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Daily News Blog

18
Oct

Stopping the Use of Toxic Pesticides in State Parks and Transition to Organic Land Management 

(Beyond Pesticides, October 18, 2021) The most recent science on pesticides raises serious health and environmental effects associated with pesticide use for lawn and landscape management. While the data is often not assembled in one place, updated factsheets bring together the science on the 40 commonly used pesticides used for conventional landscape management. Governors have the authority to stop the use of these hazardous materials that are used on parks and playgrounds, either by executive order or through their work with their state legislature, and transition land management to organic practices. Tell your governor to stop hazardous pesticide use on state lands and transition to organic land management. The new factsheets document with scientific citations a wide range of diseases and ecological effects linked to pesticides. The underlying analysis supporting the adverse health and environmental effects identified in the factsheets are based on toxicity determinations in government reviews and university studies and databases. What do the factsheets disclose? Of the 40 most commonly used lawn and landscape pesticides, in reference to adverse health effects… 26 are possible and/or known carcinogens 24 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system 29 are linked to . . .

15
Oct

IPM (Integrated Pest Management) Fails to Stop Toxic Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, October 15, 2021) Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a 60-year-old approach to agricultural practice that, when first conceived and implemented, had among its goals a significant reduction of synthetic pesticide use, and the health, environmental, and ecosystemic benefits that would flow from that. However, as a study published earlier in 2021 concluded, IPM has overall been unsuccessful in achieving those goals. The researchers propose to replace IPM with “Agroecological Crop Protection [ACP],” the application of agroecology to protecting crops from damage (usually by insects or weeds). Beyond Pesticides has long embraced the foundations of ACP, which focus on cooperation with natural systems that keep all organisms in healthy, dynamic balance (and avoid overpopulation and trophic cascades). The research was conducted by scientists from France, Cambodia, and Vietnam; the research paper was published in Agronomy for Sustainable Development. The authors offer myriad reasons for their conclusion that, “More than half a century after its conception, IPM has not been adopted to a satisfactory extent and has largely failed to deliver on its promise. . . . Despite six decades of good intentions, harsh realities need to be faced for the future. . . . . . .

14
Oct

New Factsheets Alert Communities to Adverse Effects of Commonly Used Landscape Pesticides

Health and environmental effects disclosed on factsheets to guide community decisions on lawn and landscape management that do not poison people and contaminate the environment. WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 14, 2021) — Today, the national environmental and public health group Beyond Pesticides is releasing its health and environmental effects factsheets for “40 Commonly Used Lawn Pesticides,” updating and expanding on previous factsheets on 30 pesticides. These comprehensive factsheets documents with scientific citations a wide range of diseases and ecological effects linked to pesticides. The underlying analysis supporting the adverse health and environmental effects identified in the factsheets are based on toxicity determinations in government reviews and university studies and databases. What do the factsheets disclose? Of the 40 most commonly used lawn and landscape pesticides, in reference to adverse health effects, 26 are possible and/or known carcinogens, 24 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system, 29 are linked to reproductive effects and sexual dysfunction, 21 have been linked to birth defects, 24 are neurotoxic, 32 can cause kidney or liver damage, and 33 are sensitizers and/or irritants. Regarding adverse environmental effects, 21 are detected in groundwater, 24 have the ability to leach into . . .

13
Oct

Weeds Are Now Developing Resistance to Herbicides They’ve Never Been Exposed To

(Beyond Pesticides, October 13, 2021) Pesticide use in conventional chemical-intensive farming is so pervasive that weeds are developing resistance to herbicides they have never encountered before. According to research published in Plant and Cell Physiology and New Phytologist, the notoriously difficult-to-control weed waterhemp (Amaranthus tuberculatus) is outpacing commercial crops in its ability to detoxify after herbicide exposure. “This is probably the first known example where waterhemp has evolved a detox mechanism that a crop doesn’t have. It’s using a completely different mechanism, adding to the complexity of controlling this weed,” says Dean Riechers, PhD, study co-author and professor at University of Illinois. Researchers found waterhemp resistant to the chemical syncarpic acid-3 (SA3). SA3 is one of the earliest versions of a 4-Hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase (HPPD) inhibiting herbicide. HPPD inhibiting herbicides, which include herbicides like isoxaflutole and mesotrione, are selective (ie plant-specific) and break down amino acids that are required for plant growth and development. Corn generally tolerates HPPD-inhibiting chemicals, detoxifying them through different channels depending upon the specific type of HPPD herbicide. Weeds that grow in and around corn fields where these chemicals are regularly sprayed, like waterhemp, have likewise evolved the ability to detoxify . . .

