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Daily News Blog

18
Jan

More Documentation of EPA’s Failures in Allowing Use of Roundup, as French Court Bans It

(Beyond Pesticides, January 18, 2019) A new analysis by Charles Benbrook, PhD, published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe, adds to the chronicle of the failures of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect human health from toxic pesticides, and in this subject instance, from glyphosate. Meanwhile, a French Court has pulled the license for a Roundup product, citing the French government’s failure to protect public health. In his paper, Dr. Benbrook examines the divergent positions on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate — the active ingredient in a number of herbicides, most notably Monsanto’s (now Bayer’s) Roundup — taken by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and by EPA. The paper calls out EPA’s handling of science related to the safety of glyphosate, suggesting that the agency has discounted evidence of the compound’s association with genotoxicity — destructive effects on cellular genetic material that can cause mutations — which can result in cancer. Dr. Benbrook is an American agricultural economist, former executive director of the National Academy of Sciences board on agriculture, and former research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University. He has long studied . . .

17
Jan

Interior Department Sued Over Failure to Protect Endangered Bumblebee

(Beyond Pesticides, January 17, 2019) Although the rusty patched bumblebee was placed on the endangered species list in 2017, the Trump Administration has failed to put in place legally required safeguards for the species. As a result, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is suing the Administration’s Department of the Interior (DOI) for failing to designate locations where additional protections could help restore the endangered bumblebee’s population. Advocates say DOI’s failure to comply with requirements under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is consistent with the Trump Administration’s continued disregard for ongoing pollinator declines and environmental protections in general. Under ESA, DOI is required to determine “critical habitat” that contains physical and biological requirements a listed species needs in order to recover. That area must be designated within one year of placing a species on the endangered list, using best available scientific data. But the Trump Administration’s DOI, under both former Director Ryan Zinke and Acting Director David Bernhardt, has failed to do so, in violation of ESA. NRDC’s legal director Rebecca Riley notes that this lack of follow-through “leaves this highly endangered bee’s habitat at risk of destruction and decreases the species’ chance for . . .

16
Jan

Western Monarchs Experience Catastrophic Declines Over the Last Year

(Beyond Pesticides, January 16, 2019) Preliminary counts in California indicate the western monarch butterfly population dropped 86% from 2017 to 2018. The survey is a result of an annual effort by volunteer citizen scientists, organized by the nonprofit organization Xerces Society. If the trend from the initial sample (97 sites) holds true, the population of overwintering butterflies is estimated to be less than 30,000 – 0.05% of its historical size. Full and vetted results will be published in late January. To get an accurate count of monarch populations, volunteers follow a monitoring guide, which recommends beginning a count on a still, cool, and dry morning so that monarchs are still clustered together. Volunteers count a small cluster of monarchs and then extrapolate that number to arrive at a total for the larger cluster they’re observing. Citizen science has been crucial to understanding the decline of monarchs and insects worldwide. As covered by The New York Times, the current “Insect Apocalypse” has largely been documented by volunteers. The dismal numbers recorded this year are potentially disastrous, as the predicted extinction threshold for overwintering western monarchs is a population of 30,000. However this threshold, based on population . . .

15
Jan

Petition Challenges Lack of Protection for Endangered Species from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 14, 2019)  A petition submitted on January 7 by the Center for Biological Diversity calls on the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to initiate rulemaking to proscribe nearly all pesticide use in areas that are deemed critical habitat for endangered species. It asks these federal agencies to use the authority they have under the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA) to protect wildlife from the threats represented by pesticides — which threats both agencies have long recognized. The language of the ESA says its purpose is “to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved.” In its press release on the petition, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) notes that it comes “after decades of intransigence by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has refused to comply with the legal mandates of the Endangered Species Act to protect the nation’s most imperiled species from highly toxic pesticides like chlorpyrifos and atrazine that are known to harm wildlife.” CBD environmental health director Lori Ann Burd said, “Pesticides pose a devastating danger to endangered wildlife, from . . .

