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Daily News Blog

09
Dec

Take Action: Bring Back Scientific Integrity to Government Decisions

(Beyond Pesticides, December 9, 2019) Although the influence of regulated corporations has historically silenced science that threatens profits – as shown by industry reaction to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring – attacks on science in federal agencies have increased in the Trump administration. EPA has dismissed findings of scientists concerning chlorpyrifos, atrazine, and synthetic pyrethroids. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has discontinued collecting data on honeybees. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refused to designate critical habitat for the endangered rusty patched bumblebee. Tell your Congressional Representative to cosponsor H.R. 1709, the Scientific Integrity Act, and thank those who already have cosponsored. H.R. 1709, the Scientific Integrity Act, was introduced by Rep. Paul Tonko of New York, in an effort to restore scientific integrity to government agency decision-making. The bill begins with the premise that “science and the scientific process should inform and guide public policy decisions on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health, protection of the environment, and protection of national security.” It prohibits scientific misconduct, suppression of scientific findings, intimidation of researchers, and creation of barriers to communicating scientific or technical findings. It limits the actions an agency may take in the process of approving dissemination of scientific . . .

06
Dec

Chemical Companies Increase Pressure on European Union to Extend Allowance of Pesticides Tied to Brain Damage in Children

(Beyond Pesticides, December 6, 2019) A current ban of two pesticides — chlorpyrifos and its structurally close cousin chlorpyrifos-methyl — in nine European Union (EU) states is facing last-ditch efforts by pesticide producers to extend current EU approval, which is scheduled to expire on January 31, 2020. These compounds are notorious for their devastating impacts on neurodevelopment in fetuses and children. Beyond Pesticides has repeatedly advocated for a ban of these compounds because of the grave risks they pose. In 2006, chlorpyrifos was approved by the EU for use for 10 years — even in the context of demonstrated evidence that chlorpyrifos causes significant developmental delays. The EU Observer notes that the EU never evaluated these impacts of exposure to chlorpyrifos compounds. More recent research has shown other neurodevelopmental deficits and anomalies: reduced IQ and working memory, attention deficit disorders, and autism spectrum disorders, among them. In July 2019, the European Commission (EC) requested that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) publish an interim statement on the effects of chlorpyrifos on human health. In early August 2019, EFSA and experts from EU member states moved the EU closer to a ban on chlorpyrifos when they . . .

05
Dec

Study Finds EU Moratorium of Persistent Bee-Toxic Pesticides Cannot Eliminate Short-Term Hazards

(Beyond Pesticides, December 5, 2019) Five years after three neonicotinoids were banned for use on bee-attractive crops in the EU, researchers found that these bee-toxic chemicals are contaminating soils and poisoning the nectar of oilseed rape (canola). The results of this research point to an immediate need to end the use of persistent environmental contaminants and promote organic practices. Researchers set out to determine whether the EU moratorium eliminated the risk for bees that forage on oilseed rape nectar. They tested for imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and clothianidin residues in the nectar of winter-sown oilseed rape in from 291 oilseed rape fields in western France for five years following the EU moratorium (2014-2018). Results show all three neonicotinoids were present at least once in the study’s time period. Imidacloprid was detected every year with “no clear declining trend,” though its prevalence fluctuated widely between years. Two samples from 2016 show residues that are five times the expected maximum concentration in nectar of a plant directly treated with imidacloprid. Residue levels in the nectar depend on soil type and increase with rainfall. The researchers put forth in their discussion that the imidacloprid contamination may likely be caused by . . .

04
Dec

Bending to International Industry Pressure, Thailand Walks Back Toxic Chemical Bans

(Beyond Pesticides, December 4, 2019) Last week, Thailand’s government shifted course from banning three toxic pesticides to only restricting the use of glyphosate and delaying the enforcement of bans on paraquat and chlorpyrifos. After an initially strong stance, the government is now bending to pressure from the U.S. government and the chemical-intensive farming industry. Glyphosate, paraquat, and chlorpyrifos had been on track to be upgraded to “type 4 toxic substances” starting December 1. All existing stocks of type 4 toxic substances are required to be destroyed, as the chemicals are not allowed to be produced, imported, or possessed in the country. The bans on paraquat and chlorpyrifos have now been deferred until June 1, 2020. Glyphosate will continue to be allowed in Thailand as long as products  meet maximum residue limits. In October, U.S. Department of Agriculture Ted McKinney wrote a letter to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha describing the ‘severe impacts’ that a glyphosate ban would have on U.S. exports of commodities like soybeans and wheat. CropLife Asia, a trade group that represents pesticide industry giants, also asked PM Prayuth to delay the ban due to its potential impact on agriculture. Farmers protested . . .

