryl fluoride from use on food. Food-related tolerances were set for sulfuryl fluoride in 2004 for raw foods and in 2005 for processed food as post-harvest fumigant. Both of the food-related tolerances were opposed by Beyond Pesticides, and in 2006 Beyond Pesticides, Fluoride Action Network (FAN), and Environmental Working Group petitioned EPA for a stay of final rules, objecting to the tolerances as allowing an excessive hazard to food consumers.

In the beginning of 2011, EPA responded to this petition by granting objections to the food-related tolerances. Based on a cumulative risk assessment taking into account food, water, and structural use exposure, this decision established a phase out all food-related uses for sulfuryl fluoride over a three-year period ending in 2014. After the EPA decision, there was a flurry of activity in Congress to limit EPA’s proposed phase out. In April of 2013, U.S. Representative Tom Graves (R-GA) introduced H.R.1496, the Pest Free Food Supply Act, with similar language introduced in the U.S. Senate by Joe Donnelly (D-IN), intended to force the EPA Administrator to withdraw the proposed food tolerance cancellations. With overwhelming support and influence from Dow Agrosciences, the language eventually attached in conference committee to the Farm Bill, or Section 10015 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Regulation of Sulfuryl Fluoride), despite overwhelming scientific evidence in support of the EPA phase-out of sulfuryl fluoride. It was passed February 7, 2014.

Unfortunately, when it comes to cases of fumigants poisoning families, the current situation in Florida is not isolated. In 2010 alone, poison control centers in the U.S. reported 91,940 calls related to pesticide exposures in general, according to the University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Just this spring, a family of four was hospitalized after being exposed to methyl bromide, a highly neurotoxic pesticide, while on vacation at their luxury condo in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. After being rushed back to mainland U.S. for treatment, the two sons are still in critical condition, having both gone into a coma as a result of the exposure. The father is paralyzed and mother has nerve damage.

There are many viable alternatives to sulfuryl fluoride and methyl bromide fumigation, including temperature manipulation (heating and cooling), atmospheric controls (low oxygen and fumigation with carbon dioxide), biological controls (pheromones, viruses and nematodes), and less toxic chemical controls (diatomaceous earth). More information on Beyond Pesticides’ recommendations for the least-toxic control of termites can be found here.

While it is still unknown whether Peyton will be able to make a full recovery, he did receive a little relief this past weekend when three Miami Dolphins players visited him the hospital where he is receiving treatment. If you would like to help the family, you can join Facebook Group “Support Peyton McCaughey” or donate on the GoFundMe Page. Visit the Beyond Pesticides website to learn more about the potential harms of pesticide use and how it may impact your family, especially young children.

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

Source: ABC News

Share

07
Sep

New York Lawn Care Companies Fined for Violating Pesticide Laws

(Beyond Pesticides, September 8, 2015) The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued tickets to six companies in Rockland and Westchester counties for violating state laws on pesticide applications, most on residential lawns. Eight other companies were issued warnings. The violations, which occurred between 2013 and spring 2015, ranged from unlicensed businesses to uncertified workers and unlabeled toxic pesticides. These fines and warnings came about after complaints and anonymous tips, and highlight the many instances where pesticide law enforcement and compliance falls short.

nydecIn September of last year, a complaint was called into the DEC, reporting that a Jonathan Landscaping (of Rockville, NY) truck was spraying pesticides with no labels, and was missing triangle decals that indicate a valid state pesticide permit. The DEC inspector went out and found the truck, issuing four tickets for operating an unregistered pesticide business and unlabeled poisons. Rafael Hernandez, the owner of Jonathan Landscaping, pleaded guilty to violating environmental laws in March and was fined $350, according to The Journal News. In April, SavALawn, another landscaping company, was found to be missing triangle decals and had unlabeled pesticide poisons, and was also issued a ticket, of value unknown. Another investigator from DEC took action against OCS Chemical Engineering (of Cortlandt) after receiving an anonymous tip. OCS, which treats water systems (like cooling towers) with pesticides, was found to have been operating without a pesticide application permit for over five years. The company was fined $4,000 for its violations.

There is serious question as to whether the (i) level of enforcement for pesticide use and label violations is adequate, (ii) fines must be significantly higher given the nature of the harm, (iii) applicators conducting the treatments should be certified, and (iv) longstanding limitations deter noncompliance. Recent cases emphasize the horrific outcomes of pesticide use violations. In April 2015, four members of a Delaware family were hospitalized after being exposed to methyl bromide, a highly neurotoxic pesticide, while on vacation at their luxury condo in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Methyl bromide is a restricted use pesticide and is not registered for residential use, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2013 Methyl Bromide Preliminary Workplan (pg. 6). The media is reporting that a 10-year old boy suffered traumatic brain injury in mid-August after his family’s home was treated with sulfuryl flouride, presumably for termites.

In 2014, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) issued two civil penalties totaling $16,000 in connection with a pesticide application of imidacloprid on linden trees, a chemical in the neonicotinoid class of insecticides connected to widespread bee decline, this summer that resulted in the death of nearly 1,000 bees. When the incident in Eugene occurred, the trees were in full bloom and attracting pollinators.  In this case, ODA determined that the company and its applicator knew or should have known of this standard of care, yet disregarded it. The reasonable standard of care for pesticide application activities in Oregon includes anticipating the presence of pollinators in Oregon. In 2013, ODA adopted a label requirement on pesticide products containing imidacloprid, stating that the application of these products on linden trees was prohibited.

Unfortunately, the details above paint a picture of the many issues that go unaddressed under pesticide law and regulations. Company employees applying toxic pesticides may treat homes, offices, and schools without certification if they are “under the supervision” of certified applicators who are not required to be on site, but may only  be in phone contact. While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and pesticide manufacturers claim that pesticide labeling keeps consumers safe, there are many instances, demonstrated above, where labels are discarded and taken off, with no way of knowing the correct and legal way of applying the pesticide, or disregarded completely and not followed by the applicator. In addition, pesticide applicators who are unlicensed are not subject to any system of checks and balances. The state departments don’t have records of them being current applicators, and therefore cannot check in with due diligence. While enforcement action is a critical piece in protecting public health and the environment, advocates point to the use of warnings, repeated violations, and low fines.

Advocates say pesticide offenses like these need to be met with fines that cannot just be considered a cost of doing business –they must be large enough to cause the businesses to change their practices. In New York, business registrations are valid for three years, and commercial pesticide applicator certifications must be renewed yearly or every three years, depending on the type of certification. If state residents are concerned that an applicator is applying illegally, they can check the DEC’s website to make sure the company has a proper application permit, or ask to see their licenses on site.

Pesticides are widely used in homes and communities without complete public knowledge about the harm that they cause to children, pets and the environment. The best way to reduce pesticide exposure is to implement organic approaches to lawn care. There are alternatives to pesticides for managing insects, rodents and weeds effectively without exposing your family to harmful toxic chemicals. Visit our Safer Choice page for more information. For safer lawn care and weed management, read Beyond Pesticides’ “Read Your ‘Weeds’ – A Simple Guide to Creating a Healthy Lawn” and “Least-toxic Control of Weeds.”

Source: The Journal News

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

Share

04
Sep

Call for More Research on Bee-Toxic Pesticides as Their Link to Bee Deaths Strengthens

(Beyond Pesticides, September 4, 2015) Research into neonicotinoid insecticides, a class of bee-toxic chemicals, and their effects on bees, needs to be more comprehensive in order to better reflect their global use, concludes a recent review of the current literature. The authors of the review state that despite considerable research efforts, there are still significant knowledge gaps concerning the impacts of neonicotinoids on bees. Since 2006, honey bees and other pollinators in the U.S. and throughout the world have experienced ongoing and rapid population declines. The science has become increasingly clear that pesticides (especially the neonicotinoid class of insecticides), either acting individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of honey bees and wild pollinators. Neonicotinoids can be persistent in the environment, and have the ability to translocate into the pollen and nectar of treated plants.

beecombThe systematic review, titled Neonicotinoid Insecticides and Their Impacts on Bees: A Systematic Review of Research Approaches and Identification of Knowledge Gaps and published in the journal PLoS ONE, took a look at over 200 primary research studies in order to identify knowledge gaps. While there is a growing body of science examining the impacts of neonicotinoid use, knowledge gaps need to be addressed to better capture the full extent of the impacts these harmful chemicals have on bees. For example, studies on crops are dominated by seed-treated maize, oilseed rape (canola), and sunflower, but more needs to be known about the potential side effects on bees from the use of other application methods on insect pollinated fruit and vegetable crops, or on lawns and ornamental plants. Furthermore, most of the 216 studies conducted are in Europe or North America, so relatively little is known about neonicotinoids and bees outside of these regions. The authors add that because there is considerable variation in ecological traits across bee taxa, studies on honey bees are not likely to fully predict impacts of neonicotinoids on other species. Recommendations from the study authors include opportunities for methodological improvements, such as using information from field studies in laboratory approaches, as well as more studies that link effects at the individual level to mechanisms at the sub-individual level, and also to consequences for colonies and populations. The authors state that while bees are subject to multiple, interacting environmental pressures, such as the promotion by neonicotinoids of additive or synergistic effects when combined with pathogens or parasites, the importance of neonicotinoid-pathogen interactions under field-realistic conditions might have been overemphasized. However, it should be noted that there is strong evidence that indicates that neonicotinoid exposure makes bees more susceptible to pathogens.

New research into the consequences of neonicotinoid use are being published at an unprecedented rate. A recent study provided supporting evidence to previous work showing that sublethal doses of imidacloprid, a toxic neonicotinoid insecticide, impairs olfactory learning in exposed honey bee workers. A January 2015 study that also looked at sublethal exposure to imidacloprid found that it leads to mitochondrial dysfunction in bumble bees, which then negatively impacts navigation and foraging skills. For example, exposed bees will have greater difficulty in recognizing the smell of a flower, or how to find their way back to their colony, which in turn can affect the colony as a whole. Two other recent studies found that, not only does neonicotinoid exposure result in reduced bee density, nesting, colony growth, and reproduction, but also that bees actually prefer foods containing neonicotinoid pesticides, despite their adverse effects.

