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Daily News Blog

10
Dec

Take Action: Tell Your U.S. Senators to Reject Dow’s Hutchins as USDA Chief Scientist

(Beyond Pesticides, December 10, 2018) The Senate Agriculture Committee has cleared the way for the whole U.S. Senate to vote on the confirmation of Scott Hutchins, PhD, recently retired from research and management at what is now the agricultural division of DowDuPont, as chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). If confirmed, he will become the third member of Dow’s pesticide and seed division to hold a high-level position in the Trump administration’s USDA.  Tell your U.S. Senators to Reject Dow’s Hutchins as USDA Chief Scientist. Dr. Hutchins has a history of defending toxic pesticides like Dow’s chlorpyrifos, which makes him unsuitable for leading USDA’s research on the future of the U.S. food system. The chief scientist at USDA can determine the direction of USDA research–which should be shaped by an organic, rather than a chemical-intensive, vision. USDA needs a chief scientist who will help farmers get off the pesticide treadmill and adopt organic practices that address critical issues of protecting farmer and farmworker health, water resources, biodiversity, and soil health, while reducing the escalating crisis in global climate change. USDA’s research mission must be focused on sustainability and protect farmers, families, and . . .

07
Dec

Pesticides Contaminate Medical and Recreational Marijuana

(Beyond Pesticides, December 7, 2018) As medicinal and recreational marijuana continue to be legalized in various states, concerns about the safety of the burgeoning industry — how the substance is grown, harvested, processed, distributed, sold, and used — have emerged. Colorado’s recent experience is a case in point: in early December, the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) announced two recalls on cannabis products out of concern about their contamination by pesticide residues. In both cases, the recall announcements from the Colorado Department of Revenue, in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said that the state agencies “deem it a threat to public health and safety when pesticides that are not on the list of approved pesticides for marijuana use as determined by CDA are applied in a manner inconsistent with the pesticide’s label.” Three off-label pesticides were listed in the recall announcement. Pyriproxyfen was found in samples tested from Colorado Wellness Centers LLC (dba Lush), and bifenthrin and diuron were found in samples from Crossroads Wellness LLC (dba Boulder Botanics). None of those compounds is approved by Colorado for use on marijuana; . . .

06
Dec

Endocrine Disrupting Herbicide, Atrazine, Exceed Legal Limits in Midwest

(Beyond Pesticides, December 6, 2018) A recent analysis of annual drinking water quality reports has revealed that many community drinking water systems in the Midwest have seasonal exceedances of the allowable limit for the herbicide atrazine. Atrazine, linked to endocrine disruption, neuropathy, and cancer, is the second most widely used pesticide in corn growing areas, with over 73 million pounds applied to agricultural fields each year.  A 2009 study by Paul Winchester, MD, professor of clinical pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine and a neonatologist at St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis, linked birth defects to time of conception, with the greatest impact on children conceived when concentrations of atrazine and other pesticides are highest in the local drinking water. (See Reproductive Effects Peak with Pesticide Exposure.) During peak use, atrazine levels in drinking water have been recorded at three to seven times above the legal limit. In addition to the well documented impact on the environment, recent  studies have linked prolonged pesticide exposure to not only shortened gestation and preterm birth for women, but also neurodevelopment delays in children. Ultimately, these unreported seasonal peaks may result in persistent adverse health impacts in impacted communities. The Safe . . .

05
Dec

EPA Denies Petition to Stop Cyanide Use that Is Killing Wildlife

(Beyond Pesticides, December 5, 2018)  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has denied a petition seeking to ban M-44s — cyanide-spraying apparatuses used to kill coyotes, foxes, and wild dogs that may prey on livestock. Submitted to the EPA in August 2017 by the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, the Humane Society of the U.S., Natural Resources Defense Council, Predator Defense, the Sierra Club, and a number of other conservation, wildlife, and environmental organizations, the petition sought cancellation of the registration of cyanide capsules used in M-44s and a functional ban on their use in the “lower 48” states because of their danger to non-target wildlife, domestic pets, and people. In its letter of denial, EPA noted that it “is currently reviewing these products using the Registration Review process and sees no reason, and the Petition provides none, to start a parallel process using Special Review proceedings to look at the same issues.” Although the word “pesticide” generally conjures thoughts of a chemical meant to kill insect “pests,” whether sprayed on crops, coated onto seeds, or in the kit bag of an “exterminator” whose business it is to rout out some infestation in . . .

