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Daily News Blog

09
Apr

Chemical-Intensive Land Management Contributes to Toxic Lagoons Overflowing with Synthetic Fertilizer Waste

(Beyond Pesticides, April 9, 2021) In early April, the leaking, open-air, Piney Point storage pond near Tampa, Florida necessitated hundreds of resident evacuations over concerns that the “reservoir” would breach and flood a three-county area with what was described as a potential “20-foot wall of water.” Ultimately, controlled releases from the 480-million-gallon “pond” (into Tampa Bay) avoided such a flood, but the event underscores the “ticking bomb” nature of such open-air, toxic-liquid-waste facilities, which are used by multiple industries in the U.S. Among those are, as in this case, the phosphate mining sector, and the synthetic fertilizer industry. The latter is tied directly to the chemical-intensive agriculture crisis, and to the exact kind of waste storage facility at issue in the Florida event. This “double whammy” related to synthetic fertilizers further validates Beyond Pesticides’ advocacy for a global transition to organic land management — which rejects the use of synthetic fertilizers for the myriad harms they cause. As reported by The New York Times, that Florida storage pond contains “legacy processed water” — code for wastewater with traces of heavy metals and other toxicants — contained by walls of phosphogypsum tailings at least 70 . . .

08
Apr

Invertebrates and Plants Face Increasing Threat from Pesticide Use, Despite Declining Chemical Use Patterns

Pesticide use threatens aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates and plants more than ever, despite declining chemical use and implementation of genetically engineered (GE) crops in the U.S., according to a University Koblenz-Landau, Germany study. Since the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), many environmental agencies have banned the use of pesticides like organochlorines, organophosphates, and carbamates for their devastating toxic—sometimes lethal—effects, particularly on vertebrates, including humans. However, this ban created a pathway for a new generation of pesticides (e.g., neonicotinoids, pyrethroids) to take hold. Although these pesticides are more target-specific, requiring lower chemical concentrations for effectiveness, they have over double the toxic effects on invertebrates, like pollinators.  Invertebrates and plants are vital for ecosystem function, offering various services, from decomposition to supporting the food web. Furthermore, invertebrates and plants can act as indicator species (bioindicators) that scientists can observe for the presence and impact of environmental changes and stressors. Therefore, reductions in invertebrate and plant life have implications for ecosystem health that can put human well-being at risk. Study lead author Ralf Schulz, PH.D., notes, “[This study] challenge[s] the claims of decreasing environmental impact of chemical pesticides in both conventional and GM [genetically modified or genetically engineered (GE)] . . .

07
Apr

Toxic Pesticides Are Polluting Over Half of Arable Land, Reinforcing Need for Global Organic Transition

(Beyond Pesticides, April 7, 2021) Toxic pesticides are putting more than half of the Earth’s farmland at risk of pesticide pollution that contaminates water, harms biodiversity, and ultimately undermines food security, according to research published in Nature Geosciences last month.  While there is firm understanding that environmental crises like climate change are affecting the entire globe, the impacts of pesticide pollution are often thought of as local, or regional issues. This study, led by researchers based at the University of Sydney, Australia, underscores the wide-ranging effects of modern civilization’s global dependence on toxic pesticide use. “Although protecting food production is essential for human development, reducing pesticide pollution is equivalently crucial to protect the biodiversity that maintains soil health and functions, contributing towards food security,” said lead study author Fiona Tang, PhD. To better understand pesticide risks at a global scale, scientists sectioned a world map into 10×10 kilometer (6.2×6.2 mile) squares that were assessed for their pesticide risk. The map also included data relating to water scarcity, biodiversity, and national income, to better determine trends and hot spots of concern. Scientists evaluated 92 different pesticide active ingredients and determined their risk within each . . .