14
Jan

Tell Congress to Stop EPA from Allowing Antibiotic Use in Citrus Production

(Beyond Pesticides, January 14, 2019) Tell Congress to stop the Trump administration from opening the floodgates to permit widespread use of antibiotics in citrus production (grapefruits, oranges and tangerines). Despite the building national and international crisis of deadly bacterial resistance to antibiotics, this new allowance would expand on an emergency use decision the Environmental Protection Agency made in 2017. It permits up to 480,000 acres of citrus trees in Florida to be treated with more than 650,000 pounds of streptomycin per year; 23,000 citrus acres in California will likely be treated annually. The World Health Organization has called bacterial resistance “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.” Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative to urge EPA to reject the use of antibiotics in food production, including citrus production. The two approved antibacterial chemicals to be used as pesticides in citrus production are streptomycin and oxytetracycline. Their use was permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under an emergency exemption in May, 2017 for a citrus greening disease caused by the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) in Florida citrus crops through December of 2019. The Environmental Protection Agency announced March 15, “EPA is issuing these . . .

11
Jan

EPA Negotiates Deal to Drop Plans to Weaken Farmworker Protections

(Beyond Pesticides, January 11, 2019) Plans to weaken farmworker protections from toxic pesticides were dropped by Acting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler, according to an undated letter sent to Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) late last year. Reports indicate the action was part of a deal cut by both parties that permitted confirmation of Alexandra Dunn to the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention in exchange for EPA concessions that would improve pesticide and chemical safety measures. While advocates are generally pleased with the outcome of the apparent deal, the irony that deals needed to be made for an agency with protection in its name to do its job is not lost. Under former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency backtracked on provisions put in place during the Obama administration that would update farmworker protections following decades of inaction. Pruitt determined to revisit rules put in place that would require farmworkers be 18 to spray highly toxic pesticides, implement 25 to 100 ft application exclusion zones (AEZ) after pesticide applications, and permit farmworkers to have a designated representative obtain health and safety information on their behalf. These simple, commonsense protections . . .

10
Jan

Take Action: Stop Antibiotic Use in Citrus Production, Leading to Life-Threatening Illness

(Beyond Pesticides, January 10, 2019) The Trump administration is opening the floodgates to allow widespread use of antibiotics in citrus (grapefruits, oranges and tangerines) production, expanding on an emergency use decision it made in 2017. The public has an opportunity to comment on the widespread use of streptomycin by January 19, 2019. You can comment on the federal government’s public comment page (regulations.gov) by leaving a comment opposing any additional use of antibiotics in food production during a national and international crisis of deadly disease resistance to antibiotics. You can copy Beyond Pesticides’ prepared comment below and add your own concerns. Strikingly, the decision allows for up to 480,000 acres of citrus trees in Florida to be treated with more than 650,000 pounds of streptomycin per year, and 23,000 citrus acres in California will likely be treated annually. The two approved antibacterial chemicals to be used as a pesticide in citrus production are streptomycin and oxytetracycline. These uses were permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under an emergency exemption in May, 2017, allowing residues of antibiotics in Florida orange juice, for the antibiotics streptomycin and oxytetracycline –allowing their use for a bacterial disease, citrus greening (Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus . . .

09
Jan

Regulations to Protect Bees Fall Short, Scientists Call for More Attention to Native Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, January 9, 2019) It is news to approximately no one that pollinators are in trouble worldwide. A series of papers by biologists at the University of Guelph, Ontario, posits that pesticide regulations aimed at protection of honey bees fall far short of the critical task of protecting the multitude of bee species that are important pollinators of human food crops. These recent papers arose from 2017 workshops that involved 40 bee researchers from various universities, and representatives from Canadian, U.S., and European regulatory agencies, and from the agrochemical industry. Beset by shrinking habitat, pathogens, and toxic chemical exposures, bee pollinator populations are at great risk, even as “‘our dependency on insect-pollinated crops is increasing and will continue to do so as the global population rises,’ said [Professor Nigel] Raine, [PhD], [a] co-author of all three papers recently published in the journal Environmental Entomology. . . . Protecting wild pollinators is more important now than ever before. Honeybees alone simply cannot deliver the crop pollination services we need.” There are, in fact, more than 20,000 bee species worldwide, and 3,500–5,000 bee species in North America alone. Although regulators across many countries have focused narrowly on assessing . . .