03
Dec

High Income, Peer-Pressure Correlated with Chemical-Intensive Yard Care Practices

(Beyond Pesticides, December 3, 2019) Common yard care practices are driven by income, age, geography, and peer-pressure, according to research funded by the National Science Foundation and published in the journal PLOS ONE. Lawns cover 63,000 sq ft in the United States, four times as much land as corn, making them the largest crop in the country. So while decisions over whether to irrigate, fertilize, or spray pesticides are made at the household level, even minor changes in practices could have major impacts on the environment. “The apparent widespread nature of industrial lawncare, and the well-known associated negative environmental effects at the local-scale suggest a need to better understand the drivers, outcomes, and geographic variation in yard care practices, across the U.S.,” the study reads. Researchers surveyed over 7,000 households in six major U.S. metropolitan areas, including Boston, Baltimore, Miami, Minneapolis-St Paul, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. Participants responded with their age, income level, the number of neighbors they know by name, and whether they used pesticides, fertilizers, or irrigated their yard within the last year.  Overall, the survey found that 80% of people irrigate their yard, 64% fertilize, and 53% apply pesticides. Unsurprisingly, individuals . . .

02
Dec

Remembering the Bhopal Tragedy, the Victims, and Steps Needed for a Toxic-Free Future

(Beyond Pesticides, December 2, 2019) December 2 marks the 35th anniversary of the world’s worst industrial chemical accident. During the night of December 2, 1984, the Union Carbide pesticide manufacturing plant released the highly toxic gas methyl isocyanate (MIC) into the air of Bhopal, India. The reports were horrifying – an estimated 25,000 people died from direct effects of the exposure, and hundreds of thousands suffer from permanent disabilities or chronic problems. The health effects were not limited to those exposed that night. Generations of children suffer from birth defects as a result of the accident, including what one doctor described as ‘monstrous births.’ Many people are still exposed to the contaminated site and chemicals released from it. >> Tell Congress to eliminate future Bhopal disasters by passing an Organic Green New Deal. The Union Carbide plant in Bhopal manufactured carbamate insecticides carbaryl (Sevin®), aldicarb (Temik®), and a formulation of carbaryl and gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane (g-HCH) (Sevidol®). In August 1985, a Union Carbide plant in Institute, West Virginia that makes MIC released a toxic cloud that resulted in the hospitalization of at least 100 residents. Chemical accidents continue: in 2008, two workers were fatally injured when a . . .

27
Nov

Giving Thanks: Indigenous Rights Tied to Global Biodiversity

(Beyond Pesticides, November 27, 2019) This Thanksgiving, Beyond Pesticides is drawing attention to research which underscores the current value of Indigenous knowledge and rights in the global fight for environmental justice. We are also highlighting some inspiring Indigenous activists representing frontline communities. First, we offer our network a Thanksgiving message from the Native American Rights Fund, which published a few year’s back a Thanksgiving message and a poem  from their Mohawk relatives on the natural world (see below): “Native Americans are grateful for all that nature provides, and many of us celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in our own ways. Moreover, we give thanks every day as we greet the morning star in the eastern sky giving thanks to the Creator, our families, our ancestors, and our survival.” We, at Beyond Pesticides, wish our network a Happy Thanksgiving celebration of life and a path to a healthy future. A study published in the journal Environmental Science and Policy earlier this year found that vertebrate biodiversity on indigenous-managed lands in Australia, Brazil, and Canada is equal to or higher than protected areas. As the planet faces cascading disasters, such as mass extinction and the climate crisis, the . . .

