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Daily News Blog

24
Jan

Regulatory Capture: USDA’s Organic Governance Board Dominated by Affiliates of Industry’s Corporate Lobby

(Beyond Pesticides, January 24, 2019) Continuing a trend well established by prior Republican and Democratic administrations, the five new members recently appointed by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) all have a current or past relationship with the industry’s major lobby group, the Organic Trade Association (OTA).

Over the past decade, Big Food has consolidated ownership of most of the largest and best-known organic brands. At the same time, many have criticized USDA for “stacking” the board, which is charged with guiding the regulatory oversight of organic farming and food production, with members from, or friendly to, corporate agribusiness interests.

OrganicEye, the investigative arm of Beyond Pesticides, has issued an industry briefing paper profiling the five newly appointed members of the NOSB with a focus on their relationship to corporate agribusiness and the industry’s powerful lobby group, the Organic Trade Association (OTA).

The NOSB was established when Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act as part of the 1990 farm bill. The board was created to ensure that the voice of organic farmers and consumers drove the direction of USDA’s organic program when there was grave concern about handing over the budding organic farming movement to federal conventionally focused agriculture bureaucrats and the corrupting influence of corporate lobbyists.

“It is our job as the organic community to keep the board and USDA accountable to the standards of the law and to uphold the integrity of the organic label. We seek to ensure accountability to have the law work as it was intended by the drafters,” said Mark A. Kastel, Director of the Washington-based OrganicEye, which acts as an industry watchdog and investigative group.

Because of the challenge of limiting corporate influence, some never thought it was advisable to give the authority to USDA to oversee the organic label in the first place. “I was one of the cautionary voices warning my fellow pioneering organic farmers against trusting the federal government,” said Eliot Coleman, prominent Maine farmer and well-known author. “As predicted, USDA collusion allowed the profiteers and the deceptive marketers to take over the NOSB. The risk of fraud is now the order of the day. Us old-time organic growers, whose dedication to quality and integrity created the popularity of the organic label in the first place, must now demand an end to this charade.”

USDA has been accused of violating the spirit and letter of the law establishing the NOSB and has been the subject of lawsuits from those seeking to uphold the integrity of the National Organic Program at USDA. An early lawsuit challenged USDA’s allowance of synthetic ingredients in organic-labelled processed food. More recently, USDA was sued for appointing agribusiness executives to NOSB seats earmarked for farmers. An additional lawsuit challenged the legality of changing the requirement that a supermajority of the board was required to re-approve all synthetic and nonorganic ingredients and inputs used in organic production when they sunset every five years.

In response to the lawsuits accusing USDA of undermining the authority of the NOSB, corporate lobbyists and administration officials went to Congress, after the fact, to legalize their illegitimate conduct, said Mr. Kastel.

“Lobbying of Congress by USDA and powerful organic interests, in an effort to legitimize their illegal activities, confirms our allegations that collusion between USDA and corporate lobbyists undermined the authority Congress vested in the expert 15-member, diverse, industry stakeholder group,” added Mr. Kastel.

OrganicEye’s Mr. Kastel said that the organization would assume all new NOSB members will carry out their duties objectively, to serve the overall public, and will not criticize any of the individuals until their established voting record demonstrates a basis for concern. However, because of the history of USDA support for Big Food, ties to OTA, and the lack of background of some new members with organic principles, advocates are deeply concerned that the balance envisioned in the federal organic law —to bring together on the NOSB the rich diversity of the organic community and industry—will not be achieved.

New appointees include Nathan Powell-Palm, a large organic farm operator from Montana (farmer seat); Kimberly Huseman, an employee of the nation’s second-largest conventional poultry processor, Pilgrim’s Pride (handler); Gerald D’Amore, a produce industry consultant with ties to some of the industry’s largest conventional grower-marketers (handler); Mindee Jeffery, a longtime employee in natural food groceries (retailer); and Wood Turner, VP of an investment capital firm and former executive with Dannon/Stonyfield, the nation’s largest organic yogurt producer (environmentalist/conservationist).

The industry has been in the same position before, watching USDA officials bypass eminently qualified candidates who have applied for seats on the NOSB, instead choosing agribusiness-connected candidates oftentimes with a very minimal history of involvement in the organic movement.

Because of the dubious voting records of some corporate employees appointed to the NOSB, OrganicEye and Beyond Pesticides have created a link to a letter where, in less than two minutes, organic stakeholders can send a clear message to the CEOs who employ all current members of the board stating that we will, in the marketplace, hold them responsible if their employees  undermine organic principles and betray our values.

In the past, staffers employed by prominent brands such as Horizon, Whole Foods, Earthbound Farms, Smucker’s, and Driscoll’s, as well as the OTA and CCOF, were accused of aligning with corporate lobbyists, instead of voting in the public interest, while sitting on the NOSB.

“As I have done in the past, OrganicEye just filed a request, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), for the application packages of all nominees to the board,” Mr. Kastel stated. “We will update our report with anything we learn and also identify the qualified applicants who the political appointees at the USDA decided to pass over.”

OrganicEye and its leadership have been critical of the USDA National Organic Program’s ineffective enforcement oversight and have called out the OTA for heaping praise on the anemic program, while simultaneously lobbying to loosen the organic regulatory standards, resulting in hydroponic (soilless) produce production, livestock factories, and copious amounts of imported feed and ingredients of dubious pedigree flooding the market.

“After serving five years on the National Organic Standards Board myself,” said Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, “I have witnessed how cards are stacked against independent voices. OrganicEye’s research is designed to empower industry stakeholders, so we can put pressure on our governmental officials and on brands that betray true organic values in the marketplace.”

Stay current with advocacy and action on issues in organics through Beyond Pesticides coverage of organics and keeping organic strong. Sign on to our letter to CEOs here.

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

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23
Jan

University of California Makes Changes to Reduce Use of Toxic Pesticides, Fails to Embrace Organic

Photo: Beyond Pesticides’ board member Chip Osborne and student advocate Bridget Gustafson meet on a University of California organic land management pilot site, supported by Beyond Pesticides.

(Beyond Pesticides, January 23, 2020) University of California (UC) President Janet Napolitano recently has approved recommendations made by the UC Herbicide Task Force, a proposal that falls short of systems change that student activists are advocating. New changes will, however, restrict the use of some toxic pesticides and increase transparency across the university’s ten campuses. While the decision represents an important step forward, advocates remain critical of integrated pest management (IPM) policy and support an overall transition to organic land management. The UC Board of Regents will meet today to discuss the decision.

President Napolitano will continue the suspension of glyphosate, established last year, until a UC-wide integrated pest management (IPM) policy is implemented and all ten UC campus locations complete individual IPM plans. A system-wide “oversight committee” will guide and authorize school IPM committees. The overarching IPM policy will restrict application of highly toxic pesticides, only permitting use after a local IPM committee has reviewed and approved its specific use application following an IPM-based assessment. Other synthetic pesticides will be subject to limitations of use and review as determined by IPM committee. In addition, a pesticide use authorization software—a database for the application of herbicides that includes information such as what substance was sprayed, where it was sprayed, and when it was sprayed—will report campus pesticide usage. 

Integrated pest management has been captured by the pesticide industry and misconstrued to permit the use of toxic pesticides, which are not permitted in an organic system. IPM traditionally permitted toxic pesticides only as a last resort, but industry influence has distorted the practice to place pesticide use on par with other pest management approaches, including mechanical, structural, cultural and biological controls. Organic land management, by contrast, takes a precautionary approach by focusing on soil health and only using a discrete list of least-toxic products that do not cause adverse effects and are compatible with soil biology. 

The Herbicide-Free Campus organization is made up of student groups across the UC-system and the nation. Student advocates are motivated by concerns that exposure to toxic pesticides is linked to neurotoxic effects, respiratory illness, cancer, endocrine system disruption, and learning disabilities – all of which more potently affect frontline communities and people of color. Further, they are alarmed by the association between toxic pesticide use and devastating environmental threats, including the climate crisis, insect apocalypse, and dramatic biodiversity decline. Students are especially troubled about the continued use of fossil-fuel based pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in the face of the climate crisis and elevated levels of atmospheric carbon. 

Herbicide-Free Campus recruited students across the UC-system, hosted educational events, organized over 15 weeding workdays with groundskeepers, met with UC Regents, and created herbicide-free resolutions through the Associated Students of the University of California. As a result of these efforts, President Napolitano temporarily banned glyphosate (Roundup) across the UC system last summer and established a task force to provide recommendations. The creation of the task force was catalyzed by lawsuits won against agrochemical manufacturer, Bayer’s Monsanto, by plaintiffs who developed cancer after exposure to the widely used weed killer Roundup (glyphosate). 

“The task force has done a good job working within the system to develop recommendations for how the UC campuses can decrease their pesticide usage,” says Herbicide-Free Campus co-founder Bridget Gustafon, “However, these recommendations will be seen as a failure to me if the burden of the work from them falls onto the backs of the already overburdened, undercompensated landscape services folks, instead of creating a systemic, encompassing foundation for their work to stand on. So, may we, as students and countless activists have done before, pick up our shovels, open up our ears and eyes, and continue our grassroots efforts to hold this institution accountable for systematically and equitably implementing the task force’s recommendations.”  

Student activists are asking UC to commit to transitioning to all organic land care maintenance on all University of California campuses by 2025. This could be an opportunity for the University of California, which prides itself on its commitment to sustainability, to join other universities such as Harvard, the University of Colorado at Boulder, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, and others as a national leader in the field. Beyond Pesticides is proud to support the efforts of these passionate student advocates.

Beyond Pesticides is working to transition land management to organic practices, which eliminate all toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, at universities, school districts, parks departments and on town, city, and county lands throughout the U.S. Information on organic land management and organic-compatible products can be found on the Beyond Pesticides website. See our Tools for Change page, which includes model policies and ordinances. Email Beyond Pesticides at [email protected] for more information.

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

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22
Jan

Nitrate Contaminates Water for Half a Million People in Minnesota

(Beyond Pesticides, January 22, 2020) About half a million Minnesotans have been subject to drinking water contaminated by nitrate, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Synthetic fertilizer and manure runoff from cropland are the leading causes of the toxic water pollutant. Nitrate consumption is linked to cancer and blue baby syndrome, a fatal infant blood disease. As the state begins to address the issue through the newly instated Groundwater Protection Rule, advocates say the reaction may be “too little, too late.”

EWG analyzed federal and state nitrate test results from all public water systems where groundwater is the main source in Minnesota from 2009 to 2018. The Minnesota Department of Health fulfilled EWG’s public records requests and the group searched the data for contamination code number 1040: nitrate.  