12
Oct

Stop Ag Secretary Vilsack from Undermining Climate Initiative to Transition Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, October 12, 2021) Tell President Biden and Congress that there is no room for agriculture policies that are not in line with the Executive Memorandum and directive Modernizing Regulatory Review. USDA must remove all barriers to a national transition to organic agriculture. One of President Biden’s first actions, on the day of his inauguration, was the Executive Memorandum and directive Modernizing Regulatory Review, requiring the heads of all executive departments and agencies to produce recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review, with a goal of promoting public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations. This mandate should reverse the trend of regulatory review, which has so far protected the status quo, rather than advancing urgently needed change. Why, then, do we see Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Tom Vilsack opposing moves in the direction laid out by the Presidential directive? A recent Mother Jones article by Tom Philpott focuses on Mr. Vilsack’s opposition to the “Farm to Fork” initiative in the European Union, which aims to “push the continent’s agriculture in a healthier, more resilient . . .

11
Oct

Understanding U.S. History on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

(Beyond Pesticides, October 11, 2021) The National Museum of the American Indian, a part of the Smithsonian Institution, sits on the National Mall in Washington, DC and as a part of its history program is commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 11. This year, President Biden, while commemorating Columbus Day, issued a Presidential Proclamation commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the first President to do so. The National Museum of the American Indian marks the day with an effort to teach the true history of the United States. This history is introduced on the Museum’s website with the following: Unlearning Columbus Day Myths: Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day “Many students learn the phrase, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”. But Columbus was not the first foreign explorer to land in the Americas. Neither he nor those that came before him discovered America—because Indigenous Peoples have populated the Western Hemisphere for tens of thousands of years. European contact resulted in devastating loss of life, disruption of tradition, and enormous loss of lands for Indigenous Peoples in the Americas. It is estimated that in the 130 years following first contact, Native America lost 95 percent of its population.” “Indigenous . . .

08
Oct

Ag Secretary Vilsack Pushes Petroleum Farming Inputs, Fights EU’s Climate-Friendly Organic “Food to Fork’ Initiative

(Beyond Pesticides, October 8, 2021) Taking a page from the playbook of Trump Administration Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the current secretary, Tom Vilsack, used a September G20 summit in Italy to target the European Union’s “Farm to Fork” (F2F) strategy, a part of its European Green Deal. Mr. Perdue had said that F2F is “more . . . ‘political science’ than demonstrated agricultural science”; Secretary Vilsack called it “a path very different from the one the U.S. is pursuing.” The F2F initiative aims to transition the EU to a sustainable food system such that it also achieves significant mitigation of climate change. But Mr. Vilsack chose to counter the F2F efforts by promoting an “alternative strategy” — under the moniker “Coalition for Productivity Growth” — through which “other nations pledge not to follow the European path on farm policy.” He has described this alternative, U.S.-led strategy as “a market-oriented, incentive-based, voluntary system [that] is effective” at slashing agricultural carbon emissions. Climate, pesticide, organics, and other environmental and health advocates, including Beyond Pesticides, are troubled by these actions. Mother Jones poses the central question in the headline of its September 30 article: Why is . . .

07
Oct

Water Contamination with Pesticides Goes Unmonitored as Problem Escalates

(Beyond Pesticides, October 7, 2021) The Arizona State Auditor General reports a lack of groundwater monitoring for pesticides and other contaminants by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). For over six years, the agency failed to monitor groundwater and soil for agricultural pesticide contamination. Furthermore, the agency did not implement key groundwater monitoring processes over four years, despite law requirements. This lack of waterway monitoring resulted in an increased number of impaired surface waters across the state.   Pesticide contamination in waterways is historically commonplace and widespread throughout U.S. rivers and streams, with at least five or more different pesticides present in 90 percent of water samples. Thousands of tons of pesticides enter waterways (e.g., rivers, streams, lakes, oceans) around the U.S. from agricultural and nonagricultural sources, contaminating essential drinking water sources, such as surface water and groundwater. Reports like these are essential in determining appropriate regulatory action to protect human, animal, and environmental health from chemical toxicant contamination. The report states, “[The] Department has not developed all required aquifer water quality standards, conducted key ongoing groundwater monitoring of the State’s aquifers, monitored for agricultural pesticides in groundwater and surrounding soil, or reduced the number of impaired . . .