04
Dec

California Criticized for Adopting Inadequate Measures to Restrict the Highly Toxic Chlorpyrifos

(Beyond Pesticides, December 4, 2018) In mid-November, the state whose agricultural operations used more than 900,000 pounds of chlorpyrifos in 2016 (down from two million pounds in 2005) moved to establish some temporary restrictions on its use. Regulators at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) issued interim restrictions on the compound while the agency works on a formal regulatory process to list chlorpyrifos as a “toxic air contaminant” and develop permanent restrictions on its use. A neurological toxicant, chlorpyrifos damages the brains of young children: impacts of exposure, even at very low levels, include decreased cognitive function, lowered IQ, attention deficit disorder, and developmental and learning delays. It was slated to be banned for food uses by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year, but the decision was reversed by the Trump administration. The interim measures in California include: banning aerial application of chlorpyrifos; ending its use on many crops — except for those determined to be “critical” by virtue of there being few, if any, alternatives (as determined by the University of California Cooperative Extension and listed on DPR’s website); establishing a quarter-mile buffer zone for 24 hours after any application of the . . .

03
Dec

Take Action: Protect Biodiversity – Reinstate the Ban of Bee-Toxic Neonicotinoid Pesticides on Wildlife Refuges

(Beyond Pesticides, December 3, 2018) In August 2018, the Trump administration announced a reversal of a 2014 U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS) decision to ban neonicotinoid insecticides on National Wildlife Refuges. The administration’s action threatens not only pollinators, but contributes to the attack on biodiversity worldwide.  Tell Congress to protect biodiversity by insisting that the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides in wildlife refuges be reinstated. In 2014, FWS announced that all National Wildlife Refuges would join in the phase-out of neonics (while also phasing out genetically engineered crops) by January 2016. FWS “determined that prophylactic use, such as a seed treatment, of the neonicotinoid pesticides that can distribute systemically in a plant and can potentially affect a broad spectrum of non-target species is not consistent with Service policy. We make this decision based on a precautionary approach to our wildlife management practices and not on agricultural practices.” This move was not only intended to protect honey bees that have suffered average losses above 30% since 2006, but also the federally threatened and endangered pollinators that live in National Wildlife Refuges. However, it is not just pollinators who are affected. Recent research has found dramatic drops in overall insect abundance, leading entomologists to speak of an “insect apocalypse.” . . .

30
Nov

Multiple Pesticide Residues in Soil Raise Alarm

(Beyond Pesticides, November 30, 2018) A study published this month in Science of the Total Environment reveals numerous pesticide residues persisting in soil, harming the viability of agricultural lands and increasing risk of off-site contamination. Funded by the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Commission, researchers from the European Diverfarming project at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands suggest nations urgently reevaluate conventional land use and inputs including water, energy, fertilizers, machinery and pesticides. Researchers decrying the lack of soil protection policies endeavored to determine which pesticides had the highest soil persistence and toxicity to non-target species. Three hundred seventeen surface soil samples were analyzed from 11 European countries. Selected countries were those with the largest amounts of active agricultural land, characterizing six distinct cropping systems. Sampled soils purposefully represented different soil properties and were taken from crops with the highest pesticide use per hectare. Samples were then analyzed for the concentration of 76 pesticide residues. These 76 pesticides were selected as being most often applied on conventional crops. Eighty-three percent of samples contained varying degrees of pesticide residues, with 25 percent showing one pesticide residue and 58 percent showing . . .