Researchers at EWG found that 727 public groundwater systems serving 473 thousand people tested positive for at least 3mg/L of contamination at least once in the 9 years of analyzed data. 124 systems tested positive for ≥ 10mg/L, of contamination, serving over 150,000 individuals.  

Coarse textured soils, karst geology and shallow bedrock are more vulnerable to groundwater contamination than other types of sediment. The EWG report states, “Almost 90 percent of public water systems with nitrate levels at or above 3 mg/L draw on groundwater in or very near areas considered highly vulnerable to nitrate contamination. About the same percentage of private household wells also draws on groundwater in these highly vulnerable areas. If you live in one of these areas, you are very likely drinking nitrate-contaminated water.”

After years of advocacy, Minnesota finalized a Groundwater Protection Rule last spring and it is being implemented this year. Farmers in areas with vulnerable soils or near highly contaminated water will be barred from applying synthetic fertilizer in the fall.

“We think it’s a move in the right direction, but we definitely think the rule falls short for several reasons,” says Sarah Porter, senior GIS analyst at EWG and lead author of the recent report, “It doesn’t address how much nitrogen goes down. And it only affects 13% of the cropland in the state, so it’s not that much.”

The rule only enforces the timing of application – not the amount. Retired University of Minnesota soils scientists Gyles Randall calls this “a big miss.” It does not address contamination by manure and advocates fear that the rule does not have much teeth for enforcement, either.  “After 20 years there won’t be any improvement in nitrate in the water,” says Randall.

The Star Tribune reported, “Steve Morse was a legislator in 1989 when he co-authored Minnesota’s Groundwater Protection Act. Today he runs the Minnesota Environmental Partnership and said he thinks it’s appalling that it’s taken 30 years to get regulation to address nitrate contamination.” Morse told the Tribune, “It’s kind of like a slow-motion Flint water crisis.”

Minnesota begins the process of contamination that sweeps down the entire Mississippi river system, ultimately dumping tons of nitrate into the Gulf of Mexico and causing huge “dead zones” caused by algal blooms and deoxygenation. In 2019, the dead zone was 6,952 square miles.

Beyond Pesticides has written previously about the risks to water, ecosystems, and organisms of nutrient- and pesticide-riddled agricultural runoff, not only from farms, but also, from golf courses and other managed landscapes, and about the advantages of organic land management. Beyond Pesticides advocates for the protective — and regenerative — advantages of organic, ecologically based agriculture. Stay current with developments in efforts to protect human and environmental health through its Daily News Blog.

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

Source: Environmental Working Group, Star Tribune

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21
Jan

Send a Message to EPA: Do Your Job to Protect Health and the Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, January 21, 2020) As news reports come in demonstrating the threats to major groups of organisms, such as insects and birds, and the stability of Earth’s ecosystems, and scientists appeal for major policy changes, recent actions by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board highlight the need for public insistence that EPA do its job.

Tell EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to follow the advice of scientists and do his job. Tell your Congressional representatives to support scientific integrity at EPA and other agencies.

Although the influence of regulated corporations has historically silenced science that threatens profits–as shown by industry reaction to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring—attacks on science in federal agencies have increased in the Trump administration. EPA has dismissed findings of scientists concerning chlorpyrifos, atrazine, and synthetic pyrethroids. Now EPA’s war on its own scientists has reached the point that its Science Advisory Board, which oversees the scientific integrity of the agency’s regulation, posted letters on-line criticizing EPA’s rollback of environmental protections. As reported in a front page story on January 1, 2020 by The New York Times, “A top panel of government-appointed scientists, many of them hand-selected by the Trump administration, said on Tuesday that three of President Trump’s most far-reaching and scrutinized proposals to weaken major environmental regulations are at odds with established science.”

These most recent rollbacks involve protection of waterways, limitations on vehicle emissions, and use of scientific data to support health regulations. Without reliance on science, agency policies cannot fail to be arbitrary and capricious – the standard of irresponsibility in government. The Times quoted Patrick Parenteau, a professor of law with the Vermont Law School, “The courts basically say if you’re going to ignore the advice of your own experts you have to have really good reasons for that. And not just policy reasons but reasons that go to the merits of what the critiques are saying.”

Send a message to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler that he must do his job, as supported by the best available science.

Letter to EPA

As news reports come in demonstrating the threats to major groups of organisms, and the stability of Earth’s ecosystems, and as international scientists appeal for major policy changes, action by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect biodiversity and ecosystem integrity has never been more critical. Recent actions by the EPA’s Science Advisory Board highlight the need for public insistence that the agency do its job.

Under your leadership, EPA has dismissed findings of scientists concerning chlorpyrifos, atrazine, and synthetic pyrethroids. Now EPA’s own Science Advisory Board, which oversees the scientific integrity of the agency’s regulation, has posted letters on-line criticizing EPA’s rollback of environmental protections. As reported by The New York Times, “A top panel of government-appointed scientists, many of them hand-selected by the Trump administration, said on Tuesday that three of President Trump’s most far-reaching and scrutinized proposals to weaken major environmental regulations are at odds with established science.”

These most recent rollbacks involve protection of waterways, limitations on vehicle emissions, and use of scientific data to support health regulations. Without reliance on science, agency policies cannot fail to be arbitrary and capricious–the standard of irresponsibility in government. The Times quoted Patrick Parenteau, a professor of law with the Vermont Law School, “The courts basically say if you’re going to ignore the advice of your own experts you have to have really good reasons for that. And not just policy reasons but reasons that go to the merits of what the critiques are saying.”

It is time for you, as the Administrator of EPA, to listen to your own advisors and the best available science and act to preserve life on Earth.

Thank you.

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17
Jan

European Union Bans Neonicotinoid Insecticide, Citing Health and Environmental Concerns

(Beyond Pesticides, January 17, 2020) In Brussels, the European Commission (EC) has just decided not to renew approval of the neonicotinoid pesticide thiacloprid, citing both environmental and health concerns related to use of and exposure to the pesticide. The decision was approved by a majority of European Union (EU) governments last fall, after the EC had made the proposal to them. The EC based that proposal on findings of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published in January 2019, which highlighted concerns about toxicity to humans and high concentrations in groundwater. European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides commented, “There are environmental concerns related to the use of this pesticide, particularly its impact on groundwater, but also related to human health, in reproductive toxicity.”

The current EU use approval for thiacloprid products expires on April 30, 2020. The EC decision — functionally, a ban — means that farmers will need to turn to other means to deal with the primary thiacloprid targets in agriculture, aphids and whiteflies. Beyond Pesticides and many organic agricultural resources advocate for widespread adoption of organic, regenerative systems and practices. Such systems may include management features such as mechanical and biological controls, trap crops, natural barriers, least-toxic IPM (Integrated Pest Management), and practices such as avoiding monocultures, crop rotation, introducing beneficial predator insects, and a focus on building healthy, “living” soils.

Martin Dermine of PAN (Pesticide Action Network) Europe responded to the news of the EC decision: “Thiacloprid is ‘toxic to pollinators and humans: as such it must have no place in the production of our food.’” . . . It was in 2015 that the European Chemicals Agency classified thiacloprid as toxic to reproduction, which should have led to an immediate ban; yet, four years later, people and the environment are still exposed to this toxic substance. The case of thiacloprid is another example of the loose implementation of EU law to the benefit of the agrochemical industry.’ Mr. Dermine added that it will not be possible for the Commission to protect human health and biodiversity as long as such delays and improper implementation of the precautionary principle ‘continue to be structural features of the EU approval procedure.’”

EURACTIV reports that Bayer Crop Science (maker of thiacloprid) spokesperson Utz Klages has said that “although the company ‘continues to believe that thiacloprid-based crop protection products can be used safely when appropriate risk mitigation measures are applied,’ they ‘respect the decision of the EU Member States regarding the non-reapproval of thiacloprid.’” He also said that pesticides (which are referred to in the UK as “crop protection products) are an important tool for farmers, and that there are not enough alternative chemical solutions for “numerous crop and pest combinations.”

Bayer’s thiacloprid, sold under the brand names Calypso and Biscaya, is a member of the class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. These compounds are highly toxic insecticides that damage insects’ central nervous systems, causing death even at very low doses. Thiacloprid is one of the three most commonly used neonicotinoids (neonics), along with imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. In use since the 1990s, neonics are the most widely utilized class of pesticides worldwide. Primary agricultural uses include direct application to crops and nursery plants, and treatment of seeds with the compounds.

Human exposures often happen through groundwater contamination, which makes its way to drinking water sources. The authors of a 2019 study noted, “Because of their pervasiveness in source waters and persistence through treatment systems, neonicotinoids are likely present in other drinking water systems across the United States.” Health impacts of exposure to thiacloprid can include neurotoxicity, reproductive anomalies, hepatic and renal damage, and more recently identified, an increase in expression of a gene linked to hormone-dependent breast cancer. In that last instance, researchers discovered a pathway via which neonicotinoids stimulate excess estrogen production, which is a known event in the development of such cancers. Previous research in 2015 had identified a role for thiacloprid and thiamethoxam in heightened production of an enzyme (aromatase) that stimulates estrogen production and, thereby, hormone-dependent cancer cell proliferation.

In addition to the concerns about health, research has demonstrated negative impacts of thiacloprid on non-target species; it especially weakens immune systems and impairs reproduction of bee populations. Such impacts of the compound on bees and bumblebees have been well established. One vector of harmful impact of thiacloprid on honey bees is the synergy between it and two common pathogens to which honey bee populations have been vulnerable in recent years — the invasive microsporidian Nosema ceranae and the black queen cell virus — which interactions resulted in elevated levels of bee mortality.

Despite PAN Europe’s comment about delays and improper enactment of the Precautionary Principle, this recent action by the European Commission underscores the contrast between neonic regulation in Europe and that here in the U.S. Thiacloprid is the fourth of five neonicotinoids for which — although previously approved for EU use — restrictions or bans subsequently (since 2013) have been adopted. For example, based on a 2012 risk assessment by the EFSA, the EC severely restricted the use of three neonics (clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam) in pesticide applications on bee-attractive crops and in seed treatment; it continued to allow use in greenhouses, treatment of some crops after flowering, and use on winter grain crops.

The EC also required applicants for those neonics to provide additional, “confirmatory information” on the compounds for further evaluation. Following that evaluation, the EC concluded that the remaining outdoor uses of the neonics could not be considered safe, and in 2017, proposed bans of those three neonics. In 2018, all outdoor uses of the three substances were banned in the EU, and only greenhouse use continued to be permissible. In addition, France has instituted a strong neonic ban; Germany suspended use of neonics more than a decade ago; and Italy long ago banned neonic seed treatments.