26
Nov

Bayer Monsanto Skirts Felony Charge for Applying Banned Pesticide in Hawaii, by Calling on Connections at Justice Department

(Beyond Pesticides, November 26, 2019) Bayer’s Monsanto endangered public health and the environment by knowingly storing and applying the highly hazardous and banned insecticide methyl parathion in Maui, Hawaii, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Central District of California. “We take this very seriously and accept full responsibility for our actions,” the company wrote on a blog post published to its website. To health and justice advocates, those words ring hollow, as widespread reports indicate that Bayer Monsanto worked behind the scenes, using high-powered connections to avoid true responsibility for its atrocious actions in the Hawaiian Islands. According to reports from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the California U.S. Attorney’s office was prepared to file full felony charges against the company for its violation of federal pesticide and hazardous waste disposal laws. Bayer Monsanto, however, had hired attorney Alice S. Fisher, a former senior official in the Department of Justice, now in private practice with the law firm Latham & Watkins. At the last minute, Ms. Fisher appealed to then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. This led to a directive, “to resolve the Monsanto criminal case with misdemeanors only,” . . .

25
Nov

Ask Congress to Demand an Investigation into EPA’s Dismissal of Science

(Beyond Pesticides, November 25, 2019) Continuing its marathon of deregulation to benefit the chemical industry, the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its proposal to increase the amount of the weed killer atrazine allowed in U.S. waterways by 50% during the chemical’s registration review—a stark reversal of previous proposals to significantly reduce atrazine levels in the environment. The atrazine proposal follows closely on the heels of a proposal to further weaken protections regarding 23 pyrethroid insecticides that have been repeatedly linked by peer-reviewed studies to neurological issues such as learning disabilities in children. Ask Congress to request an investigation into whether EPA is ignoring its statutory duty and regulatory requirements to use science in its proposals. EPA’s atrazine proposal comes after agrichemical giant Syngenta and the National Corn Growers Association requested that EPA dismiss independent research regarding the adverse impact of atrazine. Atrazine, a broadleaf herbicide, is linked to endocrine disruption, neuropathy, and cancer. It disrupts the sexual development of frogs at levels far below the current allowed concentrations by EPA. Studies by Tyrone Hayes, PhD, University of California, Berkeley, and others have shown that concentrations as low as 0.1 ppb turn tadpoles into hermaphrodites. A 2009 study linked birth defects like gastroschisis and choanal atresia to the relative . . .

22
Nov

Brexit Predicted to Lead to Regulatory Decline and Increased Hazards from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, November 22, 2019) The potential exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU) — aka “Brexit” — may portend greater pesticide use and exposures, according to a report from the Soil Association and the Pesticide Action Network UK. As covered by The Guardian, the report’s prediction points to uncertainty, despite reassurances from the United Kingdom (UK) government, about what regulatory standards will actually be in effect if and when Brexit occurs. The report also highlights the under-regulated issue identified in the report’s title — The Cocktail Effect — synergistic impacts of exposures to multiple synthetic pesticide compounds. Beyond cessation of pesticide use, Beyond Pesticides advocates for more rigorous review of synergistic effects of pesticides in the U.S. In the UK, environmental and health advocates are voicing worries that the government’s reassurances that existing standards will be maintained after a Brexit is unconvincing. UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove insists that environmental standards would be enhanced following a UK exit from the EU. But advocates are concerned about potential loopholes that could allow farmers to use more pesticides on crops than the EU regulations permit, and could greenlight the import of foodstuffs with . . .

21
Nov

City of South Miami Becomes First Organic Community in Florida

(Beyond Pesticides, November 21, 2019) The City of South Miami last month became the first organic community in the state of Florida, passing a landmark ordinance limiting hazardous pesticide use on public property in favor of safer practices. An increasing number of communities in the state have begun to restrict the use of toxic pesticides, with North Miami passing an Integrated Pest Management plan last year, and Miami, Stuart, and Key West banning glyphosate. South Miami, under the direction of Mayor Phillip Stoddard, PhD, professor of Biological Science at Florida International University, has a history of leading the state in the protection of public health and the environment. In 2014, the City Commission voted to declare all of South Miami a wildlife sanctuary, thereby restricting the use of highly toxic mosquito adulticides. The move protected populations of the state’s rare and endemic wildlife, such as the Florida bonneted bat, which begins to feed on mosquitoes in the spring at the same time spraying usually begins. The City’s move toward organic landscaping was borne out of two years of successful trials by city workers and contractors. In 2017, its landscaping request for proposals (RFP) required . . .