06
Oct

Monoculture Agriculture Leads to Poor Soil Health

(Beyond Pesticides, October 6, 2021) Agricultural soils under monoculture cropping systems are not as healthy as soils with diverse plantings, finds research recently published in the journal Agrosystems, Geosciences and Environment. Soil and soil quality are declining rapidly in the United States and around the world, with recent data indicating that the U.S. Corn Belt has lost 35% of its topsoil. Advocates say it is critical that the response to this problem focus on practices that conserve and improve the soil health by building organic matter and healthy microbial populations. “Understanding the management practices that lead to healthier soils will allow farmers to grow the same crops while reducing costly chemical inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides) and protecting the environment,” said study coauthor Lori Phillips, PhD. To investigate disparities in soil health between cropping systems, researchers analyzed a long-term cropping system that includes 18 years of continuously grown soy, corn, and perennial grasses. Each cropping system was evaluated for its bacterial and fungal population, as well as a test called CNPS, which measures the enzymes produced by microbes specifically related to the soil’s carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur cycles. Researchers indicate that these measurements create “a . . .

05
Oct

American Bumblebee Considered for Endangered Status, But Will “Critical Habitat” Be Defined?

(Beyond Pesticides, October 5, 2021) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will consider listing the American bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus) under the Endangered Species Act, according to a notice published in the Federal Register late last month. Earlier this year, the Bombus Pollinator Association of Law Students at Albany Law School and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the agency to list the species. USFWS review of the petition indicates that it found “substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned actions may be warranted,” and will determine over the next year whether final listing and further protective actions are warranted.  With the American bumblebee experiencing an 89% decline in its population over the last 20 years, scientists and advocates  believe it is critical for USFWS to take steps to protect what remains of this iconic species. At one time, the American bumblebee’s range extended from eastern Canada south through the United States into Florida, and as far west as California. Oregon is the only state in the continental US where the species has never been spotted. Declines are particularly pronounced in the northern part of its range, where recent sightings are . . .

04
Oct

Tell EPA and Congress to Protect the Integrity of Minimum Risk Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, October 4, 2021) Recent findings of high levels of toxic pesticides in products permitted to be used as “minimum risk pesticides” (terminology used for essentially nontoxic) point to the need for greater oversight of these products and more severe penalties for violations. Pesticides classified as minimum risk are allowed under Section 25(b) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) [40 CFR 152.25(f)] to be used without going through EPA’s pesticide registration process. These products are limited to a specific list of ingredients, and all ingredients, including “inert” ingredients, are required to be listed on the label.  Minimum risk pesticides are used by organic growers, municipalities, and others who are not permitted to use, or choose to avoid, toxic chemicals.  Tell EPA and Congress to protect the integrity of minimum risk pesticides. Organic growers can lose their organic certification if they apply materials that are prohibited, which include the toxic ingredients glyphosate, bifenthrin, permethrin, cypermethrin, and carbaryl, found by the state of California in dangerous and misbranded Eco-MIGHT and W.O.W. (Whack Out Weeds!) products, falsely labeled as 25(b) minimum risk. Contamination of these products came to light in late July, . . .

01
Oct

EPA Decisions Lacking Scientific Integrity Still In Place Under Biden Administration, Say Whistleblowers

(Beyond Pesticides, October 1, 2021) With this article, Beyond Pesticides rounds out its coverage of recent revelations about compromised science integrity at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As Sharon Lerner reports in her September 18 (and third in a series) article in The Intercept, new documents and whistleblower interviews reveal additional means by which EPA officials have gone out of their way to avoid assessing potential health risks of hundreds of new chemicals. Ms. Lerner writes that “senior staff have made chemicals appear safer — sometimes dodging restrictions on their use — by minimizing the estimates of how much is released into the environment.” Beyond Pesticides regularly monitors and reports on scientific integrity at EPA, including two recent articles that reference Ms. Lerner’s The Intercept reporting; see “EPA Agenda Undermined by Its Embrace of Industry Influence,” and “Whistleblowers Say EPA Managers Engaged in Corrupt and Unethical Practices, Removed Findings, and Revised Conclusions.” Whistleblowers had already provided evidence of agency malfeasance, particularly in EPA’s New Chemicals Division (NCD), such as “managers and other officials . . . pressuring [EPA scientists] to assess chemicals to be less toxic than they actually are — and sometimes . . .