In the U.S., the neonic regulatory history is not precautionary, and has been slower, and less protective. A sampling of relatively recent Beyond Pesticides reporting on regulatory action and inaction by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) includes:

  • After 20 years of imidacloprid use in the marketplace, in 2016 EPA released a long-awaited preliminary honey bee risk assessment linking use of the neonic to severely declining honey bee populations and confirming harmful residues of the chemical in crops where the pollinators forage.
  • In May 2017, a federal judge ruled that EPA violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it issued 59 neonicotinoid insecticide registrations between 2007 and 2012 for pesticide products containing clothianidin and thiamethoxam.
  • In May 2019, EPA announced the final notices of cancellationon the registration of 12 neonicotinoid pesticide products, each of which contains one of the neonics, chlothianidin or thiamathoxam; the decision to pull these products from the marketplace was a requirement of the 2018 settlement of a case brought by beekeepers and environmental advocacy groups. In covering this, Beyond Pesticides noted the larger and worrying context: “For all but two of the 12 canceled products, a nearly identical surrogate remains actively registered. Furthermore, the fact remains that there are hundreds more products containing the active ingredients targeted by the lawsuit that have not been removed in any capacity – 106 products containing clothianidin and 95 containing thiamethoxam remain untouched on the market. Breaking down the impacts of the EPA ruling even further, there are several eerily similar classes of insecticides that operate the same way neonicotinoids do that remain untouched by regulation.”

Currently, the Trump administration is directing EPA to dismantle its own efficacy, kneecap enforcement, change how science is used at the agency, and rein in regulation broadly — all in service to the interests of the agro-chemical, fossil fuel, and industrial farming sectors. In the face this, advocacy organizations continue their work to publicize important research, health, and policy developments related to pesticide use, and to educate policy makers and the public. Beyond Pesticides asks that members of the public become engaged, speak out, contact their elected officials, organize in their local communities, and do all they can to shift the current trajectory at EPA to one that is genuinely protective of human and environmental health. Stay current on these issues by following Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News Blog and journal, Pesticides and You, and find organizational resources here.

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

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-bayer-pesticide/eu-commission-bans-bayer-pesticide-linked-to-harming-bees-idUSKBN1ZC136

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16
Jan

Environmental Chemicals Are Stealing IQ Points from American Children and Costing Trillions to the U.S. Economy

(Beyond Pesticides, January 16, 2020) Exposure to environmental chemicals in the U.S. since the turn of the century has resulted in millions of lost IQ points, hundreds of thousands of cases of intellectual disability, and trillions of dollars of lost economic activity. This is according to a study led by a team of scientists at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology. “Although people argue against costly regulations, unrestricted use of these chemicals is far more expensive in the long run, with American children bearing the largest burden,” says senior study author Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP in a press release.

Exposure to environmental chemicals can result in neurotoxic effects. Prenatal exposure represents a critical window when these effects can be particularly pronounced and result in lasting damage to a child. Researchers focused their study on contact with mercury, lead, organophosphate pesticides, and flame retardants in the womb.

Biomonitoring data from a long-running Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on environmental chemicals was used to determine exposure levels. Because each chemical results in differing levels of intellectual damage, each was assigned an IQ impact based on past research. For example, scientists indicated that 4.25 IQ points are lost for every 10-fold increase in organophosphate exposure. Intellectual disability was determined to be when IQ dropped below 70. Again using previous research, each lost IQ point was assigned a value of $22,268. Each case of intellectual disability was estimated to result in $1,272,470 in lost productivity. These dollar amounts are all inflation-adjusted to the year 2018.

With increased attention to childhood lead and mercury exposure, the contribution of these chemicals to IQ decay remains significant yet declined over the last two decades. At the same time, the proportion of IQ loss attributable to flame retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers [PBDEs]) and organophosphate pesticides has increased substantially, from 67% to 81%. Flame retardants were identified as the most costly contributor, resulting in over 162 million lost IQ points and 738,000 cases of intellectual disability, totaling over $4.5 trillion over the course of the entire study period (2001-2016). Although exposure from lead declined over the study period alongside IQ loss, there is no safe level of exposure to the metal for children, resulting in neurotoxic effects. Lead-attributable IQ loss declined from 8 million per year in 2001 to 2 million in 2016.

Despite modest declines in organophosphate pesticide use over the study period, the impacts of organophosate exposure appear roughly on par with lead exposure. Pesticides were estimated to result in over 26 million lost IQ points and over 110,000 cases of intellectual disability, totaling roughly $735 billion in economic costs. The total impact of all the chemicals studied by researchers is estimated at nearly 200 million lost IQ points, and almost 1.2 million cases of intellectual disability, costing the U.S. economy an astounding $7.5 trillion.

Scientists attribute the continued effects of flame retardants and pesticides to lax regulation and unwillingness to adequately address exposure by government officials. The paper cites the failure of the Trump administration to ban chlorpyrifos as evidence that exposure to this highly toxic class of chemicals is likely to increase. “Unfortunately, the minimal policies in place to eliminate pesticides and flame retardants are clearly not enough,” said lead study author Abigail Gaylord, MPH.

The study also raised the prospect of regrettable substitutions, whereby chlorpyrifos would be replaced with another neurotoxic chemical class, such as the synthetic pyrethroids, as a reason for overhauling the way the nation analyzes hazardous pesticides. “Without proper toxicological testing standards for industrial chemicals in the Untied States we run the risk of introducing chemicals that are just as bad, or even worse, for human health,” the study reads.

Lead exposure is on the decline due to its removal in gas and paint, but legacy exposure in paint and pipes continues to plague communities like Flint, Michigan. Mercury exposure has been reduced due in part to regulations on coal plant emissions, but remains a significant risk for certain regions of the country. Flame retardants can in some instances be avoided through careful purchases on items like furniture but necessitate increased regulation. Likewise, individuals can focus on eating organic food in order to reduce organophosphate exposure, but uses remain on golf courses and for mosquito control, and farmworkers and agricultural communities are disproportionately impacted.

See here and here for past coverage of NYU’s work to uncover the hidden costs of environmental chemicals on our children’s intelligence and our economy. For more evidence on the need for increased regulation and the organic solution, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database and the Why Organic program page.  

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

Source: NYU Press Release, Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology

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15
Jan

Exploratory Study Indicates Pesticide Exposure May Relate to Higher Risk for Endometriosis

(Beyond Pesticides, January 15, 2019) A study published in the journal Environment International, Association of urinary metabolites of organophosphate and pyrethroid insecticides, and phenoxy herbicides with endometriosis, is the first of its kind. Researchers considered the endocrine-disrupting properties of pesticides (such as reduced sperm counts) and investigated whether there might be a relationship between pesticide exposure and endometriosis. Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent gynecologic disease that affects about 176 million women globally. It can cause extreme pain and infertility as well as increased risk for cancer and cardiovascular diseases. This study finds a positive correlation between some pesticide metabolites and endometriosis, though authors encourage further study to corroborate the findings.

Researchers examined exposure to 11 “universal pesticides” and their metabolites and its relationship to endometriosis in 492 reproductive-age women recruited from 14 surgical centers in Utah and California from 2007-2009. The women at these clinics were scheduled for laparoscopy or laparotomy—the “gold standard” for identifying endometriosis is through these surgeries. The study compares results from the clinical cohort to a group of women in the same age bracket from areas surrounding the participating clinics. 619 urine samples were analyzed from the operative and population cohorts.

This study detected six of the pesticides or their metabolites in ≥95% of urine samples — including organophosphates and 2-4,D. Pyrethroids and their metabolites were detected in 47–80% of the samples. The odds ratios, or measure of association between exposure and an outcome, are significant for two organophosphate metabolites: 2-Isopropyl-4-methyl-6-hydroxypyrimidine (IMPY) and 3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinol (TCPY). The authors conclude, “Our results suggest that exposure to elevated concentrations of diazinon (the parent compound of IMPY) and chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl (parent compounds of TCPY) may be associated with endometriosis.” However, the authors emphasize the small sample size and need for further studies. “Our findings should be considered as exploratory,” they state.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are far under-studied and under-regulated. In 2015, Beyond Pesticides summarized the Environmental Protection Agency’s performance on evaluating endocrine disrupting chemicals and protecting the public from them: “Delays and criticisms from scientists have highlighted inadequacies of the overall program. After FQPA [Food Quality Protection Act] set a 1999 deadline for EPA to develop a battery of assays with which pesticide manufacturers were required to screen their products as possible endocrine disruptors, EPA repeatedly pushed back the deadline for over a decade. Moreover, critics of EDSP have said that EPA’s testing protocol is outdated, failing to keep pace with the science.” Adding to the critique, in 2017 Beyond Pesticides covered the ongoing inadequacy of EPA’s progress on EDCs, noting that “inadequate federal testing, disproportionate industry influence, and subverted regulatory oversight threaten decades of progress on protecting people from hormone disrupting chemicals.”

As opposed to stalling and undermining the use of science in decision making, EPA must begin following a precautionary principle where they take measures to assess for harm before approval. The Precautionary Principle, as set out in 1998, says: “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the precautionary principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.”

It is a fact that  our nation and world are saturated with human-made chemicals — 80,000 on the market in the U.S. alone, and most synthesized only in the past 50 years. The majority of those compounds have not been evaluated for effects other than acute toxicity, and 95% have not been reviewed for potential impacts on children. Given these circumstances, Beyond Pesticides advocates for a Precautionary approach to permitting of all pesticides, and for the transition to a world free of them. Join us: https://beyondpesticides.org/join/sign-me-up.

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

Source: Environment International

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14
Jan

New Method of Lyme Disease Prevention Promising, But Not Ready to Replace Personal Protective Measures

tick insect warning sign in forest

(Beyond Pesticides, January 14, 2020) Scientists have found a new method to reduce the sources of Lyme disease, but it is uncertain whether the finding will ultimately translate into fewer cases of human infections. Research published in the journal Experimental and Applied Acarology finds that incorporating Lyme vaccines into pelletized mouse food had the effect of reducing levels of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, in both mice and ticks in a certain location.

“So, the idea here is to vaccinate the mice,” study author Kirby Stafford, PhD told WBUR. “What we’ve done is incorporate a Lyme disease vaccine in an oral bait that would immunize them. That would prevent ticks feeding on those animals from becoming infected and then ultimately turn around and infect you.”

To test their approach, researchers enrolled 32 homes in Redding, CT, an area where Lyme disease in endemic and several human cases are reported each year. Vaccine-incorporated mouse baiting stations were placed around 21 homes, while 11 acted as a control. Four times throughout the two year study period, mice and the ticks attached to them were trapped and tested for the disease. While there were no significant differences between the experimental and control plot in the first year, this changed after the second year of study.

In areas where the vaccine bait was placed, mice infections were significantly lower than controls, with tick populations following suit. Only 9% of ticks were found to be infected with Borrelia burgdorferi in treated areas, while ticks at control plots displayed a 39% infection rate.