06
Apr

Living Within 2.5 Miles of Chemical Farming Increases Risk of Childhood Brain Tumors

(Beyond Pesticides, April 6, 2021) Pregnant women living within 2.5 miles of agricultural pesticide applications have an increased risk that their child will develop central nervous system (CNS) tumors, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Research by a team at University of California, Los Angeles. The results are particularly concerning as it reveals that individuals do not have to be in close contact with pesticides for risky, health-harming exposures to occur. “This transition from farmland to residential neighborhoods is abrupt across California, and, of course, constantly changing as farmland is developed,” said study co-author Myles Cockburn, PhD. “The simplest way to mitigate these risks is by reductions in exposure to pesticides, through restrictions to aerial spraying and air blast that lead to increased drift, and by farming methods that decrease reliance on pesticides.” Researchers note that the present study is unique in that it was able to pinpoint the specific pesticides related to the development specific types of tumors. To make these determinations, scientists made use of California’s Cancer Registry records. Diagnosed children aged 0-5 were matched to maternal residences where pesticide applications were made within 4000 meters (~2.5 miles). Pesticide . . .

05
Apr

Ban Endocrine Disrupting Pesticides Now

(Beyond Pesticides, April 5, 2021) The failure of EPA to meet its statutory responsibility to protect people and wildlife from the dire consequences of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals must end. Over recent decades, evidence has mounted showing that many pesticides interfere with hormones—and are therefore endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). In 1996, the promise of screening pesticides for endocrine disruption generated support from environmentalists and public health advocates for the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), which traded the absolute prohibition of carcinogens in food of the Delaney Clause for a risk assessment standard that is subject to manipulation and an underestimation of real-life hazards. And now, 25 years later, we have yet to see EPA use endocrine disruption findings in pesticide registration decisions. >>Tell EPA that pesticide use cannot continue without findings of no endocrine disruption. The endocrine system consists of a set of glands (thyroid, gonads, adrenal and pituitary) and the hormones they produce (thyroxine, estrogen, testosterone and adrenaline), which help guide the development, growth, reproduction, and behavior of animals, including humans. Hormones are signaling molecules, which travel through the bloodstream and elicit responses in other parts of the body. More than 50 pesticide . . .

02
Apr

Lawsuit Challenges EPA Allowance of Antibiotic Streptomycin in Citrus

(Beyond Pesticides, April 2, 2021) Having raised the alarm for many years (and most recently in November 2020) on the dangers of the burgeoning antibiotic resistance crisis, Beyond Pesticides has joined a coalition of public interest groups in a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its approval of use of the medically important antibiotic streptomycin on citrus trees. Beyond Pesticides executive director Jay Feldman comments: “It is past time to take urgent action to transition away from practices in agriculture that are dependent on antibiotics, advance organic farm management, and avoid new deadly pandemics. This lawsuit is an important action to reverse the previous administration’s decision to ignore the science and allow expanded use of an antibiotic in agriculture.” According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the suit charges that EPA “failed to ensure that the approved uses of streptomycin as a pesticide would not cause unreasonable harm to human health or the environment and failed to adequately assess impacts to endangered species.” The coalition of plaintiffs includes Beyond Pesticides, NRDC, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, Farmworker Association of Florida, Farmworker Justice, Migrant Clinicians Network, and . . .

01
Apr

Pesticides Are More Widespread in Both Conventional and Organic Agricultural Soils than Previously Thought

(Beyond Pesticides, April 1, 2021) A legacy of toxic pesticide use in agriculture is showing up as residues on organic farms, emphasizing the threat of a history of weak regulatory standards that has left farmland poisoned and the urgent need to transition to organic. A study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, documents the findings of pesticide residues on organic farmland and shows a decrease in residues after transition, with lingering effects for decades.  Some banned pesticides like organochlorines (e.g., DDT and chlordecone) are stable as research demonstrates these chemicals can bind to and linger in the dirt for years to decades. However, other current-use pesticides also pose a soil contamination risk due to drift, runoff, and leaching.  Widespread, increasing pesticide use in genetically engineered crops has implications for contamination of natural resources, including soils. Since pesticide residues can kill off beneficial soil life, impacting soil health and function, agricultural production may decline. Past studies examining pesticide residues rarely investigate residue’s presence in the soil where the chemical has never been used, like organic systems. Therefore, studies like these highlight the need to examine the effect potential pesticide contamination has on soil health, especially in . . .

