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Daily News Blog

28
Jan

Your Garden and Town Landscapes Are the Change that Pollinators Need, Study Finds

(Beyond Pesticides, January 28, 2022) Do city dwellers, who typically have smaller-sized greenspaces on their lots, have any role to play in supporting pollinators? Absolutely, according to a recent study of Bristol, England residential gardens. The researchers find that the amount of “floral resource” — the abundance of actual blooms, which translates roughly to amount of nectar production — varies widely across gardens and yards, and that small urban gardens and greenspaces are actually some of the most pollinator-friendly resources. The study notes that that several factors influence how well these resources provide food for pollinators, most important among which are pollinator-friendly management practices. Beyond Pesticides notes that there are multiple resources in the U.S. on making gardens and greenspaces “friendly” and useful to pollinators, including its own BEE Protective guidance on garden and landscape management, and that employing organic management practices is critical.

The researchers hope to “develop evidence-based management recommendations to support pollinator conservation in towns and cities.” Their paper, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, reports that the size of the Bristol gardens they studied actually had minimal relationship to the amount of nectar produced by the plants in them. There are factors beyond size that determine the utility of urban gardens to pollinators, including specific gardening practices, the diversity of plantings, the match between local pollinators and the morphology of blossoms, and the timing (“temporal availability”) of various species’ efflorescence (floral blooming).

The study evaluated nectar quantities and timing, species variety (636 taxa), and number of “floral units” (more than 2 million) across the 59 surveyed gardens and yards, whose sizes ranged from 31.3m2 to 407.7 m2. According to the paper, “Garden nectar production peaked in mid-summer, but individual gardens differed markedly in both the magnitude of their nectar supply and its temporal pattern.”

In evaluating which kinds of flowers are available when — in terms of both levels of nectar sugar available and flower morphology, which dictates what kinds of pollinators can access the nectar — the authors make recommendations about plants residents can install to make nectar sugar as reliably available to multiple pollinators across the season as possible. (See section 4.3 of the study paper.)

A note on that morphology point: organisms and native flowering plants in a given ecosystem have tended to co-evolve, and thus, be well adapted to their symbiotic relationship — a concept called “niche complementarity.” Introduction of non-native species can interrupt this “harmonic balance” because not all flowering plants work for all pollinators. For example, hummingbirds tend to favor the color red, and — with their long beaks and tongues — blooms that have long, narrow shapes (such as honeysuckle, penstemon, trumpet flower, and bee balm, among others). Honeybees, on the other hand, cannot see the color red, and do not have such extensive “gear” with which to retrieve nectar from those kinds of flowers. Instead, they prefer flowers of other colors (especially yellow), and those with a more-open structure that provides a bit of a “landing pad.” Coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, poppies, lilacs, and sunflowers are among their favorites.

The researchers note some limitations to their study. First, although they observed no significant difference in nectar sugar production between urban greenspaces in Bristol and in three other cities in the United Kingdom (UK), analogous data for non-UK cities are unavailable, so the validity of the study for other regions is unknown. Also, the data for the study are from 2019; whether the authors’ observations and conclusions (based on those data) are valid for any other given year is not clear.

One of the study’s authors, Nicholas Tew, remarked, “Most of the nectar produced in gardens is by a shrub in the corner or a border around the edge of the garden. There are some very flower-rich small gardens and some very flower-poor big gardens.” He also noted that the biggest nectar producers were shrubs, many of which grow fairly compactly and when in bloom, provide very dense flower clusters, and — perhaps surprisingly — that “the diversity you get in urban areas is remarkably high, much higher than most natural habitats, even nature reserves.”

This diversity can, according to the authors, support a greater level of pollinator diversity than surrounding rural areas are able to do. By way of explanation, Mr. Tew asserts that the variety of plant species across urban gardens is greater than what would be found in a natural habitat, and adds that the crazy quilt of small gardens across a city “create[s] much richer nectar resources” than would a small number of larger planted parcels. The researchers assert that, across the UK, gardens and yards provide an estimated 85% of nectar in urban areas.

The paper concludes: “Urban residential gardens differ markedly in the magnitude and temporal pattern of nectar supply, but bigger gardens are not necessarily better for feeding pollinators. Instead, the management decisions made by individuals are particularly important, with gardeners able to control habitat quality if not quantity. By visiting multiple gardens which differ independently in plant species composition, pollinators have the potential to access a diverse and continuous supply of nectar in urban landscapes.”

In the context of the pollinator (and general biodiversity) crises, this study offers encouragement to everyone, and to urbanites in particular, to do whatever is possible to provide food sources for pollinators, who are under significant duress from a variety of factors, including pesticide use, land management practices, intensity of land uses and increasing fragmentation of habitat, and to some extent, the climate crisis.

Nearly everyone can create one or more oases of food and habitat for pollinators, whether through a giant wildflower meadow or a few potted plants on a fire escape. The Pollinator Partnership lays out the benefits to pollinators of urban “patches” of plants, including weeds: “Green space within cities surrounds us and provides pollinators with the pollen and nectar they need. City parks, home gardens, planted medians, manicured municipal spaces, rooftop gardens, and even weedy remnants are pollinator habitat within urban areas.”

Help with creating such oases can be found across multiple resources, including:

Additionally, see Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective Habitat Guide. Though an older resource, it nevertheless has great information on specific resource-rich species to support pollinators organized by bloom time.

Spring is coming, so now is a great time to make plans for whatever green space you may have available. Any gardener would concur: there is little so hopeful as planting and then watching Nature do her thing. Consider installing and caring for a few (or a whole bunch of) flowering plants that will help support stressed pollinators. Then grab some lemonade and enjoy the flower-and-pollinator show!

Sources: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jan/19/small-gardens-vital-as-big-ones- conserving-bees-bristol-university- study?utm_term=61e8ec53ac83a81938ee24ff2deb4078&utm_campaign=GuardianTodayUK&utm_source=es p&utm_medium=Email&CMP=GTUK_email and https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.14094

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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27
Jan

Manatees in Florida Seriously Threatened from Pollution, Pesticides, and Other Human-Induced Stressors

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 2022) Wildlife officials in Florida have resorted to supplementing starving manatees with cabbage and lettuce in an attempt to keep their rapidly dwindling populations alive. Massive Red Tides exacerbated by runoff from urban and agricultural pollution have directly killed off dozens of manatees over the last several years, but the indirect effects of these harmful algae blooms have been most catastrophic, resulting in significant loss of the seagrass beds upon which manatees rely. While Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has announced plans to spend $481 million on water quality improvement projects, conservationists note that the funds are primarily directed toward point source wastewater treatment, and more is needed to address nonpoint source herbicide and fertilizer runoff from agricultural, and urban and suburban yards.

Florida manatees, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, can live as long as 60 years old, weigh up to 1,200 lbs, and have no natural predators within their range. The biggest threat to these peaceful marine mammals is human activity and environmental stressors. Unfortunately, the former is well-known to exacerbate the latter. Humans harm manatees primarily through boat strikes, but the animals can also die from eating or becoming entangled in fishing equipment, or become stuck in canal locks or other flood control structures.

There is evidence from the peer-reviewed literature that human-induced stressors like the use of glyphosate (Roundup) herbicides, which are a “pseudo persistent” (resulting from continuous runoff or exposure) pollutant in Florida waterways, can increase manatee susceptibility to other natural causes of mortality. This includes the effects of red tide and cold stress in the winter months, as manatees are unable to survive in waters below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Because manatees are the only marine mammal that drinks freshwater, they are more likely to drink from highly contaminated runoff flowing directly into local waterways, such as home lawns, city parks, and golf courses. Research finds that 55.8% of manatees have glyphosate in their bodies.

Ongoing glyphosate and other herbicide use on farms, turfgrass, and directly in waterways to manage species identified as “invasive” is particularly concerning in the context of the current crisis. Incidents of Red Tide and other harmful algae blooms are exacerbated by nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from industrial farms and highly manicured landscapes. These algae blooms cause a trophic cascade. Floating on the surface, algae blocks sunlight to seagrasses and other submerged aquatic vegetation. As seagrass is lost, manatees and other animals that rely on it for food and habitat also suffer. In this context, glyphosate, a phosphorous-based herbicide, can either directly kill off more aquatic vegetation, or feed algae blooms as it breaks down. According to recent reporting, in just one region, Sarasota Bay, 18% of seagrass was lost between 2018 and 2020. The Florida Governor’s plan to target wastewater treatment is an important part of the puzzle, particularly in light of major incidents like the Piney Point spill, but advocates say that more must be done to reduce demand and clean up diffuse sources of pollution as well.

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service moved Florida manatees from fully endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. However, with recent reports indicating over 1,000 manatees died in just the last year alone, a bipartisan group of Florida Congressional delegation, Rep Vern Buchanan and Rep Darren Soto, has introduced legislation that would reclassify the sea cows as endangered.

In the meantime, feeding programs appear to be at least partially successful, attracting a large number of manatees to a site, which may be expanded in the future. But this is a last resort scenario.

It is critical that lawmakers and the public take a holistic look at the problems facing manatees and other marine wildlife, and take meaningful action to reduce the need to store tons of fertilizer in precarious lagoons, and spray these and other harmful chemicals on expansive areas of land throughout the state. Organic land management and organic agriculture must be a large part of the solution. By eliminating toxic pesticide and synthetic fertilizer use, and focusing on maintaining or improving soil health, organic practices can stop nonpoint source runoff from making its way into local water bodies.

Residents in Florida and around the country are encouraged to contact their local and state lawmakers and urge them to move towards safer, natural practices that do not rely on toxic pesticides or fertilizers.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Sources: Washington Post, FL Gov press release, Herald-Tribune, FOX13 News, Save the Manatee

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26
Jan

Officials in New Jersey and New York Act to Protect Pollinators by Restricting Neonic Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 26, 2022) Officials in New Jersey and New York are taking action to protect their states’ declining pollinator populations by restricting  outdoor uses of neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides. In New York, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced it would make these pesticides “restricted use,” and only available to state certified applicators. In New Jersey, A2070/S1016, sponsored by state Senator Bob Smith and Assemblyman Clinton Calabrese, was signed by Governor Phil Murphy last week after years of advocacy from national, state, and local pollinator and environmental groups. “The law relies on the most up-to-date science to ban the largest uses of neonics in the state,” said Lucas Roads, staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This is great news for not just pollinators that are poisoned by neonics, but for all the farmers who depend on insect pollination and for all New Jerseyans that value thriving ecosystems.”

A2070/S1016 provides for a targeted phase-out of outdoor uses of bee-toxic neonicotinoids, chemicals implicated not only in the decline of pollinators, but also the collapse of entire ecosystems. Beginning 12 months after passage, the bill requires state agencies classify neonicotinoids as “restricted use.” Under this designation, only certified pesticide applicators would be allowed the apply these products, effectively eliminating consumer uses. Then, in late 2023, the bill prohibits all outdoor non-agricultural neonicotinoid uses. Exemptions are limited to vet care, wood preservation, outdoor applications within one foot of a building, and invasive species. The state agriculture commissioner may also grant a time-limited exemption for use only if an applicator can show that a “valid environmental emergency exists” and that no other less harmful pesticide is available for the given emergency.

New Jersey and Maine have now passed the strongest state pollinator protection laws in the country. While now in addition to New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Vermont, and Massachusetts have generally removed consumer neonic uses from the market, the NJ and ME bills represent another step forward by eliminating most outdoor non-agricultural uses. These changes will have major implications for pollinator and ecosystem health, reducing an even greater proportion of dangerous pesticide use. A report published by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection found that out of 250 surface water samples collected, at least one neonicotinoid was detected in over half of those tested. With even minute exposures to neonic products likely to kill off wild pollinators, any future uses that can be eliminated are a net positive for wildlife.

Although progress protecting pollinators in the U.S. has been slow in comparison to actions taken in the European Union, which has banned all outdoor neonicotinoid uses, including those in agriculture, the pesticide industry has focused considerable resources on halting U.S. policies. A 2020 report, “The Playbook for Poisoning the Earth,” published in the Intercept by reporter Lee Fang details a massive public deception campaign by the pesticide industry, aimed directly at stopping state and federal action protecting pollinators from these highly hazardous insecticides. As part of this playbook, the pesticide industry has worked to cast itself not as progenitor, but as the solution to pollinators’ plight. This approach has focused on spinning the science around neonics, diverting attention to pre-existing problems in beekeeping, like disease and mites, that are in fact exacerbated by neonic use, and using industry connected farmers, beekeepers, scientists and other influencers in attempts to confuse lawmakers and the public on the true cause of pollinator declines.

As far back as 2014, Beyond Pesticides asserted that this ongoing pollinator crisis is No Longer a Big Mystery. But meaningful action has been diffuse, and only seven states to date have enacted restrictions on neonicotinoid use. At the federal level, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) merely required non-committal “managed pollinator protection plans” from individual states (MP3s). These plans essentially handed off the baton to state pesticide lobby groups to address how to protect pollinators; unsurprisingly, pesticide use was not a major component of most of these plans. In fact, in 2019 the agency was cited for its failure to provide basic oversight for these state MP3s, with the EPA Office of Inspector General noting that the agency had no way to evaluate the impact of MP3s, that the agency focused too much on acute risks to pollinators, and an insufficient amount on chronic impacts. EPA’s inaction and inability to stand up to the pesticide industry means that pollinators and ecosystems continue to suffer throughout most of the U.S.

State action is urgently needed to fill in the gaps left by EPA inaction, and New Jersey and Maine represent a new high bar for neonicotinoid restrictions. But in the long term, it is critical to stop all neonicotinoid use in the U.S. and prevent the next round of pollinator toxic chemicals from becoming widespread. The Saving America’s Pollinators Act would accomplish this goal, side-stepping industry-influenced EPA and allowing a board of pollinator experts to make decisions around pesticide registrations. Ask your elected representative in Congress to support pollinators by cosponsoring Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA). If they are already a cosponsor, use this occasion to thank them for their leadership on this critical issue.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: NRDC press release, New York DEC press release, A2070/S1016

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25
Jan

Common Antimicrobial Pesticides Linked to Altered Gut Microbe Function

(Beyond Pesticides, January 25, 2022) Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill identifies how triclosan (TCS), an antimicrobial agent used in many household products, impacts the microbial communities in the gut, causing inflammation. According to the study published in Nature Communications, triclosan worsens the effects of ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), through the retention of harmful bacteria. Ample evidence demonstrates environmental contaminants, including pesticides like triclosan, negatively affect microbes in the human mouth and gut. Although studies show how triclosan exposure affects human health, more research is now questioning how exposure to these toxic chemical influences gut health. Therefore, studies like these highlight the importance of evaluating how chemical contaminant deregulates normal bodily function through microbiome changes. Furthermore, the study has significant implications for considerations that should be, but are not currently, a part of pesticide review and registration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The researchers note, “Together, our results define a mechanism by which intestinal microbes contribute to the metabolic activation and gut toxicity of TCS, and highlight the importance of considering the contributions of the gut microbiota in evaluating the toxic potential of environmental chemicals.”

Instances of intestinal bowel disease (IBD)—involving the chronic inflammation of intestinal tissues—incidences and prevalence are readily increasing. As many as 3 million U.S. adults suffer from some form of IBD, with the year 1999 representing a 50 percent increase in disease cases. Disease symptoms include stomach pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. IBD has no cure, and current treatments can have severe side effects. Although the study notes environmental chemical exposure has links to IBD prevalence, the researchers aim to uncover the mechanisms driving gut microbe disruption.

University researchers sought to identify the molecular mechanisms involved in triclosan’s toxic effects on the gut. The scientists employed in vitro (artificial environmental), ex vivo (outside the organism), and in vivo (inside the organism) analyses on microbial communities in the gut of mice. Specifically, researchers investigated specific bacterial enzymes involved in triggering triclosan toxicity through metabolization. The study results find that microbial β-glucuronidase (GUS) enzymes are responsible for metabolically activating triclosan within the colon, driving gut toxicity. Conversely, inhibition of this bacterial enzyme decreases the gut inflammatory effects of triclosan, thus showcasing the impact specific microbes play in chemical toxicity.

Gut microbiota plays a crucial role in lifelong digestion, immune, and central nervous system regulation, as well as other bodily functions. Through the gut biome, pesticide exposure can enhance or exacerbate the adverse effects of additional environmental toxicants on the body. Since the gut microbiome shapes metabolism, it can mediate some toxic effects of environmental chemicals. However, with prolonged exposure to various environmental contaminants, critical chemical-induced changes may occur in the gut microbes, influencing adverse health outcomes. Over 300 chemical contaminants and their byproducts are common in human blood and urine samples. Most chemical contamination affecting the gut comes from a diet reliant on conventional, pesticide-laden, highly processed foods. In a 2020 study, researchers associated developmental defects, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, obesity, thyroid disorders, and improper immune operation with changes to the gut after exposure to environmental contaminants. Despite the growing body of work linking gut bacteria to overall health, pesticide regulators generally overlook the concept. Therefore, regulators must consider the emerging science on the dangers of pesticides beyond the mortality of humans, animals, and plants to include overall health and fitness.

A bioinformatics tool developed by researchers from the University of Turku in Finland indicates that “54% of species in the core human gut microbiome are sensitive to glyphosate.” (See Daily News.) Published in the Journal of Hazardous Materialsthe researchers’ paper states, “The widespread use of glyphosate may have a strong effect on gut microbiomes as well as on human health.” 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. (See Daily News.)

Triclosan is an antimicrobial agent in products regulated by EPA and FDA. However, cumulative exposure to triclosan registered by both agencies poses unacceptable risks to human health and the environment. Many studies identify the various health and environmental effects of triclosan as the chemical absorbs through organs, from the skin to the gastrointestinal tract, and are environmentally persistent. Several independent, peer-reviewed research studies have identified triclosan as an endocrine-disrupting chemical. On top of its endocrine-disrupting effects, recent work shows that triclosan is a possible human carcinogen. Similar to this study, a 2016 peer-reviewed study published in the Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology found that triclosan promotes cancer cell development in mice through pathways shared with humans. Furthermore, like many antimicrobial and antibacterial products, triclosan use increases the persistence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a severe public health concern for disease risk. Despite these findings, EPA’s evaluation of triclosan fails to address one of the most concerning aspects of its chemical activity concerning human and environmental health. 

While people who use triclosan products daily have higher concentrations in their bodies, consumers who do not use triclosan can still encounter the chemical through food, water, and dust. Although FDA banned triclosan from soap products in 2016, other personal care products still contain the chemical. These products include toothpaste, mouthwash, hand sanitizers, cosmetics, and antibacterial/antimicrobial clothing. However, EPA and FDA evaluate different use of triclosan, with EPA responsible for assessing the chemical in various consumer products, marketed as “microban.” Therefore, individuals may encounter multiple sources of triclosan, especially on consumer products, such as toothbrush bristles, that tend to accumulate the chemical.  

To improve and sustain gut microbiome health, the use of toxic pesticides are problematic. Although EPA denied a petition by Beyond Pesticides and Food and Water Watch to remove remaining triclosan uses in 2015, this study adds to growing evidence demonstrating the danger of this chemical. The data suggests that adequate public health protection requires EPA and FDA to work  together to eliminate health risks from ongoing exposure to triclosan. Beyond Pesticides holds that safer alternatives are available, and organic practices can protect public health and the environment. In addition to positive impacts on the human microbiomeorganically grown food (i.e., milkmeatstrawberriestomatoes, and a range of other foods) contain a much more diverse bacterial community than their conventional counterparts. Moreover, emphasis on converting to regenerative-organic systems and using least-toxic pest control to mitigate harmful exposure to pesticides, restore soil health, and reduce carbon emissions, should be the main focus. Learn more about soil and gut microbiota and its importance via Beyond Pesticide’s journal Pesticides and You. Additionally, learn more about the effects of pesticides on human health by visiting Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, which supports the clear need for strategic action to shift from pesticide dependency. For a complete history of the regulation of triclosan, see Beyond Pesticides’ triclosan timeline and webpage on triclosan.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

Source: Nature Communications, Science Daily

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24
Jan

Ask that New Public Health Strategies for Endemic Covid Include Toxic Chemical Phaseouts

(Beyond Pesticides, January 24, 2022) The advisory board of health experts who counseled President Biden during his transition have now called for an entirely new domestic pandemic strategy geared to the “new normal” of living with the virus indefinitely. While this new strategy addresses important issues like “reimagining public health” and disparities in vulnerability to COVID, it misses out on an important one—reducing vulnerability to disease by eliminating exposure to toxic chemicals, especially those that threaten the immune, nervous, and respiratory systems.