Although these data gaps need to be addressed, the link between widespread neonicotinoid use and pollinator decline is clear and grows stronger every day. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. While EPA announced a moratorium on new bee- and bird- harming neonicotinoid pesticide products and uses, 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.

Source: PLoS ONE

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

Share

03
Sep

Ants Show Promise as Alternative to Chemical Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, September 3, 2015) A study published this week reveals that ants are a cheaper, more effective means to managing pests than toxic chemical pesticides. The review was conducted by Aarhus University’s Joachim Offenberg, Ph.D., a plant and insect ecologist who has studied ants for over 20 years. His review focuses on Oecophylla smaragina and O. longinoda, commonly referred to as weaver ants, and their beneficial effects on various crops in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia. In this review, Dr. Offenberg finds weaver ants to be as or more effective than synthetic pesticides for pest management in a variety of cropping systems. This evidence brings renewed vigor to the argument that natural, biological pest management can act as a viable alternative to the use of toxic pesticides that endanger health and the environment.

Weaver_ants_with_preyWeaver ants, often found in tropical climates, are tree-dwelling ants with characteristics that are ideal for biological pest management. They are categorized as a “superorganism,” meaning the colony itself is like an  organism, with individual ants acting as “cells” that can move around independently. Dr. Offenberg sees this as a strength because the colony is able to prey on targets much larger and stronger than itself.

He explains, “Most ant species
deploy a wide range of prey types. They may exert pressure on several pest species and life stages; small workers may handle eggs, whereas larger workers may engage larger sized individuals. On top of this, their territorial behaviour makes them attack and deter pests that are far beyond the size of potential prey.”

And they are quick to respond to intruders. The basis for this ability is an ant colony’s recruitment system, which is used to bring nestmates to some point in space where work is required, or prey is present. This is done based on trail-laying, tandem running and alarm pheromones. Consequently, they can bring large numbers of ants to respond when pest populations escalate. Recruitment behavior can, moreover, be utilized to attract ants to focal points where their services are most needed. This type of behavior can be lethal to unwanted agricultural pests.

Dr. Offenberg suggests that utilizing weaver ant colonies as pest control is more cost-effective than pesticide use. He notes that the heftiest investment when managing an ant colony is the time spent up front. Building a colony can be tedious work, but worthwhile in the end. After transplanting a colony onto one’s farm, farmers can increase the quantity and quality of the ants in a few ways:

  • Limiting insecticide use
  • Providing intra-colony host tree connections (via rope, poles, lianas, etc.)
  • Pruning trees to reduce fighting between neighboring colonies
  • Providing supplementary feed (sugar, water, and sometimes protein)
  • Providing artificial nesting sites
  • Applying sticky barriers to the base of trees to limit the action of competing ant species

Once established, ant colonies can thrive without aid for extended periods of time. Ants are able to store protein in the form of trophic eggs and brood that may be cannibalized, making their colonies stable and a predictable service with low management costs. One study showed that colonies of Temnothorax rugatulus survived 8 months without food. This behavior also means that colonies show high prey satiation levels. At high prey densities, ants continue to forage beyond the limits of other arthropods, as they may utilize prey to build up populations of larvae and trophic eggs. Thus, ants can exert continued pressure on pests even after prolonged periods with high pest densities.

Limiting or prohibiting pesticide use is generally a requirement for using weaver ants as pest control. Dr. Offenberg’s analysis shows that weaver ant pest control is comparable to even the most popular pesticides and insecticides on the market. For example, scientists studied the cashew in Ghana, and compared the use of weaver ants with two chemical insecticide treatments (cypermethrin+dimethoate and lambda-cyhalothrin) and a control treatment (water). They found pest damage was negatively correlated with the number of weaver ant nests and trees, and the two chemical treatments had <6% pest damage on shoots, panicles, and fruits, while water-sprayed control trees showed damage as high as 37.8%. The abundance of sap sucking bugs, like mosquito bugs and beetles, was more than fourfold lower in the ant and chemical treatments compared with the control treatment and, correspondingly, nut yields were significantly and more than four times higher in ant and chemical treatments. In Punjab, India it was found that mango and citrus trees with ant nests produced 18% and 20% higher yields than trees without nests in mango and citrus, respectively. Another study looked at Beninese cashews and compared weaver ants alone, weaver ants fed sugar, and weaver ants in combination with spinosad were contrasted with a control treatment. They, respectively, produced yields that were 78%, 122%, and 151% higher than the control treatment.

While these studies do not suggest that weaver ants are more effective than chemicals, they do, however, suggest that they can do the same job with added benefits and decreased risk. With Northern Australian cashews, scientists found that not only were weaver ants more efficient in controlling all major pests, but also the technology was cheaper than using chemical insecticides. Despite high costs of the weaver ant technology during the first year where ant colonies were transplanted (colonies persist for 3 years on average), the cost of the ant technology over 4 years was only 43% of the cost of using chemicals. At the same time, yields in ant plots were 49% higher, leading to an increased net income of 71%. The added benefits of ants are endless as well. Ants live in dense societies, and to combat diseases, they produce antibiotic compounds in glands or via fungal and bacterial symbionts. These compounds may end up on plant tissue and potentially protect plants against diseases. Several plant species associated with ants have shown less microbial pathogen loads and less damage inflicted by fungi and bacteria when ant partners were present compared to plants where ants were removed.

The cost of Weaver ants is lower than insecticide applications, and the difference only increases when the consolidated costs of insecticides are included as, for example, costs on human health. They are unlikely to be unique in their abilities to provide effective pest protection; many other species are likely to hold similar properties. Because ant pest management limits or restricts the use of pesticides, there is a smaller or zero chance of pesticide residue and exposure. Avoiding detrimental health effects associated with insecticides is becoming an increasing concern for consumers across the globe. A move toward organic farming is a growing trend for both farmers and consumers. Not only is the production of organic food better for human health and the environment than conventional production, emerging science reveals what organic advocates have been saying for a long time—in addition to lacking the toxic residues of conventional foods, organic food is more nutritious. The best way to avoid toxic pesticide residues is to switch to organic foods.
Visit Beyond Pesticides’ organic agriculture program page to learn more about the benefits of alternative pest management techniques.

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

Source: Journal of Applied Ecology

 

Share

02
Sep

Germany to Ban GE Crops; US Approves GE Potato

(Beyond Pesticides, September 2, 2015) Germany intends to “opt out” of the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops under new European Union (EU) rules regarding GE approvals, moving Germany one step forward to prohibiting GE crops. EU member states have until October 3, 2015 to inform the European Commission whether they wish to opt out of the new EU GE cultivation approvals. GE crops, which have divided Europe regarding their safety, remain a hot button issue across the continent. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted nonregulated status to the “Innate” potato, approving yet other GE crop for U.S. agriculture that has insufficient testing and no labeling.

potatoAccording to Reuters, a new EU law approved in March 2015 clarifies the process for approving new GE crops after years of previous deadlock. Now this new law gives individual EU countries more flexibility over the cultivation of GE crops and the right to opt out by prohibiting GE crops even after they have been approved by the European Commission. Previously, EU-approved GE crops had to be permitted in all EU states. In a letter obtained by Reuters, the German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt has informed German state governments of his intention to tell the EU that Germany will make use of the new “opt-out” rules to stop GE crop cultivation, even if varieties have been approved by the EU. Further, Germany will request that manufacturers of GE seed exclude Germany when applying to sell seeds in the EU. Scotland has also taken advantage of the new EU rules by also stating its intention to opt out of GE cultivation. Both Germany and Scotland have cited food, drinking water and environmental concerns, as well as consumer opposition to GE crops as the reasons for their recent decision.

Although widely grown and accepted by farmers in the U.S., GE crops have not been well received in Europe. Currently, there is one GE corn crop (MON 810) grown in the EU and eight pending applications for other GE crop varieties. According to the European Commission, MON 810 is cultivated in only five EU countries with a total coverage (in 2013) of almost 150,000 hectares (including 137,000 hectares in Spain). This contributes to less than 1.5% of the Europe’s corn cultivation. However, 58 GE commodities are authorized for food and feed.

The EU has adopted a precautionary approach when it comes to the cultivation of engineered crops. The European Commission states, “The approach chosen in the EU as regards GMOs is a precautionary approach imposing a pre-market authorisation for any GMO to be placed on the market and a post-market environmental monitoring for any authorised GMO. This approach ensures a high level of protection of human and animal health and the environment.” The commission also notes, “
in order to provide consumers with information and freedom of choice, traceability and labelling obligations are imposed for any authorised GMO.”

Meanwhile in the U.S., new GE crop approvals continue to be made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The latest is a variety of the Russet Burbank, “Inmate” potato, developed by the J.R. Simplot Company, and dubbed ‘concealer potato’ because its genes are modified to reduce the naturally occurring browning from bruising and resist late blight.  The potato processing industry supports this new GE variety because without browning, bruised potatoes do not need to be discarded for cosmetic reasons. The potato also reduces the levels of acrylamide, a chemical produced at high temperatures (e.g., potato chips and French fries) that some studies show is linked to cancer.

Several varieties of GE crops are allowed in the U.S., including GE corn, soybean, alfalfa, cotton and sugar beets, and the federal government has been criticized by environmental and food safety groups of not adequately analyzing the environmental risks associated with their use, including increased pesticide use. Just this year, both USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) paved the way for increased 2,4-D use by approving 2,4-D tolerant corn and its companion herbicide, Enlist Duo. Since the arrival of GE crops to U.S. agriculture, pesticide use has only increased despite to industry promises of the contrary. Last month, Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., and Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., released a new study, GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health, in the New England Journal of Medicine that outlines the hazards associated with food residues of elevated pesticide use in the production of GE crops. The paper discussed the significance of the increase in herbicide use and weed resistance in herbicide-tolerant crops. Of particular concern, according to the study, is that farmers, processors, infants, and children are most at risk, given the exposure to the herbicides used with herbicide-tolerant GE crops.