08
Jan

USDA Capitulates to the Agrichemical Industry with Final GE Labeling Rule

(Beyond Pesticides, January 8, 2019) At the end of December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finalized its rule regarding the disclosure of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients in consumer foods. After years of local, state and federal pressure to implement a clear, concise labeling requirement for GE foods, advocates say USDA’s rule is a failure, and a capitulation to agrichemical corporations that promote GE farming systems. According to U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), speaking with the Portland Press Herald, the new rule is “an insult to consumers.” She said, “These labels should give people the facts of whether ingredients in their food have been genetically altered, plain and simple.” Rather than the plain and simple language urged by Rep Pingree and other GE labeling advocates, USDA determined to move forward with muddled verbiage that is certain to confuse consumers. GE products will not defined by a term Americans are familiar with, such as GE or GMO. Instead, the term USDA will require on product labels is “bioengineered.” USDA is allowing companies to choose one of the following methods to alert consumers to the presence of GE ingredients in their foods: Inclusion of a “bioengineered” or “derived . . .

07
Jan

Time for a Green New Deal to Accelerate the Organic Transition

(Beyond Pesticides, January 7, 2019) As the dust settles on the final Farm Bill, which passed the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives last month, it is clear that neither the substance nor the process on a range of issues meet the urgent need to address key sustainability issues that put the future in peril. We must not allow this Farm Bill to be the final word on a number of critical environmental issues facing the nation and world. That is why it is absolutely critical that we get to work immediately, with the new Congress, to set a new course that transforms the institutions of government that are holding back the urgently needed transition to a green economy. Tell your Senators and Representative to support a Green New Deal that restructures food and agriculture programs. On the Farm Bill, our victories were mostly measured in terms of what we were able to remove from the Farm Bill—not the standard of achievement that we need to face critical environmental threats.  The good. Our major victory in the Farm Bill does not move us forward, but simply protects the status quo of our democracy—protecting the . . .

04
Jan

Settlement Bans Some Bee-Toxic Pesticides, Requires Public Comment Period on Testing All Pesticide Product Ingredients and Regulating Pesticide-Treated Seeds

(Beyond Pesticides, January 4, 2019) First, the good news: plaintiffs in a 2013 lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can allow themselves a small victory dance. In that suit, plaintiffs made a number of claims related to EPA’s failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides, its poor oversight of the bee-killing pesticides clothianidin and thiamethoxam, and its practice of “conditional registration,” as well as labeling deficiencies. The parties in the suit negotiated a settlement, as directed by a federal judge (see below), that was signed in October 2018 and portends some positive movement in curtailing the use of some toxic pesticides [12 products, each of which contains chlothianidin or thiamathoxam as an active ingredient] that harm pollinators in particular, as well as other organisms and the environment. It also establishes a public process for EPA to consider requiring whole formulations of pesticide products during registration, and redefining EPA’s interpretation of law that allows seeds treated with bee-toxic pesticides to escape regulation as a pesticide. The suit was brought by a number of individual beekeepers and several organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety (CFS), Sierra Club, and Center for Environmental Health, and named as . . .