Tell the President, EPA, and Congress to address the ongoing threat of Covid-19 by eliminating toxic pesticide use that elevates overall, and disproportionately for people of color, the public’s vulnerability to the virus.

The strategic initiative is organized by Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD, an oncologist, medical ethicist, and University of Pennsylvania professor who advised former President Barack Obama. The group published a collection of opinion articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). In those articles, the group advises President Biden to give up on an eradication goal, accept that COVID-19 is here to stay—that is, that it is becoming endemic—and adopt a goal of living with it. These articles explore what that means.

The introductory article by Dr. Emanuel et al. says, “As the US moves from crisis to control, this national strategy needs to be updated. Policy makers need to specify the goals and strategies for the ‘new normal’ of life with COVID-19 and communicate them clearly to the public.” There are many unknowns concerning a future with COV-19, the authors say, including “[t]he precise duration of immunity to SARS-CoV-2 from vaccination or prior infection; . . . whether SARS-CoV-2 will become a seasonal infection; whether antiviral therapies will prevent long COVID; or whether even more transmissible, immune-evading, or virulent variants will arise after Omicron.”

In spite of the uncertainties, the authors believe, “The goal for the ‘new normal’ with COVID-19 does not include eradication or elimination, e.g., the ‘zero COVID’ strategy. Neither COVID-19 vaccination nor infection appear to confer lifelong immunity. Current vaccines do not offer sterilizing immunity against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Infectious diseases cannot be eradicated when there is limited long-term immunity following infection or vaccination or nonhuman reservoirs of infection. The majority of SARS-CoV-2 infections are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, and the SARS-CoV-2 incubation period is short, preventing the use of targeted strategies like ‘ring vaccination.’ Even ‘fully’ vaccinated individuals are at risk for breakthrough SARS-CoV-2 infection. Consequently, a ‘new normal with COVID’ in January 2022 is not living without COVID-19.”

The authors address the problems of developing a pandemic preparedness program encompassing a comprehensive approach to all respiratory viruses; a comprehensive, digital, real-time, integrated data infrastructure for public health; and advances in vaccines and therapeutics. It must also address “stark racial and ethnic disparities” and differences in vulnerability.

However, these medical professionals need to look beyond the world of medicine to the world where disparities and differences in vulnerabilities are created. We know that exposure to toxic chemicals like pesticides creates greater vulnerability to disease. The manufacture, use, and disposal of pesticides disproportionately affects farmworker and fenceline communities, where those “stark racial and ethnic disparities” must be addressed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought social and racial injustice and inequity to the forefront of public health. It has highlighted that health equity is still not a reality as COVID-19 has unequally affected many racial and ethnic minority groups, putting them more at risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.” The use of toxic pesticides is not necessary. Beyond health professionals, agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must be included in a pandemic preparedness program to eliminate exposure to toxic pesticides that increases vulnerability to disease.

Tell the President, EPA, and Congress to address the ongoing threat of Covid-19 by eliminating toxic pesticide use that elevates overall, and disproportionately for people of color, the public’s vulnerability to the virus.

Letter to President Biden

The advisory board of health experts who counseled you during your transition have now called for an entirely new domestic pandemic strategy geared to the “new normal” of living with the virus indefinitely. While this new strategy addresses important issues like “reimagining public health” and disparities in vulnerability to COVID, it misses out on an important one—reducing vulnerability to disease by eliminating exposure to toxic chemicals, especially those that threaten the immune, nervous, and respiratory systems. We must address the ongoing threat of Covid-19 by eliminating toxic pesticide use that elevates overall, and disproportionately for people of color, vulnerability to the virus.

The strategic initiative is organized by Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD, an oncologist, medical ethicist, and University of Pennsylvania professor who advised former President Barack Obama. In a collection of articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association, they advise you to give up on an eradication goal, accept that COVID-19 is here to stay—that is, that it is becoming endemic—and adopt a goal of living with it.

Dr. Emanuel et al. says, “As the US moves from crisis to control, this national strategy needs to be updated. Policy makers need to specify the goals and strategies for the ‘new normal’ of life with COVID-19 and communicate them clearly to the public.” There are many unknowns concerning a future with COV-19, but the authors believe, “The goal for the ‘new normal’ with COVID-19 does not include eradication or elimination, e.g., the ‘zero COVID’ strategy. Neither COVID-19 vaccination nor infection appear to confer lifelong immunity. Current vaccines do not offer sterilizing immunity against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Infectious diseases cannot be eradicated when there is limited long-term immunity following infection or vaccination or nonhuman reservoirs of infection. The majority of SARS-CoV-2 infections are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, and the SARS-CoV-2 incubation period is short, preventing the use of targeted strategies like ‘ring vaccination.’ Even ‘fully’ vaccinated individuals are at risk for breakthrough SARS-CoV-2 infection. Consequently, a ‘new normal with COVID’ in January 2022 is not living without COVID-19.”

The authors address the problems of developing a pandemic preparedness program encompassing a comprehensive approach to all respiratory viruses; a comprehensive, digital, real-time, integrated data infrastructure for public health; and advances in vaccines and therapeutics. It must also address “stark racial and ethnic disparities” and differences in vulnerability.

However, there is more to disease prevention than medical advances. Exposure to toxic chemicals like pesticides creates greater vulnerability to disease. The manufacture, use, and disposal of pesticides disproportionately affects farmworker and fenceline communities, where those “stark racial and ethnic disparities” must be addressed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought social and racial injustice and inequity to the forefront of public health. It has highlighted that health equity is still not a reality as COVID-19 has unequally affected many racial and ethnic minority groups, putting them more at risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.” The use of toxic pesticides is not necessary. Agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must be included in a pandemic preparedness program to eliminate exposure to toxic pesticides that increases vulnerability to disease.

Please instruct EPA to cancel unnecessary pesticide registrations as part of a plan to limit the ongoing threat of Covid-19 to people generally and to people of color who disproportionately have higher rates of the virus.

Letter to EPA Administrator and Office of Pesticide Programs

The advisory board of health experts who counseled President Biden during his transition have now called for an entirely new domestic pandemic strategy geared to the “new normal” of living with the virus indefinitely. While this new strategy addresses important issues like “reimagining public health” and disparities in vulnerability to COVID, it misses out on an important one—reducing vulnerability to disease by eliminating exposure to toxic chemicals, especially those that threaten the immune, nervous, and respiratory systems. We must address the ongoing threat of Covid-19 by eliminating toxic pesticide use that elevates overall, and disproportionately for people of color, the public’s vulnerability to the virus.

The strategic initiative is organized by Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD, an oncologist, medical ethicist, and University of Pennsylvania professor who advised former President Barack Obama. In a collection of opinion articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), they advise giving up on an eradication goal, accepting that COVID-19 is here to stay—that is, that it is becoming endemic—and adopting a goal of living with it.

Dr. Emanuel et al. says, “As the US moves from crisis to control, this national strategy needs to be updated. Policy makers need to specify the goals and strategies for the ‘new normal’ of life with COVID-19 and communicate them clearly to the public.” There are many unknowns concerning a future with COV-19, but the authors believe, “The goal for the ‘new normal’ with COVID-19 does not include eradication or elimination, e.g., the ‘zero COVID’ strategy. Neither COVID-19 vaccination nor infection appear to confer lifelong immunity. Current vaccines do not offer sterilizing immunity against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Infectious diseases cannot be eradicated when there is limited long-term immunity following infection or vaccination or nonhuman reservoirs of infection. The majority of SARS-CoV-2 infections are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, and the SARS-CoV-2 incubation period is short, preventing the use of targeted strategies like ‘ring vaccination.’ Even ‘fully’ vaccinated individuals are at risk for breakthrough SARS-CoV-2 infection. Consequently, a ‘new normal with COVID’ in January 2022 is not living without COVID-19.”

The authors address the problems of developing a pandemic preparedness program encompassing a comprehensive approach to all respiratory viruses; a comprehensive, digital, real-time, integrated data infrastructure for public health; and advances in vaccines and therapeutics. It must also address “stark racial and ethnic disparities” and differences in vulnerability.

However, there is more to disease prevention than medical advances. Exposure to toxic chemicals like pesticides creates greater vulnerability to disease. The manufacture, use, and disposal of pesticides disproportionately affects farmworker and fenceline communities, where those “stark racial and ethnic disparities” must be addressed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought social and racial injustice and inequity to the forefront of public health. It has highlighted that health equity is still not a reality as COVID-19 has unequally affected many racial and ethnic minority groups, putting them more at risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.” The use of toxic pesticides is not necessary. Agencies like EPA must be included in a pandemic preparedness program to eliminate exposure to toxic pesticides that increases vulnerability to disease.

Please eliminate the use of toxic pesticides as part of a plan to limit the ongoing threat of Covid-19 to people generally and to people of color who disproportionately have higher rates of the virus.

Letter to U.S. Senators and Representative:

The advisory board of health experts who counseled President Biden during his transition have now called for an entirely new domestic pandemic strategy geared to the “new normal” of living with the virus indefinitely. While this new strategy addresses important issues like “reimagining public health” and disparities in vulnerability to COVID, it misses out on an important one—reducing vulnerability to disease by eliminating exposure to toxic chemicals, especially those that threaten the immune, nervous, and respiratory systems. We must address the ongoing threat of Covid-19 by eliminating toxic pesticide use that elevates overall, and disproportionately for people of color, the public’s vulnerability to the virus.

The strategic initiative is organized by Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD, an oncologist, medical ethicist, and University of Pennsylvania professor who advised former President Barack Obama. In a collection of opinion articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), they advise giving up on an eradication goal, accepting that COVID-19 is here to stay—that is, that it is becoming endemic—and adopting a goal of living with it.

Dr. Emanuel et al. says, “As the US moves from crisis to control, this national strategy needs to be updated. Policy makers need to specify the goals and strategies for the ‘new normal’ of life with COVID-19 and communicate them clearly to the public.” There are many unknowns concerning a future with COV-19, but authors believe, “The goal for the ‘new normal’ with COVID-19 does not include eradication or elimination, e.g., the ‘zero COVID’ strategy. Neither COVID-19 vaccination nor infection appear to confer lifelong immunity. Current vaccines do not offer sterilizing immunity against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Infectious diseases cannot be eradicated when there is limited long-term immunity following infection or vaccination or nonhuman reservoirs of infection. The majority of SARS-CoV-2 infections are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, and the SARS-CoV-2 incubation period is short, preventing the use of targeted strategies like ‘ring vaccination.’ Even ‘fully’ vaccinated individuals are at risk for breakthrough SARS-CoV-2 infection. Consequently, a ‘new normal with COVID’ in January 2022 is not living without COVID-19.”

The authors address the problems of developing a pandemic preparedness program encompassing a comprehensive approach to all respiratory viruses; a comprehensive, digital, real-time, integrated data infrastructure for public health; and advances in vaccines and therapeutics. It must also address “stark racial and ethnic disparities” and differences in vulnerability.

However, there is more to disease prevention than medical advances. Exposure to toxic chemicals like pesticides creates greater vulnerability to disease. The manufacture, use, and disposal of pesticides disproportionately affects farmworker and fenceline communities, where those “stark racial and ethnic disparities” must be addressed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought social and racial injustice and inequity to the forefront of public health. It has highlighted that health equity is still not a reality as COVID-19 has unequally affected many racial and ethnic minority groups, putting them more at risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.” The use of toxic pesticides is not necessary. Agencies like EPA must be included in a pandemic preparedness program to eliminate exposure to toxic pesticides that increases vulnerability to disease.

Your oversight is required to ensure that toxic pesticides do not intensify future pandemics.

 

 

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21
Jan

Global Chemical Pollution Exceeds Safe Limits for Humanity

(Beyond Pesticides, January 21, 2022) The bottom-line conclusion of a recent study is that global chemical pollution has now exceeded a safe limit for humanity. As reported by The Guardian, “The cocktail of chemical pollution that pervades the planet now threatens the stability of global ecosystems upon which humanity depends.” Published in Environmental Science & Technology, the research paper asserts that the creation and deployment (into the materials stream and environment) of so many “novel entities” (synthetic chemicals) is happening at a pace that eclipses human ability to assess and monitor them. The study team calls this exceedance of the “planetary boundary” of such chemical pollution “the point at which human-made changes to the Earth push it outside the stable environment of the last 10,000 years.” According to Beyond Pesticides, which covers pesticide (and other kinds of) chemical pollution, these results underscore a grim twin reality to the human-caused climate emergency, and should be a dire warning on the state of our shared environment and a time for systemic movement to eliminate fossil fuel-based pesticides and fertilizers.

Hailing from Sweden, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, and Switzerland, members of the research team define “novel entities” as those compounds and materials introduced by humans that “are novel in a geological sense and that could have large-scale impacts that threaten the integrity of Earth system processes.” The novel entities that have so suffused Earth’s air, water, ecosystems and biodiversity, wildlife, and human bodies comprise 350,000 synthetic chemicals — including persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — found in plastics, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, industrial and manufacturing compounds, antibiotics, degreasers, cleaning agents, and many other commodities. Only a tiny fraction of those 350,000 compounds has been assessed for safety, yet many are now found in human tissues. (See the Beyond Pesticides web page on “body burden” of synthetic chemicals and the relationship to disease development.)

Although there is no consensual metric attached to the category of “novel entities,” the researchers assert that the human introduction of them is globally concerning because “these entities exhibit persistence, mobility across scales with consequent widespread distribution and accumulation in organisms and the environment, and potential negative impacts on vital Earth System processes or subsystems.”

The introduction of synthetic chemicals into the materials stream began in 1869 with the creation of chloral hydrate (a sedative) and the first nearly synthetic polymer, celluloid, which was developed as a substitute for ivory. Such innovations, which began in the 19th century as a trickle of new compounds and materials, yielded in the first half of the 20th century materials such as nylon, Bakelite (the first fully synthetic plastic), and the first synthetic fluorocarbon. But it was the advent of World War II and the decades to follow that opened a firehose of new materials, as military–industrial research spawned a universe of new chemicals and materials.

Many of those were plastics; during the war, U.S. plastic production increased by 300%. The plastic surge continued throughout the rest of the 20th century, and is unabated today. Indeed, 2020 estimates clocked the amount of plastic in the world at roughly 8.3 billion tons — with 6.3 billion of those tons being “trashed” plastic. As the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) invites us to consider: “Imagine 55 million jumbo jets and that’s how much plastic exists.”

Beyond plastics, the 20th century spawned a new world of chemical compounds that were engineered into nuclear and chemical weapons, pesticides, and the universe of nearly 5,000 PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl) substances, among others. Patricia Villarrubia-Gómez, a PhD candidate and member of the research team, commented, “There has been a fiftyfold increase in the production of chemicals since 1950 and this is projected to triple again by 2050. The pace [at which] societies are producing and releasing new chemicals into the environment is not consistent with staying within a safe operating space for humanity.”

Were all these synthetic compounds chemically inert, the implications for human and environmental health might be quite different. However, biological organisms do interact with many of them, causing largely unknown, unpredictable (except as they are studied retrospectively), and frequently, harmful impacts to all manner of organisms, from archaea to armadillos to humans (never mind the ecosystem impacts).

The extensive chemical pollution this study documents is a threat to the functioning of Earth’s systems because, as The Guardian writes, it damages “the biological and physical processes that underpin all life. For example, pesticides wipe out many non-target insects, which are fundamental to all ecosystems and, therefore, to the provision of clean air, water and food.” Rebecca Altman, PhD, member of the Board of Directors of Science and Environmental Health Network, has written in the article, “Time-bombing the future,” this pithy sentence: “Synthetics created in the 20th century have become an evolutionary force, altering human biology and the web of life.”

The study paper notes that toxic plastic pollution — which is now found, as The Guardian puts it, “from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans” — is of especial concern. One of the researchers, Professor Bethanie Carney Almroth, commented, “There’s evidence that things are pointing in the wrong direction every step of the way. For example, the total mass of plastics now exceeds the total mass of all living mammals. That to me is a pretty clear indication that we’ve crossed a boundary. We’re in trouble, but there are things we can do to reverse some of this.” The research paper asserts that the high social (health, environmental, economic, et al.) costs of the impacts of these “novel entities” are a potent argument for strong and urgent action.

According to The Guardian, Professor Sir Ian Boyd of the University of St. Andrews notes: “The rise of the chemical burden in the environment is diffuse and insidious. Even if the toxic effects of individual chemicals can be hard to detect, this does not mean that the aggregate effect is likely to be insignificant. Regulation is not designed to detect or understand these effects. We are relatively blind to what is going on as a result. In this situation, where we have a low level of scientific certainty about effects, there is a need for a much more precautionary approach to new chemicals and to the amount being emitted to the environment.”

The researchers say that stronger regulation and a fixed cap on chemical production and release are needed — initiatives analogous to the maximum carbon targets that have been established (if not necessarily honored) in some locations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Increasingly, members of the global science and health communities are calling for action on reining in the flow of synthetic chemicals and plastics, into the environment — including the establishment of a global scientific body for chemical pollution akin to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

A 2009 study, “Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operating Space for Humanity,” asserts that there are nine “planetary boundaries” within which humans should operate in order to avoid disastrous consequence. These boundaries relate to climate change, biodiversity loss, the nitrogen cycle, the phosphorous cycle, stratospheric ozone depletion, ocean acidification, global freshwater use, changes/intensification of land use, atmospheric aerosol loading, and chemical pollution. The study authors note that in 2009, three of those nine interlinked planetary boundaries had already been transgressed.

In late March 2021, Mongabay published an article, “The nine boundaries humanity must respect to keep the planet habitable,” which set out a very slightly revised system of boundaries and a sober warning. “All life on Earth, and human civilization, are sustained by vital biogeochemical systems, which are in delicate balance. However, our species — due largely to rapid population growth and explosive consumption — is destabilizing these Earth processes, endangering the stability of the ‘safe operating space for humanity.’ Scientists note nine planetary boundaries beyond which we can’t push Earth Systems without putting our societies at risk . . . . Humanity is already existing outside the safe operating space for at least four of the nine boundaries [emphasis by Beyond Pesticides]: climate change, biodiversity, land-system change, and biogeochemical flows (nitrogen and phosphorus imbalance).”

The subject study confirms that humankind has now pushed past the fifth of the nine boundaries in its planet-wide synthetical chemical pollution that is damaging the biological and physical processes that underpin all life. Beyond Pesticides has long taken to task the regulatory bodies in the U.S., particularly the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its multitude of failures in regulating pesticides. But EPA also regulates non-pesticide synthetic chemicals and materials, as do other federal agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Comporting with Professor Boyd’s points, Beyond Pesticides has repeatedly asserted that a “whack-a-mole” approach to regulation of pesticides, and toxic synthetic chemicals broadly, is decidedly not a precautionary way forward. What is needed urgently is a holistic, precautionary approach to the deployment of all synthetic chemicals, domestically and around the world, given the apparent lack of urgency among policymakers to take action, and the piecemeal chemical regulations that abound in the U.S. and abroad. As noted previously, the researchers are recommending an international body to address these issues.

Beyond Pesticides wrote in its Pesticides and You journal two winters ago (see p. ii): “When we advance reform, we do not want to just tinker with a failed risk assessment-based regulatory system. . . . We want to eliminate the use of these toxic materials, starting from the ground up. This means that we, as a part of our decision-making process — whether in a community or [in] federal law — must look at whole ecological and biological systems, the range of interactions that are possible, and reject any harm. With alternatives available, there is no reason to accept anything less.”

Sources: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jan/18/chemical-pollution-has-passed-safe-limit-for-humanity-say-scientists and https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.1c04158#

Environmental Science & Technology is an “environmental science and technology research journal that aims to be transformational and direction-setting, publishing rigorous and robust papers for a multidisciplinary and diverse audience of scientists, policy makers and the broad environmental community.”

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

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20
Jan

New EPA Policy to Comply with Endangered Species Law Leaves Unanswered Questions for Pesticide Uses

(Beyond Pesticides, January 20, 2022) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced it will follow the law and review the impact of pesticides on endangered species prior to authorizing a pesticide for use. While it is not usually news for a government agency to announce it will follow statutory requirements, the agency’s new policy reverses decades of violative practice, whereby the EPA allowed pesticides on to market without a complete understanding of how threatened and endangered species would fare. Advocates are responding favorably to this commonsense reform, but emphasize that this should only be the start, and more significant actions are necessary to fix the long-term failures in EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs.