In Congress, industry interests are campaigning to derail any attempt to have GE food labelled. The bill H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, often referred to by opponents as the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, which as its name implies would negate state mandatory labeling laws, has already been passed in the House. But according to a recent study by Consumer Reports National Research Center, more than 70% of Americans said they do not want GEs in their food, and 92% of consumers believe that foods containing genetically engineered ingredients should be labeled.

Currently, the best way to avoid GE food is to support organic agriculture and eat organic food. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for organic management practices as a means to foster biodiversity, and research shows that organic farmers do a better job of protecting biodiversity than their chemically-intensive counterparts. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and biotechnology, responsible organic farms focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and other beneficial insects, and only resort to judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective.

For more on genetic engineering and GE crops visit the program page Genetic Engineering. Make sure to also visit the Organic page for information on organic food, gardening and what you can do.

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

Source: Reuters

 

Share

01
Sep

Kidney, Liver Damage Linked to Chronic, Low-Dose Glyphosate Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, September 1, 2015) A research study published in the journal Environmental Health  links chronic, ultra-low dose exposure to glyphosate in drinking water to adverse impacts on the health of liver and kidneys. The study, Transcriptome profile analysis reflects rat liver and kidney damage following chronic ultra-low dose Roundup exposure, is the latest in a string of data showing unacceptable risks resulting from exposure to glyphosate and products formulated with the chemical, like Monsanto’s Roundup.

Researchers conducted the study by exposing rats to minute (0.1 parts per billion) doses of Roundup in drinking water for a period of 2 years. After noting tissue damage and biochemical changes in the blood and urine of exposed animals that was indicative of organ damage, the authors attempted to confirm their findings by analyzing changes in gene expression within liver and kidneys. Of 4,447 gene transcript clusters analyzed by scientists, 4,224 showed some alteration. Compared to non-exposed rats, “[t]here were more than 4,000 genes in the liver and kidneys whose levels of expression had changed,” said Michael Antoniou, PhD, senior author of the study to Environmental Health News.

rndupflikrAuthors indicate that the changes in gene expression observed in the study are associated with the type of organ damage observed in the rats. “The findings of our study are very worrying as they confirm that a very low level of consumption of Roundup weedkiller over the long term can result in liver and kidney damage. Our results also suggest that regulators should re-consider the safety evaluation of glyphosate-based herbicides,” said Dr. Antoniou.

Data gathered from this new research reinforces the results of a controversial study published in 2012 by lead author Gilles-Eric SĂ©ralini, PhD, which, in addition to tumor growth in exposed rats, showed adverse impacts to liver and kidneys. The study was retracted by the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology and later republished in Environmental Sciences Europe.

“[A]s a country that uses a lot of glyphosate and it’s found widely across U.S. streams, this study should have some kind of public health influence,” said Nichelle Harriott, science and regulatory director at Beyond Pesticides. Levels of exposure tested in the recent study are far below what EPA sets as the maximum contaminate level (MCL) in drinking water throughout the U.S. While rats in the study were chronically exposed to .1 parts per billion Roundup concentrations, EPA allows 700 parts per billion. The agency notes that “some people who drink water containing glyphosate in excess of the MCL over many years could experience problems with their kidneys or reproductive disorders.” Although the current study looked at rats, the authors note that, “[A]s the dose of Roundup we investigated is environmentally relevant in terms of human, domesticated animals, and wildlife levels of exposure, our results potentially have significant health implications for animal and human populations.”

Beyond direct impacts to the kidney and liver, glyphosate has recently been implicated as a having sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity based upon an analysis of laboratory animals studies conducted by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Co-author of the report, Christopher Portier, PhD, recently told a scientific briefing in London, “Glyphosate is definitely genotoxic. There is no doubt in my mind.” Genotoxicity is the ability of a chemical agent to damage the genetic information within a cell, causing mutations that may lead to cancer.

In addition to impacts on human health, glyphosate has been linked to adverse effects on earthworms and other soil biota, as well as shape changes in amphibians. The widespread use of the chemical on genetically engineered glyphosate-resistant crops has led it to be implicated in the decline of monarch butterflies, whose sole source to lay their eggs, milkweed plants, are being devastated as a result of incessant use of glyphosate.

In the face of these widespread health impacts, and in the absence of real action to restrict this chemical at the federal level, it is up to concerned citizens to advocate for changes in public land management practices within their community. Whether it’s your local government, homeowner’s association, or child’s playing field, concerned residents can make positive change and get glyphosate and other unnecessary toxic chemicals out of your community. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but it can be done with perseverance. Get your community campaign going with Beyond Pesticides’ “Start Your Own Local Movement” fact sheet. Although glyphosate is an important chemical to remove from use in your community, recall that a range of chemicals are linked to public health impacts, and a comprehensive approach that encourages organic land management is the best long-term solution.

For more information about how to address pesticides in your drinking water and community at-large, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticides in My Drinking Water? and refer to the Tools for Change webpage for information and inspiration, including a list of pesticide reduction policies passed in communities throughout the country. Contact Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450 or [email protected] for more information.

Independent scientists throughout the world have come under fire from chemical industry interests looking to discredit their work and reputation for revealing the dangers associated with chemicals they produce. Help us fight back against these attacks by supporting the Fund for Independent Science, which seeks to support scientists like Tyrone Hayes, PhD, whose groundbreaking research on another herbicide, atrazine, has been the subject to attacks from the chemical company Syngenta.

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

Source: Environmental Health News, Environmental Health
Photo Source: Flickr

Share

31
Aug

Synthetic Fertilizers Mobilize Uranium, Contaminating Water

(Beyond Pesticides, August 31, 2015) A study published in Environmental Science and Technology, funded in part by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), has found that almost 2 million people are living near aquifer sites contaminated with uranium that is mobilized by human-contributed nitrate. Nitrate is a common groundwater contaminant that is sourced mainly from chemical fertilizers and animal waste. Chronic exposure to elevated levels of uranium can lead to kidney damage and cancer. These findings emphasize the dangers of synthetic fertilizer overuse, and highlight the need to switch to safer alternatives.

twomajorusaqThe study, “Natural Uranium Contamination in Major U.S. Aquifers Linked to Nitrate,” analyzed approximately 275,000 groundwater samples from the Great Plains regions and California, finding that many residents often live less than a mile from uranium-contaminated wells that exceed guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the High Plains aquifer, researchers find uranium concentrations up to 89 times EPA standards, while the Central Valley aquifer measure up to 180 times EPA standards. The study also reports that 78% of these uranium-contaminated sites are linked with the presence of nitrates. Nitrate mobilizes naturally occurring uranium through a series of reactions that oxidize the material, making it water soluble. This means that the uranium is released into the aquifers due to the interaction with nitrates.

In the High Plains and Central Valley aquifers, nitrate concentrations are 189 and 34 times the EPA standard, respectively. A 2013 study found that the loss of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer in groundwater occurs at low rates over many decades, which means it could take years to reduce nitrate contamination in groundwater, including in aquifers that supply drinking water and irrigation. The High Plains aquifer is the largest in the U.S., providing drinking and irrigation water to eight states, while the Central Valley aquifer is California’s largest, and sits just below the state’s most fertile agricultural lands. Previous studies have shown that food crops can accumulate uranium when irrigated with contaminated water, according to the researchers of this study.

Synthetic fertilizers not only release nitrates, but they also have a tendency to be high in phosphorus, due to the fact that it is a critical nutrient for plant growth and development in synthetic systems that focus on delivering soluble nutrients to the plant while ignoring and harming microbial life in the soil. The synthetic fertilizers are also a major source of non-point pollution in U.S waterways because much of the soluble nitrogen is not taken up by the plant. Non-point pollution occurs as a result of runoff from diffuse sources moving into rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands or groundwater. On the other hand, organic soil fertility methods deliver insoluble nutrient nitrogen through the work of soil organisms that release the nitrogen at about the rate that they are used by the plant. Similarly, soil high in organic matter produces phosphorus that is stable in the soil and taken up by the plant.

High phosphorus loads increase water turbidity, spur toxic algae blooms, and decrease light penetration. Once algae dies off, aerobic bacteria consume the dead algae, resulting in dangerously low oxygen levels, which further decreases biodiversity and can stress or even kill aquatic wildlife. The residential use of lawn fertilizers is responsible for a significant amount of the non-point pollution of nitrate and phosphorus. Legislative efforts to reduce this harmful runoff have fallen short, although states are increasingly adopting measures that restrict the application of high levels of phosphorus.

While organic turf and lawn management nurtures natural sources of soil nutrients and reduces hazardous runoff, the chemical industry repeatedly claims that the source (whether organic or synthetic) of nutrients in a fertilizer is irrelevant. However, because of the harm they cause to soil life and the environment, synthetic fertilizers are prohibited in certified organic systems under the national Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA).

What Can You Do?

Preventing soil erosion and preforming soil tests should be a focal point for concerned citizens working to stop nitrate and phosphorus pollution. In this context, the source of a fertilizer is extremely relevant to these efforts. While organic production methods build a lawn’s capacity to hold soil, synthetic systems weaken this ability. From a holistic soil management perspective, organic management yields the optimum environmental safeguards, while nurturing healthy plants. The goal of an organic production system, whether in agriculture or turf management, is to feed the soil by utilizing methods that build organic matter and encourage microbial diversity. This is achieved through cultural practices, such as mowing, aeration, irrigation, and over-seeding, without the use of synthetic inputs, including chemical fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, or fungicides.