29
Nov

Release of GE Mosquitoes Canceled by Cayman Islands Officials

(Beyond Pesticides, November 29, 2018) The British Cayman Islands will no longer fund the release of genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes, as reports indicate that the program failed to achieve its intended goals.  The government is formally terminating its contract with the UK-based company Oxitec, which marketed GE mosquitoes as a sort of silver bullet for the management of diseases such as Zika, yellow fever, malaria, and dengue. Advocates opposed to the GE mosquito program are continuing to encourage a focus on education and source reduction as the best method to address mosquito-borne diseases. Oxitec first began introducing its line of GE mosquitoes earlier in the decade, at a variety of locations including India, Brazil, Malaysia, and the Florida Keys. Public opposition to the release has been consistently strong. In the Florida Keys, over 230,000 people signed a change.org petition opposing the release. In the Cayman Islands, residents launched a number of lawsuits. In each instance the company was granted free reign to initiate its program. GE mosquitoes aim to ‘gene drive’ mosquito populations out of existence, a process intended to propagate a particular set of genes in a species. The company developed GE . . .

28
Nov

Behavioral Effects in Bumblebees Linked to Neonicotinoid Insecticides

(Beyond Pesticides, November 28, 2018) Recent research out of Harvard University and published in the journal Science has demonstrated some of the mechanisms through which exposures to neonicotinoid pesticides harm bumblebee populations. The study found that exposure to imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid — the most widely used category of pesticides worldwide — directly impacts social behaviors in bumblebees. These behaviors have serious effects on the functioning and viability of bee colonies. In the research experiment, worker bees exposed to imidacloprid exhibited reduced general and nurturant activity, and a tendency to locate themselves at the periphery of the nest. The study noted decreased caretaking and nursing behaviors, which in turn harms productivity and thermal regulation in the colony. These tasks are important to colony development; impaired thermoregulation negatively affected the bees’ typical construction of an insulating wax canopy for the nest, and poor caretaking can affect brood growth. Investigators noted that, “Neonicotinoids induce widespread disruption of within-nest worker behavior that may conribute to impaired growth. . . . These changes in behavior acted together to decrease colony viability, even when exposure was nonlethal.” The authors also observed that many of these dysregulated behaviors were more pronounced . . .

27
Nov

Continuing Pattern, Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler Ignores Science, Embraces Monsanto (Bayer), and Continues Dicamba Herbicide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, November 27, 2018) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ignored the input of an expert weed scientist on the controversial herbicide dicamba, bending to Bayer’s Monsanto and the pesticide industry, according to emails obtained by the Arkansas Democrat and Chronicle (ADC) through a Freedom of Information Act request. The scandal centers on the recent re-approval of the pesticide, a highly volatile and drift-prone herbicide that has become a serious problem for many farmers and state regulators. As top-level EPA officials continue to work with industry to subvert their own agency’s scientific findings, more and more consumers are moving to organic products in order avoid the pesticide risks government regulators ask consumers to accept. Emails ADC received indicate that Jason Norsworthy, PhD, a weed scientist with the University of Arkansas, worked closely with Bayer’s Monsanto in conducting field trials this past summer, but found high volatility and drift of the company’s new dicamba-based herbicide XtendiMax. The product was developed in the face of widespread resistance to glyphosate-based herbicides in genetically engineered (GE) farm fields. However, recent accounts from farmers in the south and midwest indicate that, not only is the switch to dicamba unhelpful  in eliminating drift and . . .

26
Nov

Take Action: Tell the National Organic Program to Outlaw Fracking Wastewater in Organic Production

(Beyond Pesticides, November 26, 2018) Organic consumers expect that the organic products they buy are grown without toxic chemical inputs. However, oil and gas wastewater (including fracking wastewater) is currently used to irrigate crops. Among the chemicals known to be present in oil and gas wastewater are heavy metals and other chemicals with carcinogenic, reproductive, developmental, endocrine-disrupting, and other toxic effects. When the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) was passed, and regulations adopted, there was no agricultural use of oil and gas wastewater, so the regulations did not address these hazards.  Tell USDA to Outlaw Fracking Wastewater in Organic Production!  The Cornucopia Institute has filed a petition for rulemaking, asking that oil and gas wastewater be ruled a prohibited substance in organic production. This issue should be put on the work agenda of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which advises the Secretary about issues concerning NOP. The petition from the Cornucopia Institute contains information that will serve as support for the work agenda item. Over the past several years, the NOSB has received many comments requesting them to address this issue Among the comments have been suggestions for guidance to farmers faced with . . .

