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Daily News Blog

24
Jun

Pollinator Week Ends; Pollinator Decline and Biodiversity Collapse Continue with Inadequate Restrictions

(Beyond Pesticides, June 24, 2024) National Pollinator Week ended last week, but the crisis associated with pollinator decline and biodiversity collapse continues. If there were not enough data to prove that regulators are woefully behind the curve in protecting pollinators, yet another study was published during the Pollinator Week that reminded regulators, elected officials, farmers, gardeners, all eaters, and lovers of nature that federal, state, and local environmental laws in place have been an abject and unconscionable failure in protecting the biodiversity that supports all life. The study, “Insecticides, more than herbicides, land use, and climate, are associated with declines in butterfly species richness and abundance in the American Midwest,” published in PLOS ONE, cries out as a further warning that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “mitigation measures,” which tinker with limited pesticide restrictions, represent a catastrophic disregard for the scientifically documented facts, according to environmental advocates. Daily News will cover this study in more detail in a later piece, however, the abstract of the journal piece is worth reprinting here in reflecting on Pollinator Week: “Mounting evidence shows overall insect abundances are in decline globally. Habitat loss, climate change, and pesticides have all . . .

21
Jun

Literature Review Analyzes Pesticide Sensitivity in Bee Species on a Molecular Level

(Beyond Pesticides, June 21, 2024) A recent review of the scientific literature, published in Science of The Total Environment, analyzes multiple species of bees on a molecular level to better understand the poisoning mechanisms that could, as the authors see it, inform chemical risk assessments with more precision. The mechanisms “implicated in the tolerance of bees to specific pesticides, and thus as determinants of insecticide sensitivity, … include metabolic detoxification, insecticide target proteins, the insect cuticle and bee gut microbiota,” the authors write. This review references more than 90 studies performed over the last 30+ years, with most being published in the last 5-10 years, as the understanding and importance of molecular determinants of bee sensitivity has emerged. Pollinators, such as bees, provide crucial ecosystem services by pollinating both wild plants and essential crops. The exposure these insects are subjected to threatens their existence, which occurs through pesticide contamination that can lead to impacts on growth and development or even colony collapse.    “While bees have only been exposed to human-made pesticides over the recent past (last 80 years) they have co-evolved with plants and fungi which produce a range of xenobiotics, including plant . . .

20
Jun

EPA “Mitigation Menu” Called Complex, Raising Doubts about Required Endangered Species Protection

(Beyond Pesticides, June 18, 2024) As part of its update to the proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Endangered Species Act (ESA) Workplan, the agency held a public webinar on June 18, 2024, which provided an overview of the agency’s “Mitigation Menu Website” for “reducing pesticide exposure to nontarget species from agricultural crop uses.” [Check back to see webinar when posted by EPA.] After court decisions forced EPA to develop a strategy to meet its statutory responsibility to protect endangered species from pesticide use, the agency recognized that it is, in its own words, “unable to keep pace” with its legal obligations. Despite this acknowledgement, the agency said it would “provide flexibility to growers to choose mitigations that work best for their situation.” In this spirit, a range of people, including grower groups, gathered earlier in the year for a series of workshops in the Pacific Northwest to discuss possible mitigation measures. According to a report written by commercial beekeeper Steve Ellis (more background), concrete decisions were not reached at the workshops as participants recognized the complexities in crafting pesticide product label restrictions to protect endangered species. Mr. Ellis concluded: “If it’s so . . .

19
Jun

Juneteenth 2024–Taking Action to Fight Disproportionate Adverse Effects to People of Color

Calls for Holistic Environmental Justice and a Shift Away from Societal Dependence on Petrochemical Pesticides and Fertilizers (Beyond Pesticides, June 18-19, 2024) Juneteenth (June 19) commemorates the date in 1865 when the enslavement of Black Americans ended in the westernmost Confederate state of Texas, over two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and the defeat of the Confederacy on April 9, 1865. On June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger brought federal troops to Galveston, Texas and finally, and belatedly, implemented the Emancipation Proclamation, which proclaimed on January 1, 1863 freedom from slavery across the nation. Carl Mack, PhD, a historian and former President of the Seattle-King County NAACP, reminds us that there were still 225,000 enslaved Black Americans in Kentucky and Delaware after June 19, 1865 and the end of the Civil War until December 6, 1865 when Georgia became the 27th state to ratify the 13th amendment. “That is the day in which Georgia ratified the 13th amendment,” Dr. Mack goes on to discuss the remaining three former border states on their progress in adopting the 13th amendment. “As it applies to Delaware and Kentucky, Delaware . . .