There are a few simple steps that can make a difference in preventing non-point source pollution and subsequent harm to waterways, the environment, and the public’s health:

  • Prevent Soil Erosion – Preventing soil erosion keeps phosphorus from entering local rivers, lakes, and streams. Mulch bare soil with straw or wood chips, and edge your yard with native trees and shrubs to prevent the loss of topsoil. Also, be careful not to over-water your lawn.
  • Keep fertilizer, leaves, and grass clippings off of impermeable surfaces and on your lawn – When left on impermeable surfaces, these materials have a greater chance of running off into local waterways where they degrade and contribute to excessive nutrient loads.
  • Keep fertilizers away from ponds, rivers, lakes, and streams – Be careful when applying fertilizers near water. Create a buffer of at least 25 ft. in order to minimize runoff. Additionally, keep an eye on the weather forecast in order to prevent applying fertilizer before a heavy downpour, as heavy rain can cause recently applied fertilizers to runoff before being incorporated into the soil.
  • Maintain a healthy organic lawn – By maintaining a healthy lawn through proper care, you can cut down on your overall fertilizer needs. Beyond Pesticides Lawns and Landscapes webpage has all the information you need to maintain a healthy lawn.

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

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

Source: phys.org

Photo Source: phys.org

Share

28
Aug

EU Food Safety Watchdog Confirms Neonicotinoids Harmful to Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, August 28, 2015) The European Union’s food safety agency confirmed Wednesday that foliar spraying of neonicotinoids (neonics), the widely-used bee-toxic insecticides, poses a risk to bees, bolstering previous research that led to a two-year moratorium on the chemicals in the EU.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which guides EU policymakers, said leaf spray containing three neonicotinoid pesticides – clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam – could harm bees. Previous research found that these chemicals pose a risk as seed treatments or granules, which prompted the European Commission to limit their use in December 1, 2013. The use of the three neonicotinoid substances in seed or soil treatments is prohibited in the European Union for crops attractive to bees and for cereals other than winter cereals except in greenhouses.

“They (the EFSA conclusions) confirm that the Commission was correct to take precautionary measures in 2013,” a Brussels-based EU executive said in a statement.

Neonicotinoids have been found by a growing body of scientific literature to be linked to honey bee and pollinator decline. Recently, a study performed by the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) in the United Kingdom provides evidence confirming the link between neonicotinoid pesticides and continually increasing honey bee colony losses on a landscape level. Along with recent reports and studies highlighting the role these chemicals play in pollinator decline, there is evidence that the use of neonicotinoids are not efficacious or even necessary in agriculture. Earlier this month, figures for the first oilseed rape harvest since the European-wide ban was introduced show that the yield so far is higher than the average for the previous decade, when the chemicals were used on the majority of oilseed rape grown in the UK.  In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report concluding that soybean seed treatments with neonicotinoid insecticides provide little or no overall benefits in controlling insects or improving yield or quality in soybean production. The seed treatment market has more than tripled in size between 1990 and 2005, with neonicotinoids making up 77 percent of the market share.

“Questions need to be asked about how these products were ever approved for use,” said Paul de Zylva, a campaigner at the environmental group Friends of the Earth in the UK. The group this month launched a legal challenge to a British decision to allow some farmers to use neonicotinoids after the UK won an exemption from the EU restrictions.

As part of a two-year review process, EFSA has asked national authorities, research institutions and other interested parties to submit new relevant information by Sept. 30. Based on an evaluation of the information, the Commission says it could change the rules.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. Although EPA announced a moratorium on new bee- and bird- harming neonicotinoid pesticide products and uses, farm, beekeeper and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have urged EPA to follow in EU’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: Reuters

 

Share

27
Aug

Medical Journal Article Identifies Hazards of Pesticides in GE Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, August 27, 2015) Last week, Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., and Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., released a perspective article, GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health, in the New England Journal of Medicine that outlines the hazards associated with food residues of elevated pesticide use in the production of genetically engineered (GE) crops. While mainstream media continuously misses the central issue in the GE debate by asserting that these crops are merely an extension of selective breeding and effect a reduction in pesticide use, the authors focus on the significance of the actual increase in herbicide use and weed resistance in herbicide-tolerant crops. Drs. Landrigan and Benbrook offer two main recommendations in their article: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should delay implementation of its decision to permit the use of Enlist Duo (the 2,4-D herbicide used with Monsanto-engineered GE herbicide-tolerant crop), and  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should require labeling of GE foods and couple it with adequately funded, long-term postmarketing surveillance.

The_New_England_Journal_of_MedicineDr. Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, is an epidemiologist and pediatrician and one of the world’s leading advocates of children’s and environmental health. Dr. Benbrook is a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University.

Genetically engineered crops have been at the forefront of conventional farming for decades. Corn and soybeans were originally genetically engineered to tolerate Monsanto’s glyphosate (Roundup) in the mid-1990s. Today, these crops account for 90% of corn and soybeans in the U.S. leading to a dramatic increase in herbicide use. In fact, the researchers point out that glyphosate use has increased by a factor of more than 250 — from 0.4 million kg in 1974 to 113 million kg in 2014. This not surprisingly allows herbicide-resistant superweeds to emerge, which leads the industry to turn to stronger, more dangerous chemicals like 2,4-D and glufosinate.

Of particular concern for the two authors is that farmers, processors, infants, and children are most at risk, given the exposure to the herbicides used with herbicide-resistant GE crops. The hazard for children is especially elevated since they eat more food pound for pound. Children are biologically more vulnerable because their cells are still growing and they have many more years to develop. Research has shown that increased levels of pesticides in the body is linked to exposure through the diet, particularly for vulnerable segments of the population like children and pregnant women. In 2012, AAP weighed in on the debate, recognizing that organic foods (which do not allow for use of GE ingredients) reduce exposure to pesticides, especially for children.

The classification by International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the GE crop herbicide glyphosate as a human carcinogen, based on laboratory animal studies, brings the safety issue into sharper focus. Dr. Benbrook and Dr. Landrigan cite IARC research as a reason to reconsider all aspects of the safety of plant biotechnology. In their article, they state: These classifications were based on comprehensive assessments of the toxicologic and epidemiologic literature that linked both 2,4-D and glyphosate herbicides to dose-related increases in malignant tumors at multiple anatomical sites in animals and linked glyphosate to an increased incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans. Dr. Landrigan insists that we should not wait to do something about these issues. In an audio interview, he says, “If one reasons from the prospective of prudence, it would seem wise not to allow large numbers of children to be exposed unwittingly to a probable human carcinogen.”

In addition to the recent IARC findings, the timing of Drs. Landrigan and Benbrook’s positions is critical as both the U.S. and Europe examine GE labeling laws. In the U.S., Congress is considering H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, often referred to by opponents as the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, which as its name implies would negate state mandatory labeling laws. The European Union (EU) is approaching a deadline for a GE crop opt-out program, decided individually by its member states. Consumers are increasingly demanding that the U.S. and EU governments take restrictive action as they make national decisions on GE crops.

Advocates have argued that EPA’s decision to allow Enlist Duo is flawed. In their piece, the authors address this with the following position:

The science consisted solely of toxicologic studies commissioned by the herbicide manufacturers in the 1980s and 1990s and never published, not an uncommon practice in U.S. pesticide regulation. These studies predated current knowledge of low-dose, endocrine-mediated, and epigenetic effects and were not designed to detect them. The risk assessment gave little consideration to potential health effects in infants and children, thus contravening federal pesticide law. It failed to consider ecologic impact, such as effects on the monarch butterfly and other pollinators. It considered only pure glyphosate, despite studies showing that formulated glyphosate that contains surfactants and adjuvants is more toxic than the pure compound.

This flaw, the authors say, has led to a hasty decision by EPA, which is proving to be a bad one given the recent classification of glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen” and 2,4-D as a “possible human carcinogen” (another IARC finding).

This spring, the European Union voted to allow its member states to allow or prohibit some GE crop use for food and feed. Based on the new provision, member states will make their determination on 14 GE crops authorized by the EU. Scotland has vowed to utilize its opt-out authority and is being followed Germany, which has previously taken a pro-GE position. Each member state has until October 3, 2015 to give the EU its decision.

Beyond Pesticides urges consumers to pressure our government officials to guard the safety of their citizens. Legislation like the DARK Act, which has passed in the House, will place a prohibition on states’ authority to require labeling of GE ingredients in food products, instituting federal preemption of state and local authority. To get involved, contact your Senator to tell them to vote against the H.R. 1599.

In the meantime, while we wait for the National Academy of Sciences to release a new GE report  (expected in 2016), the best and currently only way to avoid GE food is to support organic agriculture and eat organic food. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for organic management practices as a means to foster biodiversity, and research shows that organic farmers do a better job of protecting biodiversity than their chemically-intensive counterparts. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and scheduled sprays, responsible organic farms focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and other beneficial insects, set action levels for pests based upon monitoring, and only resort to judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective. The conservation of biodiversity is both a core premise of organic land management. For more on how organic management preserves biodiversity, visit Beyond Pesticides’ organic agriculture webpage. For a hands on approach on how you can protect biodiversity, see Do-it-Yourself Biodiversity.

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

Source: New England Journal of Medicine

Share

26
Aug

Country-wide Field Study Links Pollinator Decline to Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, August 26, 2015) A study performed by the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) in the United Kingdom (UK) provides evidence of confirming the link between neonicotinoid pesticides and continually increasing honey bee colony losses on a landscape level. The study, Evidence for pollinator cost and farming benefits of neonicotinoid seed coatings on oilseed rape, was published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports. This is a significant study, as the UK government has always maintained that neonicotinoid pesticides do not threaten bees, and that honey bee losses are instead caused by the parasitic varroa mite, siding with industry arguments that pesticides are safe when used properly. However, this new study indicates otherwise, confirming a direct link between neonicotinoids and hGary Tate Riverside CA Honey Bee taking flight Riverside Ca2oney bee colony losses at a nationwide level.

