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Daily News Blog

21
Feb

Minnesota Introduces Bee-Friendly Pesticide Legislation and Fights for Local Rights

(Beyond Pesticides, February 21, 2020) Last week in Minnesota, state Representative Jean Wagenius introduced measure H.F. 1255 that would give cities the opportunity to ban local use of bee-lethal pesticides. This is the latest in a series of attempts to fight state pesticide preemption, an industry-promoted law that prevents localities from restricting pesticide use more stringently than the state. In the face of inaction at the federal and state levels, advocates and legislators in Minnesota are attempting to regain local control to help save their declining, Midwestern pollinators. Representative Wagenius says about the measure, “Minnesotans should be able to protect pollinators if they want to. We value local control in this state, and we always have.” H.F. 1255 will allow cities to opt into a blanket ban of pesticides determined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be hazardous to bees. Pesticides with an EPA bee-advisory box are listed on the state’s Department of Agriculture website and referred to as “bee-lethal” by Minnesota legislators. Patrick Hanlon, director of environmental programs for the city of Minneapolis, says cities would work with Department of Agriculture, businesses, and residents that might be impacted by these restrictions before . . .

20
Feb

Bader Farms Wins $265 Million in Lawsuit Against Bayer’s Monsanto, BASF

(Beyond Pesticides, February 20, 2020) Missouri’s largest peach farm, Bader Farms, is set to receive $265 million in compensation from two multinational agrichemical companies after the companies’ dicamba-based weed killers caused widespread damage to the farm’s fruit trees. Bayer’s Monsanto and BASF were found to be responsible for negligence in the design of their dicamba herbicides, and failure to warn farmers about the dangers of their products. The jury determined that the joint venture between the two companies amounted to a conspiracy to create an “ecological disaster” in the name of profit. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved Bayer Monsanto’s release of a new line of genetically engineered (GE) seeds designed to tolerate repeated spraying of dicamba. With glyphosate resistant ‘super-weeds’ widespread and threatening GE farmer’s yields, the company aimed to redeploy dicamba, one of the oldest herbicides in the market, on cotton and soybeans throughout the U.S. Knowing the propensity of dicamba to drift for miles off site, Bayer’s Monsanto promised a new product line with much lower volatility.  But as the company was waiting on approval for this product by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it nonetheless began selling . . .

19
Feb

Experts Identify Fireflies as the Latest Victim of the Ongoing Insect Apocalypse

(Beyond Pesticides, February 19, 2020) The ongoing insect apocalypse isn’t sparing the iconic firefly. In an article published this month, “A Global Perspective on Firefly Extinction Threats,” experts are sounding the alarm over declines in fireflies attributed to habitat loss, light pollution, and indiscriminate pesticide use. “Our goal is to make this knowledge available for land managers, policy makers and firefly fans everywhere,” said study co-author Sonny Wong, PhD, of the Malaysian Nature Society to USA Today. “We want to keep fireflies lighting up our nights for a long, long time.” Although there is scant monitoring data on firefly populations, studies that have been conducted over the last decade, alongside anecdotal reports and expert opinion, have led to international concern. To assess conservation status and threats to firefly species, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) established a Firefly Specialist Group. The study, part of the specialist group’s investigation, surveyed firefly experts from around the world on what they viewed as the primary threats to firefly populations. Experts specified habitat loss, light pollution, and pesticide use as the three top concerns, though water pollution, tourism, invasive species, and climate change were also discussed . . .

18
Feb

Take Action: Trump Administration’s Cuts to Science and the Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, February 18, 2019) As in the in the past, President Trump once more proposes a budget that slashes funding for essential scientific research and environmental protection. His budget proposal includes cuts of nearly 10 percent to Health and Human Services (HHS) and 26 percent to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And in the Department of Agriculture (USDA), he would again attempt to cut back on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). Climate change appears to be absent. Tell your Congressional delegation to hold the line on EPA’s budget to protect health, resources, and the economy! Although agency heads, like Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, support the President’s budget, nonprofit advocates for scientific research and environmental protection are more negative. “The administration’s proposed budget cuts to research risk slowing our nation’s science just when it is reaping benefits for all Americans in the forms of better health, a stronger economy, a more sustainable environment, a safer world, and awe-inspiring understanding,” said Sudip Parikh, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Even as the new coronavirus spreads, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is targeted for a 16 percent reduction. CDC has . . .