17
Jun

National Pollinator Week Starts Today with Opportunities for Action Every Day of the Week (June 17-23)

(Beyond Pesticides, June 17, 2024) Every year, Beyond Pesticides announces National Pollinator Week—this year beginning today, June 17—to remind eaters of food, gardeners, farmers, communities (including park districts to school districts), civic organizations, responsible corporations, policy makers, and legislators that there are actions that can be taken that are transformative. All the opportunities for action to protect pollinators, and the ecosystems that are critical to their survival, can collectively be transformational in eliminating toxic pesticides that are major contributors to the collapse of biodiversity. This is why Beyond Pesticides starts most discussions and strategic actions for meaningful pollinator and biodiversity protection with the transition to practicing and supporting organic. In launching National Pollinator Week, Beyond Pesticides makes suggestions for individual actions to increase efforts to think and act holistically to protect the environment that supports pollinators. The impact that people have starts with grocery store purchases and the management of gardens, parks, playing fields, and pubic lands. The introduction of pesticides into our food supply and our managed lands has contributed to a downward spiral that is unsustainable. The good news is that it is now proven that we do not need toxic pesticides . . .

14
Jun

Report Finds Industry Influences Academic Society of Entomologists, Squelches Bee-Toxic Pesticide Science

(Beyond Pesticides, June 14, 2024) The influence of the chemical industry over public policy and regulation, especially in agriculture, is glaringly obvious and has little popular support, yet no one can seem to do anything about it. Numerous analyses have detailed the ways this influence is applied—through lobbying and political donations including dark money; industry experts named to regulatory agency scientific advisory boards; and the massive public relations machines that create and sustain public uncertainty using the tobacco industry playbook revealed by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in their 2010 book Merchants of Doubt. A more insidious tendril of industry influence is explained in U.S. Right to Know’s (USRTK) report, released this month, on pesticide manufacturers’ infiltration of the Entomological Society of America (ESA). The report, “Anatomy of a science meeting: How controversial pesticide research all but vanished from a major conference,” examines the ESA’s 2023 annual meeting—its program, sponsorships, presentations, panelists, poster sessions, meet-and-greets, budget, revenue sources, and other aspects of the event. What is revealed is a systematic and comprehensive industry presence throughout the society and its meeting. A direct consequence is the near-elimination of any scientific presentations addressing the effects of neonicotinoid . . .

13
Jun

Study Confirms Serious Flaws in EPA’s Ecological Risk Assessments, Threatening Bees and Other Pollinators

(Beyond Pesticides, June 13, 2024) A study published in Conservation Letters, a journal of the Society for Conservation Biology, exposes critical shortcomings in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ecological risk assessment (ERA) process for modeling the risks that pesticides pose to bees and other pollinators. For the study, “Risk assessments underestimate threat of pesticides to wild bees,” researchers conducted a meta-analysis of toxicity data in EPA’s ECOTOX knowledgebase (ECOTOX), an EPA-hosted, publicly available resource with information on adverse effects of single chemical stressors to certain aquatic and terrestrial species. The meta-analysis found that the agency’s approach, which relies heavily on honey bee data from controlled laboratory studies, drastically underestimates the real-world threats from neonicotinoid insecticides (and likely other pesticides) to native bees and other pollinators. The study “challenges the reliability of surrogate species as predictors when extrapolating pesticide toxicity data to wild pollinators and recommends solutions to address the (a)biotic interactions occurring in nature that make such extrapolations unreliable in the ERA process.” Beyond Pesticides executive director Jay Feldman remarked, “EPA’s ecological risk assessment process is fundamentally flawed and puts thousands of bee species at risk of pesticide-caused population declines and extinctions.” Mr. Feldman . . .