31
Mar

Hazardous Pesticide Breakdown Chemicals Found in Streams Nationwide, Raising Health Concerns

(Beyond Pesticides, March 31, 2021) Pesticide breakdown products are just as ubiquitous as their parent compounds in urban streams throughout the United States, according to research conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and published in Environmental Science and Technology. The first of its kind findings place an important spotlight on the long-term impacts of pesticide use on health and the environment. As new analytical methods provide evidence of dangers that were until now unable to be recorded, the data point to the need for a wholescale rethinking of the way pesticide products are approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and community-based measures to protect local waterways.   USGS researchers subdivided the U.S. into five regions (Pacific NW, Coastal California, Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast) and took 76 to 100 water samples in small streams for each region over the course of five years. Samples were tested for 108 pesticide active ingredients, and 116 transformation products (also known as breakdown products or metabolites) that arise as active ingredients degrade after a pesticide application.   Of the active ingredients sampled, at least one pesticide was detected in 418 of 442 total stream samples conducted, representing . . .

30
Mar

Endangered Florida Manatees Contaminated with Glyphosate/Roundup Due to Widespread Use

(Beyond Pesticides, March 30, 2021) Florida manatees are experiencing chronic glyphosate exposure that is likely to impact their immune system and make them more susceptible to other environmental stressors such as red tide and cold stress, according to a study published recently in Environment International by a Florida-based team of researchers, led by University of Florida PhD candidate Maite De Maria. Florida manatees, a subpopulation of the West Indian manatee, are listed as threatened under the endangered species act, as populations are under constant threat from human activity in the freshwater ecosystems they rely on. The findings are a call for Florida regulators and lawmakers, particularly communities along the coast, to implement changes in land care practices that eliminate reliance on toxic pesticides like glyphosate. Researchers collect plasma samples from Florida manatees over the course of a decade, from 2009 to 2019, looking at populations from both sides of the state’s coast. In addition, eight water bodies in Florida were sampled for the presence of glyphosate three times per year in both 2019 and 2020. Results found glyphosate in the bodies of 55.8% of Florida manatee samples. Most concerning, the amount of . . .

29
Mar

Suspension of Deadly Insecticide Use and Transition to Organic Needed to Save Hummingbirds

(Beyond Pesticides, March 29, 2021) New data on the hazards of neonicotinoid insecticides calls for urgent regulatory action. The same pesticides that are linked to the worldwide decline of insect pollinators also present significant risks to their avian counterparts, hummingbirds. Widely known for their nectar-fueled hovering flight powered by wings beating up to 80 times per second, hummingbirds display unique reactions to toxic pesticides. Research by scientists at the University of Toronto finds that hummingbirds exposed to systemic neonicotinoid insecticides for even a short period of time can disrupt the high-powered metabolism of this important and charismatic animal. Tell EPA and Congress to save the hummingbirds by suspending use of neonicotinoid insecticides and supporting the transition to organic practices. While hovering, a hummingbird consumes calories faster than any other bird or mammal. That’s why the finding that exposure to the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid slows metabolism up to 25% is so disturbing. Systemic pesticides like imidacloprid and other neonics are transported throughout the plant, including nectar. Findings on the danger neonicotinoids pose to hummingbirds decades after the chemicals were first permitted to be used in the environment, and by independent scientists, not regulatory agencies, is . . .