According to EPA, “There are over 1,300 endangered or threatened species in the United States today. Endangered species are those plants and animals that have become so rare they are in danger of becoming extinct.” 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 Lossidentifies the global food system as the primary driver of biodiversity loss. (See Daily News.)

EPA’s announcement pertains to how it registers pesticides in compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under Section 7 of ESA, federal agencies are required to ensure that the actions they carry out do not jeopardize the existence of endangered or threatened species. In the context of pesticide use, EPA must consult with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or National Marine Fisheries Service to determine whether a pesticide may adversely affect an ESA listed species. If the consultation with federal wildlife agencies determines that threatened or endangered species is in jeopardy, EPA must make recommendations to limit use of a pesticide to protect that species.

In practice, EPA rarely conducted these required consultations prior to registering a pesticide. This placed the onus on health and environmental groups to bring EPA to court to force legal compliance. EPA acknowledges this in its press release, stating, “…in most cases, EPA did not consistently assess the potential effects of conventional pesticides on listed species when registering new AIs [active ingredients]. This resulted in insufficient protections from new AIs for listed species, as well as resource-intensive litigation against EPA for registering new AIs prior to assessing potential effects on listed species.”

As part of its new policy, EPA will conduct a formal consultation with wildlife agencies prior to registering a new pesticide active ingredient. If the agency determines that the pesticide is likely to adversely affect endangered species or their habitat, EPA may require additional mitigation measures from the start. EPA may also require pesticide manufacturers to add a link to an online system that alerts applicators to pesticide use restrictions in areas where endangered species and their habitat need protections.

The agency indicates, however, it will phase in this policy to provide “regulatory predictability” to pesticide manufacturers and users, and may initially register some new pesticides without completion of a formal consultation. This phase in process, which the agency indicates is due to resource constraints, will incorporate new uses for existing pesticides, including those on crops genetically engineered to tolerate pesticide use.  

Less is clear about how the agency will complete ESA requirements for pesticides already on the market. Biological reviews for many commonly used pesticides, like the highly hazardous neonicotinoid class of systemic insecticides, have taken over a decade to receive a formal consultation with wildlife agencies. Earlier this year, the Center for Biological Diversity sued EPA for registering new synthetic pyrethroid insecticides without any substantive assessment of endangered species risks.

There is also concern as to whether federal wildlife agencies will take on this task. FWS, like EPA, consistently claims lack of resources as a reason for incomplete consultations and endangered species reviews. This likewise results in legal settlements with environmental groups that require FWS prioritize and adopt a timetable for its legal requirements.

EPA does provide some indication that this will not be its only substantive action on pesticide use. “Incorporating ESA assessments into the registration process for new pesticides is a key component of EPA’s larger effort to meet the Agency’s ESA obligations efficiently and effectively,” said Ya-Wei (Jake) Li, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Deputy Assistant Administrator for Pesticide Programs.  

Beyond Pesticides joined with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and three dozen allied groups to lay out what a “larger effort” to reform the Office of Pesticide Programs should resemble. The current action, if properly implemented, would begin to address a single problem within the scope of systemic failure. Reform advocates are urging EPA to focus on holistic reforms that confront climate change, biodiversity collapse, and environmental racism. To rout out industry influence by rejecting corrupt data from pesticide companies and promote alternative assessments that embrace safer pest management systems that do not require toxic chemical use.

While the Biden administration has worked to shift the tone and tenor of EPA, it has continued to reregister some of the most toxic pesticides on the market. While pentachlorophenol is on its way out, another toxic wood preservative, creosote, is set to be reregistered, despite the EPA administrator’s visit to fenceline communities in Houston that experienced the first-hand effects creosote manufacture through decades and generations of suffering. As the agency declared its intent to chart a new path, it reregistered the Parkinson’s-promoting pesticide paraquat with additional allowances for air applications that the Trump administration planned to remove.   

Although EPA appears to be listening to advocates, it is imperative that the agency continue to take meaningful actions to protect people and the planet from the unnecessary use of toxic pesticides. Get involved today by calling on EPA to make further reforms, and on Congress to pass new legislation that will shift EPA policy and culture.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: EPA press release, EPA Q&A

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19
Jan

Hazardous Synthetic Pyrethroid Insecticides Subject of Lawsuit Against EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, January 19, 2022) After registering over 300 products containing synthetic pyrethroid pesticides within the last six years, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has done nothing to safeguard endangered species from toxic exposure to these chemicals, despite legal requirement to do so. This dereliction of duty is set to be the subject of a new lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, which announced its intent to sue EPA. “The EPA admits pyrethroids’ wide-ranging harm to wildlife but still rubberstamps hundreds of pesticide products containing them without assessing their risks to endangered species,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center. “The EPA needs to get serious and come up with a comprehensive plan to address the havoc these pesticides are wreaking on the environment.”

Synthetic pyrethroid insecticides are synthesized derivatives of pyrethrins, which are found in pyrethrum, an extract of dried chrysanthemum flowers. Compared to their natural counterpart, synthetic pyrethroids take significantly longer to degrade in the environment and thus pose longer term risks to humans and wildlife. The chemicals interfere with the proper function of the body’s sodium channels, resulting in harm to the central nervous system. Symptoms of poisoning include headache, nausea, incoordination, tremors, and facial swelling, with severe incidents causing diarrhea,  convulsions, paralysis, and death.

Despite the range of dangers posed by the use of these chemicals, EPA has continued to registered new products without a legally required biological assessment under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under ESA, EPA is required to consult with federal wildlife agencies and conduct a biological evaluation of the impacts a pesticide may have on endangered species and their habitats, prior to the agency formally registering a pesticide. In practice, EPA regularly fails to conduct this evaluation, requiring environmental and conservation organizations to sue the agency in order to force compliance with the law. (See tomorrow’s Daily News on EPA’s new ESA biological opinion policy.) 

While the implications are dire for species at the brink of existence, the penalty for the agency failing to follow the law is effectively nil. The legal tables are tilted towards deference to agency actions, and EPA consistently claims it does not have the capacity to conduct timely biological assessments. Instead of requesting funds from Congress to complete this work, EPA recently lowed the cost it would charge pesticide companies to register hazardous pesticides that could kill endangered species. In this context, accountability is found through legal settlements on work plans with the agency, which commit EPA to a timeline for completing the assessment.

“We’ll see if the Biden EPA can muster the political will to finally follow the law, or if it will just continue throwing endangered species under the bus,” said Ms. Burd at the Center. “For decades the pesticide industry has called the shots for the EPA, but as the extinction crisis worsens we’re hoping this administration will finally provide the leadership our most imperiled plants and animals need to survive.”

Biden’s EPA has a range of opportunities to correct course on synthetic pyrethroids. While this path starts with ESA reviews, there is still time for the agency to reject Trump-era decisions that put wildlife, particularly endangered species, and human health in harms way. In both instances, EPA placed the opinion of the pesticide industry above the science, and above the health of everyday Americans and the environmental on which they depend.

First, EPA stripped away protections that reduced children’s exposure to pyrethroids. There is broad scientific understanding that children are at greater risk from toxic pesticides, and in 1996 Congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act, amending pesticide law to require a “safety factor”  be imposed on pesticide products in attempts to protect children. This provision resulted in EPA reducing children’s allowed exposure to a pesticide active ingredient by 3 to 10 times. Although even these factors may not be wholly protective in many cases, they are to be added unless there is compelling evidence that these safety factors are unnecessary. In the case of synthetic pyrethroids, EPA allowed a letter from the pesticide industry umbrella group Croplife America to dictate its approach to protecting children from hazardous, neurotoxic pyrethroids. The model proposed by Croplife eliminated safety factors for children. In a rare instance, EPA conducted an outside literature review to buttress its argument, but instead ignored those data and prioritized the unprotective model proposed by the pesticide industry.

After selling out children’s health, the agency then took directions from a group referring to themselves as the “Pyrethroid Working Group (PWG).” If you pictured a motley crew of independent scientists, you’d be quite wrong. PWG is comprised of major pesticide manufacturers Bayer, FMC, Syngenta, BASF, AMVAC, and Valent. At the request of this working group, EPA reduced a proposal from EPA staff scientists to implement 66 ft buffer zones between agricultural fields and water bodies down to 10-25 ft. The agency also agreed that wind speeds up to 15 miles per hour were acceptable for pyrethroid applications, despite previous proposals setting the cut-off at 10 mph.

While these adverse decisions occurred under the Trump administration, the rot of industry corruption within EPA spans administrations. It is important to underline how rare it is for EPA to make substantive changes in the other direction, towards the protection of health, once presented with strong evidence.

With the default assumption that pesticide provide benefits, and that harms must be proven, our post-cautionary approach to pesticide regulation is failing people and the environment. Lawsuits like the Center’s are critical to holding EPA accountable to current laws in a post-cautionary system, but major changes are needed to prevent toxic pesticides from being registered in the first place. Help send the message to EPA Administrator Michael Regan that now is the time to stand up to the influence of the pesticide industry, ignore their letters, suggestions, and eventual protestations, and implement real, meaningful pesticide reforms.  

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity (press release)

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18
Jan

Chemical Exposure Monitoring Documents Widespread Pesticide Exposure to People and Pets

(Beyond Pesticides, January 18, 2021) A study published in Environmental Science & Technology adds to the growing body of scientific research verifying the use of silicone devices as an effective tool for biomonitoring and disease prognosis, finding widespread exposure to people and pets. Researchers can identify the presence of chemical contaminants among humans and their canine companions occupying similar spaces using silicone monitoring devices (e.g., wristbands, collars, etc.). Although scientists can gauge chemical contamination with silicone devices, anthropoid (human) diseases can take many years to develop, even after initial contaminant exposure. Identifying chronic human diseases from pollutants remains challenging as scientists lack a full understanding of mechanisms involved in chemical-driven diseases development. However, dogs develop comparable anthropomorphic (human-like) diseases (e.g., cancer, organ damage) from susceptibility to the same environmental contaminants, but at a much quicker pace. Therefore, this research highlights the significance of identifying chemicals associated with diseases that are common across multiple species over longer disease latency periods. The researchers note, “These results, in combination with our recent study investigating uptake rates of chemicals on wristbands, demonstrate that silicone samplers can be used to assess average integrated exposure over time (in this case over a week of exposure). Studies such as these could aid in identifying important health risks that could be mitigated in order to reduce the burden of these chronic diseases in both people and dogs.”

Several research studies detail disease effects from contaminant exposure, including details pinpointing environmental contaminant absorption and relative exposure patterns that cause these diseases. However, scientists can successfully use silicone to detect environmental contaminants. The silicone membrane mimics human and animal cell membrane absorption, thus acting as a good indicator of contamination absorption and relative exposure. A COSECHA study found that silicone wristbands quantify pesticide exposure, accurately identifying 72 different pesticides exposed to teenage girls in the Salinas Valley region. Therefore, these devices represent a non-invasive tool that can identify exposure to multiple pollutants in various settings, including occupational, household, and ecosystem.

The researchers aim to determine whether silicone wristbands and dog tags accurately predict pesticide exposure. Using a cohort of 30 people and their pet canines, researchers compared the presence of pesticides in silicone samples with participants’ urine samples. Gas chromatography analyses identified pesticides in silicone samplers, while researchers examined urine samples for pesticide metabolites or breakdown products.  

The results find over 70 percent of silicone samples detect the presence of multiple pesticides detectable, such as insecticides, including permethrinfipronil, and N, N diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) (a highly toxic insect repellent and synergist). Both DEET and fipronil are detectable in 100 percent of human and dog silicone devices, with DEET concentrations in silicone device samples associated with chemical levels in urine. Due to the use of fipronil as flea and tick treatment, participants reporting recent flea/tick treatments have higher levels of fipronil in both silicone and urine samples.

Humans and dogs often occupy similar spaces, exposing both species to the same chemical contaminants, like pesticides. Pesticide exposure from environmental use (i.e., on gardens, turf, public field/property, etc.), or products containing pesticides (i.e., pet shampoos, disinfectants, bug sprays, etc.), is unavoidable—regardless of pesticide product labels warning clients to avoid direct contact with clothes or skin. As the prevalence of environmental pollutants increases annually, the disease implications associated with the contaminants may lack proper regulatory evaluation. Thus, silicone monitoring devices can capture the chemical exposures in combination with adverse health effects on dogs, acting as a proxy for human health effects. Since dogs share a combination of gene functions and pathophysiological (biological processes associated with disease or injury) similarities to humans, canines can considerably improve research in biomedical studies when assessing cross-species health in the shared environment. Furthermore, humans and dogs share over 360 analogous diseases, including various cancers (i.e., testicularbreast canceretc.). However, human disease development can remain latent for years, despite environmental pollutant exposure. Because dogs have a shorter disease latency period, they play a significant role as early warning species for disease in humans. Therefore, using data from silicone dog tags can help assess relative pesticide exposure to determine potential health effects, especially for highly latent diseases that appear much soon in dogs.

The study finds permethrin, fipronil, chlorpyrifos, and DEET are present in silicone and urinary samples, with DEET being the most abundant in both humans and dogs. Furthermore, silicone devices most accurately measured concentrations of permethrin and DEET detectable in urine samples. Although the study finds a strong correlation between chemical concentrations from silicone and urine samples, dogs’ exposure profile may in some cases differ from humans. Pesticide concentrations may be higher among dogs as they encounter pesticides more frequently through grooming behavior, diet, or conventional pet products. Numerous flea and tick prevention products (i.e., collars, topical treatments, sprays, dust) include pesticides like synthetic pyrethroids (i.e., permethrin) and fipronil. A common trait among these pesticides is their toxicity. Fipronil can cause aggression, kidney damage, and thyroid disruption among pets. Synthetic pyrethroids, like permethrin, are of principal concern in multi-pet homes as cats are highly sensitive to these synthetic pyrethroids, which trigger seizures, tremors, muscle spasms, and even death. Although there are claims that pyrethroid toxicity is absent in dogs, a 2014 study finds that tremor-salivation syndrome appears in canines after exposure to two different classes of pyrethroids. In humans, synthetic pyrethroids prompt behavioral disordersADHDdelayed cognitive and motor development, and premature puberty in boys. Often, manufacturers and pesticides applicators use permethrin in conjunction with other pesticides (i.e., imidacloprid) and chemical synergists (i.e., piperonyl butoxide [PBO]), which enhance the toxicity of the active ingredients in pesticide formulations. With the high degree of human contact with pets, through cuddling and hugs and kisses, those using pet products containing pesticides put themselves, children, and those with comorbidities at greater risk of high contaminant exposure.

Over 85 million people in the U.S. have pets, and 88 million U.S. residents use household pesticides. Many of the chemicals in the study are also some of the commonly used chemicals on lawns and landscapes (i.e., permethrin, a top 10 health concern, and fipronil, a top 10 ecological concern). Thus, silicone devices can investigate the relationship between disease development and environmental exposure patterns across species.

We must have a full knowledge of chemicals we are commonly exposed to in our environment, especially as EPA and state regulatory agencies fail to fully assess the cause of pesticide-induced diseases of these environmental contaminants and their interactions. Harms associated with contaminant exposure should end through policy reform and the adoption of practices that eliminate toxic pesticide use, especially in pet care products. Far too many diseases in the U.S. have associations with pesticide exposure. Thus, eliminating pesticide use is crucial in safeguarding public health, especially for ecosystems and organisms vulnerable to pesticide toxicity. Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database is an invaluable resource for additional scientific literature that documents elevated rates of chronic diseases and illnesses among people exposed to pesticides. Additionally, learn more about how to protect your pet from pesticides and the least-toxic controls for flea and tick infestation. See also Beyond Pesticides’ ManageSafe pages on flea and tick management.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Environmental Science & Technology

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14
Jan

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Words, “All life is interrelated,” and His Legacy Are Honored on MLK Day, Monday, Jan. 17

(Beyond Pesticides, January 14, 2022) On the annual celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.— MLK Day, Monday, January 17 — Beyond Pesticides honors his legacy by calling out ongoing environmental inequities, and calling on all of us to advance environmental justice. In his 1967 Christmas sermon, Dr. King famously noted, “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” There may be no better description of what is at stake in environmental justice work — righting environmental wrongs that have disproportionate impacts on some groups of people. In its attention to the multitude of ways in which BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) populations face disproportionate risks and impacts, Beyond Pesticides works to ensure that all people are afforded circumstances that support their safety, health, and well-being.

Rather than excavate the very long historical record of environmental injustice in the U.S., today’s Daily News Blog recalls several examples from the past year. It is impossible to begin that chronicle without first acknowledging that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has surfaced a multitude of inequities that layer on and exacerbate others. Early on, it became abundantly apparent that some people — low-income, elderly, and those in communities of color —are suffering disproportionate rates of infection, illness, and death from the virus that causes Covid. Explanations for such impacts in communities of color include the facts that BIPOC folks represent an outsized proportion of essential workers, and of those with medical comorbidities that raise risk; they may also have less-ready access to, and/or lower-quality of, healthcare.

In the summer of 2020, Beyond Pesticides reported on high rates of Covid infection and death among farmworkers and landscapers, and exposed the increased pandemic risks to such populations because of pesticide exposure. (Latinx people are particularly over-represented among such workers.) As it wrote then, “Evidence is mounting that threats to the immune and respiratory systems posed by pesticides are likely to make those exposed more susceptible to the coronavirus. . . . Alongside other hardships such preexisting health problems, family obligations, cramped housing and transportation, threat of deportation, and communication difficulties, the risks of these essential workers contracting and dying from Covid-19 are compounded exponentially.”

In its 2020–2021 Annual Report, Beyond Pesticides noted important learnings from the Covid-19 experience: “different population groups have disproportionate vulnerabilities, from children to older people; essential workers (from hospital personnel, to grocery store workers, to farmworkers) suffer elevated risk factors due to exposure patterns, creating disproportionate rates of disease; those with preexisting conditions or comorbidities face higher risks; and a lack of complete scientific knowledge requires a precautionary approach or standard.”

On a brighter and related note, the Apopka, Florida Farmworker Association (FFA) is advocating vigorously for a ban on all organophosphate pesticides, which cause serious neurological damage, especially in children. Earthjustice recently joined FFA and other community health and farmworker groups in support of FFA’s work, filing a petition asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban neurotoxic organophosphate pesticides. These compounds, which are prevalent in the food supply and water resources, endanger farmworkers and their families; see this Earthjustice database, which is chock-full of information on the use of organophosphates in the U.S., for a deep look at their use, the most-contaminated foods, and impacts on workers, bystanders, and consumers.

—Early in 2021, Beyond Pesticides covered a study that found a link between elevated rates of breast cancer and exposure to chemical pesticides among African American women, who are 40 percent morelikely to die from this cancer than are non-Black women. The study also found that aggressive cancer subtypes (such as triple-negative breast cancer) have stem-cell-like properties that allow pesticides to dysregulate hormonal pathways. Increased exposures to chemicals, including pesticides, in low-income, often fenceline, communities of color create unequal risks for residents. The researchers also determined that biomarker concentrations in non-Hispanic Black Women are higher for a variety of chemicals, including a fungicide and some pesticide metabolites, as well as heavy metals and endocrine disruptors.

In covering this study, Beyond Pesticides wrote that, “The connection between cancer and pesticides is of specific concern to communities of color, as etiological studies often attribute cancer to genetics or environmental contamination without considering the disproportionate risk of exposure to contaminants. Many people of color communities or members of low-socioeconomic backgrounds experience unequal amounts of chemical exposure from various sources. Placement of toxic waste plants, garbage dumps, industrial factories, [chemical intensive] farms, and other hazardous pollution sources lowers the quality of life for minority populations. . . . Women of color are especially vulnerable to chemical exposure.”

—In the summer of 2021, the long scandal of EPA’s ongoing allowance of the use of chlorpyrifos (another organophosphate) on food crops was largely resolved when the agency released its final rule on chlorpyrifos by revoking all “tolerances” for the compound, effectively banning the continued use and presence of the chemical in food. But for more than five decades prior to this revocation, the toxic organophosphate insecticide had disproportionately harmed low-income African American and Latinx farmworkers (and their families) who have harvested much of the domestic — and contaminated — crops of grapes, citrus, and sugar beets, among others. Risks of exposure to chlorpyrifos include neurological, reproductive, endocrine, and liver and kidney, damage.