This study distinguishes itself from a previous study in the U.S. that extrapolated real world neonicotinoid exposure levels to test hives by analyzing actual fields in a long-term assessment. To a large degree, the new study addresses industry critics of the earlier study design who have tried to discount previous findings of bee decline associated with neonicotinoid use (see Beyond Pesticides’ Sowing the Seeds of Doubt, which addresses these industry myths). In the wake of the new findings, the authors call for more large-scale field-based research to determine the impact of the use of a newer generation of neonicotinoids on pollinators.

Neonicotinoids have been found by a growing body of scientific literature to be linked to honey bee and pollinator decline. In 2013, the European Commission voted to suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides for two years after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a report identifying “high acute risk” to honey bees from uses of certain neonicotinoid chemicals. However, this action was opposed by the UK government. Despite this opposition, Britain was required to comply with the ban under European Union (EU) rules. This did not stop the UK from trying to find ways around the ban, with chemical industry giants like Syngenta applying for emergency applications to allow the use of neonicotinoids in order to avoid “irreparable damage” from pests. A 2014 request for an emergency application was eventually withdrawn in the face of public outcry, but just this past July the UK approved an emergency application to allow the use of neonicotinoids on oilseed rape crop, despite the continued moratorium put in place by the EU. This emergency exemption is disheartening in light of these recent findings connecting neonicotinoid use with pollinator declines, and calls into question UK government decisions, which have, in the past, been found to allow unacceptable industry influence regarding research and decisions on pesticide products.

In this new study, researchers at FERA in the UK studied pesticides as seed treatment on oilseed rape crops (known as canola in the United States) across nine different regions in Wales and England. When neonicotinoids are used as a seed treatment (or applied to the seed), the chemical, which is highly toxic and persistent, stays in the crop as it grows. The 11-year study found that mortality rates were 10 percent higher for bee colonies that had high levels of exposure to imidacloprid (a neonicotinoid) than for those with low field exposure.

Other noteworthy findings in this study include insight into the role of neonicotinoid treated seeds in agriculture. Industry proponents of coated seeds claim that applying such a coating reduces the subsequent applications of foliar insecticide sprays necessary, while at the same time increasing yields. However, the benefits of using these treated seeds, the study finds, is negligible, and may lead to further problems for pollinators down the road as the neonicotinoids used to treat seeds become incorporated into the plant as it grows. These findings are consistent with a report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that determined soybean seeds treated with neonicotinoid insecticides provide little or no overall benefits in controlling insects or improving yield or quality in soybean production, confirming scientific findings that these chemical treatments are unnecessary and inefficacious.

The honey bee is the most important commercial pollinator, globally responsible for pollinating at least 90% of commercial crops. Given that one in every three bites of food is dependent on pollination, and that commercial beekeeping adds between $20 to $30 billion dollars in economic value to agriculture each year in the U,S., it is imperative that action is taken to protect bees and other pollinators all over the world. In the UK, honey bees are the most frequent flower visitor to oilseed rape.

The report’s authors say, “As long as acute toxins remain the basis of agricultural pest control practices, society will be forced to weigh the benefits of pesticides against their collateral damage. Nowhere is this tension more evident than in the system with the world’s most widely used insecticide, the world’s most widely used managed pollinator and Europe’s most widely grown mass flowering crop.”

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. Although EPA announced a moratorium on new bee- and bird- harming neonicotinoid pesticide products and uses, farm, beekeeper and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have urged EPA to also 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

Share

25
Aug

Minneapolis, MN Passes Organic, Pollinator-Friendly Resolution

(Beyond Pesticides, August 25, 2015) Last Friday, the City Council of Minneapolis, MN unanimously passed a resolution declaring Minneapolis a pollinator-friendly community and urging city residents to take steps to protect dwindling pollinator populations. A groundswell of public support from a wide range of local and national groups, including Beyond Pesticides, resulted in swift passage of the resolution, the latest in a long string of local government action to safeguard pollinators from harmful pesticides, as federal proposals fail to address the magnitude of the crisis. “With the passage of today’s resolution, Minneapolis is now doing its part in the global effort to protect and grow the pollinator populations,” Mayor Betsy Hodges said to CBS Minnesota.

mplsThe resolution, introduced and written by Councilmember Cam Gordon, assigns a number of bee safe actions to various city departments. While the Health Department’s Environmental Services Unit will maintain a list of pollinator-friendly plants, the Community Planning and Economic Development Department and Property Services Division of the City Coordinator’s office will create habitat for local pollinators. The Minneapolis Public Works Department will pursue both increased bee habitat and adopt clear guidelines against the use of pesticides, including but not limited to systemic neonicotinoid (“neonic”) insecticides, and pesticide treated plants.

In addition to polices that apply to government-owned property, the city also urges private residents and businesses to forgo the use of toxic pesticides, plant more pollinator forage on their property, and use organic or chemical-free lawn and landscaping practices. “Minnesota used to be a really amazing place to be a bee, and it isn’t anymore,” said Erin Rupp, executive director of the group Pollinate Minnesota, to KSTP.com. “Beekeepers in Minnesota this past year lost 50 percent of our hives … This is kind of a big deal, it’s an alarming number.”

“Pollinator populations are in sharp decline because of an ongoing loss of habitat coupled with a simultaneous large-scale expansion of pesticide use by homeowners, landscapers, property managers and farmers,” noted a press release from the city. “Many Minneapolis residents and businesses are already managing their land in a way that helps pollinators,” said Councilmember Gordon to the Southwest Journal. “We urge all Minneapolis property owners to plant habitat where they can and avoid pesticides that are known to kill bees.”

Like numerous other states, Minnesota is preempted from enacting an ordinance which restricts the private use of harmful pesticides. However, the city’s resolution addresses this, stating “the City of Minneapolis will continue to advocate at the State and Federal level for increased authority to address the non-agricultural use of pesticides, and for other pollinator friendly practices.” A bill currently in the Minnesota State Legislature would exempt Minnesota’s “first class cities” (including Duluth, Minneapolis, Rochester, and St. Paul) from state preemption.

“[This resolution] takes a strong stand,” said Joan Hargrave, head of local group Minneapolis Citizens for a Lawn Pesticide Ban, “[it] not only says yes to pollinator forage and organic turf management and no to neonics, but no to pesticides – which is all inclusive.” Ms. Hargrave’s group garnered over 2,750 signatures from local residents requesting the city take action on dangerous lawn care pesticides.

“The Minneapolis City Council’s Pollinator Friendly Community resolution is a huge step forward toward making Minneapolis a healthier city not only for pollinators, but also for people and their pets,” said Pat Kerrigan, retail education coordinator at Organic Consumers Association, which supported activists on the ground. “By urging citizens, businesses and institutions to support organic seed, plant and lawn care products and their producers, this resolution has the power to redirect our collective purchasing power away from international corporations, such as Monsanto and Bayer, whose product have had a devastating effect on human and environmental health.”

Although the Minneapolis resolution represents a big victory for organic land care and pollinator protections locally and throughout the country, there’s still more work that needs to be done. “The people of Minneapolis want to live in a pesticide free city, and we expect to be safe from pesticides in public spaces,” said Russ Henry of the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council, and official advisory body of the City of Minneapolis. “The first step was to get the city departments to agree to go pesticide free, now it’s time for activists to turn their attention to the independent school board and park board that we have in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Park Board is a heavy user of pesticides and this needs to be put to a public debate.  Please join me at the Sept 23rd Minneapolis Park Board meeting to let your voice be heard about the use of pesticides in Minneapolis parks.” Information on the September 23 Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board meeting will appear on this webpage.

Further action at the state level in Minnesota is also needed. Although the state legislature passed a bill disallowing nurseries and other retailers from labeling plants containing neonics as “pollinator friendly” in 2014, the bill was weakened last session to the point where retailers could maintain the “pollinator friendly” label as long as levels of neonics in the plant were not acutely toxic to bees.

However, Minneapolis’ move as the largest and most recent Minnesota city to take action to protect pollinators will have a positive impact in influencing federal efforts to restrict bee-toxic neonic pesticides. EPA is accepting public comment on a proposal to create “temporary pesticide-free zones” for honey bees, but it falls far short in providing the protections needed for this important species. Moreover, the effects of pesticides to wild pollinators are simply being ignored by the agency. Tell EPA to get serious about protecting bees from toxic pesticides by signing Beyond Pesticides’ petition to EPA. Afterwards, elevate your voice by writing a public comment to the agency at regulations.gov.

For more actions you can take to protect pollinators, and to get started on creating change in your own community, visit Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective webpage, or email or call our office (202-543-5450, [email protected]).

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

Source: City of Minneapolis Press Release

Share

24
Aug

Back-to-School? Leave the Toxics Behind

(Beyond Pesticides, August 24, 2015) At the start of the school year, it is critical to check in with school administrators to make sure that students and teachers will not be exposed to hazardous pesticides used in the school’s buildings or on playing fields. Whether a parent, teacher, student, school administrator, landscaper or community advocate, there are steps that can taken to make sure the school environment is a safe from toxic chemicals, as the new school year begins.

For Parents and Teachers:
schoolclass2Because children face unique hazards from pesticide exposure due to their small size and developing organ systems, using toxic chemicals to get rid of insects, germs, and weeds can harm students much more than it helps. Studies show children’s developing organs create “early windows of great vulnerability” during which exposure to pesticides can cause great damage. This is supported by the findings of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which concluded that, “Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity.” The report also discusses how children are exposed to pesticides every day in air, food, dust, and soil. Children also frequently come into contact with pesticide residue on pets and after lawn, garden, or household pesticide applications. You can help to eliminate children’s exposure to toxic chemicals by urging school administrators to implement organic management practices that use cultural, mechanical and biological management strategies, and, as a last resort, defined least-toxic pesticides.