While the study shows promise for a novel method of tick control, there is not yet enough data to say that the reductions will translate to protections for humans, according to a Bard College researcher interviewed by WBUR. “We’ve got nothing… nothing that’s been demonstrated to reduce the number of Lyme disease cases in humans,” said Felicia Keesing, PhD, a disease ecologist. “We have a variety of things that reduce the number of ticks in people’s yards. Those have not translated to having an effect on people’s health. So this study has the right idea, but it doesn’t mean it will necessarily translate into actually fewer cases in people.”

Past research has found that the use of toxic insecticides on suburban lawns can reduce the number of ticks in one’s yard. However, households whose lawns were treated with insecticides still reported a similar number of tick encounters and tick-borne illnesses as those whose properties were left untreated. Thus pesticides should not be considered a viable means of addressing Lyme disease transmission –particularly in light of the risks associated with of exposing one’s self and family to neurotoxic pesticides.  

More recent studies focusing on highly toxic permethrin, which can be incorporated or sprayed onto clothing, have likewise been inaccurately reported in the media as a means of successful tick management. While simple repellents like oil of lemon eucalyptus, picaridin, and insect repellent IR 3535 can be effective in deterring ticks from finding and attaching to humans, DEET and permethrin should be avoided.

The best method to prevent tick bites and the diseases they carry is to wear appropriate clothing (light colored that covers one’s whole body), a hat, and consider tucking one’s pant’s into your socks. Most important is to conduct regular tick checks alongside a friend, as it’s critically important to detach a tick from one’s skin as soon as possible after the bite to reduce the chance of disease transfer.  If you have an outdoor pet, don’t forget to check them as well (consider a flea/tick comb and remember areas like behind the ears and in between toes). For more information on how to manage ticks safely, see Beyond Pesticides ManageSafe webpage.

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

Source: WBUR, Experimental and Applied Acarology

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13
Jan

Take Action: Help Restore Protections for Migratory Birds

(Beyond Pesticides, January 13, 2020) Birds are facing an existential crisis. Three billion birds have disappeared since 1970. Two out of three birds are threatened by climate change. In spite of this crisis, our nation’s most important bird protection law, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is being weakened by the Trump Administration’s Department of the Interior.

Ask your U.S. Representative to support and cosponsor the Migratory Bird Protection Act. Thank those who are already cosponsors.

Songbirds Threatened. The poisonous farm fields that migratory birds forage reduce their weight, delay their travel, and ultimately jeopardize their survival, according to “A neonicotinoid insecticide reduces fueling and delays migration in songbirds,“ published in the journal Science. Like their effects on insect pollinator populations, neonicotinoid insecticides generally do not cause acute poisoning and immediate death, but instead precipitate a cascade of sublethal impacts reducing their fitness in the wild. As the authors told Environmental Health News, the study is a call not simply to ban neonics or one class of chemical, but to change the entire farming system toward more sustainable bird and bee-friendly practices.

Bird Habitat Threatened in ArkansasA citizen science monitoring project of Audubon Arkansas found evidence of contamination from the weed killer dicamba far from the genetically engineered soybean and cotton fields, documenting nearly 250 observations of dicamba symptomology across 17 Arkansas counties. Community scientists were trained by Audubon to detect dicamba symptoms. Dan Scheiman, PhD, bird conservation director for the organization, after launching the project this spring, said, “Spraying dicamba on millions of acres of soybean and cotton is an uncontrolled experiment that puts sensitive habitats at unacceptable risk. In a landscape full of genetically engineered crops, the atmospheric build-up of volatized dicamba may result in significant damage to our state natural areas, wildlife management areas, national wildlife refuges, family farms, and the wildlife they harbor.”

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) adds protection to migratory birds that are not protected under the Endangered Species Act. The MBTA makes it unlawful at any time, by any means or in any manner, to pursue, hunt, take, capture or kill any migratory bird without a permit. The MBTA covers not only hunting, trapping and poaching activities, but extends to other activities that kill migratory birds. Beginning in the 1970s, federal officials use the act to prosecute and fine companies up to $15,000 per bird for accidental deaths on power lines, in oil pits, in wind turbines, and by other industrial hazards. The MBTA has been applied to prosecute farmers who inadvertently poison migratory birds by use of pesticides.

Yet in 2017, the Department of the Interior issued a policy that relieved industries of the requirement to protect birds, and they will no longer be held accountable for bird deaths. In addition, the agency is expected to propose rules to make this policy change permanent.

On January 8, U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal and 18 bipartisan cosponsors introduced the Migratory Bird Protection Act (H.R. 5552) to restore the critical protections removed by the Trump Administration.

Ask your U.S. Representative to support and cosponsor the Migratory Bird Protection Act. Thank those who are already cosponsors.

Letter to request cosponsorship

I am writing to ask you to restore important protections for migratory birds by cosponsoring H.R. 5552, the Migratory Bird Protection Act.

Birds are facing an existential crisis. Three billion birds have disappeared since 1970. Two out of three birds are threatened by climate change. In spite of this crisis, our nation’s most important bird protection law, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is being weakened by the Trump Administration’s Department of the Interior.

Songbirds Threatened: The poisonous farm fields that migratory birds forage reduce their weight, delay their travel, and ultimately jeopardize their survival, according to “A neonicotinoid insecticide reduces fueling and delays migration in songbirds,“ published in the journal Science. Like their effects on insect pollinator populations, neonicotinoid insecticides generally do not cause acute poisoning and immediate death, but instead precipitate a cascade of sublethal impacts reducing their fitness in the wild. As the authors told Environmental Health News, the study is a call not simply to ban neonics or one class of chemical, but to change the entire farming system toward more sustainable bird and bee-friendly practices.

Bird Habitat Threatened in Arkansas: A citizen science monitoring project of Audubon Arkansas found evidence of contamination from the weed killer dicamba far from the genetically engineered soybean and cotton fields, documenting nearly 250 observations of dicamba symptomology across 17 Arkansas counties. Community scientists were trained by Audubon to detect dicamba symptoms. Dan Scheiman, PhD, bird conservation director for the organization, after launching the project this spring, said, “Spraying dicamba on millions of acres of soybean and cotton is an uncontrolled experiment that puts sensitive habitats at unacceptable risk. In a landscape full of genetically engineered crops, the atmospheric build-up of volatized dicamba may result in significant damage to our state natural areas, wildlife management areas, national wildlife refuges, family farms, and the wildlife they harbor.”

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) adds protection to migratory birds that are not protected under the Endangered Species Act. The MBTA makes it unlawful at any time, by any means or in any manner, to pursue, hunt, take, capture or kill any migratory bird without a permit. The MBTA covers not only hunting, trapping and poaching activities, but extends to other activities that kill migratory birds. Beginning in the 1970s, federal officials used the act to prosecute and fine companies up to $15,000 per bird for accidental deaths on power lines, in oil pits, in wind turbines and by other industrial hazards. The MBTA has been applied to prosecute farmers who inadvertently poison migratory birds by use of pesticides.
Yet in 2017, the Department of the Interior issued a policy that relieved industries of the requirement to protect birds, and they will no longer be held accountable for bird deaths. In addition, the agency is expected to propose rules to make this policy change permanent.

Please cosponsor the Migratory Bird Protection Act (H.R. 5552) introduced by Representative Alan Lowenthal and 18 bipartisan cosponsors to restore the critical protections removed by the Trump Administration.

Letter to current cosponsors

I am writing to thank you for cosponsoring H.R. 5552, the Migratory Bird Protection Act.

Birds are facing an existential crisis. Three billion birds have disappeared since 1970. Two out of three birds are threatened by climate change. In spite of this crisis, our nation’s most important bird protection law, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is being weakened by the Trump Administration’s Department of the Interior.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) adds protection to migratory birds that are not protected under the Endangered Species Act. The MBTA makes it unlawful at any time, by any means or in any manner, to pursue, hunt, take, capture or kill any migratory bird without a permit.  The MBTA covers not only hunting, trapping and poaching activities, but extends to other activities that kill migratory birds. Beginning in the 1970s, federal officials used the act to prosecute and fine companies up to $15,000 per bird for accidental deaths on power lines, in oil pits, in wind turbines and by other industrial hazards. The MBTA has been applied to prosecute farmers who inadvertently poison migratory birds by use of pesticides.

Yet in 2017, the Department of the Interior issued a policy that relieved industries of the requirement to protect birds, and they will no longer be held accountable for bird deaths. In addition, the agency is expected to propose rules to make this policy change permanent.

Thank you for cosponsoring H.R. 5552, the Migratory Bird Protection Act.

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10
Jan

Study Links Pyrethroid Insecticides to Cardiovascular Disease and Other Health Hazards

(Beyond Pesticides, January 10, 2020) A new study by researchers out of the University of Iowa College of Public Health, published in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) Internal Medicine, demonstrates that greater exposure to pyrethroid insecticides is associated with higher risks of death from all causes and from cardiovascular disease. These compounds can be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin; they are highly neurotoxic, and have also been linked to certain cancers, endocrine disruption, and suppression of the immune system, as well as respiratory and reproductive impacts.

The researchers gathered data, for 2,116 adults aged 20 or older, from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Each of those subjects had contributed a urine sample at some point between 1999 and 2002. Urine samples reflect levels of a pyrethroid metabolite (3-phenoxybenzoic acid) present, which in turn offer information about pyrethroid exposure. The researchers followed the participants until 2015; the research analysis was performed in the summer of 2019. Data were adjusted to accommodate multiple factors (age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, diet and lifestyle, smoking status, body mass index, and urinary creatinine levels). The co-authors report that subjects with the highest levels of metabolites had a 56% higher risk of death during the follow-up period than did subjects with the lowest exposure levels. In addition, “those in the highest exposure group had three times the cardiovascular mortality risk of those in the lowest exposure group.”

Pyrethroids account for 30% of global pesticide use, and have been generally regarded as effective against insects with few short-term risks to human health. They are used on agricultural crops; for mosquito abatement, including in areas that include aquatic features; on livestock animals and their premises; in food and animal feed processing facilities; and in residential settings. The compounds target a broad variety of insects and arthropods, including ants, worms, beetles, mites, flies, gnats, spiders, weevils, caterpillars, grubs, moths, ticks, lice, wasps, aphids, and midges.

Pyrethroid insecticides are synthetic versions of naturally occurring pyrethrin compounds found in chrysanthemums that grow in Australia and parts of the African continent. Pyrethroids are often touted — by pest control operators and community mosquito management bureaus — as being “as safe as chrysanthemum flowers.” Although, as Beyond Pesticides wrote in 2011, “pyrethroids are a synthetic version of an extract from the chrysanthemum plant, they are chemically engineered to be more toxic [and to] take longer to break down, and are often formulated with synergists, increasing potency, and compromising the human body’s ability to detoxify the pesticide.” Use of pyrethroids has spiked as most residential organophosphate use has been phased out.