12
Jun

Pesticide-Contaminated Algae Found to Jeopardize Ecosystems and Human Well-Being [Study]

(Beyond Pesticides, June 12, 2024) A study of pesticide contaminated algae finds that the disruption of algal communities has a devastating effect on the health of the aquatic food web. The study findings show that contact with pesticides can result in changes to “algal physiology, causing tissue injury, developmental delay, genotoxicity, procreative disruption, and tissue biomagnification” that alters the dominance of algae species in the environment. This in turn “can impact higher trophic levels and have a domino effect on the aquatic food web. It is possible for biodiversity to disappear, reducing ecosystem stability and resistance to environmental alterations,” the authors state. The study, a worldwide literature review conducted by researchers from India, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia, appears in Aquatic Toxicology.  The health of aquatic ecosystems is at risk with indirect effects on nontarget species from pesticides in the environment. This includes impacts on species of fish, invertebrates, microbial communities, and marine mammals. In explaining the importance of extensively studying effects of pesticides, the researchers note, “Different pesticide classes have different chemical structures, which define their modes of action and affect how they interact with both target and nontarget organisms.” Because . . .

11
Jun

Literature Review Compiles Decades of Research Finding Linkage to Pesticide Exposure and Breast Cancer

(Beyond Pesticides, June 11, 2024) Published in Science of The Total Environment in May, a comprehensive literature review of population-based studies finds strong linkages between direct and acute pesticide exposure and elevated risk of breast cancer (BC). A majority of the studies analyzed in this review were based on population groups in the United States, but also extends to Australia and three European countries (Greece, France, and Italy). Included in these studies are women who worked in chemical-intensive agricultural settings, directly sprayed pesticides in their at-home gardens, and/or handled pesticide-contaminated clothing. The findings in this literature review underscore organic advocates’ concerns of relying on pesticide substitution models that inevitably impact the health of land stewards, farmers, farmworkers, and the broader public rather than transforming food systems to an organic model that bans the use of toxic petrochemical-based pesticides. The goal of this review was to synthesize existing literature on pesticide exposure and breast cancer to determine the specific pathways and underlying mechanisms that contribute to female participants’ heightened risk. This literature review was published online by researchers at the University of Arizona’s R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy and Coit Center for Longevity and . . .

10
Jun

Federal Framework Seeks to Accelerate Adoption of Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops with Exemptions from Regulation

(Beyond Pesticides, June 10, 2024) Expanding the planting of genetically engineered crops is the major focus of “The Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology – Plan for Regulatory Reform under the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology” (Framework), released in May by three federal agencies. In its Framework, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) use the words “exempt” or “exemption” in reference to federal safety regulations 21 times. Then, another 21 times the agencies identify their efforts to “streamline” the process for bringing genetically engineered “plant-incorporated protectants” (PIPs) to market. Without including the word “resistance” even once, the Framework advances the interests of the biotech and allied industries, ignoring the serious scientific issues regarding health and environmental effects and the economic failure for farmers facing crop loss. Meanwhile, the issue of resistance is not new to EPA, which has for years acknowledged the resistance problem despite allowing continued weed resistance to weed killers used with herbicide-tolerant crops and insect resistance to the pesticides incorporated into plants.   >> Tell USDA, FDA, and EPA to replace agricultural provisions in the . . .

07
Jun

“Sí, se puede”—Letter and Reflection From the Women of Beyond Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, June 7, 2024) This week, climate scientist and former mayor of Mexico City Claudia Sheinbaum shattered a proverbial glass ceiling, emerging as the first woman president of Mexico.   The election of a woman with a background in environmental protection— who signed an accord promising Mexican farmers to uphold the ban on transgenic corn and replace glyphosate with safer alternatives this past April—did not happen in a vacuum. According to an article by CBS News, President-elect Sheinbaum shared the following wisdom in the middle of a downtown hotel as her polling lead became definitive:  “I do not make it alone. We’ve all made it, with our heroines who gave us our homeland, with our mothers, our daughters, and our granddaughters.” As the new president-elect steps into the leadership of a country grappling with the ravages of the climate crisis, we reflect on the leadership of women in advancing Beyond Pesticides’ mission to end the use of petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers.  Leading the Fight for Farmworker Justice—Dolores Huerta    Earlier this year, Acting Governor Eleni Kounalakis of California honored the lifelong efforts of 94-year-old social justice activist Dolores Huerta, joining Washington State in recognizing . . .