Find Out About Your School’s Pest Management Program

One way to best protect children is to find out if the school has a pest management policy in place already, and identify key allies. Evaluate programs that are already in place, and if need be, work with administrators to create a new policy. Since toxic pesticides are not necessary to effective pest management, it’s important that schools and school districts have a written organic pest management program. This will ensure that the program is institutionalized and will continue to flourish over time. See here for more details and practical steps on how to get organized and improve a school’s pest management program. For additional information, see Beyond Pesticides’ School Organizing Guide.

Non-Toxic Lice Management

Just as children go back to school, research has reported that lice in 25 of 30 states in a U.S. study have developed resistance to common over-the-counter treatments like the insecticide permethrin, and therefore are not effective. Utilizing non-toxic approaches and products is critical, especially since lice are not a vector for insect-borne disease, and typical pesticide products used to treat them can be neurotoxic or carcinogenic. Fortunately, this nuisance insect can be managed utilizing a number of alternative lice treatment methods that do not include the use of toxic chemicals. One method for eliminating head lice is the use of hot air, which desiccates the insects and eggs, killing them. Lice and their eggs (or nits) can be combed and handpicked, and then destroyed in soapy water. Beyond Pesticide’s ManageSafe Database has a comprehensive webpage dedicated to safe management of lice, in addition to preventive practices.

Pack Organic Lunches or Start an Organic Garden

Organic foods have been shown to reduce dietary pesticide exposure and children who eat a conventional diet of food produced with chemical-intensive practices carry residues of neurotoxic organophosphate pesticides that are reduced or eliminated when they switch to an organic diet. The effects of pesticide exposure have been well documented, particularly for vulnerable segments of the population like children and pregnant women. In 2012, AAP weighed in on the organic food debate, recognizing that lower pesticide residues in organic foods may be significant for children. In addition to direct health effects, the Academy also noted that choosing organic is based on broad environmental and public health issues, including pollution and global climate change  –a position that is supported by Beyond Pesticides. Ask the school to adopt an organic lunch program, starting with organic produce, milk or juice. See, School Lunches Go Organic, for more information.

In addition to serving organic food in the cafeteria, it can be both helpful and a valuable part of the lesson plan to grow food in an organic school garden. For more information, The Organic School Garden (or Grow Your Own Organic Food for technical advice). School gardens teach children where food comes from and establishes healthy relationships with food and the natural world.

Promote Biodiversity with Organic Landscapes and Turf

Biodiversity helps bees and other pollinators; diverse plants produce a supply of nectar throughout the growing season, and biodiversity of soil organisms promotes healthy plants that grow well without the introduction of poisonous pesticides.

Playing fields that are intensively managed with chemicals are at greater risk for disease and weed infestation (leading to a dependence on chemical inputs), compared with practices that build healthy, balanced soil. Similarly, chemically-managed fields are generally harder and more compacted due to a loss of natural soil biology, while organic management focuses on cultural practices, such as aeration that alleviates compaction, improves moisture retention, and provides a softer, better playing surface. See the factsheet, Pesticides and Playing Fields, for more information.

Protect biodiversity through organic turf, playing fields and landscape policies. Encourage the school to plant pollinator-attractive plants in its garden as part of its biology class. If the school does not have a garden, request one be integrated into the curriculum. Wildflowers, native plant and grass species should be encouraged on school grounds. For more information on attractive flowers, see the BEE Protective Habitat Guide. Also see the Do-It-Yourself Biodiversity factsheet and Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind for resources on building and protecting biodiversity.

For College Students:
On college campuses nationwide, grounds crews and landscapers maintain the land with toxic pesticides, even though safer alternatives exist. College students across the country want their campuses to be a safe and healthy environment. To assist with college studies, Beyond Pesticides has developed the BEE Protective Ambassador Program.

BEE Protective College Ambassador Program

The widespread use of systemic pesticides in agriculture and landscaping, specifically, a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids (neonics), has been implicated in causing poor pollinator health and widespread bee deaths. Therefore, a key focus of the program is to eliminate the use of neonics on college campuses. A critical part of being a BEE Protective Ambassador is to engage with college administrators in the creation of a pollinator-friendly campus.

“BEE” prepared: you may get some pushback about phasing out toxic pesticides on campus. But contrary to what some administrators and groundskeepers may tell you, a college campus can be maintained successfully without toxic, systemic pesticides!

With the fall semester rapidly approaching, now is a great time to take the BEE Protective Ambassador Pledge. With assistance from Beyond Pesticides, BEE ambassadors will be given educational information to with college administrators. Students who are interested in joining the movement to protect pollinators and save the bees, can become a Bee Protective Ambassador and sign the pledge!

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

Share

21
Aug

Bee-Toxic Neonicotinoids Found in Nearly Half of U.S. Streams

(Beyond Pesticides, August 21, 2015) Neonicotinoid insecticides contaminate over half of urban and agricultural streams across the United States and Puerto Rico, according to a study released earlier this week by the U.S. Geographical Survey (USGS). Neonicotinoids (neonics) are bee-toxic insecticides that have been linked to the global decline in bee populations by a large body of science.

Susan Jergans Elkhorn WI These were taken from our garden3The study, titled “First national-scale reconnaissance of neonicotinoid insecticides in streams across the USA” and published in Environmental Chemistry, was conducted from 2011 to 2014 and spans 24 states and Puerto Rico. Researchers found that at least one of the six neonicotinoids tested by USGS researchers was found in more than half of the sampled streams. Detections of the six neonicotinoids varied:  imidacloprid was found in 37 percent of the samples in the national study, clothianidin in 24 percent, thiamethoxam in 21 percent, dinotefuran in 13 percent, acetamiprid in 3 percent, and thiacloprid was not detected. Both urban and agricultural uses contributed to neonic concentrations in streams, with imidacloprid occurrence significantly related to the amount of urban land-use and clothianidin and thiamethoxam significantly related to the amount of cultivated crop.

“In the study, neonicotinoids occurred throughout the year in urban streams while pulses of neonicotinoids were typical in agricultural streams during crop planting season,” said USGS research chemist Michelle Hladik, Ph.D., the report’s lead author, in a press release.

“The occurrence of low levels in streams throughout the year supports the need for future research on the potential impacts of neonicotinoids on aquatic life and terrestrial animals that rely on aquatic life,” added USGS scientist Kathryn Kuivila, Ph.D., the research team leader. “These results will serve as an important baseline for that future work.”

The recent study expands on a previous USGS report that found the chemicals to contaminate Midwest waterways.

Neonicotinoids have become the fastest growing class of insecticides in agriculture. They are now the most widely-used class of insecticide chemicals and are registered in more than 120 countries. Studies continue to question the efficacy of these chemicals in pest control, showing no yield increases as a result of their use. Beyond food production, neonics are frequently detected in nursery plants sold at big box home and garden centers throughout the United States. And recent research also produced by the Harvard School of Public Health finds these chemicals to be ubiquitous in our environment during flowering season, present in a vast majority of pollen samples taken throughout the state of Massachusetts.

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

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits high hazard chemical use and requires alternative assessments. 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, of course, prohibits the use of neonicotinoids. See how you can Bee Protective.

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

Source: US Geographical Survey

 

Share

20
Aug

Lice Found Resistant to Common Insecticide Treatment

(Beyond Pesticides, August 20, 2015) Just as children go back to school, research finds that lice in 25 of 30 states in a U.S. study have developed resistance to common over-the-counter treatments like permethrin, calling into questions the justification for exposing children to a neurotoxic and carcinogenic pesticide and elevating the need to consider nontoxic alternatives. The research was presented Tuesday at the 250th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), by Kyong Yoon, Ph.D., of Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville.

Classified as a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide, permethrin is “likely carcinogenic” and a suspected endocrine disruptor, immunotoxic, neurotoxic, and highly toxic to fish, aquatic animals, and bees. Dr. Yoon and his colleagues describe the threefold mutations that lice have developed over time due to the constant use of synthetic pyrethroid insecticides. This new finding builds on his team’s previous research, which found that 99.6% of lice are resistant to chemical treatment, adding weight to the fact that chemical treatments not only are unnecessary given effective least-toxic alternatives, but also are not able to provide the lice control that manufacturers claim.

“We are the first group to collect lice samples from a large number of populations across the U.S.,” said Dr. Yoon. “What we found was that 104 out of the 109 lice populations we tested had high levels of gene mutations, which have been linked to resistance to pyrethroids.” That translates to ninety-five percent of all lice populations with high resistance to common chemical treatments. The other five percent may have resistance as well, but not in all three areas of mutation.

The reduced efficacy of head lice treatments has been questioned and studied since the 1990s, however, in this study, Dr. Yoon and his team of researchers studied the issue nationwide. To determine resistance, Dr. Yoon’s team tested lice for a trio of genetic mutations known collectively as kdr, or “knock-down resistance.” Kdr mutations had initially been found in house flies in the late ’70s after farmers and others began using pyrethroids as an alternative to organochlorines like DDT and organophosphates like Dursban (chlorpyrifos).

While the researchers identify other chemical alternatives, such as prescription treatments of malathion, spinosad, and lindane, they are urging caution. “If you use a chemical over and over, these little creatures will eventually develop resistance,” Dr. Yoon says. “So we have to think before we use a treatment. The good news is head lice don’t carry disease. They’re more a nuisance than anything else.”

In addition to concerns about resistance, when it comes to children, exposure to permethrin and other common lice treatments has proven to be dangerous. Malathion, an organophosphate insecticide, is a nerve poison that acts by inhibiting enzymes, causing long-lasting polyneuropathy and sensory nerve damage. It has recently been recognized as a toxic hazard to school children in California, leading to stronger restrictions on its use in the state. Lindane, on the other hand, was discovered by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to be a Group 1 “carcinogenic to humans” earlier this year, the highest cancer category. Most alarming is that despite these known hazards, and the fact that there are viable least-toxic alternatives that do not build resistance or put children in danger, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows the use of these lice treatments, including lindane products on children over the age of two.