Pyrethroids represent risks beyond those to human health. They persist in the environment and adversely impact non-target organisms such as bees, fish, and other aquatic organisms; they are extremely damaging to non-target invertebrates, as evidenced by EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency’s) own analysis. In 2017 comments submitted to EPA (relevant to registration of 19 pyrethroid insecticides), Beyond Pesticides noted that “pyrethroid uses result in acute and chronic risks that exceed levels of concern (LOCs) for aquatic organisms,” and set out evidence of risks to pollinators and endangered species.

Commenting scientists Steven Stellman, PhD, and Jeanne Mager Stellman, PhD, of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York, acknowledge limitations of the subject research, e.g., the relatively young average age (for purposes of assessing pyrethroid’s impact on cardiovascular mortality) of participants at the study’s terminus: 57 years. They say that the study results, however, stand out: “Other than cigarette smoking, few, if any, chemical exposures are known to trigger a [threefold] increase in the risk of death from heart disease, especially in [people] younger than 60 years.” They conclude that immediate further investigation of pyrethroid health impacts is warranted. The co-authors concur, saying “Further studies are needed to replicate the findings and determine the underlying mechanisms.”

Beyond Pesticides continues its monitoring of research on pyrethroids, and its advocacy to insist that EPA regulate pesticides based on science and precaution. When EPA proposed, in 2012, an expansion in permitted pyrethroid insecticide uses as part of its cumulative risk assessment for this neurotoxic class of chemicals, it claimed that they did “‘not pose risk concerns for children or adults’ — ignoring a wealth of independent data that links this class of chemicals to certain cancers, respiratory and reproductive problems, and the onset of insect resistance. It went as far as to state that its cumulative assessment supports consideration of registering additional new uses of these pesticides, potentially opening the flood gates for manufacturers to bombard the market with more pyrethroid pesticides, endangering the health of the public.” Beyond Pesticides responded with comments to EPA that identified flaws in its required cumulative assessment, critiqued EPA’s judgment, identified the agency’s violation of its statutory duty, and called the agency out for its poor interpretation of health research data.

The agency is not currently performing much better. In November 2019, EPA proposed further weakening of protections against five pyrethroid compounds. The Trump administration’s EPA had already recently reduced protections for children from this class of insecticides, and the agency is now apparently welcoming the recommendations of industry — from, in this case, the Pyrethroid Working Group, a consortium of pesticide companies — to continue stripping away regulations designed to protect human and environmental health. That EPA November announcement proposed reapproval of five of 23 pyrethroids; proposals regarding the rest are already pending approval.

Beyond Pesticides is submitting comments to EPA on interim decisions on those five pyrethroid insecticides. Among its comments are these: “In its review, EPA fails to meet the statutory standard for continued registration of a pesticide. This failure . . . cuts across several areas of human health and environmental concern — synergistic effects of combined active ingredients in common formulations, a large number of adverse effects incidents, endocrine disruption, vulnerability of children to exposure, and threats to pollinators and endangered species. At the same time, the agency neglects to determine whether the pesticides under review could be replaced by practices or products that are non-toxic or less hazardous. The issues raised in our comments point to serious limitations in the agency’s ability to [assure] the public that pesticide products commonly available for insect control are safe, do not expose the public to serious hazards or uncertainties, and are necessary, given the availability of alternatives.”

Public comments on these interim decisions are due by January 13; the public can register its comments here, referencing docket #EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0331-0085: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0331-0085. Reach out to Beyond Pesticides for assistance with making public comments at 1-202-543-5450. Stay tuned for coming news on pyrethroid registration and health impacts of these compounds (and information on pesticides broadly) via the Daily News Blog.

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

Sources: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327415.php#1 and https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2757789

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09
Jan

At a Time of Precarious Military Actions, Trump Administration Delays Benefits to Agent Orange Veterans

US Army APC spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam

U.S. Army APC spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam.

(Beyond Pesticides, January 9, 2020) United States military veterans suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension and Parkinson’s-like symptoms after their exposure to Agent Orange will remain unprotected and uncompensated until at least late 2020, a letter sent by Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie to U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) indicates. Congress included a provision in the must-pass December federal spending bill requiring VA to provide legislators “a detailed explanation” for the now multi-year delay in determining whether to list the diseases. This is seen by advocates for veterans as a serious lack of support and compensation just at a time when the current administration mobilizes the military.

According to Military Times, 83,000 veterans suffer from bladder cancer, Parkinson’s-like symptoms or hypothyroidism, and an untold number have high blood pressure. The paper interviewed Army Sgt. Maj. John Mennitto, who explained, “Since we first spoke in 2016, I have been diagnosed with bladder cancer. . . I also have hypothyroidism. My greatest concern for me and my fellow veterans who have debilitating diseases caused by exposure to Agent Orange is that our family members will be left with nothing.”

A robust 2014 review by the National Academy of Medicine recommended including the aforementioned diseases in the current list of eligible conditions. The VA indicated a listing decision would come down on November 1, 2017, but instead, a short VA press release simply quoted then-Secretary David Shulkin saying he would “further explore new presumptive conditions.”

Internal documents obtained by a veteran through a FOIA request revealed that Secretary Shulkin had indeed planned to list the diseases. However, the Trump Administration’s Office of Management and Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, intervened directly, pointing to the costs of expanding protections.

Acting head of the Veteran’s Health Administration, Richard Stone, MD, told Congress in early 2019 that a decision would be made “within 90 days.” That decision did not materialize.  

In October 2019, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) attempted to introduce a resolution requiring the Trump Administration’s VA to list the diseases. However, he was shot down by U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who echoed Mr. Mulvaney by citing costs. “It’s time to make sure every that every benefit we promise the veteran we have the money to do it,” he said.

A quote from Rick Weidman, legislative director of Vietnam Veterans for America, to ProPublica after the initial 2017 delay sums up the situation well: “If you can afford the goddamn war, you can afford to take care of the warriors.”

The provision in the Congressional spending bill intended to cut through the ongoing delays, but there is no indication VA is going to meet the 30-day requirement for a detailed explanation. “The longer VA continues to drag its feet on expanding the list of conditions associated with Agent Orange, the longer our veterans continue to suffer — and die — as a result of their exposure,” Senator Tester said in a statement to the news site Connecting Vets. “It’s time for VA to stop ignoring the overwhelming evidence put forth by scientists, medical experts and veterans and do right by those who served. Any prolonging of their suffering is unacceptable.” 

Agent Orange was given its name because it was stored in orange striped drums and contained the active ingredients 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. This formulation was contaminated with the highly toxic 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (also called TCDD or simply dioxin) and is now banned. Not only were soldiers exposed on the battlefield, many veterans who flew in post-Vietnam UC-123 Agent Orange spray aircraft had their health devastated by residual contamination.  

The Vietnam government is part of an ongoing lawsuit against Bayer’s Monsanto for its role in manufacturing the deadly herbicide during the war. Recent reports find that dioxin continues to contaminate Vietnam’s soils, water, sediment, fish, aquatic species, and food supply.

While Agent Orange is banned, a chemical compound that comprised one half of its make-up, 2,4-D, is still one of the most widely used herbicides on lawns, school grounds and parks today. It is considered a possible human carcinogen, and has been linked to liver damage and endocrine disruption in humans, in addition to being toxic to wildlife, pets and beneficial insects. Previous research from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has detected dioxin contamination in a number of 2,4-D herbicide products produced for consumer sale.

It is imperative that a country which asks everything of its soldiers compensate them when they fall ill as a result of their service and through no fault of their own. For more information about the legacy of Agent Orange, see previous Daily News stories on the issue, or view Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database. Help veterans in your community by supporting veteran owned businesses and nonprofit organizations. Veterans looking to go into the organic industry after their service can explore Rodale Institute’s Veteran farmer training program.

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

Source: Military Times, Connecting Vets

 

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08
Jan

International Scientists Offer Solutions to Turn Around the Insect Apocalypse

(Beyond Pesticides, January 8, 2019) Researchers across the planet are calling on policymakers to take action to reverse insect decline. In a letter to the editor in Nature Ecology & Evolution, over 70 scientists compiled necessary steps to categorize and rebuild the world’s populations of invertebrates. “We must act now,” they urged.

International evidence points to a massive decline of insect populations at a global scale. This year, researchers warned that, if current trends continue, insects as a whole may go extinct in the next few decades. The rapid loss of invertebrate biodiversity is extremely alarming both because of the dramatic loss of life and devastating affect on the valuable ecosystem services, such as pollination and pest control, that insects provide. In addition, these small-yet-usually-abundant creatures are a vital part of the food chain and, as a result, scientists have documented a massive decline in bird populations in part due to the loss of insect food matter.

The letter offers a tiered response of actions:

Immediate: Implement no-regret solutions to slow or stop insect declines. Prioritize conservation of endangered species.

Solutions include reducing greenhouse gases, reversing trends in agriculture intensification, increasing landscape heterogeneity, and phasing out pesticide use by replacing them with ecological measures. The paper notes, “These solutions will be beneficial to society and biodiversity even if the direct effects on insects are not known as of yet (that is, no-regret solutions).”

Mid-term: Conduct new research and analyze existing data.

In order to disentangle the impact of various anthropogenic stressors that drive declines, more longitudinal research is necessary – both of insects in the field and in museum collections. The authors additionally advocate for innovation and adoption of insect-friendly technologies. They ask for an investment in building capacity to create a new generation of insect conservationists.  

Long-term: Build public-private partnerships, create sustainable funds for restoration, and monitor the problem over time.

The paper promotes “Establishing an international governing body under the auspices of existing bodies (for example, the United Nations Envrionment Programme (UNEP) or the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)) that is accountable for documenting and monitoring the effects of proposed solutions on insect biodiversity in the longer term.”

Coauthor Tara Cornelisse, PhD, an entomologist at the Center for Biological Diversity, stated, “We’re calling for action because insects are key to our own survival, and we ignore their decline at our peril.” Dr. Cornelisse continued, “Study after study confirms that human activities have decimated insects, from butterflies to bees to beetles. We can save these crucial species, but the world has to get moving.”

These words echo a paper released in June where scientists urged the public, “We know enough to act now.” Experts note that it is less critical, at this juncture, to focus on the complexities of the individual issues than to understand that many factors act as a “firing squad” of stressors. “In many cases it will be difficult to identify the killing shot,” the authors wrote in Conservation Science and Practice, “but we know the bullets are flying and we know where they are coming from.”