14
Feb

“Hey Farmer Farmer, Put Away that” Dicamba Weed Killer

(Beyond Pesticides, February 14, 2020) The weed killer dicamba has been blamed for killing or damaging millions of acres of non–genetically modified crops and other plants that have no protection against the compound. Litigation, legislation, and manufacturer machination abound as dicamba damage mounts. The trial in a suit filed in 2016 by a Missouri peach farmer against dicamba manufacturers Bayer and BASF has just begun; an Indiana state laboratory struggles to keep up with demand to evaluate dicamba damage; Idaho lawmakers are poised to weaken rules that protect farmworkers who apply dicamba (and other pesticides) aerially; agricultural officials in Missouri are pressuring the state legislature to increase funding to handle the exploding numbers of dicamba complaints; and Indiana’s legislature is considering two bills aimed at curtailing dicamba drift that kills neighboring crops. This Daily News Blog will round up the plethora of recent news on dicamba — the toxic and destructive culprit behind each of these stories. In the face of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) failure to mitigate dicamba hazards, states have been scrambling to enact limits on when and how dicamba can be used, amend buffer zones around application sites, . . .

13
Feb

EPA Fails to Follow Congressional Mandate to Protect Children from Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, February 13, 2020) Congress unanimously passed the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) in 1996 to increase protections for children from pesticide exposure. Unfortunately, according to a new study published in Environmental Health, the law is not being employed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to its full capacity. For most of the 59 pesticides reviewed by the study, EPA did not apply an additional FQPA safety factor and thereby missed an opportunity to protect children’s health. In fact, FQPA solidified EPA’s reliance on risk assessment calculations and mitigation measures that consistently fall short of adequate levels of protection because of serious data gaps, a failure to consider exposure to mixtures and synergistic effects, and a bias against consideration of alternatives (alternatives assessment)  that show toxic pesticides to be unnecessary.  FQPA establishes a safety standard applied to all food commodities that considers specific risks for infants and children. The law requires EPA to assess the “aggregate risk” (considering exposure from multiple sources) and “cumulative exposure” to pesticides that have a “common mechanism of toxicity.” FQPA mandates “an additional tenfold margin of safety for the pesticide chemical residue and other sources of exposure . . .

12
Feb

Major Manufacturer of Chlorpyrifos Drops Out of Market, But EPA Continues to Allow Use

(Beyond Pesticides, February 12, 2020) Corteva, a company spun-off from DowDupont, will stop producing chlorpyrifos by the end of this year as a result of declining sales. Despite the move being in the interest of public health, the company is earning little praise from health advocates for what amounts to simply a shrewd financial decision. As news articles on the announcement have noted, Corteva will continue to support Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration of chlorpyrifos, which allows generic manufacturers to continue to sell this brain-damaging chemical. “Other people are going to continue to profit from harming children,” said Marisa Ordonia, an attorney with the group EarthJustice to Canada’s National Observer. “It is big that such a major player is saying no, we’re not going to do this any more. It’s a great signal that people don’t want brain-damaging pesticides on their food. But we’re going to continue to keep fighting to make sure children and farmworkers are protected.” At odds is the difference between halting production of chlorpyrifos and cancelling its EPA registration. While Corteva has the ability to voluntarily stop producing its own product, EPA registration permits other generic manufacturers to continue . . .

11
Feb

Toxic Herbicide Atrazine Causes Wasp Gut Microbiome to Develop Pesticide Resistance Across Generations

(Beyond Pesticides, February 11, 2020) A new study, published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, homes in on the impact of the toxic herbicide atrazine on wasp gut microbiology and pesticide resistance. Intriguingly, researchers found that exposure to atrazine changed the composition of gut bacteria in individual wasps and shifts in gut flora were heritable. This study not only represents one of the first evolutionary studies on symbiont-mediated pesticide resistance, it also provides fodder for future research regarding the implications of exposure to xenobiotics (i.e., chemical substances like toxic pesticides foreign to an organism or ecosystem) for other gut bacteria hosts – such as honey bees and humans. Researchers utilized the hymenopteran insect model Nasonia vitripennis to analyze the effect of subtoxic exposure to atrazine across 36 generations. They reestablished a baseline of toxicity by experimenting with concentrations of atrazine to find the level at which 50% of the population died (LC50). During initial trials, some of the wasps were kept in a germ-free (GF) environment. The authors observed a higher mortality rate among the germ-free population, indicating that gut microbes assist with detoxification.   Early generations of wasps in the study received . . .