A 2009 study, Pesticide exposure resulting from treatment of lice infestations in school-aged children in Georgia, found that children treated with common chemical lice shampoos containing permethrin and lindane showed levels of the chemical’s metabolites up to seven days after the first treatment. This is especially concerning given that environmentally relevant levels of pyrethroids are also common in many homes, where they are used as a household insecticide. Young children who play on the floor can come into chronic contact with these chemicals through skin or hand to mouth activities. A 2013 study, Urinary metabolites of organophosphates and pyrethroid pesticides and behavioral problems in Canadian children, found that high levels of pyrethroid metabolites correlated with a two-fold increase in parent-reported behavioral problems, including inattention and hyperactivity. These chemicals can also damage children before they are born. A 2013 study, In utero pesticide exposure and leukemia in Brazilian children less than 2 years of age,” found that a mother’s exposure to permethrin at any time raises the cancer risk for infants.

The constant cycle of insecticide use has created the “super” lice we are seeing across the country, creatures that can easily be prevented by avoiding chemical options. Fortunately, there are a number of alternative lice treatment methods that do not include the use of toxic chemicals. According to researchers on alternative lice treatments, one method for eliminating head lice that will not lead to resistant strains of lice is the use of hot air, which desiccates the insects and eggs, killing them. In fact, recent research shows that the extra chemicals in lice shampoo are completely unnecessary. Researchers in Belgium, who studied nit removal on 605 hairs from six different children, found that ordinary conditioners are just as effective at removing lice. “There were no significant differences in measured forces between the ordinary conditioner and the commercial nit removal product,” authors of the 2014 study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology wrote. The researchers found that commercial nit removal products tested in that study did not seem to have any additional effect.

For additional information on controlling head lice without toxic chemicals, see Beyond Pesticides’ Head Lice Factsheet or Getting Nit Picky About Head Lice. See also our comprehensive page on head lice in our ManageSafe database.

Source: ACS Press Release

Image: States highlighted in red contain the highly resistant lice. 

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

Share

19
Aug

Mosquito Fogging Kills Hundreds of Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, August 19, 2015) Local fogging for mosquito control turned tragic for a Palo Alto, California beekeeper who lost hundreds of honey bees from his backyard hives. The beekeeper, who also produces organic honey, now fears his honey is contaminated. The fogging, which occurred last month, was in response to positive tests for West Nile virus in mosquito samples. Many mosquito control pesticides are toxic to honey bees and given the declining populations of pollinators, vector control officials are being asked to carefully consider the risks associated with pesticide spraying.

palo altocaAccording to the local NBC affiliate, beekeeper Rondolph Tsien believes he was not given sufficient time to protect his bees from the mosquito fogging and, despite trying to cover his hives with a tarp to protect his bees from drifting pesticides, many were lost. A mosquito sample tested positive for West Nile virus about one mile from Mr. Tsien’s home, putting his property in the catchment area for fogging. Mr. Tsien worries the surviving bees will produce contaminated honey that can no longer be labeled organic.

A Santa Clara County Vector Control representative stated during an interview that the county uses  an “extremely low dose” of pesticides during fogging and are only sprayed “when necessary.”  But recent scientific data finds that even extremely low doses of pesticides can negatively impact bee behavior, even causing death. On its information page, the county notes that it uses the insecticide etofenprox (Zenivex), a pyrethroid-ether insecticide in the pyrethroid class that is known to be highly toxic to honey bees. Ground and aerial pyrethroid applications for mosquito control result in in-situ and off-site exposures. Pyrethroids, due to their toxicity to bees, are thought by some researchers to be a major contributor to the significant decline in bee populations after neonicotinoids. In fact, some scientists are finding that honey bees’ olfactory receptor neurons, which are responsible for inter-individual communication, are affected by pyrethroid exposures. Studies find that sublethal concentrations of the pyrethroids can significantly reduce bee fecundity and decrease the rate at which bees develop to adulthood and reproduce. Several field and laboratory studies using pyrethroids have consistently documented decreases in foraging activity and activity at the hive entrance after exposure. In addition, pyrethroids like etofenprox are suspected endocrine disruptors, have been linked to certain cancers, and are particularly dangerous to aquatic life even at low concentrations.
Mr. Tsien’s concerns about contaminated honey are well founded. A wide array of pesticides have been detected in hives, wax, pollen, and honey. Formal recommendations by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to the National Organic Program in 2010 on organic apiculture state that organic standards should prohibit producers from foraging in areas where there is “a significant risk of contamination by prohibited materials within a 1.8 mile (3 kilometer) radius of the apiary,” in order to avoid risks of honey bee exposure and contamination of honey due to pesticides.

Pesticides like neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides highly toxic to honey bees, have been receiving public attention as a result of their widespread use in agriculture, environmental contamination, and overwhelming scientific evidence of their role in pollinator decline. Neonicotinoids are systemic (moving through the vascular system of the plant and expressed through pollen, nectar and guttation droplets) and persistent.

There are, however, safer and more effective alternatives to pyrethroid-based mosquito control, given that these spray programs are of very limited efficacy. In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, Cornell University professor of entomology David Pimentel, PhD calculated that less than .0001 percent of ultra low volume (ULV) pesticide sprays reach target insects. Further, along with vulnerable honey bees, people with compromised immune systems, chemically sensitized people, pregnant women, and children with respiratory problems, such as asthma, are particularly vulnerable to these pesticide spray programs and will suffer disproportionately from exposure.

Beyond Pesticides believes the ideal mosquito management strategy comes from an integrated approach that emphasizes education, aggressive removal of standing water sources, larval control, monitoring, and surveillance for both mosquito-borne illness and pesticide-related illness. Control of disease-carrying mosquitoes can be successful when emphasis is placed on public education and preventive strategies. Individuals can take action by eliminating standing water, introducing mosquito-eating fish, encouraging predators, such as bats, birds, dragonflies and frogs, and using least-toxic larvacides like bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). Community based programs should encourage residents to employ these effective techniques, focus on eliminating breeding sites on public lands, and promote monitoring and action levels in order to determine what, where, and when control measures might be needed. Through education of proper cultural controls, and least-toxic and cost effective biological alternatives, the use of hazardous control methods, such as toxic pesticides, can be eliminated.

For more information on safe and effective mosquito management strategies, see Beyond Pesticides’ page on Mosquitoes and Insect Borne Diseases, or contact us at [email protected].

Let’s BEE Protective and support a shift away from the use of these toxic chemicals by encouraging organic methods and sustainable land management practices in your home, campus, or community.

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

Source: NBC Bay Area

Share

18
Aug

Decline in Biodiversity and Pest Problems Intricately Linked

(Beyond Pesticides, August 18, 2015) Research looking at corn production across the Northern Great Plains finds that fields with lower insect biodiversity are at greater risk for pest problems, showing that insect diversity can reduce the need for pesticides, yet again highlighting the critical need for biodiversity in a resilient and sustainable food production system. The research article, Trading Biodiversity for Pest Problems, is published in the July 31 issue of Science Advances, and explores how current chemical-intensive practices have resulted in altered pesticide use patterns, land use intensification, and landscape simplification, all of which threaten biodiversity in and near farms. The findings suggest that farming practices that promote insect biodiversity is  an effective way to control pests without the use of harmful pesticides.

Scientists Jonathan Lundgren, PhD, an entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), and Scott Fausti, hedgerowPhD, an economics professor at South Dakota State University looked at insect diversity in cornfields on 53 different eastern South Dakota farms. The researchers evaluate fields that do not use insecticides or crops that are genetically engineered (GE), which may influence corn insect communities. They also specifically identify insect species during the time in the corn’s life cycle when insect communities are most abundant and pest problems, and document relative numbers of 106 taxonomic groups of insects on these farms.

In their analysis, the researchers find that more biodiverse cornfields have fewer pests, and those with high species diversity and an even distribution of species abundance had the least amount of pests. “It is the relationships among herbivores and predators that determines whether corn insect pests will be either controlled by the ecosystem or, if the ecosystem has been diminished, then that will allow the corn insect pest to thrive,” Dr. Fausti said to Minnesota Public Radio (MPR News).

According to the researchers, this is among one of the first studies to quantify the importance of insect networks in fields. While previous research shows that diversity, reducing soil disturbance, increasing crop rotation diversity, and including cover crops are important factors in keeping pests in check, we don’t always have a complete picture of how these practices work to reduce pests. (See yesterday’s Daily News story on the effects of glyphosate on earthworms and soil biota, and Beyond Pesticides’ review of European Academies Science Advisory Council report Ecosystem Services, agriculture and neonicotinoids)

The findings suggests that practices that reduce diversity in cornfields will exacerbate pest problems over time. Interestingly, researchers also note that unnecessary pesticide inputs and simplification of agro-ecosystems are destined to require even more pesticides to replace the lost functions of biodiversity and maintain these food production systems.

Recent trends in agriculture, including less diverse cropping systems coupled with a significant increase in pesticide use on the major crops like corn and soybeans, significantly threaten biodiversity. Corn is one of the most intensively produced crops in the U.S., covering about 5 percent of the land surface in this country, according to the authors. The study authors estimate that, in 2013, U.S. farmers spent $3.2 billion to control corn pests. Systemic insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids, are commonly used on those crops even if there is no pest threat, creating devastating effects on organisms that provide ecosystem services including natural pest control and pollination. The results suggest that farmers may need to use less or eliminate pesticides once they understand how biodiversity works in farm fields.

“Long-term food security is contingent on inventing production systems that are resilient to stressors like pests,” wrote the authors in an article published in The Conversation. “Biodiversity within food systems provides quantifiable and valuable services to society, of which pest management is one.”