Beyond Pesticides reported, in December 2021, an acknowledgement, by the Monsanto company (now owned by Bayer), of wrongdoing, in which it admitted guilt in more than 30 environmental crimes in Hawai’i (on Maui, Oahu, and Moloka’i) — for the second time in four years. (In 2019, Monsanto endangered public health and the environment by knowingly storing and applying the highly hazardous and banned insecticide methyl parathionon Maui, and only narrowly avoided prosecution for it.) The company was fined a total of $22 million for both the current adjudication and that in 2019.

In the recent instance, the company acknowledged it had illegally instructed workers to store and transport the banned Penncap-M, and to use it on research crops in 2014. Monsanto then told workers to enter the contaminated fields after seven days — far before the 31-day period required. In 2020, Monsanto told workers to use Forfeit 280 (a post-emergence herbicide) on cornfields, and then told them to enter those fields 30 times during a six-day “restricted entry” period. Both actions exposed multiple workers to these compounds.

Monsanto has conducted trials for its companion genetically engineered seeds and herbicides in Hawai’i for many years now. Roughly 75% of Hawaii’s population is non-white, so both direct impacts on agricultural workers, and indirect impacts on those living proximate to Monsanto fields, land heavily on indigenous people and other communities of color.

—Beyond Pesticides called attention last December to another instance of environmental injustice — one of thousands in the U.S. — related to toxic chemical use in or near communities of color. In this instance, the death of a young boy from leukemia led to the identification of a Houston-area childhood cancer cluster — with incidence of acute lymphoblastic leukemia nearly five times higher than what would be expected. The guardian of the boy and thousands of other area residents — many of whom are Black — are suing Union Pacific Railroad Company for contaminating their properties with highly hazardous creosote wood preservatives.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan, after touring the area as part of his Journey to Justice tour, pledged federal assistance with the cleanup of these toxic and persistent chemicals. Yet, EPA is currently in the process of reauthorizing creosote use for railroad ties and utility poles for 15 more years — even while it purportedly understands that production and use of these compounds contaminate communities and poison people. Beyond Pesticides wrote: “Some environmental advocates are suggesting that Administrator Regan take a tour of EPA’s pesticide registration program and stop the unnecessary poisoning that disproportionately affects people of color and those with vulnerabilities or pre-existing medical conditions that increase their vulnerability to toxic chemical exposure. While advocates say that cleaning up EPA’s mess in communities is critical, they insist that it is just as important to prevent future harm by keeping hazardous chemicals out of the market.”

—The impacts of the climate emergency affect everyone, but as has been repeatedly identified, they are hitting some regions and their inhabitants sooner and harder. According to Los Angeles Times coverage of a University of California Merced report, the annualized average temperature in the San Joaquin Valley — already hugely stressed by drought in recent years — could increase by four to five degrees over the coming three decades. The region is an important agricultural heartland that has long supported a huge variety of row crops, as well as grapes, almonds, pistachios, fruit trees, and dairy production. This report presents a very grim picture for the residents of the valley, largely low-income, Latinx agricultural workers who lack sufficient resources to adapt successfully to such changes.

The predicted temperature increases, according to the report, will likely result in increasing health hazards for residents (especially from extreme heat stress and chronic diseases), as well as degraded and scarce water resources, rising poverty, and poor air quality — spelling extreme erosion of health, economic opportunity, and environmental resources for the region’s population. The UC Merced report does make recommendations to mitigate these impacts, including “repurposing land surrounding rural disadvantaged communities into green areas, aquifer recharge projects, and wildlife corridors,” and bringing to the area cleaner industries, such as solar panel production. It also suggests that cleaner energy sources for heating and cooling across all sectors would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality. All of those would require massive investment at local, state, and federal levels.

This roundup of examples of impacts and harms on BIPOC people and their communities underscores the reality, as Beyond Pesticides has identified, that federal environmental laws, policies, and regulations “codify disproportionate harm, such as federal pesticide law that is built on a foundation that allows elevated and disproportionate risk to workers. The law effectively requires EPA to allow higher rates of harm for workers, particularly farmworkers and landscapers (who are disproportionately people of color).”

Aptly, the 2021 Daily News Blog piece for MLK Day featured this statement: “We seek to eliminate disproportionate risk, [of] elevated toxic hazards to people-of-color communities, with higher rates of pesticide-induced diseases among those who live in fenceline communities where chemicals are produced, among farmworkers who harvest the nation’s food, and among landscapers who manage our parks and children’s playing fields. We seek to transform national laws that allow risk assessments that institutionalize environmental racism by allowing for this disproportionate risk. We seek to eliminate toxic pesticides production and use through the adoption of organic land management.”

At the start of 2022, Beyond Pesticides emphasizes its commitment to advancing systemic change that can address the depth and extent of the institutional biases that allow environmental racism to continue, as well as the complexity of the “moving parts” of the food, health, environmental, and governance sectors that allow the persistence of disproportionate impacts. For example, campaigns to eliminate individual pesticides (or other chemicals) are insufficient to the gravity and extent of the threats; a precautionary approach and standards are needed to meet and remedy them.

We recently wrote, “Forty years has taught Beyond Pesticides an approach that advances systemic change to meet the challenges.” Please join, reach out, act locally and regionally, and — in honor of Dr. King — help build a healthy and thriving “network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny” for all people.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

 

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13
Jan

Insects in Nature Preserves Contaminated with Over a Dozen Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 13, 2022) Insects found in nature preserves are consistently contaminated with over a dozen pesticides, calling into question the ability for these areas to function as refuges for threatened and endangered species. This finding comes from a study published last month in Scientific Reports by researchers with The Entomological Association Krefeld, the team behind the seminal study on the decline of flying insect biomass in German nature preserves, which sparked worldwide discussions about the ongoing insect apocalypse. With pesticide use rampant and contamination ubiquitous, it is imperative that lawmakers and regulators embrace stronger measures to reverse the ominous trajectory society continues to follow.

After finding devastating insect declines of nearly 80% over the last 30 years in German nature preserves, researchers set out to analyze what chemicals these insects were being exposed to, whether there were differences in contamination that could be observed between seasons, and how surrounding agricultural areas influenced insect exposure to pesticide residue. Scientists established a series of Malaise traps – large, tent-like mesh nets that will trap flying insects. Between May and August 2020, two insect collection samples each were taken from 21 nature preserves around Germany. Collected insects were immediately placed into ethanol for preservation. Researchers then followed a novel method of testing the ethanol for the presence of 92 commonly used pesticides.

From among the 21 sites, collected insects were contaminated with 16.7 pesticides on average, with ranges from 7 to 27 different substances on a single insect. Overall 47 of the 92 pesticides researchers tested for were discovered on tested insects. Of these, six were insecticides, 13 were herbicides, and 29 were fungicides. Six pesticides were found at every site, including metolachlor-S, prosulfocarb and terbuthylazine herbicides, and the fungicides azoxystrobin and fluopyram. Scientists noted that these chemistries were some of the highest selling pesticides in the country the previous year (notably, in the United States, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not updated pesticide sales and use estimates since 2017, when it provided numbers for 2008-2012).

Researchers also found the neonicotinoid thiacloprid in 16 of the 21 preserves. The chemical was banned in the European Union, but provided a phase out period until early 2021, indicating that 2020 may have been the last opportunity for farmers to use their stock supply.

As the study explains, “A ban could thus result in a greater impact to the ecosystem if parallel applications take place on a large scale. Hence, for potent pesticides which are banned from the market, it seems advisable to stop granting grace periods and instead destroy remaining stock rather than dispersing them into the environment despite knowledge of their high environmental risks.”

Patterns of pesticide use were noticeable as seasons changed. The number of herbicides detected appears to increase in the spring, while fungicide residue detections increase in the late summer months. Although this factor is unsurprising, it has important implications for the health of insect communities, which undergo significant changes in terms of what species are active, dormant, breeding, or emerging at a given time of the year.

The study calls into significant question the ability for these areas to fulfill their stated function of wild species preservation. A correlation analysis conducted by scientists found that the number of pesticide detections on insects corresponded most closely to the amount of agricultural production within 1.25 miles (2,000 meters) of a given site.

In Germany, in response to earlier findings on the decline of insects in nature preserves, the government implemented restrictions around the use of pesticide sin these areas, and moderate buffer zones in the 10s of meters. However, in larger surrounding areas designated by the government as ‘flora-fauna-habitat areas,’ pesticide use is still allowed. Researchers argue that much broader buffers are required to effect meaningful protections. It was noted that a 1.25 mile buffer around all of Germany’s nature preserves would cover 30% of the country. As a compromise, researchers proposed, “that future transformation in land management could be specifically targeted around nature conservation areas to form the required buffer zones of organic agriculture where no synthetic pesticides are applied.” This novel policy approach balances human and ecological needs, protecting species in nature preserves while growing food nearby in a safe and sustainable manner.

The findings of this study are relevant to all pesticide reform advocates fighting recalcitrant lawmakers and regulators. Pesticide approvals allow long-lived chemicals to harm non-target species far away from an application site. These non-target species come into contact with multiple different pesticides at different times of the year. Regulators do not consider the long-range transport of pesticides, mixtures of multiple pesticides, or seasonal changes in pesticide exposure to non-target species, prior to the registration of a pesticide.

The study also highlights the problem of allowing a banned pesticide to have a ‘phase-out period.’ During this time, farmers and pesticide applicators are incentivized to use the remaining stocks of a chemical regulators have already indicated is too dangerous to be sold any further. This approach, where the solution to pesticide pollution is dilution, flies in the face of common sense, yet remains a fixture of pesticide regulation in the United States and abroad.

The real solutions to the pesticide-induced destruction of the natural world are neither impossible nor overly burdensome. The European Union, despite continued regulatory problems around pesticides, is embracing big changes with it’s Farm to Fork strategy, as part of its European Green Deal. But the United States continues to be mired in chemical industry corruption, working to oppose the EU initiative by embracing an alternate approach alongside Brazil and the United Arab Emirates. As the EU looks up, recognizes, and begins to confront the challenges of balancing food production and environmental health, the US is actively working to exacerbate these problems in order to fuel the short-term profits chemical companies.

Organic agriculture represents a path forward that understands that growing food outdoors means working with, not against the animals that are already living in that area. Rather than work to create an artificial environment through the use of synthetic materials, organic agriculture embraces the diversity of the outside world and channels that energy into productive means.  Join us today in telling EPA and Congress that the failed pesticide program needs a new start, and USDA must remove barriers that are preventing a national transition to organic agriculture.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Scientific Reports

 

 

 

 

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12
Jan

Banned Pesticides in Well Water Linked to Declines in Kidney Function

(Beyond Pesticides, January 12, 2022) Well water in agricultural regions of Sri Lanka is contaminated with highly hazardous insecticides and associated with a decline in kidney function, according to research published in npj Clean Water this month. This finding is the latest piece in an ongoing ‘puzzle’ regarding the epidemic of chronic kidney disease of unknown origins in Sri Lanka and other developing countries in agricultural regions. Although the exact etiology of the disease has not been confirmed, a number of scientific studies have pointed the finger at industrial agriculture, increasingly finding evidence of chronic pesticide exposure in affected populations.  

To better understand the connection between agrichemical exposure and kidney health, researchers enrolled 293 individuals from Wilgamuwa, Sri Lanka into a prospective study. Baseline data was retrieved on occupational and environmental exposure factors, focusing in on the water source individuals used at their homes. Samples of each participant’s household wells were taken and analyzed for the presence of pesticides.

Of the wells sampled, 68% were found to contain pesticides. Further, every well where pesticides were detected had at least one pesticide recorded above global drinking water guidelines. The chemicals found were also some of the most toxic pesticides to ever be sold, including the organochlorine insecticides DDT/DDE, propanil, and endosulfan, and the organophosphate diazinon. None of these chemicals are permitted for use in Europe or the United States, and some like endosulfan are being phased out globally through the Stockholm Convention.

The study found that individuals reporting drinking well water during their lifetimes had glomerular filtration rate (a measurement of kidney health) that was significantly lower on average (6.7) than other individuals who never drank well water, after accounting for differences in age and sex. Although this study does not reveal causation, it provides strong evidence that water contamination is playing a role in the development of the disease. “It is likely that there is no single compound of concern but rather a multiple stressor interactor effect across environmental and agrochemical exposure, behavior, and clinical factors,” the study reads.

Prior research has found a range of chemicals linked to kidney damage. Even among the 40 most commonly used lawn care pesticides, the vast majority – 32, are associated with damage to the kidney or liver. This includes widely used herbicides like glyphosate. In 2019, researchers Sararath Guanatilake, MD, and Channa Jayasumana, PhD, were awarded the Freedom and Responsibility Award from the American Association of the Advancement of Science for their work uncovering the link between glyphosate and chronic kidney disease. The award came as the two scientists had to defend their research from death threats and claims of misconduct directly or indirectly from the agrichemical industry, Bayer/Monsanto in particular. In fact, after receiving the award, Bayer/Monsanto bullying caused AAAS to withdraw the prize and place the award under review. Ultimately, however, after a multi-month pause, AAAS decided to confirm the original award.

Another pesticide, malathion, has recently been cited for its close link to kidney damage. A study published in October 2021 found significant associations with malathion exposure, low kidney function, and increased risk of CKD. With researchers now finding evidence that pesticide-contaminated well water may be a source of kidney dysfunction, it is evident that more action should be taken to protect those in intensive agricultural areas from pesticide exposure. While there is a desire to neatly separate bad from good actors in environmental ‘mysteries,’ including chronic kidney disease and the ongoing decline of pollinators, it is evident that in a world awash in chemicals, it is a combination of these factors that is likely at play.

We must act both locally and globally to shift away from our toxic reliance on hazardous chemicals to grow food we know can be grown without these chemicals. Sri Lanka’s government recognized this and attempted to rapidly transition the country to more organic agriculture. However, reports indicate that the approach taken simply stopped government subsidizes for chemical pesticides and fertilizers, without widespread education on new practices or support for alternative products. (There is further indication that this decision was in part a response to lost tourism dollars from the Covid pandemic.) Organic agriculture is about more than removing toxic pesticides and chemicals; it is a systems-based approach that reorients crop production and pest management towards soil health, increased diversity, and working with, rather than against, natural processes. While Sri Lanka’s dive into organic was not successful in this initial attempt, more and more farmers are now aware of the dangers and the need transition to safer practices. Major changes rarely occur successfully at all once, but are often the result of many trials, eventually embracing new approaches once education and practices are further developed. As the present study shows, Sri Lanka’s work to reduce and eliminate toxic chemical use is important for its citizen’s health; with hope the country will learn from its mistakes and continue efforts to increase adoption of organic agriculture.

For more information about the dangers of pesticides in drinking water, see Beyond Pesticides Contaminated Waters program page. Additional information on the link between pesticides and kidney disease can be found on the Pesticide Induced Diseases Database.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: npj Clean Water
Image: Flikr

 

 

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11
Jan

Common Home Fumigation Pesticide Associated with Increased Greenhouse Gas Emissions

(Beyond Pesticides, January 11, 2022) A study finds that the pesticide sulfuryl fluoride, used for insect (i.e., termites, bedbugs, cockroaches, etc.) fumigation treatments, increases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the report, “Termite Fumigation in California Is Fueling the Rise of a Rare Greenhouse Gas.” Not only do most sulfuryl fluoride emissions in the U.S. occur in California, but a majority of global emissions also occur in California. When the use of methyl bromide for agricultural and structural fumigation was phased-out under the Montreal Protocol, sulfuryl fluoride became a replacement for fumigation treatments. However, researchers have identified concentrations of sulfuryl fluoride in the atmosphere due to the chemical’s long half-life and greenhouse warming potential (GWP). The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 does not list sulfuryl fluoride emissions as a GHG risk. Therefore, the researchers note, “This work emphasizes the importance of considering [sulfuryl fluoride] SO2F2 in state and national greenhouse gas inventories and emissions reduction strategies.”

Researchers employed geostatistical inverse model (GIM)—commonly used to estimate GHG fluxes—alongside atmospheric measurements of sulfuryl fluoride to estimate emissions throughout the United States. Using programmable flask packages (PFPs), researchers examined atmospheric observational data from towers, observatories, and aircraft, measuring concentrations of sulfuryl fluoride via gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. To compare surface and downwind emission, the researchers used the Lagrangian particle dispersion model (STILT) with multiple variables, including county-wide uses of sulfuryl fluoride and the U.S. Geographical Survey National Land Cover Database.

The GIM results demonstrate that most U.S. sulfuryl fluoride emissions derive from California, specifically the greater Los Angeles (LA) area (up to 400 parts per trillion between 2015 and 2017), followed by the Bay area. Moreover, all regions outside of California have negligible sulfuryl fluoride atmospheric concentrations, resulting in little to no emissions. Thus, the study implies California is the world’s leading sulfuryl fluoride emitter. Leading author Dylan Gaeta, a Ph.D. student at Johns Hopkins University, extrapolates, “We expected to see little splotches of emissions throughout at least some other parts of the country…The fact that we are seeing almost all of it from California? That was the shocking part.”

Sulfuryl fluoride is a fluoride compound with various adverse health effects, including cancerendocrine disruptionneurotoxicity (reduced IQ), and reproductive damage. The Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) amendments to Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) require that a pesticide registered for use by the agency cannot exceed acceptable risk thresholds for both dietary and non-dietary exposure. However, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) peer-reviewed risk assessment of fluoride exposure finds that exposure to fluoride from various sources (i.e., sulfuryl fluoride residues in food commodities, fluoride exposure in water and toothpaste) did not meet the safety standard under FFDCA. Moreover, sulfuryl fluoride rapidly metabolizes (breaks down) in the body into fluoride. Considering the compound has a long half-life in human bones (~20 years), advocates attest EPA should withdraw the allowed tolerances for food uses of sulfuryl fluoride.

Sulfuryl fluoride, registered for termite and other wood-boring pest extermination in 1959, gained additional attention as a potential alternative to methyl bromide, a broad-spectrum insect fumigant used in post-harvest storage and food processing facilities. Methyl bromide’s designation as a greenhouse gas under the Montreal Protocol (2005) caused a gradual reduction in use. However, when no feasible methyl bromide alternatives are available, the “critical use exemption” (CUE) allows the use of this chemical. Furthermore, others (i.e., Natural Resources Defense Council) argue that the disallowance of any sulfuryl fluoride uses will lead to prolonged or increased methyl bromide use. However, Beyond Pesticides and others maintain that without the phase-out of sulfuryl fluoride, there will be no incentive for grain storage facilities to upgrade and adopt modern practices that forego hazardous chemical use. Although EPA decided to phase-out sulfuryl fluoride use on food commodities in 2011, Dow AgroScience (the manufacturer of sulfuryl fluoride under the trade names Vikane and ProFume), along with others lobbied against efforts to phase-out use, in the lead up to Congressional action to overrule the science on adverse health effects.

The U.S. Congress, in the 2014 Farm Bill (Agricultural Act of 2014), included a provision that requires EPA to ignore the science and law that establishes the safety threshold for exposure to fluoride. (See When Politics Trumps Science and Health Suffers.) The use of the pesticide sulfuryl fluoride, allowed in food production since 2004, in combination with fluoride use in water fluoridation, creates unacceptable hazards under EPA and National Academy of Sciences (NAS) scientific determinations. However, in an intervention that simply defies the scientific literature and thresholds for safety, the bill language orders EPA not to follow the law and science. The regulatory agencies responsible for protecting public health have identified elevated risk of dental fluorosis (breaking down of teeth enamel) in young children, and possibly skeletal fluorosis (joint pain and muscle impairment), while the scientific literature raises serious issues of neurological and brain effects from elevated levels of fluoride.

The sulfuryl fluoride/GHG study represents an all too familiar pattern of widespread chemical use without proper knowledge of health and environmental effects before implementation. According to the most recent data by the California Department of Pesticide Regulations, sulfuryl fluoride is the 12th most used pesticide applied to sites across California, with over 2.9 million pounds used in 2018 for structural and agricultural pest control. Although sulfuryl fluoride emissions mainly stem from the greater Los Angeles area, researchers suggest other states, like Florida, may also produce emissions that remain unaccounted for by current National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chemical tracking. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) added sulfuryl fluoride to its list of “short-lived climate pollutants,” being the only state to do so since 1990. However, California does not include sulfuryl fluoride in the list of GHG emissions to reduce by 2020 as researchers were not aware the chemical was a GHG until 2008. A 2009 study finds the termite insecticide to be a more potent GHG than carbon dioxide by up to 4,000 times over 100 years. Since sulfuryl fluoride has high global warming potential, it can remain in the atmosphere for more than 36 years.