06
Jun

Study Shows Importance of Testing Pesticide Mixtures to Determine Adverse Ecosystem Effects

(Beyond Pesticides, June 6, 2024) Researchers link pesticide exposure to behavioral effects on zebrafish (Danio rerio) larvae, signaling a larger issue for overall population and ecosystem effects. In a study published in Biomedicines, the authors conduct a multi-behavioral evaluation of the effects of three pesticides, both individually and as mixtures, on larvae. As the authors state, “Even at low concentrations, pesticides can negatively affect organisms, altering important behaviors that can have repercussions at the population level.” By analyzing effects on individual zebrafish with single compounds and mixtures, this study shows the dangers of pesticides in aquatic systems regarding synergy (a greater combined effect when substances mix) and the ripples created throughout entire ecosystems. Researchers from the Department of Morphology and Animal Physiology, as well as the Department of Physics, from the Rural Federal University of Pernambuco in Brazil collaborated with the Department of Biology at Indiana University in Indianapolis to perform the study. The researchers exposed zebrafish larvae to carbendazim, fipronil, and sulfentrazone to determine any behavioral effects on anxiety, fear, and spatial/social interaction for each compound separately and in combination. Each compound and mixture were applied to embryo medium, exposing fertilized zebrafish . . .

05
Jun

Cross-Sectional Study Finds Connection Between Pesticide Exposure and Alzheimer’s Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, June 5, 2024) Individuals living near chemical-intensive agricultural environments have heightened risk of Alzheimer’s disease relative to the general population, according to a study published earlier this year in Psychiatry Research. This finding builds on existing peer-reviewed studies that document the relationship between chronic pesticide exposure and elevated risk of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, as well as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis (MS), and Huntington’s disease. In light of the mountains of scientific evidence, advocates continue to demand for a wholesale transformation of agricultural and land management systems to one based in organic principles in alignment with the U.S. National Organic Program. Study Analysis This study was published online on May 1, 2024 with the full entry to be published in July 2024. The researchers are physicians, health professionals, and professors at the University of Almeria in southern Spain, specifically working in the Health Research Center and the Department of Nursing, Physiotherapy and Medicine. There is also a researcher, Cristofer Ruiz-González, who works at the Torrecárdenas University Hospital also located in Almeria, Spain. Researchers gathered case information from over 40,000 patients between 2000 and 2021 living in demarcated health . . .

04
Jun

Presence of Weed Killer Glyphosate in Human Sperm Elevates Debate on Pesticide Threats to Human Survival 

(Beyond Pesticides, June 4, 2024) A study published in the most recent edition of the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety documents for the first time the presence of the herbicide glyphosate in human sperm. The study looked at 128 French men with an average age of 36 years who tested positive for glyphosate in their blood. Seventy-three out of the 128 men were found to also have glyphosate in their seminal plasma. Not only that, the amount of glyphosate in seminal plasma was nearly four times higher than what was detected in the blood.   Methods  The study involved a population of 128 infertile French men from whom seminal and blood plasma samples were collected. The study was conducted at the “Pole SantĂ© LĂ©onard de Vinci” medical center, located centrally near Tours, France. This region is recognized for its urban characteristics as well as being a major agricultural hub, particularly for grain and wine production. The study authors note, “This area reflects the common herbicide exposure in France” and the district ranks third highest in terms of pesticide purchases. While additional qualitative data was collected, only 47 of 128 participants fully completed a questionnaire . . .

03
Jun

House Agriculture Farm Bill Escalates Climate Disasters Then Requires Taxpayers to Pay for It, Advocates Say

(Beyond Pesticides, June 3, 2024) Environmental advocates continue to raise concerns about the Farm Bill (H.R.8467—Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024) that emerged from the House Agriculture Committee on May 23 with provisions they say will allow the escalation of environmental threats and then insure big agriculture commodity producers for losses attributable to those environmental disasters through an expansion of USDA’s crop insurance program. Through this taxpayer supported program, USDA covers farm revenue losses due to “natural causes such as drought, excessive moisture [e.g., floods], hail, wind, frost, insects, and disease. . .” Petrochemical pesticide and fertilizer use in chemical-intensive land management and agricultural production contributes to the climate emergency and associated weather, insect, and plant disease threats. Advocates point out that the House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill reduces environmental protections by (i) preempting local and state government authority to allow more restrictive standards at the municipal level, (ii) taking away the right to sue pesticide manufacturers and allied companies for a failure to fully disclose adverse effects of the products they produce or use, and (iii) weakening the regulatory process intended to protect endangered species and biodiversity from pesticides.   Tell Your . . .