21
Nov

Giving Thanks to Farmworkers this Holiday

(Beyond Pesticides, November 22, 2018) As we sit down for our Thanksgiving meal with friends and family, let us all take a moment to give thanks to the hardworking individuals that made our meal possible. Farmworkers and farmers toil day in and day out in the field, growing the staples that make the holiday special. This year, farmworkers need our support more than ever, as powerful forces within the agrichemical industry continue to influence decisions that deny them the protections and compensation they deserve for their hard work. After a proposal under the Obama administration to update farmworker protections following decades of inaction, former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed course and decided to delay implementation. The new policy, representing the bare minimum required to improve the deplorable conditions many farmworkers confront, would have raised the age to apply highly toxic pesticides to 18, and improved training materials, among other basic changes. The agency then determined in December 2017 that it would not only refuse to implement changes as planned, but potentially do away with them all together. Allowing minors to spray toxic pesticides was put back on the table, as . . .

21
Nov

Beekeepers at Risk of Losing Hives after Mosquito Insecticide Spraying

(Beyond Pesticides, November 21, 2018) A study published last month in the Journal of Apicultural Research finds significant numbers of U.S. honey bees at risk after exposure to hazardous synthetic pesticides intended to control mosquitoes. With many beekeepers rarely given warning of insecticide spraying, researchers say the risk of losing colonies could increase. Advocates say fear of Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses could result in counterproductive and reactionary insecticide spraying that will add further stress to managed and native pollinators already undergoing significant declines. Researchers aimed to determine whether neighboring honey bee colonies could be similarly affected by aerial insecticide spraying. To calculate the percentage of colonies that could be affected, density of honey bee colonies by county was compared with projections of conditions thought to be prone to regional Zika virus outbreaks. Researchers found 13 percent of U.S. beekeepers at risk of losing colonies from Zika spraying. In addition, it was determined that many regions of the U.S. best suited for beekeeping are also those with favorable conditions for Zika-prone mosquitoes to proliferate. These regions include the southeast, the Gulf Coast, and California’s Central Valley. “[Considering] all the threats facing bees,” says . . .

20
Nov

Evaluation Used to Support Registration of Neurotoxic Chlorpyrifos Found To Be Fundamentally Flawed

(Beyond Pesticides, November 20, 2018) Scientific conclusions used to support the registration of the insecticide chlorpyrifos were flawed and omitted key health impacts, according to a fresh analysis of the original data by a team of independent scientists from northern Europe and the U.S. This re-review not only casts further doubt on the safety of the neurotoxic chlorpyrifos, it highlights a major flaw within federal pesticide regulation that allows pesticide producers to submit their own safety evaluations to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency without public oversight. “One conclusion we draw is that there is a risk that the results of industry-funded toxicity tests are not reported correctly,” says co-author Axel Mie, PhD. “This makes it difficult for the authorities to evaluate the pesticides in a safe and valid way.” In both the U.S. and European Union, pesticide producers contract with laboratories to perform required safety tests of active ingredients they hope to register for use. While these studies are generally considered ‘confidential business information’ and not available to the public, using Swedish freedom of information laws, researchers were able to obtain two key studies relating to the developmental neurotoxicity of chlorpyrifos. Although . . .

19
Nov

Tell the Secretary of Agriculture to Restore Fairness to Organic Dairy

(Beyond Pesticides, November 19, 2018) The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) requires organic milk and dairy products labeled as organic to come from dairy cows continuously managed as organic from the last third of gestation. Because of the short supply of organic dairy breeder stock when the law was passed in 1990, a one-time conversion of conventional dairy cows to organic was allowed, as long as they are managed organically. Please urge the Secretary of Agriculture to issue a final rule for Origin of Organic Livestock, as urged by the NOSB. Unfortunately, the National Organic Program (NOP) allowed two interpretations of this provision, turning the provision into a loophole that has allowed some large dairy operations to circumvent the last third of gestation requirement altogether, and bringing conventionally managed animals into their operations on a continuous basis. In 2015, USDA proposed an Origin of Livestock rule to clarify that section of the law and ensure consistent enforcement of the standards, but appears to have no plans to finalize the rule. In its October 2018 meeting, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recognized the unfairness that allows large organic dairies to profit at the expense . . .