Ninety-nine percent of structural fumigation treatments use sulfuryl fluoride. Recent work from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) demonstrates North America was the leading global source of sulfuryl fluoride emissions in 2019. The risk of multiple chemical contaminants in the atmosphere increases as global warming progresses. Melting glaciers can release persistent organic pollutants into waterways. Recently, pesticides and fertilizers overtook the fossil fuel industry in environmental sulfur emissions. Thus, health and environmental concerns will increase significantly, especially for individuals and ecosystems more vulnerable to the toxic effects of chemical exposure. If pesticide use and manufacturing are amplifying the impacts of the climate crisis, advocates argue that pesticide policy and regulation must address and eliminate chemical use. There are many viable alternatives to sulfuryl fluoride and methyl bromide fumigation. These alternatives include temperature manipulation, atmospheric controls, biological controls, and less toxic chemical controls (diatomaceous earth). Many existing commodity storage facilities are too old and outdated to prevent pest infestation. This ineffectiveness leads to a reliance on toxic fumigation. Thus, a clean, regularly-maintained storage or processing facility can easily keep facilities pest-free.  

As the climate crisis continues, banned and current-use pesticides put human and animal health at risk upon release into the atmosphere and waterways. Lack of adequate persistent pesticide regulations highlights the need for better policies surrounding use. The European Union already bans sulfuryl fluoride from any food contact. Thus, a switch from chemical-intensive agriculture to regenerative organic agriculture can significantly reduce the threat of the climate crisis by eliminating toxic, petroleum-based pesticide use, building soil health, and sequestering carbon. Current organic food production and handling do not permit conventional pesticide use, including fumigants like sulfuryl fluoride. Therefore, organic production reduces greenhouse gas emissions from chemical use. Learn more about how switching to organic management practices can mitigate the climate crisis by reading Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming. For more information about organic food production, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Keep Organic Strong webpage. Learn more about the adverse effects chemical-intensive farming poses for various crops and how eating organic produce reduces pesticide exposure and benefits the environment.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: EOS, AGU

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10
Jan

Consumers Misled by USDA Genetically Engineered Food Ingredient Label; Will Congress Act

(Beyond Pesticides, January 10, 2022) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now undermining full public disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients in our food, both through misrepresentation in labeling and through a definition that allows a large percentage of ingredients to go undisclosed. The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Act, dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act by food safety advocates, establishes a national GMO (genetically modified organisms or genetically engineered GE) food labeling requirement that has led to deceptive messaging, preempts states from adopting stronger label language and standards, and excludes a large portion of the population without special cell phone technology (because information is accessed the QR codes on products). However, USDA regulations go further—creating loopholes and barriers to transparency that prohibit the use of the widely-known terms “GMO” and “GE” and prohibit retailers from providing more information to consumers.

Tell USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to require USDA agencies to honestly disclose genetically engineered ingredients and carry out the goals of the Executive Memorandum, Modernizing Regulatory Review. Urge your U.S. Senators and Representative to ask Agriculture Committees to hold oversight hearings to ensure that USDA holds to those goals.   

USDA is huge—encompassing 29 agencies and offices, with almost 100,000 employees—with duties ranging from research to marketing to distributing money to regulation. These agencies have a variety of missions, sometimes conflicting. The conflict was evident in the creation of regulations to implement the Dark Act. USDA has also been described as a captured agency that largely serves the interests of chemical-intensive agriculture and agribusiness. This was recognized when President Nixon shifted pesticide regulation out of USDA to the newly created Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970. It was also recognized when Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and created an independent panel of stakeholders, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), to provide oversight and direct USDA in implementing the law.

USDA encourages the use of genetically engineered crops, which, in turn, increases pesticide use and pesticide dependency. This conflict between promoting GE and chemical-intensive agriculture and protecting the public through the use of transparent labeling is one way that USDA’s practices are in conflict with the direction of President Biden’s inauguration day action, the Executive Memorandum and directive Modernizing Regulatory Review. This presidential action instructs 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. Oversight is necessary to hold federal agencies—especially captured agencies like USDA— accountable to full transparency and public safety.  

Tell USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to require USDA agencies to honestly disclose genetically engineered ingredients in food and carry out the goals of the Executive Memorandum, Modernizing Regulatory Review. Urge your U.S. Senators and Representative to ask Agriculture Committees to hold oversight hearings to ensure that USDA holds to those goals.   

To Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is huge—encompassing 29 agencies and offices, with almost 100,000 employees—with duties ranging from research to marketing to distributing money to regulation. Its agencies also have a variety of missions, sometimes conflicting. The conflict of programs supporting chemical-intensive agriculture with those promoting the interests of health, environment, and organic farmers was recognized when President Nixon shifted pesticide regulation from USDA to the newly created Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970. It was also recognized when Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and created an independent panel of stakeholders, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), to provide oversight and direct USDA in implementing the law.

The conflict was also evident in the creation of regulations to implement the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Act. The statute itself, dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act by food safety advocates, establishes a national GMO (genetically modified organisms or genetically engineered GE) food labeling requirement that has led to deceptive messaging, preempts states from adopting stronger label language and standards, and excludes a large portion of the population without special cell phone technology (because information is accessed the QR codes on products). However, USDA regulations go further—creating loopholes and barriers to transparency that prohibit the use of the widely-known terms “GMO” and “GE” and prohibit retailers from providing more information to consumers.

USDA generally encourages the use of genetically engineered crops, which, in turn, increases pesticide use and pesticide dependency. This conflict between promoting GE and chemical-intensive agriculture and protecting the public through the use of transparent labeling is one way that USDA’s practices are in conflict with the direction of President Biden’s inauguration day action, 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.

I urge you to hold USDA agencies accountable to the goals of this administration as expressed in the Executive Memorandum.

Thank you.

To Members of Congress
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is huge—encompassing 29 agencies and offices, with almost 100,000 employees—with duties ranging from research to marketing to distributing money to regulation. Many have referred to USDA as a captured agency that largely serves the interests of chemical-intensive agriculture and agribusiness. This was recognized when President Nixon shifted pesticide regulation out of USDA to the newly created Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970. It was also recognized when Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and created an independent panel of stakeholders, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), to provide oversight and direct USDA in implementing the law.

USDA’s agencies have a variety of missions, sometimes conflicting. The conflict was evident in the creation of regulations to implement the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Act. The statute itself, dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act by food safety advocates, establishes a national GMO (genetically modified organisms or genetically engineered GE) food labeling requirement that has led to deceptive messaging, preempts states from adopting stronger label language and standards, and excludes a large portion of the population without special cell phone technology (because information is accessed the OR codes on products). However, USDA regulations go further—creating loopholes and barriers to transparency that prohibit the use of the widely-known terms “GMO” and “GE” and prohibit retailers from providing more information to consumers.

USDA encourages the use of genetically engineered crops, which, in turn, increases pesticide use and pesticide dependency. This conflict between promoting GE and chemical-intensive agriculture and protecting the public through the use of transparent labeling is one way that USDA’s practices are in conflict with the direction of President Biden’s inauguration day action, 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.

Oversight is necessary to hold USDA accountable to the goals of this administration as expressed in the Executive Memorandum.

Please ask the Agriculture Committee to hold oversight hearings to ensure that USDA honestly discloses genetically engineered ingredients in food and carries out the goals of the Executive Memorandum, Modernizing Regulatory Review.

Thank you.

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07
Jan

USDA Genetic Engineered Food Label Misleads Consumers, Took Effect January 1

(Beyond Pesticides. January 7, 2022) Unbeknownst to most Americans when they woke up on New Year’s Day 2022, a new labeling system for genetically modified-engineered foods— promulgated in 2019 — which does not mention genetically engineered or GMO ingredients, went into effect. Consumer, food, and environmental advocates say that the new label is misleading, insufficiently transparent, discriminatory, rife with loopholes, and confusing for consumers. The new labeling requirement mandates that genetically engineered foods bear labels that indicate that they have been “bioengineered” or that provide a text-messaging phone number or a QR code as avenues for further information. (“Additional options such as a phone number or web address are available to small food manufacturers or for small and very small packages.”) The new labeling rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aims, according to the agency, to eliminate the crazy quilt of labels affixed to foods and ingredients that have been scientifically altered. According to an agency spokesperson, the rule is designed to “balance the need to provide information to consumers with the interest in minimizing costs to companies.”

Genetically altered food items and ingredients have heretofore been called, and labeled as, “genetically engineered” (GE) or “genetically modified” (GM), or as containing “genetically modified organisms” (GMO). The Washington Post reports that, “The new rule requires food manufacturers, importers and retailers to disclose information whether foods are bioengineered or use bioengineered ingredients, doing away with well-established terms like ‘genetically engineered’ and ‘GMO’ on labels. However, other kinds of official certifications like USDA Organic and NON-GMO Project Verified will be allowed.”

The new labeling arises out of several developments in recent years. The first was the so-called “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015,” dubbed the DARK Act — the “Denying Americans the Right to Know” Act — by its many opponents. This legislation reacted to efforts in Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine to enact state laws that would mandate labeling of foods and ingredients that were genetically engineered, or contained such ingredients. The food industry was not happy with such developments, and spent huge sums to thwart state efforts. Some food companies even stopped selling to Vermont grocers in order to avoid the extra costs of labeling and segregating such products. The passage of the DARK Act preempted Vermont’s successful GE labeling law, which required such items to be labeled as “produced with genetic engineering.”

Other contributing developments were: (1) the 2016 Congressional passage of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Act, which directed USDA to establish a “national mandatory standard for disclosing foods that are or may be bioengineered,” and (2) the Trump USDA’s subsequent 2018 announcement of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS), which resulted in the 2019 announcement of the new labeling rule that became mandatory on January 1, 2022. That standard defined “bioengineered foods as those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through certain lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature.”

The Harvard Political Review sums up the status of GE/GMO foods in the U.S. marketplace, and the history of the battles over labeling of such food. “Genetically modified crops, which primarily include corn, soybeans, canola, and sugar beets, have been grown in the United States for 20 years, and they have FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] approval. Today, as much as 75 percent of the food Americans buy at their local grocery store, from cereals to soups, include genetically modified ingredients. However, most consumers are not aware that the foods they are eating include these ingredients.”

GE/GMO proponents argue that such foodstuffs are safe for human consumption. Opponents have a variety of objections (health and safety, pesticide contamination, ecosystem impacts, etc.) that are largely shared by Beyond Pesticides, but the central issue has been consumers’ basic right to know what they are purchasing and ingesting. Out of concern for all of those issues arose the “Just Label It” campaign, on which Beyond Pesticides partnered, and about which it wrote, nearly a decade ago, “Beyond Pesticides’ goal is to push for labeling as a means of identifying products containing GE ingredients and allow for consumer choice that will drive the market toward sustainable practices.”

This shift to the term “bioengineered” for labeling has been roundly criticized by advocates. Director of the project on biotechnology for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Gregory Jaffe, has commented, “The worst part of this law is the use of the term ‘bioengineered’ because that’s not a term most consumers are familiar with,” adding that the move to the new jargon was made primarily because “GMO” had come to be perceived as pejorative.

In the summer of 2020, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed suit against the Trump administration’s National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard and proposed labeling rule. CFS “seeks to have the court declare the regulations unlawful and nullify them, and then return the issue to USDA with orders to fix the unlawful portions of the rules.” The organization claimed that the new regulation includes provisions that “will leave the majority of GMO-derived foods unlabeled; discriminate against tens of millions of Americans; prohibit the use of the widely known terms “GMO” and “GE”; and prohibit retailers from providing more information to consumers.”

Among the objections CFS cites in its case are:
• unprecedented allowance of electronic or digital disclosure on packaging, also known as “QR code” or “smartphone” labeling without requiring additional on-package labeling

  • the discriminatory nature of such digital “portals” to information, given that “at least 20 percent of the American adult population — primarily poor, elderly, rural, and minority populations — have lower percentages of smartphone ownership, or live in areas in which grocery stores do not have internet bandwidth”; (The Washington Post reports that “the new rules discriminate againstthe more than 100 million Americans who do not have access to smartphones or cell service, because companies will be allowed to rely on smartphone-based scannable QR codes to share information with consumers.”)
  • the rule’s restrictions on label language: when on-package text isused, the rules limit the adjective used to only “‘bioengineered,’ despite the fact that for 25 years, every aspect of the issue — [in] science, policy, and [the] marketplace — has used genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified (GMO”
  • the “loopholes” that would exempt many GE foods from the new labeling requirements

In its litigation, CFS argues that the new rule violates the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Act, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the U.S. Constitution. The first of those aimed to protect the public’s right to know what is in their food and how it is produced; USDA was tasked by that law with creating and implementing rules to achieve those aims. Plaintiff’s case documents state: “USDA’s final rule ignores virtually all the Disclosure Act’s statutory provisions designed to ensure disclosure of all GE foods for all Americans. Instead, USDA’s Disclosure Standard strips away the hard-fought labeling requirements of states — requirements Congress sought to encompass — replacing them with inaccessible digital disclosures, unfamiliar terminology, and an extra-statutory definition of ‘bioengineered food.’ USDA’s flawed rationales for doing so violate the plain language of the Disclosure Act and are arbitrary and capricious under the APA.”

The suit also asserts that “the Disclosure Standard violates regulated entities’ First Amendment rights to provide disclosure to consumers, violates states’ Tenth Amendment rights by overbroadly prohibiting state laws related to GE seed labeling, and violates the Fifth Amendment by using vague and contradictory language, allowing for arbitrary enforcement.” CFS adds, in its case documents: “Left standing, the Disclosure Standard will result not only in de facto concealment of GE disclosures, but also a dangerous precedent for truthful and non-misleading commercial speech and for Congress’s power to commandeer state governments. Accordingly, this Court should set aside the arbitrary and unconstitutional Disclosure Standard and sever and declare invalid constitutionally infirm provisions of the Disclosure Act.” CFS filed a motion for summary judgment in the case in early December, 2021. (Such a motion asks a court for a judgment on the merits of a case prior to the actual trial; this is typically done when the dispute is about a question of law, rather than the facts of a case.)

The net impact of the new labeling schema, according to advocates, is that it puts a far greater burden on consumers to figure out what the labels mean, to “do their homework” so they are adequately informed (especially because there is, to date, no broad public campaign to apprise them of the change), and — if industry takes the least transparent path of using QR codes and text messaging rather than labels — to have to resort to in-the-moment “research” in the grocery store via smart phones they may or may not have and in settings that may or may not have cell or wifi service.

An issue for many advocates is the huge number of food items that would not be covered by the new labeling requirements. The NBFDS exempts “(1) foods served in a restaurant, (2) very small food manufacturers with annual receipts of less than $2.5 million, (3) food certified under the USDA National Organic Program, and (4) food in which no ingredient intentionally contains a bioengineered substance, with an allowance for inadvertent or technically unavoidable presence of up to 5% for each ingredient.”

CFS elaborates on this “loophole” issue and notes an additional concern: “The vast majority of GE foods (by some estimates over 70%) are not whole foods, but highly processed foods with GE ingredients, like sodas and oils. Yet in the final rule USDA excluded these ‘highly refined’ products, unless the GE material is ‘detectable.’ Lastly, the statute invalidates state GE seed labeling laws and prohibits future GE seed labeling laws in violation of states’ rights to regulate in the absence of federal regulation.” Even Forbes magazine has weighed in, writing that, “One failing of the bill is that even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that the definition of ‘bioengineering’ in the bill is too narrow and would not apply to many foods that come from genetically engineered sources.”

CFS Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell wrote, in a late December 2021 update on the organization’s litigation, “These regulations are not about informing the public but rather designed to allow corporations to hide their use of genetically engineered ingredients from their customers. It is a regulatory scam which we are seeking to rescind in federal court. In addition, we are urging our million CFS members and others to become citizen investigators and find and expose the companies that are using QR codes instead of on-package text or symbol labeling, thereby trying to keep us in the dark about what they have put in our food.”

Beyond Pesticides Executive Director Jay Feldman had this to say: “This label is recognition by USDA and ‘Big Food’ that full and honest disclosure of GMO/GE ingredients will hurt the market. In the end, lying to consumers will not work, but it may hurt the value and credibility of other USDA labels, such as the USDA Certified Organic label that we have worked so hard to create in order to convey meaningfully important information about organic criteria, standards, and enforcement.”

Few stakeholders appear thrilled by this rule at this moment in time. Some food companies, according to their trade groups, are asserting that instituting this new rule mid-pandemic, and during a supply-chain crisis, puts a significant burden on a sector already struggling. The Consumer Brands Association has urged USDA to pause implementation temporarily; a spokesperson commented: “We believe the government must take a ‘do no harm’ position right now that allows companies to focus on delivering essential products to consumers.”

Long a proponent of transparency about the food supply, a few years ago Beyond Pesticides published advocacy points on the flaws of the then-anticipated labeling schema, asking USDA to “ensure that labels are honest, transparent, and informative by adopting the following policies”:
• reject package labeling with unreliable “QR codes” and other discriminatory communication methods; such options discriminate against more than 100 million Americans — especially many in rural communities, as well as low-income, people of color, and elderly populations that tend disproportionately to lack access to these technologies

  • require labeling to use only common, well-established labeling terms, such as GE or GMO; do not allow these to be replaced with the term “bioengineered”
  • require all foods produced with genetic engineering — including highly processed oils and sugars — to be labeled
  • include new and future methods of genetic engineering, such as CRISPR
  • ensure harmonization with the European Union by requiring disclosure if unintended GE contamination exceeds the current level of detection

In light of the new labeling, consumers would do well to “do their homework” ahead of time, or in the grocery store, in order to parse the meaning of the new labeling. (The Washington Post’s coverage of the new rule includes a useful “What to Know” section to help consumers understand implications of the rule for foods they buy and consume.) Perhaps an easier approach, for those who want to avoid GE/GMO food items, is to buy organic as much as possible because USDA National Organic Standards disallow the use of GEs/GMOs.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/01/01/usda-bioengineered-food-rules/#CEJNGNFJVRDINNQWQ2TPUJITFAA

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

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06
Jan

Neonicotinoids Pass Through Aphids, Contaminating Honeydew and Killing off Pest Predators

(Beyond Pesticides, January 6, 2022) Seeds treated with neonicotinoid insecticides contaminate honeydew, often the biggest source of food for pest predators, according to recent research published in the journal Environmental Pollution. Concerned advocates for pollinators and pesticide reform are likely familiar with fact that neonicotinoids are systemic, and once applied to a seed or sprayed on a plant are taken up by the plant and distributed throughout the pollen, nectar and dew drops that a plant produces. But there is another systemic effect that is not included in that picture, and in monoculture crops, it could be the biggest source of carbohydrates for beneficial pest predators – honeydew. Honeydew is produced from phloem-feeding (sap sucking) pests like aphids, whiteflies, leafhoppers, and other hemipteran insects. The waste that these insects produce is liquid, and full of sugars. “This rich carbohydrate source is a common food for many beneficial insects, including pollinators, such as bees and flies, and some natural enemies of pests, such as ants, wasps and beetles,” said John Tooker, PhD, coauthor of a recent literature review published in Biological Reviews. “Honeydew often is more abundant than nectar in agroecosystems.”

In 2019, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by the same research team determined that neonicotinoids have the ability to pass through sap sucking pests, contaminate honeydew, and kill of beneficial insects. However, the pesticide industry criticized the research, claiming that the laboratory conditions used in the study wouldn’t translate into the field. The study recent published in Environmental Pollution proves that criticism to be specious.

To show the process, researchers chose a study site in Saint Paul, MN where 24 soybean plots were planted in June 2019. Random blocks were assigned in which plants were either untreated, coated with the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam, or coated with a mixture of neonicotinoids and fungicides. Roughly one month after planting, researchers introduced soybean aphids, infecting 10 plants per plot. Two plants per plot were covered with exclusion cages to prevent predation so that researchers could come back and harvest honeydew from the aphids. Honeydew that was collected was analyzed for pesticide concentrations. Pest predators were then collected, placed in a vial, and provided as much of the contaminated honeydew as they could eat. The beneficial predators were then observed until they died.

Researchers found that concentrations of the neonicotinoid clothianidin (the chemical tested by scientists, as it is the immediate breakdown product of the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam), are 9 to 11 times higher in aphid honeydew derived from plants that were seed treated with neonicotinoids (at ~35-45 parts per billion), compared to those untreated. Importantly, however, aphids from untreated blocks also had neonicotinoids in their honeydew (at ~1.5-6 ppb). Researchers indicate that this was either from prior plantings on the plot of land chosen, or from runoff from nearby applications causing contamination in the untreated plot.