Similarly, Harvey et al. write that it is unnecessary to address all knowledge gaps before beginning to get to work on this global issue. They advocate for a “learning-by-doing” process of implementation, accompanied by research, to inform ongoing modification of executed measures.

Some of the paper’s language calls for “reduction” of pesticides, but Beyond Pesticides contends that reduction use is inadequate to the crises we face. The success of organic agriculture proves that toxic chemicals are unnecessary to food production. Organic lawn and landscape management can create verdant green space on par with any chemical-intensive property.

Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, wrote of the insect apocalypse, “What do we want to achieve? Certainly, we do not want to spend our lives on the treadmill of banning pesticide after pesticide that are used in land and building management systems because underlying pest conducive conditions are not fixed or prevented. How would we define a preventive approach that avoids the problems that lead to pesticide use and pesticide dependency […]? With organic systems, we are well on our way to eliminating the toxic pesticides that wreak havoc with life.”

There is still time to change our trajectory. More than ever, individuals must connect with their local, state, and federal elected officials and demand changes that protect pollinators and other insect populations. As evidenced by Connecticut and Maryland, and dozens of local pollinator protection policies, concerted efforts by grassroots advocates can create lasting positive change.

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

Sources: Nature Ecology and Evolution, Center for Biological Diversity

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07
Jan

What Happens When You Paint Zebra Stripes on a Cow? Eliminate Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, January 7, 2020) It may seem peculiar at first sight, but painting zebra stripes on domestic cattle has the potential to significantly reduce the livestock industry’s use of toxic pesticides, according to research published last year by Japanese scientists at the Aichi Agricultural Research Center in Nagakute, Japan. Each year, farmers spend an estimated $1.6 billion on pesticides in the livestock industry, while biting flies cause over $2 billion of economic loss. This clever example of applied ecology could change those numbers with the added benefit of a safer environment.   

While long considered a mystery, the science is now generally in agreement that zebras developed their stripes in order to confuse and ward off biting flies and the various ailments that can be passed on by the pests. While some cow breeds were developed with spotted patterns that may confer some fly deterrence, researchers used mono-colored Japanese Black cows to test their hypothesis.

Six cows were separated into one of three groups: white and black stripes, black stripes, and an unpainted control. Stripes were painted with a water-based lacquer. The cows were observed starting 30 minutes after the paint was applied and allowed to air out. For a period of nine days, cows were observed in 30-minute windows while scientists recorded their fly-avoidance responses, including head throws, ear beats, leg stamps, skin twitches, and tail flicks.

The changes in cow behavior were significant. Black and white painted cows displayed approximately 40 fly avoidance responses over the 30-minute windows, while black painted and the control groups displayed 54 and 53 responses, respectively. In total, black and white painted cows decreased their fly-avoidance responses by around 20%. Moreover, these cows also display fewer energy-intensive responses, like head throws, ear beats, and leg stamps, opting primarily for skin twitches to manage the pests that did attack.

While there was some suspicion that the smell of the paint was having an impact on pest levels, researchers point to the fact that there was no difference between cows painted with black stripes and the control group, but a major difference between he two painted groups.  

“This work provides an alternative to the use of conventional pesticides for mitigating biting fly attacks on livestock that improves animal welfare and human health, in addition to helping resolve the problem of pesticide resistance in the environment,” the study authors write.

The main drawback for widespread implementation of this approach appears to be the length of time that the paint will last. While water-soluble paints are much cheaper than pesticides, they generally wash out over a couple weeks, requiring reapplication. Researchers indicate that more attention is needed to animal-safe paints that can last longer during the four-month biting fly season.

Continuous pesticide use to repel biting flies on livestock puts animal health at risk, contaminants milk and meat products, and leads to pesticide resistance; it facilitates a pesticide treadmill of increasingly toxic products to replace those that fail. While many organic cattle farmers already emphasize non-toxic methods of fly control on their farms, applying zebra stripe mimicry could become a successful part of an integrated strategy for organic and conventional farmers alike.  

Biting fly problems are amplified by large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), further increasing stress and risk of injury to domestic livestock. Help Beyond Pesticides move U.S. production away from these inhumane conditions and towards novel approaches that apply the wisdom of natural systems to pest management. Support the Farm System Reform Act introduced by Senator Cory Booker as a means of eliminating CAFOs. And see Beyond Pesticides’ webpage on organic agriculture for more information on the success of farming without toxic pesticides.

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

Source: PLOS One

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06
Jan

End Factory Farms: Support the Farm System Reform Act

(Beyond Pesticides, January 6, 2020) In the midst of recalls of romaine lettuce contaminated with a pathogenic strain of E. coli, states and counties across the country are calling for a moratorium on large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Now Senator Cory Booker is seeking to pass similar legislation at the national level. These industrial-scale operations are commonly referred to as “factory farms.”

Tell your U.S. Senator to cosponsor the Farm System Reform Act introduced by Sen. Cory Booker.

In the last week of November 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a food safety alert concerning a multistate outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce harvested from Salinas, California. As of November 25, 67 cases had been reported across 19 states, 39 of which required hospitalization, including six who developed kidney failure. The E. coli strain causing the outbreak — O157:H7, also known as STEC — is genetically identical to that responsible for lettuce-related outbreaks in 2017 and 2018. STEC is a dangerous, Shiga toxin-producing type of E. coli. Other outbreaks occurred earlier in 2019 as well.

Dangerous strains of E. coli, including O157:H7, are typically associated with cattle in feedlot conditions. The first of the two outbreaks in 2018 was traced back to manure runoff from a CAFO in the vicinity of the lettuce farm, which polluted water that was used to irrigate the lettuce fields. CAFOs are a major source of water contamination throughout the U.S. As noted by the Arizona Department of Environmental QualityNationwide and in Arizona, the potential for surface and ground water pollution exists through livestock facility discharge of manure-contaminated run off to natural waterways and through wastewater leaching to aquifers. Water and air pollution lead the list of concerns that have led to a number of state and local initiatives to institute moratoria on new and expanded CAFOs. Iowa, which has experienced an explosion of CAFOs, is the example these people want to avoid. In South Dakota, Lyle Reimnitz, who lives a half-mile from a Davison County hog farm with a permit for 8,000 sows, says, “I don’t wanFt to see South Dakota become another Iowa,” he said. “We don’t need all our rivers and streams polluted. I know everybody wants cheap meat, but that comes at a terrible price for people who live here.”

In Wisconsin, supporters of a statewide moratorium on CAFOs are urging concerned citizens to ask County Supervisors, Town Board Members, and City Councillors to pass resolutions supporting a state-wide CAFO moratorium. In California, a report on dairy CAFOs found that “major production externalities are still imposed upon the communities in which Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are located, due in large part to lack of resources, information, enforcement capability and political will on the part of local and regional regulatory agencies.” And, in Indiana, a report by the Indiana Business Research Center found, “For town residential properties, having the closest RLO [regulated livestock operation, or CAFO] upwind of the residence reduced the sale price by $4,980.00 and if the closest RLO contained dairy cattle, the sale price was further reduced by $32,340.00 for every 100 mature head.” In addition to these concerned citizens, the American Public Health Association has also called for a moratorium on CAFOs.

A majority of Americans say they want more stringent oversight of large-scale livestock operations, according to a national poll by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for a Livable Future released December 10, 2019.

Traditional family farmers, and groups like the National Farmers Union, favor judicious regulatory controls due to the overall deleterious impacts these industrial agricultural sites have on rural communities. Other impacts include odors and fugitive dust that might contain antibiotic-resistant organisms.

Senator Booker’s bill, the Farm System Reform Act, would require that “corporate integrators” are “responsible for pollution and other harm caused by CAFOs,” which would be phased out by 2040.

Tell your U.S. Senator to cosponsor the Farm System Reform Act introduced by Sen. Cory Booker.

Letter to Congress

I am writing to ask you to cosponsor the Farm System Reform Act, unveiled by Senator Cory Booker in December.

In the midst of recalls of romaine lettuce contaminated with a pathogenic strain of E. coli, states and counties across the country are calling for a moratorium on large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Sen. Booker’s bill seeks a moratorium at the national level.

In the last week of November 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a food safety alert concerning a multistate outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce harvested from Salinas, California. As of November 25, 67 cases had been reported across 19 states, 39 of which required hospitalization, including six who developed kidney failure. The E. coli strain causing the outbreak — O157:H7, also known as STEC — is genetically identical to that responsible for lettuce-related outbreaks in 2017 and 2018. STEC is a dangerous, Shiga toxin-producing type of E. coli. Other outbreaks occurred earlier in 2019 as well.

E. coli O157:H7 is typically associated with cattle. The first of the two outbreaks in 2018 was traced back to manure runoff from a CAFO in the vicinity of the lettuce farm, which polluted water that was used to irrigate the lettuce fields. CAFOs are a major source of water contamination throughout the U.S. As noted by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, “Nationwide and in Arizona, the potential for surface and ground water pollution exists through livestock facility discharge of manure-contaminated run off to natural waterways and through wastewater leaching to aquifers.”

Water and air pollution lead the list of concerns that have led to a number of state and local initiatives to institute moratoria on new and expanded CAFOs. Iowa, which has experienced an explosion of CAFOs, is the example these people want to avoid. In South Dakota, Lyle Reimnitz, who lives a half-mile from a Davison County hog farm with a permit for 8,000 sows, says, “I don’t want to see South Dakota become another Iowa,” he said. “We don’t need all our rivers and streams polluted. I know everybody wants cheap meat, but that comes at a terrible price for people who live here.”

In Wisconsin, supporters of a statewide moratorium on CAFOs are urging concerned citizens to ask County Supervisors, Town Board Members, and City Councillors to pass resolutions supporting a state-wide CAFO moratorium. In California, a report on dairy CAFOs found that “major production externalities are still imposed upon the communities in which Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are located, due in large part to lack of resources, information, enforcement capability and political will on the part of local and regional regulatory agencies.” In Indiana, a report by the Indiana Business Research Center found, “For town residential properties, having the closest RLO [regulated livestock operation, or CAFO] upwind of the residence reduced the sale price by $4,980.00 and if the closest RLO contained dairy cattle, the sale price was further reduced by $32,340.00 for every 100 mature head.” In addition to these concerned citizens, the American Public Health Association has also called for a moratorium on CAFOs.

A majority of Americans say they want more stringent oversight of large-scale livestock operations, according to a national poll by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for a Livable Future released December 10, 2019.

Please cosponsor Senator Booker’s bill, the Farm System Reform Act, which would require that “corporate integrators” are “responsible for pollution and other harm caused by CAFOs” and phase them out by 2040.

Thank you.