16
Nov

Pesticide Use Found to Surpass ‘Planetary Boundaries’ for Resistance

(Beyond Pesticides, November 16, 2018) Pesticides and biocides used to control bacterial infections in humans and weeds and pests in agriculture are surpassing ‘planetary boundaries’ within which human civilization can continue to rely on these biocides, according to a review by an international team of scientists working on the Living with Resistance project. While the study reinforces the role of susceptible populations in managing resistance, it fails to distinguish essential differences between antibiotic resistance and resistance to pesticides that is identified by Beyond Pesticides. The study focuses on six different forms of resistance. Researchers looked at antibiotic resistance in gram negative bacteria (such as E. coli, P. aeruginosa, Salmonella) and gram positive bacteria (such as S. aureus, Clostridium) separately, due to their divergent resistance mechanisms. Pesticide resistance was divided among herbicides in general, herbicide resistant crops, insecticides in general, and genetically engineered (GE) crops that produce their own insecticide. Resistance to antibiotics and pesticides are similar in that they are both evolved responses to substances toxic to the organism. However, lumping them together in evaluating their importance to human health and survival does not recognize important differences in context. “Without new approaches, going to . . .

15
Nov

Neonicotinoids Found to Change Frog Behavior

(Beyond Pesticides, November 15, 2018) Neonicotinoids are widely known for their link to declining pollinator populations, but new research finds that the ill effects of these chemicals also extends to amphibian populations. In a study published late last month, scientists from the National Wildlife Research Center in Ottawa, Canada found that chronic exposure to real-world levels of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid limits the ability of juvenile wood frogs to escape a predator attack. This research adds additional evidence that neonicotinoids are harming aquatic food chains, and reinforces calls for U.S. regulators to follow the science and adequately restrict these toxic pesticides. Researchers investigated the impact of neonicotinoids on the post-tadpole life stage of wood frogs, which has been identified as critical to sustaining viable populations of the species. Rather than determine acute impacts that assess how lethal a pesticide is, scientists opted to observe how wood frog behavior changes as a result of chronic, real-world exposure scenarios. In particular, scientists sought to figure out whether exposure resulted in an altered behavioral response to the presence of a predator. As tadpoles, wood frogs were chronically exposed to real world levels of imidacloprid (1, 10, and 100 . . .

14
Nov

Monarch Population Loss Tallied at 80% since 2005

(Beyond Pesticides, November 14, 2018) Monarch butterflies are in the midst of a staggering decades-long population decline that has rapidly accelerated since 2005, research published by an international team of scientists and the University of Florida last month indicates. According to data meticulously collected by researchers, monarchs making their way to central Florida after emerging from their breeding grounds in Mexico have declined by 80% over the last decade and a half. This is roughly the same time frame at which beekeepers began to see precipitous declines in managed honey bee colonies. Researchers point to industrial development and increasing pesticide use as factors that have accelerated the decline of this iconic species. “A broad pattern is that 95 percent of corn and soybean products grown in the U.S. are Roundup Ready crops that resist glyphosate,” said study coauthor Earnest Williams, PhD, of New York’s Hamilton College in a press release. “That has a national impact. What’s really needed are patches of native vegetation and nectar sources without pesticides. It’s not just for monarchs but all pollinators.” Beginning in 1985, renowned monarch expert Lincoln Brower, PhD and his team monitored monarch populations at a pesticide-free . . .

13
Nov

Help Beyond Pesticides Eliminate Toxic Pesticides and Grow Organic Solutions!

(Beyond Pesticides, November 13, 2018) We are living in extraordinary times that call for bold action. We face serious public health and environmental challenges and know that we must work to advance local, state, and federal action. Our program relies on your support, which elevates independent science to call for action. While the November 6 election results offer some important opportunities in our communities, state, and nation, we continue to face the power of the pro-pesticide lobby and those seeking to weaken the integrity of organic standards in the Farm Bill. Please consider a donation to Beyond Pesticides because your support is critical to the ongoing challenges, as we leverage the opportunities. Check out our 2017 annual report, which captures the importance of our program in supporting the adoption of policies and practices at a time when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is curtailing its program, reversing previous decisions to restrict pesticide use, and ignoring scientific findings. Your support enables us to continue our critical work at a critical time. In our annual report, we share our strategy for effecting the changes necessary to protect health and the environment in 2018 and moving . . .
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