03
Jan

Watchdog Groups Urge Maryland to Better Enforce State’s Pollinator Protection Act

(Beyond Pesticides, January 3, 2019) Bee-toxic pesticides banned for consumer use by the state of Maryland are still being sold in hardware and garden stores, according to reports from beekeeper and consumer watchdog groups. In 2016, Maryland passed the Pollinator Protection Act, which limited the use of neonicotinoids, insecticides implicated in the global decline of pollinator populations, to only certified applicators. According to spot checks by the Maryland Pesticide Education Network (MPEN) and the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association (CMBA), state enforcement agencies still have a ways to go to ensure retailers are complying with the law. From May to October 2018, six volunteers visited 30 Maryland stores along the Baltimore-Washington corridor to see whether they are complying with the law by removing bee-toxic neonicotinoids from retail consumer sale. Eleven of the 30 stores were not in compliance, ranging from local home and garden stores to national big-box chains. “I’ve taken bottles off the shelf and taken them up to an employee or a manager, and said, ‘You really need to stop selling this stuff — it’s illegal,’” said Steve McDaniel, a master beekeeper in Carroll County to the Bay Journal. The state, for its . . .

02
Jan

Is Your Yoga Mat or Gym Breeding Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria?

(Beyond Pesticides, January 2, 2019) The “indoor microbiome” of yoga studios and other athletic facilities often contain significant levels of antibacterial chemicals like triclosan, which show up in dust and breed antibiotic resistance, according to research published last month in the journal mSystems. Triclosan may be banned from hand soaps, but its continued use in a myriad of other products, from disinfectant sprays to impregnated clothing, yoga mats, and other work-out equipment makes it difficult to avoid this now-ubiquitous chemical. This is a public health concern because these antibacterial or antimicrobial chemicals are link to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistance kills over 23,000 people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition to the CDC, the World Health Organization has cited this escalating problem as become one of the biggest public health challenges of our time. Many people may suspect their gym or yoga study is not a germ-free location, but attempts to address these germs through antibacterial sprays or impregnated yoga mats and other surfaces, may be exacerbating the issue—doing much more harm than good. The continued detection of triclosan and its impacts at new and unexpected locations are . . .

21
Dec

Best Wishes This Season! Please Donate for a Strong Beyond Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, December 21-31, 2018)  As we look ahead to the new year, we wish you good health, extend our appreciation for your being a part of the Beyond Pesticides network, and ask you to consider a contribution to Beyond Pesticides. Your support is critical to our program and deeply appreciated. We approach the new year with a sense of optimism that we will advance our collective will to solve devastating environmental problems. We believe it can be done! But, it takes us all joining together with a strong voice and unified action to stop hazardous practices, while putting safe and sustainable alternatives in place. With your support of Beyond Pesticides, we strive to reverse the destructive environmental and public health path that we’re on. As a grassroots organization, we work with community-based campaigns and organizations to put organic land management practices in place—in our parks, on playing fields, school grounds, and throughout communities. Together, we eliminate practices that contaminate waterways, put poisons in the air, degrade and destroy life in the soil, and expose us to pesticides that cause or contribute to a range of dreaded diseases like cancer—Parkinson’s, diabetes, reproductive disorders, autism, and more. We can change the current . . .

21
Dec

Blackberry Leaves Decompose to Thwart Mosquito Breeding

(Beyond Pesticides, December 21, 2019) A study at the University of Maine (UMaine) finds that adding blackberry leaf litter in stormwater catch basins creates an “ecological trap,” enticing mosquito females to lay eggs in sites unsuitable for larvae survival. Employing this new and incredibly viable “attract-and-kill’ tool for mosquito control shows potential for preventing the breeding of mosquitoes that may carry insect-borne diseases, especially in urban environments. Stormwater catch basins regularly accumulate leaf litter, which serve as habitat for the mosquito species Culex pipiens (Cx. Pipiens) that may carry West Nile virus. Previous University of Maine research discovered decomposing leaf litter from Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) and common blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis) produces chemical compounds that attracts and stimulates Cx. Pipiens female to oviposit, or lay eggs. Investigating the attractiveness and lethality of varying catch basin conditions to mosquitoes, researchers hypothesized that blackberry leaf litter could be shown to be lethal to developing mosquito larvae, and, therefore, act as a natural ecological trap for Cx. Pipiens. Five varying treatments were applied to a total 50 catch basins. Treatments included (1) all debris dredged weekly throughout the duration of the study, (2) no change to debris . . .
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