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03
Jan

Malibu, California Passes Pesticide Ban in a Big Win for Local Wildlife

(Beyond Pesticides, January 3, 2020) In a hard-earned win, the city of Malibu, California collaborated with the Coastal Commission to ban toxic pesticide use in their community. While the city had already voted to ban all toxic pesticides back in 2016, the state’s pesticide law preempts, or prohibits, a municipality from restricting private use of pesticides more stringently than the state. However, the Coastal Commission, as a state agency that establishes agreements with municipalities—known as a “Local Coastal Program” or “LCP”—circumvents the preemption issue. The  municipal agreement document codifies regulations that are set up between the Coastal Commission and a local jurisdiction.

On December 9, 2019, Malibu City Council unanimously voted to amend Malibu LCP to ban the use of toxic pesticides. Many advocates gave passionate testimony at the voting session, including environmental experts and attorneys that spoke to the legality of the move and the legal protection from predicted pesticide industry backlash.

Activist Joel Schulman of Poison Free Malibu said about the ban, “We’re basing our local coastal program amendment on what [unincorporated L.A.] County did in 2014.” That year, L.A. County and the Coastal Commission banned anticoagulant rodenticides and some toxic pesticides in the unincorporated Santa Monica Mountains Coastal Zone LCP.

In September 2017, a Superior Court rejected a lawsuit challenging the decision and reaffirmed the ability of the Coastal Commission to work with municipalities to restrict pesticide use. “I actually went to the Coastal Commission meeting and asked them to help spread the same kind of prohibitions up and down the coastal zone,” said Mr. Schulman.

While there has been debate on their legal authority, Malibu’s local lawmakers have largely been supportive of promoting this ban. “This has to happen,” said Mayor Pro Tem Mikke Pierson. “If it ends up in some sort of lawsuit we’ll go there. This means everything.”

California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation rejects the new pesticide ban. Spokeswoman Charolette Fadipe wrote in an email to the Los Angeles Times, “We believe [Malibu’s] action exceeds their authority and the proposed ordinance would be preempted.”

Californian advocates have been motivated to act on pesticide reform, particularly regarding rodenticides, to protect wildlife and children. The poisoning of charismatic big cats such as P-22 sparked awareness about the risks of rodenticides. Wildlife are at high risk of secondary poisoning from eating contaminated animals.

“Anticoagulant rodenticides are just one element of the larger problem of long-lasting poisons introduced to our coastal environment that place biological resources and sensitive habitats at risk,” state Senator Henry Stern noted in a letter of support for the Malibu ordinance. “I … encourage you to take the necessary steps to protect our cherished natural habitats and wildlife.”

Even as advocates celebrated this local win, Mayor Karen Farrer called for advocates to keep up pressure regarding state bill AB-1788, to ban virulent, second-generation anticoagulants (SGARs) from both nonagricultural private and public use across the state. Vigilant lobbying by pest control companies caused the bill to stall in committee in August. The bill has been extended a year for further work.

Other groups are in the statewide fight: environmental advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity has sent in an intent to sue California pesticide regulators on some toxic rodenticides and their threat to endangered species such as San Joaquin kit foxes and California condors.

For more information on managing rodent problems without toxic, “super-predator” rodenticides, see Beyond Pesticides ManageSafe webpage. And to promote on-farm reduction of anti-coagulant rodenticides, support organic agriculture, which doesn’t allow this type of rodent poison and requires any measure addressing rodent pests be guided by a pre-determined organic systems plan.

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

Sources: LA Times, M’Online  

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02
Jan

Study Highlights Lasting Benefits of Organic Practices on Soil Health and Crop Productivity

(Beyond Pesticides, January 2, 2020) Organic farming practices enhance soil life, resulting in long-term benefits for soil health that ultimately improve crop productivity, a study published in the journal Agricultural Systems finds. The research, published by scientists at Cornell University, underlines the important role soil-dwelling organisms (SDOs) must play in a sustainable agricultural future. “When I think about crop management, nutrient amendments are not going to be the limiting factor [in crop productivity] for farmers in the U.S.,” said study co-author Ashley Jernigan, a Cornell University graduate student in entomology. “Really, we need to be optimizing these biotic processes in our soil and focusing more on biotic measurements,” Ms. Jernigan said.

Scientists began their research at an experimental farm that, since 2005, had been managed under four different organic cropping systems (reduced tillage, low fertility, high fertility, and enhanced weed management). In 2017, the entire site was plowed under and seeded with sorghum in order to understand how these prior practices affected soil health and crop productivity. The metrics measured by researchers include SDO abundance and community structure, crop productivity, and weed abundance.

These metrics are found to be highly dependent on past management practices. For instance, sorghum planted on the enhanced weed management plot, where the soil was frequently plowed, had fewer weeds, but the SDOs present are those better able to handle disturbances, and less likely to significantly enhance soil health. This contrasts with the reduced tillage plot, which contained an abundance SDOs that enhance microbial activity in the soil and facilitate nutrient cycling. Despite the higher level of weed biomass in the reduced tillage plot when compared to the weed management plot, weeds problems were not overwhelming, and crop productivity was higher with reduced tillage. “If weeds are adequately suppressed, reducing tillage in organic cropping systems can regenerate soil health and increase crop production,” said Cornell professor and study co-author Matthew Ryan, PhD.

The results of this study have important implications for the future of agriculture. As Cornell University notes in its coverage of the research, “The study is important because unsustainable farming practices are depleting soils of biological activity and nutrients, leading to widespread concern about farmers’ ability to grow enough food to keep up with global population growth.”

Thus, this research underscores the importance of a frequently overlooked “limiting factor” in crop productivity – soil health. While chemical-intensive agricultural practices focus on delivering the basic building blocks of plant life – the nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK) – and managing weed and pest problems through chemical pesticides, it all but ignores the soil. Soil in chemical-intensive farming is treated as simply a medium for delivering nutrients, rather than an ecological system that must be considered. In such a backwards system, given that chemical use is harming SDOs and other biological life, such an approach is not surprising.

What scientists found is that crop productivity is closely correlated with specific types of SDOs and the stability of the soil, both of which relate to past management practices. Even within organic systems, different management practices can have different long-term impacts on soil health.

Proponents of chemical-intensive farming often denigrate organic systems for their inability to “feed the world,” while ignoring that it is their harmful practices that are directly undermining the long-term ability to do so. And while yields in conventional systems are plateauing, research on organic systems is still in its infancy. There is no doubt among experts that with additional research like the present study, organic can (and must) feed the world.

For more information about the benefits of organic cropping systems, see Beyond Pesticides Why Organic? webpage.

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

Source: Cornell Chronicle, Agricultural Systems

 

 

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24
Dec

Best Wishes for a Healthy and Happy Holiday Season and New Year

(Beyond Pesticides, December 24, 2019) The staff and board of Beyond Pesticides wish our members and network 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 and families, and protect the local ecology.

Beyond Pesticides’ program responds to the urgent need to address the public health and environmental crises of our times—climate crisis, insect apocalypse, pesticide-induced illness, and the dramatic decline in biodiversity. With on-the-ground practices and local policies, we replace fossil fuel-based, toxic, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers with organic management strategies.

TAKING A STAND

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. We see in the mainstream culture increased understanding that pesticides threaten health, wreak havoc with ecosystems, create imbalances in nature that escalate threats—and are not needed for cost-effective land and building management. Also, reinforced in the last year, is a deep appreciation for the reality that local advocacy drives the changes that are critical to a livable future—scientific facts coupled with action advance the adoption of solutions that are within our reach.

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 current federal administration, 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.

TAKING ACTION IN COMMUNITIES

Local land management and ordinances across the country are just as much about preventing hazards and filling an increasing gap in protection from regulators, as it is about recognizing the viability of sound land management practices. These practices do not use toxic chemicals and result in healthier and more resilient plant life that stands up to stress and is less reliant on limited water resources.

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 nationwide. 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 $50 billion industry and the fastest-growing part of the agricultural economy.

Moving Ahead with Our Goal

Meeting the challenges with a transformative strategy

Our efforts focus on shifting communities’ approach to land and building management to address critical health and environmental issues. To move this goal forward, we carry out activities that advance a holistic awareness of the complex adverse effects and unknowns associated with pesticide-dependent management practices and policies. On a daily basis, we bring attention to and broader understanding of the actual hands-on practices that are protective of health and in sync with nature.

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.

Our organic transition on pilot sites continues in Richmond (CA), University of California Berkeley (CA) and the CA university system, Salt Lake City (UT), Hyattsville (MD), South Portland (ME), Dover and Portsmouth (NH), Longmont (CO), and Maui (HI) and the entire state, including the state school system. New projects have begun in University Heights (OH), South Euclid (OH), Minneapolis (MN), New York City (NY), Pittsburgh (PA), Mt. Pleasant (SC), and Eugene, Springfield, and Talent, OR.

Action of the Week

Action of the Week 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. The actions are generating up to 4,000 participants weekly.

Bee Protective

Protecting pollinators and threatened species; reversing the insect apocalypse

Seeds that Poison

We released our short film, Seeds that Poison, which frames the pollinator issue in the context of pesticide-dependent land management practices that are harmful to biodiversity and positions organic as the solution. The animated short film points to the accumulated studies and data that have found that honey bees and other pollinators, including native bees, butterflies and birds, are in decline. The film complements our tracking of the science documenting the decline and its relationship to pesticide use and the related factors, such as parasites, improper nutrition, stress, and habitat loss.

Keeping Organic Strong

To elevate our voice, Beyond Pesticides announced the formation of a new investigative arm, OrganicEye. This watchdog agency will focus on defending the “time-honored philosophy and legal definition of organic farming and food production.” With Beyond Pesticides’ executive director having served on the National Organic Standards Board, this is a critical time to advocate for organic integrity.

Reports for Change

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. Reports include: Good Health Harmed by a Cascade of Complex Pesticide Effects— Inadequate attention to complex human biology, underestimation of hazards, and the urgent need to transition to organic; Pesticide Exposure and the Obesity Pandemic—Exposures to endocrine disrupting pesticides echo down the generations; Protecting Biodiversity with Organic Practices—Study finds organic farming helps maintain healthy pollinator populations; Pesticide Use Harming Key Species Ripples through the Ecosystem—Regulatory deficiencies cause trophic cascades that threaten species survival; Monsanto: Decades of DeceitGlyphosate/Roundup is the poster child for the bigger pesticide problem; and Thinking Holistically When Making Land Management DecisionsRegulatory analyses that support pesticide use ignore complex ecological impacts.

Center for Community Pesticide and Alternatives Information

Science, policy, and advocacy for change

The Center 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. Our hands-on information through ManageSafe, our database of practical solutions to pest issues is a central clearinghouse of information on eliminating hazardous pesticide use. Our message is getting out through our neighbor-to-neighbor program, having distributed 286 pesticide-free zone signs, and nearly 3,000 doorknob hangers on safe lawns and mosquito management in 43 states.