30
Sep

Commonly Used Neurotoxic Pesticide Exposure Increases ALS Risk to Workers and Residents

(Beyond Pesticides, September 30, 2021) Individuals working or living in areas with frequent neurotoxic pesticide use experience more amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) incidences than the general population. The study, published in NeuroToxicology, finds a positive association between sporadic (non-genetic, spontaneous) ALS incidences among individuals exposed to neurotoxic pesticides.  Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. As many as 16,000 – 20,000 Americans live with this condition, which weakens muscle/motor function leading to loss of muscle control for walking, talking, eating/swallowing, and breathing. Severe ALS progression is fatal and has no current cure. Although research supports genetic factors play a role in disease etiology (cause), most ALS cases do not result from genetic inheritance. Several research studies demonstrate exposure to environmental or work-related toxicants (i.e., pesticides) predispose humans to the disease. With researchers predicting a global ALS incidence increase of 69% by 2040, identifying ALS’s causal factors are important to future research. Therefore, research like this showcases the importance of assessing aggregate health risks associated with toxic chemical exposure, especially for illnesses, which are not curable. In this study, the researchers note, “[W]e identified . . .

29
Sep

Conventional Agriculture Decreases Diversity of Gut Bacteria in Foraging Bats

(Beyond Pesticides, September 29, 2021) Bats foraging in chemical-intensive banana plantations have much less gut diversity than bats foraging in organic banana fields and natural forestland, finds research published this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. Although there is increasing recognition that a diet of conventional, chemically grown food leads to adverse disruptions of the gut microbiome (also known as dysbiosis), little research has been conducted on the effect of production practices on the gut of wild foraging species. According to the present study there are significant differences that regulators must begin to account for in pesticide risk assessments, and consumers should consider when making choices at the supermarket. Researchers focused their investigation on Pallas’s long-tongued bat (Glossophaga soricina), a nectar feeding bat native to Central and South America. The bat is highly adapted to human environments, sustaining populations in both conventional and organic banana plantations, as well as surrounding forest land. For the study, researchers trapped nearly 200 bats across the country of Costa Rica over a 22-month time span. After trapping, physiological characteristics, like size and body weight, were measured, and bat guano was analyzed for its microbial . . .

28
Sep

Common Mosquito Pesticide Exacerbates Health Issues Associated with Zika Virus

(Beyond Pesticides, September 28, 2021) A widely used mosquito pesticide may exacerbate the effect of the Zika virus on fetal brain development, according to research published by an international team of scientists in the journal Environmental Pollution. Pyriproxyfen, an insect growth regulator often used as a mosquito larvicide, is registered for use in hundreds of commonly used pesticide products. But scientists have discovered that the pesticide’s mode of action has the potential to worsen the public health mosquito diseases the chemical aims to control. The research reinforces the extent of unknowns associated with synthetic pesticide exposure, underlining the need for a focus on nontoxic and ecological mosquito management. Scientists base their research on reports that in Brazil, during the 2015 Zika epidemic, certain areas of the country experienced higher rates of microcephaly. Microcephaly is a rare condition that causes pregnant women’s fetus to develop severe cranial deformities, alongside a range of other symptoms that include vision problems, hearing loss, feeding issues, developmental delays and seizures. The present study aimed to see how pyriproxyfen, used at higher rates in areas where microcephaly Zika cases were recorded, may interact with the virus. In an article published in . . .

27
Sep

Last Chance to Protect Organic this Fall—Submit Comments by September 30!

(Beyond Pesticides, September 27, 2021) The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is receiving written comments from the public through September 30. This precedes the upcoming public comment webinar on October 13-14 and online meeting October 19-21—in which the NOSB deliberates on issues concerning how organic food is produced. Written comments must be submitted through Regulations.gov. As always, there are many important issues on the NOSB agenda this Fall. For a complete discussion, see Keeping Organic Strong (KOS) and the Fall 2021 issues page. In the spirit of “continuous improvement,” we urge you to submit comments (please feel free to use our comments on the KOS page) that contribute to an increasingly improved organic production system. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) requires that all synthetic materials used in organic production be approved by the NOSB, included on the National List, and reassessed every five years. Among the issues up for consideration at this meeting is a material that the National Organic Program (NOP) has taken off the NOSB’s sunset agenda for several years—sodium nitrate. There are also issues affecting organic integrity that need to be addressed—systemic fraud and plastic—as well as decisions about . . .

24
Sep

Research on Thousands of Organic and Chemical-Intensive Farms Illustrates Stark Difference in Toxic Chemical Use

(Beyond Pesticides, September 24, 2021) Recent research out of California sought to compare (and quantify) differences in total pesticide use, and in use of pesticides of specific concern, across conventional and organic agricultural fields in the state. The research team, from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, finds an 18–31% likely reduction in spraying of pesticides on organically managed fields compared to conventional, and a 27% likely reduction in use of pesticide products with high acute human toxicity for organic versus conventional fields. Readers may be gasping, and thinking, “Wait, what?! I thought organic farming does not use pesticides! Help?” There is a world of difference between the pesticides used in organic and in conventional production. Though conventional growers are allowed to use thousands of synthetic compounds on their crops, seeds, and soils — no matter their toxicity, as long as EPA has permitted them — Certified Organic growers are permitted to use only “natural” or naturally derived pesticide products, and a very limited number, at that. Organic growers may use any of the products listed in “The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances,” as established by the NOP’s . . .