20
Nov

Memo Released by EPA Proposes Increased Aquatic Allowances for Endocrine-Disrupting Atrazine

(Beyond Pesticides, November 20, 2019) Continuing its marathon of deregulation to benefit the chemical industry, the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a memo announcing its proposal to increase the amount of the weed killer atrazine allowed in U.S. waterways by 50% during the chemical’s registration review—a stark reversal of previous proposals to significantly reduce atrazine levels in the environment. The proposal comes after agrichemical giant Syngenta and the National Corn Growers Association requested that EPA dismiss independent research regarding the adverse impact of atrazine.  Atrazine, a broadleaf herbicide, is linked to endocrine disruption, neuropathy, and cancer. It disrupts the sexual development of frogs at levels far below the current allowed concentrations by EPA. Studies by Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, and others have shown that concentrations as low as 0.1ppb interfere with mammary gland development in the breast of mammals. In 2009, a study linked birth defects like gastroschisis and choanal atresia to time of conception and the relative concentrations of atrazine and other pesticides in drinking water. The current Concentration Equivalent Level of Concern (CELOC), a measure in place to protect aquatic organisms, for atrazine is a 60-day average . . .

19
Nov

In the Fight to Protect Pollinators, New Hampshire Pollinator Bill Stalls as Massachusetts Advocates Gear Up

(Beyond Pesticides, November 19, 2019) Legislatures in two New England states continue to deliberate environmental and public health measures aimed at protecting pollinators, safeguarding schoolchildren, and eliminating toxic pesticides. In Massachusetts, dozens of advocates packed a crowded hearing room for a slate of 16 bills before the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. In New Hampshire, advocates were dismayed that, after a successful vote in subcommittee, the House Environment and Agriculture committee voted to weaken HB646, the Saving New Hampshire’s Pollinators Act, into an interim study measure. The stalling of NH’s HB646 came as the pesticide industry, state agencies, and the state agricultural commissioner placed significant pressure on lawmakers, forwarding the idea that the science on the dangers neonicotinoids pose to pollinators is too complex for lawmakers to understand. Local advocate Fawn Gaudet of Save Our NH Pollinator Coalition responded with a passionate, science-based editorial in the Concord Monitor underlining the need for urgent action. However, arguments from pesticide industry proponents sowed the seeds of doubt, deferring to the current Environmental Protection Agency, despite its repeated failures to step up and protect pollinators. An amendment weakening the legislation was introduced by State . . .

18
Nov

Stand Up for Those Who Harvest Our Food – Farmworkers

(Beyond Pesticides, November 18, 2019) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing changes to the way farmworkers and bystanders are protected from toxic pesticide applications. Billed as “improvements” that will “reduce regulatory burdens for farmers,” the actions would instead significantly shrink Application Exclusion Zones (AEZs), buffer areas where individuals are not supposed to enter during a pesticide application, putting farmworkers and bystanders at risk. Tell your Congressional Representative and Senators that EPA must protect farmworkers. “Although the proposal is framed as a narrow revision, it would in fact eliminate, reduce, or weaken various AEZ provisions,” said Farmworker Justice attorney Iris Figueroa to Politico. “These changes threaten to increase exposure to toxic pesticide drift for farmworkers and their families.” EPA’s proposal, announced in a press release featuring the heads of industry associations like the American Farm Bureau, would do the following: Make AEZs applicable only to a farm owners’ property. Under the current rules, pesticide handlers are required to keep individuals out of an area where pesticides are applied both on and off site. Exempt on-farm family members from all aspects of the AEZ. EPA says this will allow farmers and their family “to . . .