10
Feb

Take Action: Save the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

(Beyond Pesticides, February 10, 2020) Through the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, pesticide dangers became a major driver for the environmental movement. Perhaps the most effective piece of environmental legislation is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Because NEPA requires a wide-ranging evaluation of the potential environmental impacts of federal actions, as well as alternatives, it serves as a model for environmental decision making. Now key elements of NEPA are under attack by the Trump Administration. Ask your Congressional Representatives to pressure the White House to retract the proposed changes. At the same time, add your signature to the Beyond Pesticides public comment to Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). NEPA established the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) as the agency within the White House that is responsible for carrying out the purposes of the act. The regulations established by the CEQ have persisted through changes in administrations for more than 30 years without major modification. Changes proposed by the Trump Administration’s CEQ threaten this model decision-making process. NEPA is a procedural law. It sets no environmental standards, but sets a standard for evaluating environmental impacts of proposed federal actions. It requires that federal agencies . . .

07
Feb

The Black Institute Shows Higher Pesticide Use in Low-Income Neighborhoods in New York City, Calls for Pesticide Ban in Parks

(Beyond Pesticides, February 7, 2020) Toxic pesticide use in New York City (NYC) parks would get the boot if a bill — Intro 1524 — being considered by the New York City Council passes. The bill “would ban all city agencies from spraying highly toxic pesticides, such as glyphosate (Roundup), and be the most far-reaching legislation to implement pesticide-free land practices in New York City parks,” according to a press release from its sponsors, New York City Council members Ben Kallos and Carlina Rivera. The January 29 hearing on the bill in the council’s Committee on Health was preceded by release of an important report from The Black Institute: Poison Parks, which calls out the NYC Parks Department for, in particular, its continued use of glyphosate-based herbicides. It also notes, “Minority and low-income communities suffer from the use of this chemical and have become victims of environmental racism.” NYC Council members Kallos and Rivera point out, in their joint press release, that Roundup is the pesticide most intensively used by city agencies, and that, “The use of this pesticide poses a health risk for anyone who frequents city parks and playgrounds, as well as, city . . .

06
Feb

Farmer Takes Bayer/Monsanto to Court for Crop Damage Caused by the Herbicide Dicamba

(Beyond Pesticides, February 6, 2020) Bill Bader, a Missouri peach farmer, is taking on agrichemical giants for damages to his crops, allegedly caused by the volatile herbicide dicamba drifting from neighboring properties. Mr. Bader says that not only did he lose over 30,000 trees, his remaining peaches are now smaller and his trees are less productive. According to Bader, the damage has cost him $20.9 million for which he seeks restitution. The case is claiming that Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, and German partner company BASF knew that the sale of their products would result in crop damage due to drift, but sold dicamba-resistant cotton and soybean seeds anyway. The companies deny the claims. Dicamba is a benzoic acid herbicide that exerts an auxin-like growth regulatory effect when absorbed by plant tissue, ultimately causing the plant to outgrow its nutrient supply and die. Originally developed in the 1950’s, dicamba has become more popular as crops become resistant to glyphosate. It is extremely volatile and prone to drift. Soybeans are particularly sensitive to dicamba, and drift damage can pit neighbor against neighbor in rural communities. Risk of crop damage alone can drive farmers to buy . . .

05
Feb

In a Landscape Context, Organic Cropland Provides Refuge to Biodiversity and Is More Profitable than Chemical-Intensive Sites

(Beyond Pesticides, February 5, 2020) A new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirms that organic agriculture provides refuge for biodiversity in an increasingly toxic, chemical-intensive landscape and that organic sites are more profitable than chemical-intensive agriculture despite slightly lower average crop yields (depending on crop type). Considering the impact of landscape context, the value of organic agriculture to biodiversity increased when surrounded by large chemical-intensive fields, but profitability slightly decreased. Small, organic farms near urban centers, for example, can be more profitable than large organic farms in remote areas. Researchers conducted a global meta-analysis considering the relationship between landscape context and biotic abundance, biotic richness, crop yield, and profitability. They used landscape metrics that “reflected composition (amount of land cover types), compositional heterogeneity (diversity of land cover types), and configurational heterogeneity (spatial arrangement of land cover types).” Datasets from 148 different studies spanned 60 crops on six continents across a range of farming practices and landscape types. Profitability data only related to US crops. Organic sites had 34% higher biodiversity than chemical-intensive crops. This should come as no surprise, as mono-cultural croplands have become increasingly large and increasingly . . .