Research strongly indicates that biodiversity promotes environmental productivity, stability, and resilience. In general, the soil community with greater biodiversity generates more biomass (the combined weight of all organisms), is more resistant to environmental disturbances, such as drought, and bounces back more quickly after being affected by such disturbances. Beyond Pesticides’ report, Preserving Biodiversity, As if Life Depends on it, notes that by targeting individual species –both as commodities to produce and pests to attack– chemical-intensive practices sacrifice the benefits of biodiversity and jeopardize the very species that comprise it. While causing harm to biodiversity, chemical-intensive strategies in agriculture are not proven to be necessary in light of effective organic practices.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for organic management practices as a means to foster biodiversity, and research shows that organic farmers do a better job of protecting biodiversity than their chemically-intensive counterparts. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and scheduled sprays, responsible organic farms focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and other beneficial insects, set action levels for pests based upon monitoring, and only resort to judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective. The conservation of biodiversity is both a core premise of organic land management. For more on how organic management preserves biodiversity, visit Beyond Pesticides’ organic agriculture webpage. For a hands on approach on how you can protect biodiversity, see Do-it-Yourself Biodiversity.

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

Sources: The Conversation, Minnesota Public Radio

 

Share

17
Aug

Roundup Damages Earthworms and Soil Biota, Contributes to Nutrient Pollution

(Beyond Pesticides, August 17, 2015) A study published in Scientific Reports has found that glyphosate, the controversial and toxic active ingredient in Roundup, reduces activity and reproduction in two species of earthworms and increases soil nutrient concentrations to dangerous levels. Earthworms are excellent indicators of soil health, and provide vitally important ecosystem services by aerating the soil, cycling nutrients, and increasing soil fertility and microbial activity. The findings are especially alarming because this herbicide has been used globally for decades, and its use has grown exponentially. Earlier this spring, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as Group 2a “probable” human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in laboratory animals.

earthwormsResearchers looked at two species of earthworms: vertically burrowing earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris) and soil dwelling earthworms (Aporrectodea caliginosa). Vertically burrowing earthworms typically feed above ground at night and then burrow close to the surface during the day. Soil dwelling earthworms live and feed in the soil, rather than at the surface. Vertically burrowing earthworms engage in what is known as casting, which is when they ingest soil and extract nutrients from plant litter and other organic matter, emerge from their burrows, and deposit their waste on the surface in small mounds. Researchers found that after the application of glyphosate, the casting activity of vertically burrowing earthworms essentially ceased. Cast mound mass also decreased by 46%. In contrast, casting activity of this species remained constant when there was no application of glyphosate. In the second species, the soil dwelling earthworms, reproduction decreased by 56% after glyphosate application.

As a secondary effect of glyphosate applications, there is an immediate increase of available nitrate and phosphate in the soil. The researchers believe this is due to mass plant die-offs. Plants normally take in these nutrients and, as they die off, the study confirms that there are more nutrients available in the soil. These pulses of nutrient availability can lead to increased leaching and surface runoff into groundwater systems or nearby waterways. These excess nutrients lead to an increase in algal growth on the surface of waterways. These algal blooms block sunlight from reaching plants that are far from the surface, causing them to die. As these plants die, oxygen is depleted from the water, creating what is known as a “dead zone” where other organisms can no longer survive.

Other studies have demonstrated the detrimental effects that a wide range of pesticides can have on earthworms and other soil biota. One study on worms found that chronic and/or acute exposure to glyphosate and/or mancozeb promotes neurodegeneration in GABAergic and DAergic neurons in Caenorhabditis elegans, a type of roundworm. In 2014, researchers also found that earthworms exposed to fungicides in conventionally farmed soil are at a stark disadvantage to worms in land managed organically. Earthworms exposed to the fungicide epoxiconazole are able to detoxify the chemical, but gain half as much weight as worms from an organic farm, where their population is also 2 to 3 times higher.

Soil biota are essential to ecosystem functioning because they break down organic matter and enable chemical elements to be reused. They are also nitrogen fixers, which is necessary for plants and the ecosystem as a whole. Earthworms are an intrinsic part of soil biota, providing support for important ecosystem functioning. Their burrows, sometimes deep into the soil, create pores for moisture and oxygen to travel, and their waste becomes part of the soil structure. They also break down dead organic matter and incorporate new organic matter into soil systems. When pesticides reduce species diversity within the soil, it impacts the ecosystem as a whole. The European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) estimates soil organisms and their role in agricultural productivity to be worth $25 billion a year, globally.

One way to protect soil biota, other wildlife, and the ecosystem as a whole from the harmful effects of pesticides is to support organic agriculture over conventional, chemical-intensive farming. Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to this serious environmental threat. It is impossible to discuss the ecological benefits of organic agriculture without discussing the devastating effects of conventional agriculture.

Conventional agriculture relies on toxic pesticides that contaminate air, water, soil, and living things, such as the earthworms mentioned in the studies cited above; organic agriculture does not allow the use of toxic pesticides. Chemical-intensive agriculture relies on synthetic chemical fertilizers that reduce soil organic matter and contaminate waterways; organic agriculture does not permit the use of synthetic fertilizers and relies instead on nutrient sources that tend to be less soluble and more stable in the soil, because of the expectation that healthy soil will produce microbes that can make the nutrients naturally available over a longer period of time.

SIGN THE PETITION: Tell EPA and USDA – Stop Glyphosate Use Now!

To learn more about these impacts on wildlife (which includes soil biota), visit Beyond Pesticides’ Wildlife Page, where we discuss how organic systems save wildlife from the dangerous impacts of pesticides, encourages them to flourish, and restores the natural balance that is unable to exist in chemical-intensive agriculture.

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

Source: Nature

 

Share

14
Aug

Sublethal Exposure to Pesticides Induces Personality Changes in Spiders

(Beyond Pesticides, August 14, 2015) Sublethal exposure to the organophosphate pesticide phosmet results in significant alterations in personality in individual spiders, according to a study published in the July print edition of the journal Functional Ecology.

spiderThe study, titled “Under the influence: sublethal exposure to an insecticide affects personality expression in a jumping spider,” examines whether sublethal exposure to an organophosphate insecticide affects the consistency of individual behavior and disrupt behavioral correlations in the jumping spider Eris militaris (Araneae: Salticidae). Researchers measured the behavior of jumping spider adults by scoring them according to an open-field and a prey-capture assay, each conducted both before and after exposure to the insecticide phosmet. Researchers then measured the changes in repeatability, a measure of the extent of personality differences, and behavioral correlations between exposed and unexposed groups. Although there are no discernible effects on the population’s average behaviors, exposed individuals showed an average of 23 percent lower repeatability and the correlation between activity and prey capture is more strongly collapsed in females.

“Bronze jumping spiders play an important role in orchards and fields, especially at the beginning of the agricultural season, by eating many of the pests like the oblique-banded leafroller, a moth that attacks young plants and fruit,” says study author RaphaĂ«l RoyautĂ©, Ph.D., in a statement. “Farmers spray insecticides on the plants to get rid of these same pests, and it was thought that it had little significant effect on the spiders’ behaviors. But we now know that this isn’t the case.”

“Most individuals have an individual signature in their behaviors, what scientist call “personality types,” says Dr. RoyautĂ©. “Some individuals are willing to take risks when predators are present, explore new territories faster, or capture prey more quickly. But the effects of insecticides on personality types remains poorly described.”

The study results suggest that the effects of insecticide exposure are more complex than previously thought. Exposure to low levels of insecticides may not outright kill the organisms, but can alter their behavior in ways that may ultimately affect the performance of an important arthropod predator in agricultural environments. Simply put, researchers found that, in general, the behavior of spiders became increasing unpredictable, and the individuals behaved less according to their personality type after exposure. There was also a difference in behavior according to the sex of the spider. Exposed males were able to continue to capture prey as they had before, but “lost” their personality type when exploring their environment. Individual females, however, were much more affected in their ability to capture prey.

Based on these results, the study calls for “an increasing focus on individual behavioral variation when testing the effects of pesticides on non-targeted fauna.”

“By looking at the way that insecticides affect individual spider behaviors, rather than averaging out the effects on the spider population as a whole, as is traditionally done in scientific research, we are able to see some significant effects that we might have otherwise missed,” said Chris Buddle, Ph.D., in the statement. Dr. Buddle, who co-authored the paper, added, “It means we can measure the effects of insecticides before any effects on the spider population as a whole are detected, and in this case, it’s raising some red flags.”

Phosmet is an organophosphate insecticide used in agriculture, forestry, and residential settings to control fleas, sarcoptic mange live, hornflies, and ticks. It has been found to be neurotoxic and cause kidney/liver damage, and is toxic to birds and bees as well. A 2010 Biological Opinion from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) found phosmet to be one of 12 organophosphate pesticides to likely jeopardize the continued existence of one or more of the 28 endangered and threatened Pacific salmonids and destroy or adversely modify their designated critical habitat.

To avoid organophosphate and other harmful pesticides in your food, seek out and purchase certified organic products, which never allow toxic synthetic insecticides, and take steps to improve soil and habitat for wildlife such as pollinators. To view which food crops have harmful pesticides used on them, view Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience webpage.

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

Source: Nature World News, McGill University

Photo Source: Wikimedia

 

Share
  • Archives

  • Categories

    • Agriculture (472)
    • Announcements (403)
    • Antibacterial (104)
    • Aquaculture (17)
    • Beneficials (6)
    • Biofuels (5)
    • Biological Control (1)
    • Biomonitoring (14)
    • Cannabis (9)
    • Children/Schools (188)
    • Climate Change (23)
    • Environmental Justice (76)
    • Events (64)
    • Farmworkers (82)
    • Fracking (1)
    • Golf (10)
    • Health care (27)
    • Holidays (24)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (33)
    • International (242)
    • Invasive Species (24)
    • Label Claims (32)
    • Lawns/Landscapes (157)
    • Litigation (237)
    • Nanotechnology (52)
    • National Politics (309)
    • Pesticide Drift (82)
    • Pesticide Regulation (533)
    • Pesticide Residues (54)
    • Pets (14)
    • Resistance (49)
    • Rodenticide (16)
    • Take Action (302)
    • Uncategorized (15)
    • Wildlife/Endangered Sp. (260)
    • Wood Preservatives (20)