The results also reveal that pest predators die off much faster when eating contaminated honeydew. While uncontaminated parasitoid wasps lived a median of 17 days on untreated honeydew, those eating the contaminated honeydew lived as many as five fewer days. Although seemingly insignificant to a human lifespan, these results indicate that feeding on contaminated honeydew could cut a pest predator’s life span by nearly one third.

In the more expansive, overarching review of threats posed by contaminated honeydew in Biological Reviews, scientists analyzed various routes of honeydew contamination, reviewed various insecticides that have the potential to contaminate honeydew, and analyzed particular agroecological scenarios that pose outsized risks. They indicate that honeydew itself, after excreted from an aphid, can be sprayed or drifted with pesticides that contaminate it. And in addition to excreting the pesticide after feeding on a contaminated plant, pest insects may also have their honeydew contaminated if they are directly sprayed with a pesticide. In direct exposure scenarios, an aphid may excrete honeydew for several days before it dies. However, researchers indicate seed coatings are more insidious. With seed coatings, aphids develop a level of insecticide resistance that allows them to excrete honeydew for longer periods of time.  

The pesticides identified as particularly problematic for this route of exposure are generally those the researchers indicate have systemic properties.

In terms of problematic scenarios, researchers identified cereal crops (wheat, corn, rice, oat, rye, etc.), fruit crops, and vegetable crops, with brassicas (broccoli, caucliflower, kale, etc) and tomatoes singled out. Cereal crops likely represent the greatest risk as they cover over 50% of the world’s agricultural areas. In monoculture landscapes, researchers found evidence that a large proportion of hoverflies and most beneficial wasps feed on honeydew. Lastly, researchers noted that the spread of invasive pests that are honeydew producing also poses a significant future risk for agroecological landscapes.

“Our review describes how honeydew contaminated with systemic insecticides may play a role in insect declines,” Dr. Tooker said. “Honeydew is a hidden driver of direct and indirect interactions among insects that is likely to be affecting the population dynamics of herbivores, biological control agents and pollinators.”

Honeydew is an aspect of the natural world that is not considered by pesticide regulators at any level. However, the science on the “pass through” effect of neoincotinoids is now well-documented. A 2011 study finds that mites on elm trees sprayed with the neonicotinoid imidacloprid in fact thrived after the exposure, flipping the tables on their predators and causing a predator-prey reversal. Likewise, a 2014 study by Dr. Tooker and colleagues finds that thiamethoxam could pass through pest slugs feeding on neonicotinoid treated seedlings. Predator beetles that feed on the slugs subsequently die as a result of the toxic contamination in their slug prey.

It is critical that pesticide regulators think more broadly about the dangers and complex situations that can occur once a human-made chemical is introduced into the environment to function as a pest predator. In the absence of a truly precautionary system where independent science is adequately considered by regulators, and pesticides are removed from the market when found to cause trophic cascades or other ecosystem disruption, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must go beyond individual assessments on categories of plants and animals and consider entire ecosystem health in its regulatory reviews.

With EPA continuing to talk big but act small in reforming its pesticide program, changes to federal pesticide law require Congressional action. Help us tell the Senate that major changes to pesticide regulation –including those that go beyond the scope of the current legislation to Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides – are urgently needed now. For more information on the dangers that pesticides pose to ecosystem health see the article, Pesticide Use Harming Key Species Ripples through the Ecosystem, and see Beyond Pesticides wildlife and biodiversity program pages.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

Source: Penn State press release, Environmental Pollution, Biological Reviews

Image Source: Wikimedia (some ant species form mutualistic relationships with aphids, whereby they consume their honeydew, protect them, and in a sense “farm” them)

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05
Jan

Household Pesticide Use Harms Infant Motor Skill Development

(Beyond Pesticides, January 5, 2022) Household pesticide use is associated with harmful impacts to infant motor development, according to a study published late last year in the journal Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology. The research focused on primarily low-income Hispanic women located in Los Angeles, California, enrolled in an ongoing study referred to as Maternal and Developmental Risks from Environmental and Social Stressors (MADRES). As with other pollutants in society, low-income, people of color communities are disproportionately in contact with toxic pesticides, resulting in exposures that can start early, and affect health over the course of one’s lifetime.

Women enrolled in the MADRES cohort are over the age of 18, and speak English or Spanish fluently. For the present study, roughly 300 MADRES participants met the criteria for enrollment, and completed household pesticide use questionnaires at a 3-month post-natal visit. The questionnaire generally inquired whether pesticides had been used in one’s home since their child was born. After another 3 months, researchers also tested infants’ motor development using an Ages and Stages-3 protocol screening tool, which evaluates a child’s ability to execute muscle movements.

Overall, roughly 22% of mothers reported pesticide use in their home during the first months of their children’s lives. Analysis revealed that 21 of the infants tested fell below the cut-off for the screening tool that suggests further evaluation by a health professional. “In adjusted models, infants whose mothers reported household use of rodent or insect pesticides had 1.30 (95% CI 1.05, 1.61) times higher expected gross motor scores than infants in households with no reported household pesticide use, with higher scores indicating decreasing gross motor performance,” the study indicates.

While researchers indicate that additional data is needed to determine specific pesticides that may be playing a role, the general findings support a hypothesis that household pesticide use is associated with harm to infant motor development. Using a method of calculating unmeasured variables that could influence final results, researchers note that, “The E-value of 1.92 (95% CI 1.28, 2.60) suggests substantial unmeasured confounding would be needed to reduce the observed association between household use of rodent and insect pesticides and infant gross motor development.”  

Household pesticide use over the last decade has generally shifted away from the use of older organophosphate chemistries to the use of synthetic pyrethroid insecticides. But this switch has not resulted in safer exposures; a growing body of literature is finding that synthetic pyrethroids can cause a range of adverse health impacts, particularly in children. Multiple studies have been published linking synthetic pyrethroids to developmental problems in children. Most recently, a 2019 Danish study found that higher concentrations of pyrethroid insecticides corresponded to higher rates of ADHD in children. Pesticide exposure at a young age can have far-reaching effects. In addition to motor skills and learning development, young boys exposed to synthetic pyrethroids are more likely to experience early onset of puberty.

These data are all the more concerning in the context of findings that show how synthetic pyrethroids can persist as residue on hard surfaces in one’s home for over a year. This persistent residue can result in multiple re-exposures, turning what an individual may consider a one-time use into a chronic exposure event.  Unforteunately though, for many low-income residents in the United States, pesticide use in and around one’s home or apartment isn’t a decision they can make. Many property management companies, landlords, and public housing authorities have ongoing service contracts with chemical pest control companies, or require residents to otherwise regularly treat their homes. This outdated and dangerous approach to pest management, which often includes service visits that prophylactically spray toxic pesticides without considering need, results in disproportionate exposure to low income individuals who may otherwise be keeping a spotless home. It is little wonder why studies can match disease risk to zip code, with individuals in low income, indigenous and people of color communities at greatest risk of developing pesticide and other environmentally induced diseases.

While research finds that feeding kids an organic diet improves scores on tests measuring memory and intelligence, the additional use of pesticides in one’s home can undermine those benefits, notwithstanding the increased strain of organic prices in many cases. Ultimately, everyone should have access to healthy food grown without pesticides, and be able to live a life without mandated exposure to toxic pesticides that undermine your and your family’s health. If pesticide use is a modifiable – if you can stop using them in your home, or speak with your landlord or service provider – Beyond Pesticides strongly recommends you take actions to stop use. For assistance on stopping household pesticide use and managing household pests without chemicals, see Beyond Pesticides’ ManageSafe webpage, or reach out at [email protected].

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology

 

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04
Jan

“Silence of the Clams”—Study Highlights the Threat of Multiple Pesticide Stressors to Bivalves

(Beyond Pesticides, January 4, 2021) Chronic exposure to pesticides used in conventional forestry operations runoff and harm soft shell clams, according to a recent study published in Science of the Total Environment, entitled “The silence of the clams: Forestry registered pesticides as multiple stressors on soft-shell clams.” Rather than focusing on the impact of a single chemical, researchers analyzed the combined effects of several pesticides. “This is an important data gap to fill as research on these compounds’ toxicity typically focuses on individual compound effects at high concentrations to determine lethality, which while necessary for understanding compound toxicity, can miss sublethal effects that can have long term impacts on these systems,” said lead author Allie Tissot of Portland State University.

The soft shell clam, Mya arenaria, is found to be widespread in coastal areas in both the western and eastern U.S., and is often eaten in stews or chowders. A recent study found a range of chemical contaminants detected in Oregon populations of these species, prompting researchers to further investigate the impact of these exposures. An experiment was set up with tanks to mimic a seabed, and eight different groups of 11 clams were established and treated with various amount of pesticide over the course of 90 days. The pesticides tested included various combinations of atrazine, hexazinone, indaziflam, and bifenthrin. Every ten days, the tanks were dosed, and 30 days the clams were analyzed for their weight and growth.

Every combination of pesticide dosing resulted in higher mortality rates than control tanks where clams were not exposed to any pesticides. “These findings demonstrate that, in addition to accumulating in tissues, compounds in different combinations result in varying effects on nontarget organisms sensitive to these pesticides, even at low concentrations,” the study notes. Many of the nonlethal changes observed indicate a loss of fitness in the environment, such as elongated shells, low tissue weight, and slower rate of clearing algae from their tank with clams exposed to a combination of atrazine and hexazinone.

In addition to pesticides, ocean bivalves are contaminated with a range of human produced hazards, including pharmaceuticals, and the breakdown products of industrial cleaners and detergents. Despite the sensitivity of species that live along shorelines, and humans’ desire to eat many of these animals, environmental laws do little to stop runoff and contamination that ultimately makes it to dinner plates. In fact, pesticides are used to extract the natural wealth of these areas, resulting in contaminated clams people’s plates. In 2018, an association of Washington’s oyster growers proposed to use the hazardous neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid in Willapa Bay to manage shrimp populations that compete with the oysters. The effects of imidacloprid on certain aquatic organisms are wide-ranging and include significant reduction in abundance, significant reduction in survival, reduced feeding, and behavioral changes. Only after widespread public opposition did the state Department of Ecology deny this permit.

Bivalves are sentinel species, and ill effects seen in these animals are likely an indication of broader issues with the health of other benthic and shoreline creatures. Pesticide use in aquatic environments travels up and down the food chain, resulting in trophic cascades that can ultimately affect human health on a broad scale. In addition to measures that directly reduce pesticide use into waterways, regulators should evaluate ecosystem-level effects, and regulators must take steps to look at pesticide use in the context of the full range of other toxic contaminants that could be present in the environment. And if such a task is deemed too complex of an undertaking, the response should utilize precaution, and new hazardous products should not be allowed on the market without complete understanding of how it will interact with the preexisting toxic soup humans have created in far too many bodies of water.

For more information about the dangers pesticides pose to water quality and aquatic wildlife, see Beyond Pesticides Contaminated Waters program page.  

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Portland State University, Science of the Total Environment

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03
Jan

Call for Serious Change of Pesticide Law in the New Year, as Health Threats Escalate

(Beyond Pesticides, January 3, 2022) Environmentalists and public health advocates are calling for an aggressive program of policy change in 2022—change they say is critical to addressing existential crises of public health threats, biodiversity collapse, and severe climate disruption that is not being taken seriously by policy makers. On November 23, 2021, Senator Cory Booker introduced legislation to eliminate many of the current problems with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which regulates the registration and use of pesticides in the U.S. It corrects some of the worst mistakes in registering pesticides and removes some of the worst loopholes in the law. However, in order to prevent future pesticide problems, we need reform that goes deeper.

Urge your Senators to co-sponsor legislation to reform the toxic core of federal pesticide law.

Specifically, the bill, the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2021 (PACTPA), would provide some desperately-needed improvements to FIFRA to better protect people and the environment, including:

  • Bans some of the most damaging pesticides scientifically known to cause significant harm to people and the environment:
    • Neonicotinoid insecticides, which have contributed to pollinator collapse around the world (the European Union and Canada have significantly restricted or banned their use to protect pollinators and other wildlife) and have recently been shown to cause developmental defects, heart deformations, and muscle tremors in unborn children;
    • Paraquat, which is one of the most acutely toxic herbicides in the world —according to the EPA, just “one sip can kill.” Science has shown that chronic exposure to paraquat increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 200% to 600%. It is already banned in 32 countries, including the European Union.
  • Restores balance to protect ordinary citizens by removing dangerous pesticides from the market by:
    • Creating a petition process to enable individual citizens to petition the EPA to identify dangerous pesticides so that the EPA would no longer be able to indefinitely allow dangerous pesticides to remain on the market;
    • Closing dangerous loopholes that have allowed the EPA to issue emergency exemptions and conditional registrations to use pesticides before they have gone through full health and safety review by the agency;
    • Enabling local communities to enact protective legislation and other policies without being vetoed or preempted by state law;
    • Suspending the use of pesticides deemed unsafe by the E.U. or Canada until they are thoroughly reviewed by the EPA.
  • Provides protections for frontline communities that bear the burden of pesticide exposure by:
    • Requiring employers of farmworkers to report all pesticide-caused injuries to the EPA, with strong penalties for failure to report injuries or retaliating against workers;
    • Directing the EPA to review pesticide injury reports and work with the pesticide manufacturers to develop better labeling to prevent future injury;
    • Requiring that all pesticide label instructions be written in Spanish and in any language spoken by more than 500 pesticide applicators.

Despite this impressive list of corrections, PACTPA does not touch the toxic core of FIFRA, which permits the unnecessary dispersal of toxic chemicals in the environment. To eliminate this toxic core, Congress must:

  • Prohibit the registration and use of pesticides that do not meet these criteria:
    • Necessary to prevent harm to humans and the environment based on an analysis of all alternatives;
    • Cause no harm to humans and the environment; and
    • Protect against the existential crises of biodiversity collapse, runaway climate change, and chronic and acute health threats.
  • Require all supporting data to be submitted and examined by the public before registration (including the elimination of conditional registration).
  • Deny and cancel all pesticide registrations not supported by studies demonstrating a lack of endocrine-disrupting effects.
  • Deny and cancel registrations of all pesticides posing a threat to life in the soil—and hence threatening the climate.
  • Deny and cancel registrations of all pesticides posing a threat to any endangered species.

Urge your Senators to co-sponsor PACTPA and reforms to the toxic core of FIFRA.

Letter to Senators Booker (D-NJ), Gillibrand (D-NY), Sanders (I-VT), Warren (D-MA), and Padilla (D-CA):

Thank you for your sponsorship of the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2021 (PACTPA). PACTPA would provide some desperately-needed improvements to the pesticide law (FIFRA) to better protect people and the environment, including:

* Bans some of the most damaging pesticides scientifically known to cause significant harm to people and the environment:

– Organophosphate insecticides, which are designed to target the neurological system and have been linked to neurodevelopmental damage in children;

– Neonicotinoid insecticides, which have contributed to pollinator collapse around the world (the European Union and Canada have significantly restricted or banned their use to protect pollinators and other wildlife) and have recently been shown to cause developmental defects, heart deformations, and muscle tremors in unborn children;

Paraquat, which is one of the most acutely toxic herbicides in the world —according to the EPA, just “one sip can kill.” Science has shown that chronic exposure to paraquat increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 200% to 600%. It is already banned in 32 countries, including the European Union.

* Removes dangerous pesticides from the market by:

– Creating a petition process to enable individual citizens to petition the EPA to identify dangerous pesticides so that the EPA would no longer be able to indefinitely allow dangerous pesticides to remain on the market;

– Closing dangerous loopholes that have allowed the EPA to issue emergency exemptions and conditional registrations to use pesticides before they have gone through full health and safety review by the agency;

– Enabling local communities to enact protective legislation and other policies without being vetoed or preempted by state law;

– Suspending the use of pesticides deemed unsafe by the E.U. or Canada until they are thoroughly reviewed by the EPA.

* Provides protections for frontline communities that bear the burden of pesticide exposure by:

– Requiring employers of farmworkers to report all pesticide-caused injuries to the EPA, with strong penalties for failure to report injuries or retaliating against workers;

– Directing the EPA to review pesticide injury reports and work with the pesticide manufacturers to develop better labeling to prevent future injury;

– Requiring that all pesticide label instructions be written in Spanish and in any language spoken by more than 500 pesticide applicators.

Despite this impressive list of corrections, PACTPA does not touch the toxic core of FIFRA, which permits the unnecessary dispersal of toxic chemicals in the environment. To eliminate this toxic core, please introduce legislation to:

* Prohibit the registration and use of pesticides that do not meet these criteria:

– Necessary to prevent harm to humans and the environment based on an analysis of all alternatives;

– Cause no harm to humans and the environment; and

– Protect against the existential crises of biodiversity collapse, runaway climate change, and chronic and acute health threats.

* Require all supporting data to be submitted and examined by the public before registration (including the elimination of conditional registration).

* Deny and cancel all pesticide registrations not supported by studies demonstrating a lack of endocrine-disrupting effects.

* Deny and cancel registrations of all pesticides posing a threat to life in the soil—and hence threatening the climate.

* Deny and cancel registrations of all pesticides posing a threat to any endangered species.

We look forward to working with you to advance legislation that is truly protective of health and the environment as fossil fuel-based pesticides and fertilizers are contributing public health threats, biodiversity collapse, and the climate crisis. We do not need toxic pesticides to maintain agricultural productivity or quality of life and look forward to the adoption of legislation that reflects this.

Thank you for your leadership.

Letter to all other Senators:

I am writing to urge you to cosponsor the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2021 (PACTPA). PACTPA would provide some desperately-needed improvements to the pesticide law (FIFRA) to better protect people and the environment, including:

* Bans some of the most damaging pesticides scientifically known to cause significant harm to people and the environment:

– Organophosphate insecticides, which are designed to target the neurological system and have been linked to neurodevelopmental damage in children;

– Neonicotinoid insecticides, which have contributed to pollinator collapse around the world (the European Union and Canada have significantly restricted or banned their use to protect pollinators and other wildlife) and have recently been shown to cause developmental defects, heart deformations, and muscle tremors in unborn children;

Paraquat, which is one of the most acutely toxic herbicides in the world —according to the EPA, just “one sip can kill.” Science has shown that chronic exposure to paraquat increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 200% to 600%. It is already banned in 32 countries, including the European Union.

* Removes dangerous pesticides from the market by:

– Creating a petition process to enable individual citizens to petition the EPA to identify dangerous pesticides so that the EPA would no longer be able to indefinitely allow dangerous pesticides to remain on the market;

– Closing dangerous loopholes that have allowed the EPA to issue emergency exemptions and conditional registrations to use pesticides before they have gone through full health and safety review by the agency;

– Enabling local communities to enact protective legislation and other policies without being vetoed or preempted by state law;

– Suspending the use of pesticides deemed unsafe by the E.U. or Canada until they are thoroughly reviewed by the EPA.

* Provides protections for frontline communities that bear the burden of pesticide exposure by:

– Requiring employers of farmworkers to report all pesticide-caused injuries to the EPA, with strong penalties for failure to report injuries or retaliating against workers;

– Directing the EPA to review pesticide injury reports and work with the pesticide manufacturers to develop better labeling to prevent future injury;

– Requiring that all pesticide label instructions be written in Spanish and in any language spoken by more than 500 pesticide applicators.

Despite this impressive list of corrections, PACTPA does not touch the toxic core of FIFRA, which permits the unnecessary dispersal of toxic chemicals in the environment. To eliminate this toxic core, please support legislation to:

* Prohibit the registration and use of pesticides that do not meet these criteria:

– Necessary to prevent harm to humans and the environment based on an analysis of all alternatives;

– Cause no harm to humans and the environment; and

– Protect against the existential crises of biodiversity collapse, runaway climate change, and chronic and acute health threats.

* Require all supporting data to be submitted and examined by the public before registration (including the elimination of conditional registration).

* Deny and cancel all pesticide registrations not supported by studies demonstrating a lack of endocrine-disrupting effects.

* Deny and cancel registrations of all pesticides posing a threat to life in the soil—and hence threatening the climate.

* Deny and cancel registrations of all pesticides posing a threat to any endangered species.

We look forward to working with you to advance legislation that is truly protective of health and the environment as fossil fuel-based pesticides and fertilizers are contributing public health threats, biodiversity collapse, and the climate crisis. We do not need toxic pesticides to maintain agricultural productivity or quality of life and look forward to the adoption of legislation that reflects this.