15
Nov

Threat of Pesticides to Endangered Species Continues

(Beyond Pesticides, November 15, 2019) The Endangered Species Coalition has released its newest annual report on the 10 U.S. species most threatened by pesticide use, Poisoned: 10 American species imperiled by pesticides. Produced with seven of its member groups, the coalition introduces the report by noting, “Our world is awash in chemicals. We’re particularly addicted to pesticides.” It points to well-known harms, and identifies the exacerbating factors of both climate change and the Trump administration, the latter of which “denies the reality of climate change and has dramatically changed how the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is implemented, leaving vulnerable species at far greater risk.” The introduction ends on a somewhat encouraging tone, saying that previous administrations have supported record growth in organic farming — the solution to pesticides harms that Beyond Pesticides has long endorsed — and that “any administration has the power to get us back on track and away from pesticides.” Impacts on wildlife linked to pesticide exposures — including mammals, bees and other pollinators, fish and other aquatic organisms, birds, and the biota within soil — have been well documented by Beyond Pesticides, and include reproductive, neurological, renal, hepatic, endocrine disruptive, . . .

14
Nov

EPA Proposes to Reduce Protections from Neurotoxic Pyrethroid Insecticides

(Beyond Pesticides, November 14, 2019) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under pressure from chemical companies, released a proposal on Tuesday to further weaken protections regarding 23 pyrethroids. Pyrethroids are a common class of neurotoxic insecticides that have been repeatedly linked by peer-reviewed studies to neurological issues such as learning disabilities in children. They are also extremely damaging to non-target invertebrates, according to EPA’s own analysis. Despite this, EPA had already recently undermined protections for children from these chemicals, and the Trump Administration is now embracing industry proposals to further remove other safety barriers to human health and the environment. The Pyrethroid Working Group, a weighty working group of pesticide companies, requested EPA reduce safeguards such as a permanent 66-foot vegetation buffer between fields and water bodies to a 10 – 25-foot buffer. Also, the working group (and now EPA) suggests that the wind-speed cutoff for spraying should be increased from 10 mph to 15 mph. EPA’s announcement proposes the reapproval of five out the 23 pyrethroids; proposals regarding the rest are already pending approval. EPA is accepting public comments on the proposal until January 13, 2020. As mentioned, this is only the latest . . .

13
Nov

Study Shows Drastic Loss of Arthropods in German Grasslands and Forests

(Beyond Pesticides, November 13, 2019) Research from Germany shows a steep decline of arthropod (insect and spider) populations in grasslands and forests. These data add to the growing body of evidence documenting an ongoing insect apocalypse. “Our study confirms that insect decline is real,” Author Sebastian Seibold, PhD, told BBC, “It might be even more widespread than previously thought considering, for example, that also forests are experiencing declines in insect populations.” Researchers analyze data from standardized inventories of arthropod populations taken from 150 grassland sites and 140 forest sites across three regions of Germany sampled between 2008-2017. They found that, in grasslands, arthropod: Biomass declined by 67% Abundance declined by 78% Number of species declined by 34% In forest sites, arthropod: Biomass declined by 41% Number of species declined by 36% Abundance had more complicated results The paper’s abstract sums up, “Our results suggest that major drivers of arthropod decline act at larger spatial scales, and are (at least for grasslands) associated with agriculture at the landscape level. This implies that policies need to address the landscape scale to mitigate the negative effects of land-use practices.” The scale of the insect crisis became clear . . .

12
Nov

Tell USDA to Stop “Organic” Factories from Milking Conventional Dairy Cows

(Beyond Pesticides, November 12, 2019) Current USDA regulations clearly state that after a dairy farmer takes advantage of a one-time exemption to convert an existing “distinct” herd to organic production—all animals brought onto the farm must have been managed organically from the last third of gestation—in the case of cows, from three months prior to birth. However, USDA has interpreted the prohibition to mean that dairies could purchase animals, on an ongoing basis, who were born and raised on conventional dairies. These calves receive medicated milk replacer (formula laced with antibiotics) and, after weaning, are fed conventional GMO crops generally sprayed with Bayer/Monsanto’s Roundup.® Now, as livestock factories are taking over a good share of the organic market and pushing family-scale farmers off the land, USDA has finally, only after being forced by Congress, written additional regulatory language intending to close a loophole created by USDA’s negligence. Tell the USDA to follow the will of Congress and close its own loophole. The National Organic Program should enforce both the spirit and letter of the law. Organic farmers are mandated to provide healthy living conditions where livestock can exhibit their natural instinctive behaviors. When they do . . .
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