04
Feb

EPA Set to Reapprove Cancer-Causing Glyphosate and Bee-Toxic Neonicotinoids

(Beyond Pesticides, February 4, 2020) It was a good day for Bayer/Monsanto. The chemical company’s weed killer glyphosate and its neonicotinoid insecticides are set for reapproval by the U,S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to interim decisions published last week. EPA reapproval of human carcinogens and chemicals contributing to the pollinator crisis is disappointing for health and environmental advocates, but not surprising to those watchdogging the agency during the current administration. “This is how a captured agency behaves,” said Beyond Pesticides community resource and policy director Drew Toher. “When EPA’s decision making repeatedly reflects the exact wishes of the chemical industry, public trust erodes, and we must look to new policy mechanisms that support the protection of health and the environment.”   On Glyphosate EPA’s glyphosate decision document glosses over the hazards of the chemical and is requiring very few new safety measures when using the herbicide. These measures are focused on agriculture, including minor label changes around drift, guidelines on resistance management, and a label advisory indicating the chemical is toxic to plants and may adversely impact pollinator foraging. The restrictions fail to match those proposed by Health Canada in 2015, which included . . .

03
Feb

Save Mayflies and the Ecosystems that Depend on Them

(Beyond Pesticides, February 3, 2020) In more bad news from the insect world, recent research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals a precipitous decline in numbers of mayflies where they have been historically abundant. The research finds that in the Northern Mississippi River Basin, seasonal emergence of burrowing mayfly (genus Hexagenia) adults declined by 52% from 2012 to 2019; in the Western Lake Erie Basin, from 2015 to 2019, the reduction was a shocking 84%. Neonicotinoid insecticides are a significant factor in this decline because mayflies are extremely vulnerable to their impacts, even at very low exposure levels. Ask Congress to tell EPA, USDA, and the Department of Interior to develop a joint effort to ensure that its decisions and compliance with its authorizing statutes address the crisis of the threat to mayflies. Ephemeroptera to entomologists—“mayflies” to the rest of us—is an insect order comprising keystone species, on which other species in an ecosystem are very dependent, and without which, the ecosystem would undergo drastic change. The plummeting mayfly “count” is especially alarming because mayflies are a critical, primary food source in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and provide an important ecological service. As the research . . .

31
Jan

Trump Administration Hands Over Clean Water Standards to Agrichemical, Construction, and Mining Industry

(Beyond Pesticides, January 31, 2020) In the latest of a long litany of destructive decisions by the Trump administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced on January 23 the establishment of a new weaker federal rule on protection of U.S. waterways, which replaces the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that the agency repealed in September 2019. In an obeisant gesture to industrial interests — the agrichemical, construction, and mining sectors — Mr. Wheeler chose to announce the replacement rule, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, at a Las Vegas National Association of Home Builders International Builders’ Show. This decision will significantly weaken protections by drastically reducing the number of U.S. waterways and acreage of wetlands protected, and by jettisoning proscriptions on activities that threaten waterways from a variety of pollution harms. President Obama’s WOTUS, aka Clean Water Rule, has provided protections from pesticide runoff and other pollutants to millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams. According to Administrator Wheeler, “‘All states have their own protections for waters within their borders, and many regulate more broadly than the federal government. . . . Our new rule recognizes . . .

30
Jan

Croplands’ Toxicity to Pollinators Has Skyrocketed Since the Turn of the Century

(Beyond Pesticides, January 28, 2020) The practice of coating seeds with insecticides, now widely adopted as a result of the agrichemical industry, has created increasingly toxic conditions for pollinators foraging on US cropland, finds a study published in Scientific Reports by Penn State University scientists. The data finds that even as overall volume of insecticide use has decreased, the total “bee toxic load” – a term branded by researchers – has increased markedly due in large part to the use of hazardous seed coatings. The switch from one toxic chemical to another is indicative of a chemically-driven agricultural system that, in order to reverse insect, pollinator and bird declines, must undergo rapid changes over the next several decades. Researchers used information from multiple US databases to determine regional patterns in pesticide use and corresponding toxicity loads to pollinators. Thus the term “bee toxic load” was determined by combining the area of land where insecticides were applied with the total toxicity of the particular insecticide used. To compare the impact of changes in the mode of action of the insecticides used, toxicity data was separated between oral and contact toxicity.    Findings indicate that from . . .

29
Jan

Rate of Male Breast Cancer on the Rise in Scotland, Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Suspected

(Beyond Pesticides, January 29, 2020) A study of male breast cancer (MBC) in Scotland reports an alarming, increasing trend of this rare disease – especially in agricultural areas. While only accounting for 1% of diagnosed breast cancer, MBC forms in the breast tissue of men and is often fatal because of delayed diagnosis and lack of research on male-specific treatment. The authors point to risk factors that include increased exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as pesticides, and a need for further study. Researchers analyzed data from the Information Services Scotland database spanning from 1992-2017. Results showed that incidence of breast cancer in men rose with age, and that the total number and age-adjusted incidence of MBC increased in the last 25 years. Overall, the incidence rose by 38.5%. There was a total of 558 diagnoses in Scotland in the entire period. The trend is clearest in certain regions, including the North of Scotland and some rural areas. “Within the confines of this observational study, reasons for these regional differences are difficult to reconcile, but potential explanations are offered,” the authors write, “Exposure to environmental compounds that mimic oestrogens (so-called Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals; (EDCs)) might be . . .