Thank you.

 

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23
Dec

Beyond Pesticides Wishes You A Healthy New Year

**We’re taking a break for the holidays. Daily News will be back on January 3, 2022**

(Beyond Pesticides, December 23, 2021) We at Beyond Pesticides wish our members, supporters, and collaborators all the best for the holiday season and new year. We look forward to working with you in the new year to meet the serious environmental and public health challenges with truly organic solutions.

Our accomplishments are your victories. We are seeing the outcomes in communities across the country—the adoption of organic land management policies and practices that eliminate toxic pesticides, protect children, pets, and families, and protect the local ecology.

With your support of Beyond Pesticides, we strive to reverse the destructive environmental and public health path that we’re on and advance the adoption of organic practices and policies that respect life.

To view our accomplishments, see Beyond Pesticides’ 2021 Year in Review. Beyond Pesticides’ program supports a clear message: End toxic pesticide use and embrace organic practices and policies that respect the power of nature to heal— in the face of devastating and destructive toxic chemical-dependency. This past year has again elevated important public discourse on the threats that pesticides pose to health and the environment.

Table of Contents: 


CELEBRATING 40 YEARS

For over four decades, Beyond Pesticides has worked with tens of thousands of people in the United States and globally to fight for healthy air, water, land, and food. We forge ties with nonprofit and volunteer organizations, local governments, and forward-thinking corporations. We work with people who understand the importance of vibrant ecosystems on which all life depends. Our collaborators bridge all affected communities—from urban to rural, parents and youth to medical practitioners, scientists to policymakers, farmworkers to farmers, and gardeners to landscapers.

Our Vision. Beyond Pesticides shares the vision of people and communities in seeking to ensure a future that protects health and sustains life. We are facing existential crises—the climate crisis, biodiversity collapse, and severe public health threats—from cancer to neurological, reproductive, and endocrine system effects, including brain and behavioral impacts. To reverse these threats, we advance model organic solutions that eliminate billions of pounds of fossil-fuel-based pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and nurture biological systems that take dangerous pollutants out of our environment.

Awards: Organic Pioneers Award ceremony, Rodale Institute. This year, our founder and executive director, Jay Feldman, was awarded the Rodale Institute’s Organic Pioneer Award, an honor that is shared by a long line of farmers, scientists, and activists. With a 40-year history of working with communities nationwide to educate on toxic hazards and organic solutions (policies and practices), addressing agricultural, lawn and landscape management practices that maintain ecological balance, enhance biodiversity and eliminate toxic chemical use, Jay has successfully fought to remove from the market hazardous pesticides and helped draft pivotal local, state and federal organic law. In 2010, he was appointed to the National Organic Standards Board where he served as chair of the Crops Committee. Jay is a past chair and board member of Earth Share, and currently serves on the standards board of the Real Organic Project and the executive committee of the National Organic Coalition. Prior to his founding Beyond Pesticides in 1981, he served as the Health Programs Director of Rural America, an advocacy group for rural areas and small towns. (See a summary of his remarks below.) Please watch this 3½ minute video reflection from Jay Feldman: 40 Years Beyond Pesticides.)

CAMPAIGNS AND FUNDRAISERS

Beyond Pesticides thanks all of our donors and supporters for their contributions over the year. Without your help, our mission would not be possible. 

Members and Donors. It’s a fact. Your support makes our work possible. We provide up-to-the-minute information about the health and environmental hazards of pesticides, pesticide regulation and policy, pesticide alternatives, and cutting-edge science—free of charge to the public. We can’t do it without the generosity of people like you. Your donation helps us have the resources we need to continue our important work to protect people and the planet. Please donate a gift today!

Natural Grocers Campaign. We are moving forward with a collaboration with Natural Grocers, which operates in 161 stores in 20 western, southwestern, and Midwest states. For the second year, Natural Grocers is helping to underwrite this work with fundraising campaigns in the stores. This collaboration offers Beyond Pesticides an expanded opportunity to not only raise the resources for our cornerstone work to advance a transition to organic land management nationwide but to leverage the reach of a local retail market as a point of education and outreach.

After years of keeping the training program close to our vest, our partnership with Natural Grocers, and our work with Stonyfield Organic, and our desire to highlight and grow the training program led to the launching of a new webpage–Parks for a Sustainable Future–providing an overview of our training program and an opportunity for advocates to engage. The webpage includes the ‘nuts and bolts’ process we follow to implement the project, financial arrangements, and background on the organic approach. These resources will be plowed back into our community work to grow the transition to organic land management!  

ELEVATING SCIENCE THAT CALLS FOR URGENT NEED TO ACT

From a public health and environmental protection perspective, these are challenging times. Amid the attack on institutions and laws established to protect children, families, and the environment under the previous federal administration, with many actions and positions still to be reversed, there is an incredibly positive groundswell of activity seeking to achieve these protections in communities across the U.S. We are inspired by the level of effective advocacy and changes in practices that are moving forward nationwide.

Disproportionate Risks

Beyond Pesticides continued to work closely with The Black Institute, as we successfully pushed forward with a New York City ordinance to ban toxic pesticides on the city’s parks and playgrounds. The legislation to allow only pest management materials permitted in organic land management under federal law was passed on Earth Day 2021. Before passage that day, we held a press conference with the sponsor of the bill on Earth Day in a park in front of a public housing project. This collaboration highlights the importance of calling out environmental racism and the disproportionate impact that pesticide use has on people of color communities. In addition, the vast majority of city workers handling and applying pesticides are people of color, resulting in higher exposure patterns and risk of illness. We published a piece, “Stopping Systemic Environmental Racism in New York City Parks,” which is a review of The Black Institute’s report, Poison Parks.

Biodiversity Risks

Why We Give Focus to Biodiversity. A vast amount of research demonstrates the importance of protecting complex biological communities. The interrelationship and interdependency of organisms are critical to ecological balance and human survival. With broad-spectrum pesticide use and indiscriminate poisoning with systemic pesticides, an ecological imbalance is created, sacrificing the benefits of nature and escalating pest problems.

Our work highlights organic farming/ gardening and soil as inextricably linked. As discussed in a workshop at our National Forum by author and research scientist at the School of Integrative Biology at the University of Illinois, James Nardi, PhD, the macro- and microorganisms in healthy soils interact in a symbiotic manner with plant roots, strengthening plants, enabling them to resist diseases, and facilitating water and mineral uptake. In alignment with Dr. Nardi’s work, we see the “wisdom of the weeds”—what we can learn from them, and their contributions, including preventing erosion; conserving nutrients; building soil structure, organic matter, and mineral content; supporting soil biology; sequestering carbon; and encouraging biodiversity.

PUTTING IN PLACE EFFECTIVE SOLUTIONS

Outdated chemical-intensive practices are tied to the belief that parks, playing fields, home lawns, and agriculture require toxic chemicals and synthetic fertilizers to meet expectations. So, an approach that recognizes the importance of soil biology in cycling nutrients naturally to feed plants is often new to many land managers who have not evaluated and nurtured the web of microorganisms living in the soil. This attention to the soil systems has been foundational to the success of organic agriculture worldwide. Those critics, who often have a vested economic interest or history in pesticide use and proclaim that organic does not work, are, in effect, challenging the underlying principles of soil management that have enabled the exponential growth of the organic agricultural sector— now a $60 billion industry and the fastest-growing part of the agricultural economy.

Keeping Organic Strong

Organic consumers and farmers have invested in the notion that we care not only about land stewardship and what we feed our children and families, but stopping farmworker exposure to hazardous materials and ending the hazards to the fenceline communities where the toxic chemicals used in conventional agriculture are produced. The organic law, of course, requires the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to consider the cradle-to-grave effects of materials when protecting against adverse effects. We comment on all the issues before the NOSB, which affect the integrity of organic standards and the USDA organic label.

National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The 15-member board, consisting of four farmers, three environmentalists, three consumers, two food processors, and one retailer, scientist, and certifying agent, votes to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming. The NOSB acts as a sounding board within the federal government for the organic community, as it considers input from you, the public—the concerned citizens and consumers upon whom organic integrity depends. Our Keeping Organic Strong webpage provides the public with Beyond Pesticides’ comments on the issues before the board and instructs people on how to make their voices heard as the NOSB deliberates. 

Stonyfield PlayFree and Organic Transition Program. As a result of a large influx of new training sites from the Stonyfield PlayFree and Organic Community Land Management Program, staff have expanded the reach of its community-based work throughout the country. We evaluate management practices and soil biology and then develop a plan for organic practices and compatible products. The program offers training of city and private landscapers and provides ongoing consultative services to ensure successful implementation of the plan. We partner with community organizations to form a collaborative effort to keep the program on track to protect public health and the local ecology.

Creating model communities

We are well-positioned to effect changes in communities that serve as a model for other communities. We continue to develop the informational tools that support change agents, whether they are advocates or elected officials. We are also able to provide the technical skills to land managers, which ensure effective implementation of policies and plans for sustainable and organic land management.

The Maui Food Hub

The Maui (food) Hub started as a partnership between Beyond Pesticides, Common Ground Collective and the Haleakala Chapter of the Hawai’i Farmers Union.  It was put together quickly as a response to the challenges facing local farmers due to the COVI-19 crisis, but continues to expand to support the long-term success of our local organic farmers and the gross increase in the amount of organic agriculture on Maui. The Maui Hub recently became an independent 501(c)3 organization, and our Hawaii director of organic land management is the Vice-President of the Board of Directors. As the Maui Hub grows, Beyond Pesticides is committed to ensuring it stays true to its mission to support small organic farmers expand production, and compete against corporate chemical intensive agricultural interests in our local market.

ACTION OF THE WEEK

The Action of the Week (AOTW) provides our network with one concrete action that can be taken each week to have our collective voice heard to stop governmental actions that adversely affect public, worker, and environmental health, increase overall pesticide use or undermine the advancement of organic, sustainable, and regenerative practices and policies. With almost 18,000 subscribers, the actions generate between 2,000 and 4,000+ participants weekly.

The top five AOTWs with the most contributions include:

  1. Tell EPA Not to Allow Unnecessary Pesticide Risks (7/22/2021)
  2. Tell USDA to Ensure that Organic Farming Protects Ecosystems (8/02/2021)
  3. Biden EPA Must Hold Pesticide Manufacturers Accountable for Poisoning (8/09/2021)
  4. Tell EPA to Finish the Job in Banning Chlorpyrifos (8/29/2021)
  5. Tell EPA That the Failed Pesticide Program Needs a New Start (11/06/2021)

Providing a Framework for Advancing Transformative Change

Beyond Pesticides issues unique reports to support local activism to move changes in practices and policies that eliminate pesticide use. With this information and the model policy that we have created, local people nationwide have successfully moved change.

Beyond Pesticides is about building a groundswell of action that drives the necessary changes—changes that take place in people’s homes and gardens, in their purchasing decisions, in their local communities, park districts, school districts, and in management decisions throughout the community. The models we establish in partnership with local communities can be replicated in communities across the country. And since we will not achieve a sustainable, socially just society and world by simply banning or restricting one chemical after the other, we are advancing systemic changes that start at the community level, but intersect with state, national, and international policy and corporate accountability.

Local Chemical Bans. Campaigns to ban specific chemicals are still popular at the local and in some cases the state level. While it is an entry point for bringing public attention to the pesticide problem, it can, if not carefully orchestrated, leave the public impression that the pesticide problem is fixed, while we strategize to change underlying practices, not substitute other toxic chemicals. In this context, we have assisted dozens of communities across the country interested in restricting the hazardous herbicide glyphosate (Roundup), and neonicotinoid insecticides tied to pollinator decline. For example, New York State specifically banned glyphosate in state parks last year, effective December 31, 2021, with no apparent change in practices, which is why we advocate for a holistic approach.

Pesticides and You. We published The Corona Virus Chronicles, a 72-page issue of Pesticides and You that conveys issues that have emerged during the pandemic. These issues are directly relevant to our mission and the transition as a society away from toxic chemical dependency. The breadth and depth of the issues span specific hazardous materials (such as those in disinfectants, despite the availability of alternatives), new food systems that support local and organic farmers (food hubs), the importance of sound science to decision-making, and addressing disproportionate risk to people of color communities (essential workers, farmworkers, and landscapers). Additionally, with the new administration, we put together strategies and issues of importance for federal agencies. Whether addressing agriculture or the management of parks, playing fields, rights-of-way, and residential areas, policies that allow continued reliance on synthetic toxic pesticide promote ecological imbalances that are at the heart of the escalating deterioration of ecosystems and life that depends on them. The policies and practices that we have advanced address this. In addition, to this end and because the interrelationship and interdependency of organisms is critical to ecological balance and human survival, we continued our series on tracking biodiversity.

38th Natural Pesticide Forum. Cultivating Healthy Communities: Confronting health threats, climate disasters, and biodiversity collapse with a toxic-free future, was co-convened by Beyond Pesticides and the Institute for Exposomic Research, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai. The affiliation with a medical institution that understands and teaches the relationship between toxic chemical exposure, environmental hazards, and public health is critical to solving the existential threats associated with toxic pesticide use. The medical institution’s involvement with the conference is not only important in bringing medical practitioners and scientists to the discussion, but it serves as a model for other medical institutions to engage with the issues. Over four weeks in May-June 2021, this Forum brought together over 600 people and organizations from 15 countries and is now being offered for free on the conference platform through our website. Look forward to our 2022 conference.

Check out the 2021 Forum session and listen to the amazing speakers.

SCIENCE & ADVOCACY RESOURCES

Beyond Pesticides’ website serves as a hub for a range of regulatory and policy advocacy, information services to people nationwide and around the globe, networking through coalition work and the convening of our National Forum, and on-site training on organic land management in communities that are collaborating with Beyond Pesticides on demonstration parks and playing fields.

New and Updated Webpages

The information we provide performs the unique function of providing hands-on information and strategy. We are working daily with grassroots people, volunteer and nonprofit organizations, and those in policy, decision-making, and land and facilities management positions to address issues on the hazards of pesticide use, safe and organic alternative strategies that eliminate toxic pesticides, and local and state policies that embrace the adoption of ecological approaches to land and building management.

Some of our most recently added or updated (*) webpages include: 

Regulatory Action and Comments

We create a public record on scientific decisions that are being undermined by poor public policy that allows hazardous pesticide use, despite the availability of alternatives. We commented on key issues on paraquat and Parkinson’s disease, the environmental impact of herbicide use in Lake Tahoe and broader implications for aquatic weed management, neonicotinoid insecticide effects to pollinators and ecosystems, EPA interim decisions and mitigation proposals on widely used synthetic pyrethroid insecticides, among others. While we submitted comments on regulatory issues related to highly toxic pesticides such as glyphosate/Roundup, paraquat, atrazine, pentachlorophenol and antibiotics, we use the opportunity to highlight the deficiency of regulating one chemical at a time. We continue our lawsuits against companies that engage in fraudulent labeling that misleads consumers on safety and environmental protection, suing Sargento food company for their misleading labeling of no antibiotic use. This is a transformative moment when we are working to shift society, starting with our communities and local decision-makers and individuals, to eliminate toxic fossil-fuel-based pesticides and fertilizers.

Information Resources 

Resources Page. The resources page is a user-friendly information tool, displaying easy-to-read boxes highlighting the featured resources under our “Resources” tab, with descriptions. This page allows users to navigate through the plethora of information on our website as the box description can direct users to the resources they are looking for. The descriptions are especially helpful as users will now spend less time searching through our website to find the location of specific information. In addition, the resources page may also encourage users to explore the site further, sparking curiosity in the information we offer. New resources include easy access to the pesticide-free policies/communities across the U.S., as well as a link to the 40 most used lawn chemicals webpage.

Daily News Blog. These information-rich articles are posted every business day on the Beyond Pesticides website. Between regular readers and traffic driven by google news results and social media, the blog has tremendous reach. In fact, thanks to YOU, the total number of reads this year surpassed 355,000, with an average of over 2,500 readers per blog post.

Top 5 Daily News of 2021

  1. Danone (Horizon Organic) Threatens the Backbone of Organic Dairy—Family Farms and Their Consumer Supporters (16,455)
  2. Proposed Bayer/Monsanto Settlement for Roundup Victims Offers Payments and Challenges(12,003)
  3. Roundup Shown to Kill Bees—But Not How You Might Expect(10,740)
  4. Kids Who Eat Organic Food Score Higher on Cognitive Tests, Study Finds. (8,841)
  5. Glyphosate-Based Herbicides and Sustainable Agriculture Do Not Mix!(8,416)

ManageSafe Database. Our hands-on information through ManageSafe, our database of practical solutions to pest issues, is a central clearinghouse of information on eliminating hazardous pesticides in land and building management. Our neighbor-to-neighbor program distributed 400 Pesticide-Free Zone signs (ladybug, bee, and organic landscape) and in 33 states, the District of Columbia, and four Canadian provinces, 1,500 doorknob hangers on safe lawns and mosquito management in 19 states, and the District of Columbia.

Map of U.S. Pesticide Reform Policies. Beyond Pesticides’ map of U.S. Pesticide Reform Policies now includes 18 pesticide-free park policies, 47 with restrictions that protect pollinators, 103 that apply to public spaces, and 27 that extend restrictions to private land, and has been viewed 74,100 times.

Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database (PIDD). Beyond Pesticides updated the website to incorporate more recent scientific studies to the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database (PIDD). Many of the studies available in PIDD challenge the effectiveness of risk‐assessment‐based regulation which is intended to manage adverse disease outcomes. We developed a relational search engine to enable a search for multiple diseases, some of which can be co-occurring. This search engine is helpful to medical professionals, academic scholars, lawncare/landscape workers, and laypeople alike, as its ease of use allows users to find over 1,174 studies related to pesticide exposure and over 75+ diseases. Additionally, the “and”/“or” function of the search engine allows users to find articles related to pesticide exposure and multiple diseases at once.

Pesticide Gateway. The Gateway is an expanding database of over 300 pesticides containing information about specific pesticide environmental and health effects, regulatory action, and uses. Recent additions to the Gateway include a section on how to find the active ingredients on the label. We occasionally receive information requests regarding specific pesticide products. However, with over 20,000 registered pesticides, it’s nearly impossible to include all products. Thus, the section encourages users to identify the active ingredient in pesticide products. The Gateway provides valuable information about pesticides that anyone can access. 

Safer Disinfectants and Sanitizers. With the increase in the use of sanitizers and disinfectants during Covid-19, we continued to build out our Covid-19 Pandemic webpages, including up-to-date information on safe hand sanitizers and disinfectants, and a Q&A style factsheet on Answering Questions about Toxic Sanitizers and Disinfectants. We produced a factsheet, on the hazards of quaternary ammonium compounds, also known as “quats” or “QACs,” which are in many cleansers and increase the risk of asthma and adverse reproductive effects.

Access the information on disinfectants and sanitizers: Disinfectants and Sanitizers to Protect Against COVID-19.

40 Common Chemicals Used on Lawns and Landscapes. Beyond Pesticides recently launched the 40 Common Lawn Pesticides factsheets for both the health and environmental effect of the most common pesticides used on lawns and landscape, with an accompanying webpage. (This updates our popular 30 Common Lawn Pesticides factsheet.) The factsheets include information from the updated pesticide data usage for EPA (2020), as well as other agencies, institution, or organizational research. An infographic pamphlet was also made to give a brief overview of the findings, including the top 10 most concerning chemicals for ecological and human health. The charts show, based on government sources, that the majority of pesticides in wide use can cause cancer, neurological and respiratory effects, reproductive harm and bird defects, and are toxic to waterways, wildlife, bees and pollinators, and birds and fish.

Access the Full Factsheets and Infographic: 40 Common Lawn and Landscape Chemicals.

Consumer Herbicide Analysis. Beyond Pesticides and Friends of the Earth (FOE) collaborated to provide an easy-to-read spreadsheet detailing health hazards associated with weed killers commonly found at the most popular home and garden retailers, Home Depot and Lowe’s. This analysis highlights the adverse health and environmental effects of widely available toxic pesticides, while encouraging retailers to expand on—and consumers to use—safer, least/nontoxic pesticide products. We analyzed chemical components in over 91 different herbicides. Out of the 91 products, only 28 are classifiable as least toxic/organic. 

Access the full analysis: Herbicide Analysis.