26
Mar

Court Rules Soil-less Hydroponics Allowed Under Organic Standards, Organic Farmers/Consumers Say No

(Beyond Pesticides, March 26, 2021) Certified organic, soil-based growers were dealt a blow on March 22 when a U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled that soil-less hydroponic growing operations can continue to be eligible for USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) organic certification within the National Organic Program (NOP). According to the Center for Food Safety, the judge ruled that USDA’s exemption of hydroponics from the “soil fertility requirement mandatory for all soil-based crop producers was permissible because the Organic Foods Production Act did not specifically prohibit hydroponic operations.” The litigation was brought by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and eight organic producers, and asked that the court to prevent USDA from allowing hydroponically grown crops to be sold under the USDA certified organic label. Beyond Pesticides has advocated against allowing soil-less crop production to be certified as organic under the NOP because doing so “undermines the authenticity of organic farming, and creates unequal competition, market instability, and consumer distrust in organic certification.” The coalition of plaintiffs in the suit included some long-standing U.S. organic farms, such as Swanton Berry Farm, Full Belly Farm, Durst Organic Growers, Terra Firma Farm, . . .

25
Mar

Over 100 Chemicals Detectable in Pregnant Women, Including 98 “New” or Unknown Compounds

(Beyond Pesticides, March 25, 2021) A new University of California San Francisco (UCSF) study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, finds over 100 chemicals present in U.S. pregnant women’s blood and umbilical cord samples. This discovery ignites concerns over prenatal exposure to chemicals from consumer and industrial products and sources. Furthermore, 89 percent of these chemical contaminants are unknown sources and uses, lacking adequate information, or are not previously detectable in humans. This discovery ignites concerns over prenatal exposure to chemicals from consumer and industrial products and sources. A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) finds U.S. pregnant women experience frequent exposure to environmental pollutants that pose serious health risks to both mother and newborn. Many known environmental pollutants (i.e., heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyl, and pesticides) are chemicals that can move from the mother to the developing fetus at higher exposure rates. Hence, prenatal exposure to these chemicals may increase the prevalence of birth-related health consequences like natal abnormalities and learning/developmental disabilities.  Current chemical biomonitoring methods only analyze a targeted few hundred chemicals—a small portion of the over 8000 chemicals the U.S. manufactures and imports. However, this study employs new technology that identifies a more comprehensive range of industrial chemicals. Therefore, . . .

24
Mar

Kenyan Farmers Are Resorting to Hand Pollination After Pesticide Use Kills Off Local Pollinators

(Beyond Pesticides, March 24, 2021) The worst predictions of scientists and advocates are playing out in the fields of eastern Kenya, as chemical-intensive farming there threatens the future of food production. According to Radio France Internationale (RFI), Kenyan farmers have resorted to pollinating their crops by hand after pesticide use killed off most of the pollinators they rely on. “We are mostly affected by pesticides because they have killed most pollinators which pollinate our crops—this has affected our food production compared to previous years,” said Joseph Mbithi, a farmer in Mbakoni village, Makueni County, Kenya to RFI. Crop yields in the region have tapered off over the last two years, and farmers like Mr. Mbithi are pointing to pesticide use as the cause, citing past reliance on the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) and the organophosphate insecticide malathion. “Pollinators such as bees and butterflies are not around due to chemicals which we spray in our farms,” he told RFI.   As a result, farmers are using toothbrushes and sponges as a substitute for the buzzing work of local pollinators. And it’s more complicated than one may think. ‘’The flowers are different in shape and . . .

23
Mar

Arkansas Plant Board Takes First Step to Roll Back Crop Damage Protections from Dicamba/Herbicide Drift

(Beyond Pesticides, March 23, 2021) Earlier this month, the Arkansas State Plant Board (ASPB) voted to loosen regulations curtailing use of the highly drift-prone herbicide dicamba. With an 8-7 vote, ASPB eliminated measures advanced in 2016 that protect growers from dicamba drifting off of genetically engineered (GE) soybean fields. Farmer, health, and environmental advocates are encouraging groups and individuals to submit testimony in opposition to the changes should the state’s Governor continue the proposal to a 30-day comment period. Dicamba has been the subject of intense debate and scrutiny over the last several years—most prominently in Southern and Midwestern states where extensive cotton and soybean monocultures are grown. Due to rampant weed resistance to glyphosate herbicides in GE crop fields, Bayer/Monsanto developed new seeds capable of growing into plants that can withstand repeated sprayings of both glyphosate and dicamba. The company released these new seeds in the mid-2010s without waiting for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve a corresponding herbicide formulation Bayer/Monsanto claimed would reduce drift problems. Farmers began using older, unapproved dicamba formulations, but ultimately even after receiving approval, new formulations proved too drift-prone and problematic to be used without incident. . . .