28
Jan

Documented Decline of Mayflies, a Keystone Species, Destabilizes Ecosystems

(Beyond Pesticides, January 28, 2020) In more bad news from the insect world, recent research reveals a precipitous decline in numbers of mayflies in territories where they have been historically abundant. Reported by National Geographic and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research finds that in the Northern Mississippi River Basin, seasonal emergence of burrowing mayfly (genus Hexagenia) adults declined by 52% from 2012 to 2019; in the Western Lake Erie Basin, from 2015 to 2019, the reduction was a shocking 84%. Neonicotinoid insecticides are a significant factor in this decline because mayflies are exquisitely vulnerable to their impacts, even at very low exposure levels. Ephemeroptera to entomologists — and “mayflies” to the rest of us — are a keystone species, one on which other species in an ecosystem are very dependent, and without which, the ecosystem would undergo drastic change. The Latinate name is apt: mayflies are among the most short-lived organisms, with lifespans across the 2,000+ known species lasting from five minutes to one day to a few weeks. Like damselflies and dragonflies, members of an ancient group of insects, the 600 North American species, as do . . .

27
Jan

Insist that the Veterans Administration Cover Conditions Caused by Agent Orange

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 2019) United States military veterans suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension, and Parkinson’s-like symptoms after their exposure to Agent Orange will remain unprotected and uncompensated until at least late 2020, according to a letter sent by Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie to U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). Send a letter to Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie insisting that bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension, and Parkinson’s-like symptoms be added to the VA’s list of eligible conditions. Congress included a provision in the must-pass December federal spending bill requiring VA to provide legislators “a detailed explanation” for the now multi-year delay in determining whether to list the diseases. The provision is intended to cut through the ongoing delays, but there is no indication VA is going to meet the 30-day deadline. “The longer VA continues to drag its feet on expanding the list of conditions associated with Agent Orange, the longer our veterans continue to suffer—and die—as a result of their exposure,” Senator Tester said in a statement to the news site Connecting Vets. He continued, “It’s time for VA to stop ignoring the overwhelming evidence put forth by scientists, medical experts and veterans and do right . . .

24
Jan

Regulatory Capture: USDA’s Organic Governance Board Dominated by Affiliates of Industry’s Corporate Lobby

(Beyond Pesticides, January 24, 2019) Continuing a trend well established by prior Republican and Democratic administrations, the five new members recently appointed by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) all have a current or past relationship with the industry’s major lobby group, the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Over the past decade, Big Food has consolidated ownership of most of the largest and best-known organic brands. At the same time, many have criticized USDA for “stacking” the board, which is charged with guiding the regulatory oversight of organic farming and food production, with members from, or friendly to, corporate agribusiness interests. OrganicEye, the investigative arm of Beyond Pesticides, has issued an industry briefing paper profiling the five newly appointed members of the NOSB with a focus on their relationship to corporate agribusiness and the industry’s powerful lobby group, the Organic Trade Association (OTA). The NOSB was established when Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act as part of the 1990 farm bill. The board was created to ensure that the voice of organic farmers and consumers drove the direction of USDA’s organic program when there was grave concern about handing . . .

23
Jan

University of California Makes Changes to Reduce Use of Toxic Pesticides, Fails to Embrace Organic

Photo: Beyond Pesticides’ board member Chip Osborne and student advocate Bridget Gustafson meet on a University of California organic land management pilot site, supported by Beyond Pesticides. (Beyond Pesticides, January 23, 2020) University of California (UC) President Janet Napolitano recently has approved recommendations made by the UC Herbicide Task Force, a proposal that falls short of systems change that student activists are advocating. New changes will, however, restrict the use of some toxic pesticides and increase transparency across the university’s ten campuses. While the decision represents an important step forward, advocates remain critical of integrated pest management (IPM) policy and support an overall transition to organic land management. The UC Board of Regents will meet today to discuss the decision. President Napolitano will continue the suspension of glyphosate, established last year, until a UC-wide integrated pest management (IPM) policy is implemented and all ten UC campus locations complete individual IPM plans. A system-wide “oversight committee” will guide and authorize school IPM committees. The overarching IPM policy will restrict application of highly toxic pesticides, only permitting use after a local IPM committee has reviewed and approved its specific use application following an IPM-based assessment. Other . . .
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