Many Shades of Green Podcast. The environmentally conscious podcast “The Many Shades of Green” interviewed Beyond Pesticides’ Science and Regulatory Manager on the health and environmental impacts of pesticides that the general population may not be aware of. 

Access the full podcast interview: Beyond Pesticides with Guest Akayla Bracey – The Many Shades of Green.

Happy Sprout article: “The pesticides market is now worth $11 billion; that’s a huge problem.” Provided wide ranging interview with Happy Sprout website about the growth of the pesticide industry, focused on what Beyond Pesticide does, pollinator protection, biodiversity and food security, climate change, public health, safer alternatives to toxic pesticides,  what folks can do.

Access the full article: Toxic Pesticide Use Harms Public Health and the Environment | HappySprout.

Lawsuits & Settlements 

Beyond Pesticides sues companies—with legal assistance from Richman Law and Policy—that mislead the public through their labeling and advertising. We have successfully sued, for example, TruGreen and General Mills, for including false statements about safety or production practices. This year Beyond Pesticides sued Sargento for falsely claiming that no antibiotics are used in the production of their cheese products. A settlement resulted in Sargento changing its labeling claim. Beyond Pesticides joined with a coalition of public interest groups to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its approval of the medically important antibiotic streptomycin for use on citrus trees. This is a transformative moment when we are working to shift society, starting with our communities and local decision-makers and individuals, to eliminate toxic fossil-fuel-based pesticides and fertilizers. 

See news story. Read the full case: BP v. Sargento

The Case Against ExxonMobil [Continued]. Our case against Exxon-Mobil for the company’s destructive fossil fuel-related impacts on climate (including their contribution to petroleum-based fertilizer production and use) was put on hold as a result of emergency legislation passed in the District of Columbia that preempts cases where the District’s Attorney General is also litigating on the issue. The AG is suing Exxon-Mobil, and while the case does not have the exact focus of our litigation, it is close enough and could encompass our claim, enabling them to exercise preemption. Exxon and tried and failed several times to get the case removed to federal court from the DC Superior Court, where consumer protection provides us with standing to challenge misleading claims.

Lawsuit Against EPA for Registration of Antibiotic of Streptomycin for Use in Citrus The Case Against EPA. Beyond Pesticides joined a lawsuit in March with NRDC, Earthjustice, Center for Biological Diversity, and others against EPA for its registration of streptomycin for use in citrus. The litigation challenges EPA’s final registration decision for the new uses of streptomycin sulfate on citrus crops. The litigation brings claims under both the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The lawyers are continuing to evaluate potential claims, but expect to make at least the following arguments. Under ESA, EPA failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, despite EPA’s finding that registration of streptomycin as a pesticide may affect threatened or endangered mammals; and EPA failed to determine whether the registration may also affect the critical habitat of these species.

THE FUTURE

The challenges ahead require that we redouble our efforts. Beyond Pesticides’ collaboration with people and communities in every state is providing the energy and enthusiasm to embrace the changes necessary to stop toxic pesticide use and embrace organic practices and policies. We know it can be done if we join together to protect health and the environment with science, policy, and activism. The solutions are within our reach. We look forward to working with you—with the required sense of urgency—to ensure that change happens.

Many Thanks to You!

We would like to give special thanks to you, our Daily News Blog readers. Daily News and Action of the Week is taking a break during the holiday season. Daily News and Action of the Week will be back on January 3, 2021. In the meantime, please consider a gift to Beyond Pesticides—we can’t do our work without you! See you in 2022! Have a healthy holiday season and new year.

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22
Dec

Researchers Find Nonchemical Biological Control When “Tree of Heaven” Is Being Managed

(Beyond Pesticides, December 22, 2021) A promising new biocontrol agent for the tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima)—considered an invasive species in the U.S. and Europe by some—was recently discovered by French-based scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The finding centers on a small mite of the Eriophyidae family, Aculus mosoniensis, which has been found to feed on tree of heaven. The finding is encouraging for the future management of this species in conjuction with balanced ecosystems. “In Europe, this Eriophyid mite is considered one of the most promising biological control agents of tree-of-heaven,” said Javid Kashefi, senior support scientist at the European Biological Control Laboratory (EBCL) in France. “This finding provides encouraging evidence that the geographic occurrence of this species is expanding in the continent.”

Tree of heaven is a fast-growing deciduous tree native to Asia that has spread throughout Europe and North America. First introduced in the 1700s as a shade tree, it was appreciated for its quick growing ability and low propensity for insect damage, but quickly became problematic. Researchers identify five traits that warrant its classification as ‘invasive,’ including its ability to tolerate extreme environmental conditions, produce hundreds of alleopathic compounds (which harm, or inhibit the growth of nearby plants), bear abundant seeds with excellent viability, reproduce from its roots through sprouting and cutting, and escape nearly all herbivorous predators outside of its native range.

These characteristics provide Ailanthus altissima the ability to rapidly crowd out native species, particularly in ecosystems already experiencing some level of disturbance. In the built environment, because of its cosmopolitan nature and ability to grow in the smallest of spaces, it causes problems ranging from broken sewer lines to damaged ditches, sidewalks, and house foundations. The tree poses a growing threat to agriculture, increasingly invading French wine vineyards. In addition to its alleopathic ability to kill and suppress nearby vegetation, the tree functions as a preferred host for the spotted lanternfly, another organism native to the Asian continent. Spotted lanterfly, a major pest of fruit trees and vineyards, was first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014, and has spread rapidly, with current detections ranging west from Indiana to Massachusetts, and southward into central Virginia.

Researchers analyzed mite infested leaves on tree of heaven found in France in mid to late 2020, after first finding presence of the insect farther east in Hungary and Italy near the end of the last decade. Positive identification based on various characteristics confirmed the presence of Aculus mosoniensis, an herbivorous mite native to tree of heaven’s home range that forms dense populations on the underside of young plant leaves. Affected trees experience leaf curl, yellowing, and premature leaf loss. Heavily infested trees also experience limb drying. These findings represented the first evidence for the presence of this mite in France, and scientists see this insect as a potential biocontrol agent to replace toxic chemical use. The mite’s ability to expand geographically and close association with its target plant covers two important characteristics of a potential biocontrol: wide dispersal and host-specificity.

Apart from A. mosoniensis, there is one other potential biocontrol for tree of heaven, a pathogen that causes wilting, known as Verticillium dahlia, which was recently discovered in Italy. Biological controls like these represent a viable pest management approach that does not employ highly toxic chemical pesticides. It is common to read recommendations for tree of heaven management that suggest the use of carcinogenic chemicals like glyphosate. However, even “minor” applications that, for instance, suggest painting tree stumps with Roundup or another similar product present health risks to the applicator and ecological risks to the local environment. Although mechanical management, primarily in the form of consistent sprout and root pulling for tree of heaven, can be labor intensive, it represents a safer approach than handling toxic chemicals. Whatever one’s approach may be to eliminating tree of heaven on one’s property, it is critically important to consider the conditions that allowed the plant to colonize an area in the first place, and have a plan to replace the area where the tree system was uprooted with native species. While tree of heaven has the ability to displace native species, a healthy, functioning native ecosystem makes success much more difficult for the plant.

Biocontrols like A. mosoniensis can provide wide area solutions for widespreading plants like the tree of heaven. According to a study published in late 2020, biocontrol agents have added billions in benefits to economies, particularly in agriculture, providing critical solutions and “durable pest control” throughout the globe. Rather than have humans function as crude predators armed with chemical weapons in degraded ecosystems, biological controls provide a targeted approach that works with natural processes. For information and approaches to safer pest management, see Beyond Pesticide ManageSafe webpage. And for more on the issue of ‘invasive’ or opportunistic species see the page on Ecological Management of Problem Vegetation.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: USDA press release, Phytoparasitica

 

 

 

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21
Dec

Review Shows that Monsanto/Bayer Claims of Glyphosate Safety Not Supported by Credible Science 

(Beyond Pesticides, December 21, 2021)  A research team undertaking a review of industry-conducted glyphosate safety studies submitted to EU (European Union) regulators shows that most of the research fails to meet current international standards for scientific validity. The researchers find that of the 11 reviewed studies, which were submitted to regulators by Bayer AG (now owner of the Monsanto “Roundup” brand of glyphosate herbicide) and several other chemical companies, only two are scientifically “reliable”; six others are deemed “partly reliable,” and the remaining three, “not reliable.” These results go, in part, to the age of some of the studies (see below); but they also underscore the point Beyond Pesticides has made for years. Regulators, whether in the UK, the U.S., or anywhere else, ought not be relying solely and without adequate auditing on industry-generated and -funded safety research in making safety determinations that underlie regulations impacting the well-being of millions of people (and other organisms), never mind the environment writ large.

The report, from a team working out of the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) at the Medical University of Vienna, is timely: the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) are currently considering whether or not to renew EU approval of glyphosate when the existing license expires in December 2022. In 2017, glyphosate was granted, by a narrow vote margin, a five-year renewal following the European Parliament’s vote against renewal. According to The Guardian, “The analysis comes at a critical time as Bayer and a contingent of companies calling themselves the Glyphosate Renewal Group are again asking European regulators to reauthorize glyphosate ahead of the expiration of approval next year, and as the industry battles to preserve glyphosate use globally.”

The Guardian reported, “In August, authorities from France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden weighed in on the renewal question with a draft report concluding that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.” EFSA and ECHA allowed other parties to comment, up until November 22, 2021, on the issue of glyphosate’s potential re-licensing in 2022. Lead author of the ICR report, Siegfried Knasmueller, issued an earlier report on glyphosate studies in July, titled “Corporate studies asserting herbicide safety show many flaws, new analysis finds.” This study, which reviewed 53 corporate studies submitted to regulators, was requested by the SumOfUs nonprofit organization, and was submitted in response to the November deadline. A spokesperson for EFSA indicated that the body would “develop its opinion” on the matter by June 2022.

The industry research studies reviewed by the ICR team focused on the genotoxicity (ability to cause DNA damage) of glyphosate. This issue is a huge and concerning one because damage to DNA is a well-recognized contributor to the development of cancers. The studies reviewed through the Austrian team’s project maintain that glyphosate is not genotoxic. Yet the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) in 2015 declared not only that glyphosate is a “likely human carcinogen,” but also, that it causes DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells. As Beyond Pesticides noted then, “Epidemiologic studies have found that exposure to glyphosate is significantly associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL).”

In addition, multiple studies have found that glyphosate can induce genetic changes, including statistically significant increases in fatty liver disease and liver cell death. Certainly, the juries in several high-profile glyphosate trials in the U.S. have understood the relationship between glyphosate exposure and development of cancer — and of NHL, in particular.

Professor Siegfried Knasmueller, PhD, the ICR team’s principal investigator — who is an expert in genetic toxicology, a researcher at the Medical University of Vienna’s Cancer Research Institute, and editor-in-chief of two scientific journals, including Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis — has commented on the team’s review. He told The Guardian, “Not only are most of the studies lacking in quality, but . . . the industry research does not include new and ‘probably better tests for the detection of genotoxic carcinogens.’ He said there is evidence in published research that glyphosate may cause DNA damage in human-derived liver cells. . . . [And] that while several industry studies were ‘correct from a methodological point of view at the time when they were conducted,’ they are not in agreement with the current strategy.’”

The team’s findings about reliability constellate in part on the currency of analytical methodologies; the two studies deemed “reliable” were relatively recent (2016 and 2020), while the “not reliable” ones were conducted one or more decades ago. The findings of the July report identify a specific problem: many of the industry studies focused on “testing for chromosome damage in early stages in red blood cells of the bone marrow in laboratory mice and rats. These tests routinely detect only 50–60% of carcinogens, according to Knasmueller. ‘So many carcinogens are not detected with this method,’ he said.” Professor Knasmueller indicated that a kind of test called a ‘comet assay’ can detect and quantify DNA damage in the individual cells of a range of organs — and thus, is more valuable in identifying carcinogens. This comet assay is commonly used to evaluate genotoxicity, but was not used in the glyphosate studies submitted to EFSA and ECHA.

The Guardian reported on these aspects from the July paper: “Researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria said a thorough review of 53 safety studies submitted to regulators by large chemical companies showed that most do not comply with modern international standards for scientific rigor, and lack the types of tests most able to detect cancer risks. The quality of these studies, not of all, but of many of these studies is very poor. The health authorities . . . accepted some of these very poor studies as informative and acceptable, which is not justified from a scientific point of view.’” The Guardian added, “If Knasmueller’s observations are accurate, the new finding of flaws in industry studies means regulatory assurances about glyphosate safety in Europe and the United States have been based, at least in part, on shoddy science.”

In response to that July report, the former director of the U.S. National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Linda Birnbaum, PhD, indicated that the problem of regulators accepting industry studies “at industry’s word” and simultaneously “ignoring red flags raised in non–industry funded research” is ongoing, according to The Guardian. The paper also wrote that EPA confirmed that no comet assay testing is required (to ferret out genotoxic potential) for industry studies used by the agency. An EPA spokesperson issued a statement at the time, saying that the agency “strives to use high-quality studies” and “a broad set of data” in its evaluations of pesticides, and “independently evaluates required studies for scientific acceptability.”

The EPA website brandishes this text: “EPA’s pesticide program is committed to using current state-of-the-science methods to enable a more effective and efficient testing and assessment paradigm for chemical risk management. . . . Also, we encourage the incorporation of genotoxicity endpoints into routine toxicology studies where scientifically feasible. Certain genotoxicity studies, including the micronucleus and comet assays, can effectively be incorporated into routine toxicology studies.” Beyond Pesticides notes that “encouraging” use of such assays in industry-conducted research — on which EPA relies — is a far cry from requiring use of such methodologies that can more effectively identify genotoxic properties of pesticides, and therefore, shape more-protective risk assessment and regulation.

The track records of both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and ECHA have been riddled with less-than-protective actions. On the European front, for example: (1) EFSA ignored a study linking Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide to cancer — after consulting with an EPA official linked to Monsanto; and (2) documents showed that text in an EU report declaring glyphosate safe was copied and pasted from a Monsanto study.

Across the pond in the U.S., Beyond Pesticides has covered both the EPA’s reliance on industry research in its evaluation of pesticides, and industry influence on, and corruption within, EPA that have made its pesticide regulation so often misguided and ineffectual. Investigative journalist Carey Gillam, in a speech to Beyond Pesticides’ 2018 National Pesticide Forum on the so-called “Monsanto Papers” — chronicling a litany of company malfeasance related to glyphosate, and the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs’ (OPP’s) preposterous alignment with industry’s wishes. Just one example was that of Jess Rowland, a Deputy Division Director of the Office of Pesticide Programs, who moved heaven and Earth to protect the ability of Monsanto to continue to sell Roundup, unencumbered by pesky warnings of carcinogenicity. Read more on EPA dysfunction here, here, and here.

EPA’s sketchy relationship with scientific integrity may be one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington, DC. In December 2016, when EPA consulted with a scientific advisory panel, The Guardian notes, members of the panel griped that the agency was failing to follow “proper scientific guidelines for how to asses research about glyphosate health impacts.” Nina Holland, a researcher with Corporate Europe Observatory, commenting to The Guardian on the same phenomenon in the EU, said: “This puts once more a finger on a sore spot: that national regulators do not seem to pay close scrutiny when looking at the quality of industry’s studies. This is shocking as it is their job to protect people’s health and the environment, not to serve the interests of the pesticide industry.” Her critique holds up when applied to EPA, according to Beyond Pesticides, which has written extensively (and recently) about such failings of the agency tasked with protecting public health and the environment.

Stay current with developments in the world of glyphosate (and all pesticides) with the Daily News Blog, with opportunities to take action via the Action of the Week, and via wider and deeper dives in Beyond Pesticides’ journal, Pesticides and You

Sources: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/26/glyphosate-eu-regulators-studies-roundup-weedkiller and https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jul/02/glyphosate-herbicide-roundup-corporate-safety-studies

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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20
Dec

After EPA Administrator Tours People of Color Community Poisoned by Creosote Wood Preservative, a Call to Ban It

(Beyond Pesticides, December 20, 2021) Despite a high-profile tour of communities affected by toxic chemicals by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan, EPA still fails to make connections that could help protect against poisoning of workers, fenceline communities, and others. For example, as Mr. Regan, in November, visited Houston, Texas, where thousands of residents are suing Union Pacific Railroad Company for contaminating their properties with highly hazardous creosote wood preservatives, EPA is in the process of reauthorizing creosote use for another 15 years with the knowledge that it is virtually impossible to produce and use without causing contamination and poisoning.

Tell EPA to truly integrate environmental justice into all of EPA’s programs. 

Environmental justice issues arise at every stage of the cradle-to-grave life cycle of toxic chemicals, from production, transportation, handling, and use, to disposal. Petroleum refineries are likely to be sited near poor communities composed of people of color. Mines contaminate tribal lands and poor rural communities. Manufacturing facilities are also located near low-income neighborhoods, employing their inhabitants in hazardous jobs. Pesticides are applied by farmworkers whose housing is surrounded by poisoned fields. And, coming full circle, hazardous waste “disposal” sites are surrounded by low-income communities.

In April, Mr. Regan directed all EPA offices to clearly integrate environmental justice considerations into their plans and actions, saying, “Too many communities whose residents are predominantly of color, Indigenous, or low-income continue to suffer from disproportionately high pollution levels and the resulting adverse health and environmental impacts. We must do better. This will be one of my top priorities as Administrator, and I expect it to be one of yours as well.” This effort follows President Biden’s Executive Order, Modernizing Regulatory Review (January 20, 2021), which mandates the adoption of agency policy across government to seriously and with urgency confront disproportionate harm to people of color communities (environmental racism) with the directive to “forward health, racial equity, and environmental stewardship.”

If environmental justice were truly integrated into all of EPA’s programs, the agency would scrutinize use patterns, evaluate the “reasonableness” of hazards and harm in the context of available alternatives, and prohibit continued sales and use—which drive the cradle-to-grave cycle—of toxic pesticides. The Office of Pesticide Programs would be transformed into a program for transitioning farmers and others addicted to pesticides to organic management practices. Instead of reducing the cost to manufacturers of registering pesticides, EPA would incrementally increase the cost of registration each year to pay for the transition to organic practices.

Tell EPA to truly integrate environmental justice into all of EPA’s programs.

Letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan

Despite a high-profile tour of communities affected by toxic chemicals by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan, EPA still fails to make connections that could help protect against poisoning of workers, fenceline communities, and others. For example, as Mr. Regan, in November, visited Houston, Texas, where thousands of residents are suing Union Pacific Railroad Company for contaminating their properties with highly hazardous creosote wood preservatives, EPA is in the process of reauthorizing creosote use for another 15 years with the knowledge that it is virtually impossible to produce and use without causing contamination and poisoning.

Environmental justice issues arise at every stage of the cradle-to-grave life cycle of toxic chemicals, from production, transportation, handling, and use, to disposal. Petroleum refineries are likely to be sited near poor communities composed of people of color. Mines contaminate tribal lands and poor rural communities. Manufacturing facilities are also located near low-income neighborhoods, employing their inhabitants in hazardous jobs. Pesticides are applied by farmworkers whose housing is surrounded by poisoned fields. And, coming full circle, hazardous waste “disposal” sites are surrounded by low-income communities.

In April, Mr. Regan directed all EPA offices to clearly integrate environmental justice considerations into their plans and actions, saying, “Too many communities whose residents are predominantly of color, Indigenous, or low-income continue to suffer from disproportionately high pollution levels and the resulting adverse health and environmental impacts. We must do better. This will be one of my top priorities as Administrator, and I expect it to be one of yours as well.” This effort follows President Biden’s Executive Order, Modernizing Regulatory Review (January 20, 2021), which mandates the adoption of agency policy across government to seriously and with urgency confront disproportionate harm to people of color communities (environmental racism) with the directive to “forward health, racial equity, and environmental stewardship.”

If environmental justice were truly integrated into all of EPA’s programs, the agency would scrutinize use patterns, evaluate the “reasonableness” of hazards and harm in the context of available alternatives, and prohibit continued sales and use—which drive the cradle-to-grave cycle—of toxic pesticides. The Office of Pesticide Programs would be transformed into a program for transitioning farmers and others addicted to pesticides to organic management practices. Instead of reducing the cost to manufacturers of registering pesticides, EPA would incrementally increase the cost of registration each year to pay for the transition to organic practices.

I look forward to seeing the transformation of EPA’s programs toward a just, non-toxic future. Please let me know your plans with the reregistration of creosote in the context of environmental justice and the protection of public health.

Thank you.

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