31
May

Government Report Pushes Genetically Engineered Crops, Despite Failure and Effective Alternatives

(Beyond Pesticides, May 31, 2024) Among the many promises that have been made by agribusiness to farmers and consumers, the glories of crops genetically engineered (GE) to resist pests stand out. GE tools—genes—were touted as “natural,” and promised to reduce the use of toxic pesticides. The first such plants incorporating DNA or RNA from other organisms hit the market in the 1990s. Today more than 70% of all GE organisms are engineered to tolerate herbicides, and the overwhelming majority of corn, soybean and cotton varieties are engineered to to be toxic to insects. See Beyond Pesticides’ backgrounder on GE here. Despite a dramatic increase in the use of herbicides and the fast development of weed and insect resistance to plant incorporated pesticides, this month the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly released a document entitled “The Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology – Plan for Regulatory Reform under the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology.” It responds to a 2022 executive order by President Biden to “accelerate biotechnology innovation” and “support the safe use of biotechnology products” by using a “science- . . .

30
May

House Farm Bill Moves Out of Agriculture Committee Undermining Health, Ecosystems, and Democracy, Advocates Say

(Beyond Pesticides, May 30, 2024) The House Agriculture Committee voted 33-21 on May 23 to move the Farm, Food, and National Security Act out of committee after a contentious markup and onslaught of amendments that undermine water health, soil health, and local democratic authority to protect people and the environment from toxic pesticide exposure. One of nearly sixty amendments introduced in the markup last week included the continuation of a decade-long attack on National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit via Clean Water Act (CWA) for pesticide discharge. What was most illuminating however was not the passage of the bill itself, but Big Agriculture’s raucous approval. Advocates see pesticide industry and its allies’ support for what it is—the reliance on petrochemical-based pesticides leading to economic instability, ecosystem collapse, and the degradation of democratic institutions. With support for entrenched dependency on petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers, the committee’s bill requires taxpayers to pay through the government’s crop insurance program for escalating losses caused by chemical-intensive farming practices, contributing to yield losses that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says are “natural causes such as drought, excessive moisture [e.g., floods], hail, wind, frost, insects, and . . .

29
May

Antibiotic-Resistance Genes Rise with Pesticide Application, as Study Adds to a Plethora of Findings

(Beyond Pesticides, May 29, 2024) A study from the Academy of Biology and Biotechnologies and the Federal Rostov Agricultural Research Centre adds to the body of science linking pesticide use with negative impacts on soil health and bacterial communities. Antibiotic-resistance genes (ARGs), considered a class of pollutants, are found in certain types of bacteria and can spread through the environment and subsequently to humans and animals. This study, performed by researchers and soil experts, found an increase in specific bacterial families that host ARGs with exposure to pesticides.  The study aims to identify the role of agricultural soils in ARG transfer and to assess the presence and prevalence of bacterial families with and without exposure to fertilizers and pesticides. Since soil serves as a habitat for a wide range of bacteria, including many that are resistant to antibiotics, analyzing the organisms within soil samples is an indicator of overall environmental health. Agricultural soils are essential in food production, and as this study states, “[I]ntensive exploitation of such soils implies the widespread use of various chemical plant protection products (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides) and mineral fertilizers, which contribute to pollution and a decrease in soil . . .

28
May

To Make Regenerative Meaningful, It Must Require Organic Certification as a Starting Point, according to Advocates

(Beyond Pesticides, May 28, 2024) Public comments are due May 29, 2024. With 40 percent of all vegetables grown in the U.S. coming from the state of California, the current state level process to define “regenerative agriculture” could have major impact on land management practices that address the current climate, biodiversity, and health crises. That is, according to advocates, if the process, directed by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) departs from a history of poorly defined and unenforceable terms like Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Sustainable Agriculture. Virtually all consumers of food have a stake in the outcome of the definition of “regenerative,” so the current public comment period, which closes tomorrow, May 29, 2024, can help influence the outcome. As Beyond Pesticides has reported previously, the term “regenerative” is now increasingly being advanced as a loosely defined alternative to the organic standard and label, which is transparent, defined, certified, enforced, and subject to public input. The  publication AgFunderNews (AFN) in February published its updated “2024 list of agrifood corporates making regenerative agriculture commitments,” a who’s who of the largest food and agribusiness corporations worldwide. The list includes companies such as ADM, Cargill, Danone, General Mills, Tyson, . . .
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