22
Mar

Keep Antibiotics Out of Organic—Keep Organic Strong on Range of Issues; Comment by April 5

(Beyond Pesticides, March 22, 2021) The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is receiving written comments from the public through April 5. This precedes the upcoming public hearing on April 20 and 22—concerning how organic food is produced. Also, by April 5, sign up to speak (3 minutes) at the virtual NOSB hearing. Written comments must be submitted through Regulations.gov. As always, there are many important issues on the NOSB agenda this Spring. For a complete discussion, see Keeping Organic Strong and the Spring 2021 issues page. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is considering a petition to allow the antibiotic kasugamycin to be used in organic apple and pear production. Earlier NOSB members struggled long and hard to erase the stigma of antibiotic use in organic fruit production—something that was left over from the transition of so many chemical-intensive fruit orchards after the Alar “scare” in which apple and apple products were contaminated with the cancer-causing plant growth regulator daminozide. Do we now want to step on that treadmill again? The reasons for rejecting the kasugamycin petition are the same as the reasons for eliminating the antibiotics streptomycin and tetracycline in crop production. . . .

19
Mar

Vermont Committee Recommends Mosquito Spray Program Needs Special Permit to Operate

(Beyond Pesticides, March 19, 2021) As reported by VTDigger, Vermont’s Endangered Species Committee recently took action to uphold the state’s endangered species law. The committee announced that a mosquito control program in the Champlain Valley, which uses the toxic pesticides malathion and permethrin, is threatening five species of endangered bats — all of which are on Vermont’s list of threatened and endangered species. The committee voted unanimously to recommend to the state Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources that the spraying program in the Brandon, Leicester, Salisbury, Goshen, Pittsford Insect Control District be allowed only via special permit. Learn about safer mosquito management and insect-borne diseases at Beyond Pesticides website pages. The bats inhabit the Insect Control District’s five towns, which are host to important feeding habitat for these creatures, as well as maternal roosting colonies where baby bats are born and raised during the months when the pesticides are typically sprayed. In addition, the nighttime spraying of these compounds along 190 miles of road in these communities hangs in the air for hours, putting nocturnally active bats — who fly through the toxic mist or consume insects contaminated with the chemicals . . .

18
Mar

Common Use Organophosphate Insecticides Pose a Greater Threat to Women’s Health

(Beyond Pesticides, March 18, 2021) A new study published in Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology finds chronic (long-term) organophosphate (OP) pesticide exposure increases adverse health and cancer risk for U.S. women relative to men. Organophosphorus pesticides have a wide range of biological uses—from insecticides to flame retardants—that make these chemicals ubiquitous, significantly contributing to ecosystem contamination. Furthermore, while organophosphates have less bioaccumulation potential, residues are consistently present in human and animal blood, urine, tissues, and milk. Although research demonstrates that OPs are highly toxic, there remains an inadequate understanding of how OP exposure impacts the nonagricultural population in the U.S., especially women. Therefore, it is essential to investigate the sex-specific health effects chemical contaminants can produce to mitigate exposure among vulnerable populations. Study researchers note, “Given the higher burden of OP exposure and their significantly higher overall health risk, including cancer, reducing OP exposure in U.S. women needs to be prioritized.” To examine the relationship between OP exposure and health risks, researchers investigated the presence of commonly detected OP metabolite concentrations in urine using participants from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Urine samples measure OP metabolite as an indicator of OP exposure like previous agriculture-related population surveys. . . .