23
Sep

Study Adds to 40 Year Analysis Linking Brain Cancer to Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, September 23, 2021) A study by Claremont Graduate University finds exposure to agricultural pesticides increases brain cancer risk up to 20 percent. This study expands on a 1998 study evaluating brain cancer risk among the farm population using epidemiologic studies. The etiology (cause) of brain cancer is inconclusive for many forms, including glioma and meningioma. Brain cancer risk factors include family history and exposure to radiation. However, geographical variance in brain cancer incidents suggests environmental pollutants like pesticides contribute to risk. Various research studies already note the adverse effects pesticide exposure has on the brain. These effects range from headaches and tumors to learning and developmental disabilities among children and adults. Although general cancer incidents are decreasing, brain and nervous system cancers are rising. Therefore, studies like this highlight the need to reevaluate pesticide exposure limits for those working with or around agricultural chemicals to prevent chronic, deadly diseases. The study researchers note, “This comprehensive review and meta-analysis encompassing 42 years of the epidemiologic literature and updating two previous meta-analyses by 20 years supports an association between farming and brain cancer incidence and mortality.[…]Our analyses suggest that the elevated risk has been consistent over . . .

22
Sep

EPA Urged to Stop Use of Misbranded “Minimum Risk” Pesticides, Step Up Oversight and Enforcement

(Beyond Pesticides, September 22, 2021) Health and environmental organizations are urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state pesticide regulators to immediately stop the use and sale of dangerous and misbranded Eco-MIGHT and W.O.W. (Whack Out Weeds!) products, falsely labeled as 25(b) minimum risk. Recent laboratory testing by the state of California found the presence of hazardous pesticides, including glyphosate, bifenthrin, permethrin, cypermethrin, and carbaryl in these products. “From organic farmers to municipal landscapers and home gardeners, consumers employing minimum risk products are working intentionally to avoid the dangers associated with toxic pesticide exposure,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “It is critical that EPA and state regulators coordinate to ensure the integrity of the minimum risk program.” Coordination is critical yet reports indicate that EPA is falling down on the job. The issue first came to light in late July, when the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) State Organic Program issued a Stop Use Notice to farmers alerting them to adultered Eco-MIGHT and W.O.W products. The products make a range of claims, marketed as “organic,” “natural,” “glyphosate-free,” and “non-toxic and safe.” As CDFA Secretary Karen Ross noted, . . .

21
Sep

Study Finds Packaged Organic Foods Are Healthier than Conventional Products

(Beyond Pesticides, September 21, 2021) Processed organic foods are healthier than their conventional, chemical-intensive counterparts in important ways, according to a new peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nutrients led by scientists at the Environmental Working Group. While a steady diet of whole, unprocessed foods is ideal, packaged foods are ubiquitous in U.S. supermarkets and often unavoidable. In addition to eliminating concerns over highly toxic pesticide use, according to this new research, choosing packaged organic is an effective means of evading highly processed ingredients associated with adverse health outcomes. Researchers began with a food product dataset including over 72,000 conventional and 8,000 organic packaged foods, representing 85% of all food products sold to U.S. consumers. These products and their ingredients were then classified into four groups corresponding with the amount of processing, with one being unprocessed or minimally processed and four being ultra-processed. A statistical analysis was then conducted on a range of product variables to differentiate various health concerns between organic and conventional products.   Results show that organic packaged foods present far fewer health concerns than conventional products. Processed organic products were likely to have lower amounts of salt, saturated fat, . . .

20
Sep

We Must End the Sixth Extinction

(Beyond Pesticides, September 20, 2021) Scientists warn that humanity is causing the sixth mass extinction in the planet’s history. A series of reports from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) highlights how human activities threaten the healthy functioning of ecosystems that produce food and water, as well as one million species now at risk of extinction. The UNEP report, Food System Impacts on Biodiversity Loss, identifies the global food system as the primary driver of biodiversity loss. The report points to the conversion of natural ecosystems to crop production and pasture, with concomitant use of toxic chemicals, monoculture, and production of greenhouse gases.  In view of the many steps that have been identified to stop both biodiversity loss and global climate change, it is beyond disappointing to see our “Environmental Protection Agency” continuing to allow use of chemicals that it recognizes will contribute to the problems. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the international legal instrument for “the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.” It has been ratified by 196 . . .
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