17
Mar

Researchers Find Nontoxic Method Kills a Problematic Fungus When It Least Expects It

(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2021) Ultraviolet radiation (UV-C) applied at night can successfully kill powdery mildew in farm fields, providing a potential route to significantly reduce the use of toxic fungicides, new research published in the journal Plant Disease finds. “UV treatments applied once or twice weekly were as effective as the best available fungicides applied on similar schedules for control of strawberry powdery mildew,” study author Natalia Peres, PhD, of the University of Florida said. “It’s not a one-time fluke.” The results are encouraging, and have the potential of reducing fungal pressure through non-toxic means, but like all pest management tools should be used as part of a system the focuses first and foremost on fostering healthy soils and biodiversity.  Powdery mildew is a fungal pathogen that can infect a range of plants, from cucurbits to grapes, apples, onions, and cannabis. For the study, the primarily Florida-based researchers focused on the state’s $300 million strawberry industry. Powdery mildew is often facilitated by high humidity, and can be exacerbated when crops are grown in tunnels or other enclosed areas due to lack of airflow and poor ventilation. The fungus presents as a . . .

16
Mar

Pesticide Exposure, Agricultural Work Associated with Chronic Lung Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, March, 16, 2021) Occupational and environmental exposure to pesticides and other contaminants in the environment increase the risk of developing a lung condition known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), according to a meta-analysis published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. IPF is a chronic, degenerative disease with no certain cause or cure. It is estimated to affect roughly 13 women and 20 men in 100,000 adults worldwide annually, with onset averaging age 66. With scientific literature continuously findings new connections between pesticide use and diseases that are all too common in today’s world, advocates say it’s critical for residents and officials at all levels to embrace safer, alternative organic methods of addressing weed and pest issues. To determine risk factors for IPF, researchers narrowed down relevant research in the available literature from thousands of studies to eight relevant for their meta-analysis. These eight studies looked at IPF risk factors for a number of different populations with different life histories. Overall, roughly 1,000 IPF patients, ranged in ages 50 to 75, were compared to a control group of approximately 2,500 non-IPF patients. The studies covered risk factors based on the environmental contaminant . . .

15
Mar

Dangerous Levels of Heavy Metals in Baby Food; USDA and FDA Must Act!

(Beyond Pesticides, March 15, 2021) A staff report produced for the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy of the Committee on Oversight and Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives has documented substantial levels of the heavy metals arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury in infant foods. The researchers examined organic as well as nonorganic brands, finding contamination of both. They found that heavy metals were present in both crop-based ingredients and additives. However, many unknowns remain regarding the precise origin of the metals. Tell FDA and USDA to get heavy metals out of baby food! Two U.S. Senators (Amy Klobuchar, D-MN and Tammy Duckworth, D-IL) and two U.S. Representatives (Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-IL and Tony Cardenas, D-CA) have drafted legislation to strengthen regulations for infant food safety, but meanwhile want the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use existing authority to take immediate action. The National Organic Program should also take action to ensure that parents can depend on organic baby food to be the best possible. Heavy metals can have serious health impacts, especially on young children. As stated in the report, Children’s exposure to toxic heavy metals causes permanent decreases in IQ, diminished future . . .

12
Mar

Relief Bill Seeks to Correct Injustices for Black Farmers Historically and by Modern Day USDA

(Beyond Pesticides, March 12, 2021) The American Rescue Plan, legislation that will provide nearly $2 trillion to help a broad variety of people, state and local governments, and businesses struggling with the huge and myriad impacts of the COVID pandemic, has a number of less-touted features embedded in it. One of those is that $5.2 billion of the bill’s funds will be directed to help disadvantaged farmers, 25% of whom are Black; thus, approximately $1.3 billion will directly support Black farmers. As reported by The Washington Post and other outlets, advocates are calling this “a step toward righting a wrong after a century of mistreatment of Black farmers by the government and others,” and a boon to Black farmers not seen since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The bill, passed by the U.S. Senate and House, was signed by President Biden on March 11. The bill will provide a menu of benefits to Black farmers, including: debt relief; grants and loans to improve land acquisition and address heritable property issues, such as when a farmer dies intestate (without a will) and land assets are to be allotted to legal heirs; financial support for research, . . .
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