37th National Pesticide Forum, Organic Strategies for Community Environmental Health: Eliminating pesticides where we live, work, learn and play.

The Forum, held in April 2019, contributed important science and strategy to participants and our extensive video library for pesticide and organic activism. The Forum was convened by Beyond Pesticides and the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai Institute for Exposomic Research at the New York Academy of Medicine in New York, NY. Cosponsors included: Environmental Law Advocates at Fordham University School of LawNo Spray CoalitionGrassroots Environmental EducationNew York Environmental Law and Justice ProjectFriends of Animals, New Yorkers for Pesticide-Free Parks (NYPFP), The Sierra Club NYC GroupSixth Street Community CenterFood and Water Watch in New YorkNYC Grassroots AllianceGarden of Eve Organic Farm & MarketiEatGreenPerfect Earth ProjectBattery Park City AuthorityWE ACT for Environmental JusticeCenter for Earth EthicsBrooklyn Grange Rooftop FarmsNortheast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY)Clean Water Action NJGreen City ForceNewtown Creek Alliance350 NYCGreen Inside and Out.

Watch videos from the Forum — up now on YouTube!

Save the Date—April 17-18, 2020, Boulder, Colorado. We are now planning for the 38th National Pesticide Forum, cultivating Healthy Communities: Collective action for a biodiverse, toxic-free world, convened by Beyond Pesticides and the City of Boulder, Colorado.

Please plan to join us!

Consider a donation to Beyond Pesticides to bring in the new year with the strongest possible voice for an end to toxic pesticide use and the adoption of organic management practices and policies.

We’re taking a break. Daily News and Action of the Week will be back January 2, 2020. See you then.

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23
Dec

Take Action: USDA’s National Organic Program Must Protect Biodiversity

(Beyond Pesticides, December 23, 2019) An unintended consequence of the National Organic Standards, the rules that govern certified organic agricultural production, actually provides an incentive for the conversion of critical ecosystems to organic cropland, fueling deforestation and biodiversity loss.

Tell the National Organic Program to issue regulations that will prevent the conversion of native ecosystems to organic cropland.

One National Organic Program (NOP) requirement for organic certification—a three-year waiting period during which land must be free of disallowed substances—encourages the conversion of critical ecosystems, which do not require the three-year waiting period.

Conversions of native landscapes to working organic land to date include losses of: a California forest, Colorado prairies, a New Mexico wetland, and native sagebrush lands in Washington and Oregon. The Wild Farm Alliance, which provides critical leadership on the issue, points out, “These areas, that were once delivering critical ecosystem services and providing essential habitat for wildlife, are no longer performing the same functions and [it] would take hundreds of years to reverse the damage.”

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which is responsible for advising the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on implementation of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), has been studying this problem since 2009, ultimately resulting in a 2018 recommendation. Beyond Pesticides commented on the proposal, “Despite efforts of organic farmers to build and protect biodiversity, it is unlikely that the organic farm will achieve the same level of biodiversity and ecological resilience as the original ecosystem. On the other hand, the conversion of conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture to organic agriculture provides huge benefits to biodiversity through both the absence of toxic inputs and positive measures to increase biodiversity in soil-based systems that are required by OFPA or its regulations. Therefore, Beyond Pesticides supports efforts by the NOSB to eliminate incentives to convert high-value native land to organic production, as well as to increase incentives to convert chemical-intensive farmland to organic production.”

In May 2018, the NOSB approved (nearly unanimously) the revised, formal Eliminating the Incentive to Convert Native Ecosystems to Organic Production recommendation. Typically, once the NOSB has made a recommendation, NOP puts it on the rulemaking agenda, develops a rule proposal on the basis of the recommendation, solicits public comment, and then develops a final rule. Yet, NOP has taken no action to bring the recommendation into its rulemaking process. Public pressure on USDA is needed to persuade NOP to “do its duty” and bring the NOSB recommendation forward to the rulemaking agenda.

Tell the National Organic Program to issue regulations that will prevent the conversion of native ecosystems to organic cropland.

Letter to USDA

I am very concerned about the failure of the National Organic Program to protect native ecosystems by implementing the NOSB recommendation “Eliminating the Incentive to Convert Native Ecosystems to Organic Production.”

Conversions of native landscapes to working organic land to date include losses of: a California forest, Colorado prairies, a New Mexico wetland, and native sagebrush lands in Washington and Oregon. The Wild Farm Alliance points out, “These areas, that were once delivering critical ecosystem services and providing essential habitat for wildlife, are no longer performing the same functions and [it] would take hundreds of years to reverse the damage.”

Despite efforts of organic farmers to build and protect biodiversity, it is unlikely that the organic farm will achieve the same level of biodiversity and ecological resilience as the original ecosystem. On the other hand, the conversion of conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture to organic agriculture provides huge benefits to biodiversity through both the absence of toxic inputs and positive measures to increase biodiversity in soil-based systems that are required by the Organic Foods Production Act and its regulations.

The NOSB recommended nearly unanimously that NOP should adopt regulations to define “native ecosystems” more specifically and require a 10-year waiting period before such land can be converted into organic cropland. With the crisis in loss of biodiversity that we are experiencing, it is important that organic producers lead the way in protecting the diversity of life.

Please initiate regulations eliminating incentives to convert native ecosystems to organic production as soon as possible.

Thank you.

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20
Dec

USDA Sits on Organic Board Recommendation to Eliminate Unintended Incentive to Convert Native Ecosystems to Organic Production

(Beyond Pesticides, December 20, 2019) Organic advocates are raising the alarm on what may be an unintended consequence of a provision in the National Organic Standards (NOS), the rules that govern certified organic agricultural production. The concern is that one National Organic Program (NOP) requirement for organic certification — a three-year waiting period during which land must be free of disallowed substances — is actually incentivizing the conversion of critical ecosystems, and fueling deforestation and biodiversity loss.

Conversions of native landscapes to working organic land to date include losses of: a California forest, Colorado prairies, a New Mexico wetland, and native sagebrush lands in Washington and Oregon. The Wild Farm Alliance has pointed out that, “These areas, that were once delivering critical ecosystem services and providing essential habitat for wildlife, are no longer performing the same functions and [it] would take hundreds of years to reverse the damage.”

No doubt this development was neither the intention of the NOP rule, nor an anticipated byproduct. But as Civil Eats notes, “USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] organic regulations mandate that farmers must ‘maintain or improve the natural resources’ on their farms, but there is no written requirement that addresses the natural resources that existed before the farm was established. . . . In some places, that three-year transition — in which the farm often has greater costs and sees a drop in yields — has essentially created an unwritten economic incentive to clear untouched ecosystems. In other words, if land that has never been farmed can be certified right away, it’s more profitable to farm that than to wait three years.” Such important native ecosystems will likely need the public’s help to protect them from such conversions.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) was created by Congress via the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). The NOSB is a panel of 15 stakeholder members — from agricultural, environmental advocacy, organic certification, organic retail, food processing, and environmental science sectors — who operate in an advisory capacity to the USDA’S NOP. The NOSB is expected to make recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture on a wide range of issues involving the production, handling, and processing of organic products; it also has some responsibilities related to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances in organic agriculture.

OFPA, as noted in the revised NOSB recommendation, “Include[s] a clear bias towards protection of the natural resources present on an organic operation, including the physical, hydrological, and biological features of the farm. The soil, water, wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife must be maintained or improved by the organic operator through production practices implemented in accordance with the Act and Regulations. This bias towards ecosystem preservation is also found within the organic marketplace with consumer expectations that organic farms and ranches will be examples of excellent land stewardship.” Conversion of native ecosystems, via the “loophole” incentive of the NOP “three year” rule, clearly counters the intent of the organic label.

The NOSB has paid attention to this issue since 2009, and has worked to remedy the three-year loophole, particularly in the past few years, after the Wild Farm Alliance began advocating for the NOSB to be more muscular on the problem. The Wild Farm Alliance advocated for a rule that would not limit the growth of organic agriculture, but that would, instead, redirect growth to the transition of conventionally, chemically managed land. The alliance also maintained that it is unfair to organic producers who have waited three years to transition land to have to compete with those farmers who convert native ecosystems overnight.

Ultimately, the board proposed a revision stipulating that if any land that included native ecosystems were cleared for agricultural production, that land would be ineligible for organic certification for a 10-year period — a much longer wait than the current three years. The aim was to disincentivize the practice of native ecosystem land conversion.

Many public comments and nonprofit advocates supported the recommendation on the principle that organic production practices ought not destroy native ecosystems. However, some organic farmers, as well as the Organic Trade Association and Stonyfield Organic, a large organic food producer, were concerned that this would inappropriately impact some organic producers — especially in the Northeast U.S. In that region, organic farms tend to be small-to-medium-sized operations, some of which encompass forested lands that were once in production, but which have grown back. (In fact, according to a history of New England agriculture and economy, approximately 90% of New England in the mid-19th century was cleared and in agricultural production; a century and a half later, much of that land had been returned to a wooded state.)

Britt Lundgren of Stonyfield said, at the Spring 2018 NOSB meeting, “These farmers are not choosing to log land because the conversion period is faster; it’s the only land that is available for them to expand onto. The primary threat to the health of native ecosystems in the Northeast is not agriculture. It’s development. . . . If organic agriculture is going to remain a viable business in the Northeast in the face of immense development pressure, organic farms need to be able to expand in the most efficient way.”

Beyond Pesticides made comments in March of 2018 on the proposal, including: “Despite efforts of organic farmers to build and protect biodiversity, it is unlikely that the organic farm will achieve the same level of biodiversity and ecological resilience as the original ecosystem. On the other hand, the conversion of conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture to organic agriculture provides huge benefits to biodiversity through both the absence of toxic inputs and positive measures to increase biodiversity in soil-based systems that are required by OFPA or its regulations. Therefore, Beyond Pesticides supports efforts by the NOSB to eliminate incentives to convert high-value native land to organic production, as well as to increase incentives to convert chemical-intensive farmland to organic production.”

It also supported the 10-year period, and recommended, re: greater specificity about native ecosystems, this definition: “Native ecosystems can be recognized in the field as retaining both dominant and characteristic plant species as described by established classifications of natural and semi-natural vegetation. These will tend to be on lands that have not been previously cultivated, cleared, drained, or otherwise irrevocably altered. However, they could include areas that had been substantially altered over 50–100 years ago, but have since recovered expected plant species composition and structure.”

The NOSB then responded to the variety of feedback it received by updating the proposed rule’s language to define “native ecosystems” more specifically; the board believes this will mean the 10-year waiting period would not apply to farmers in such situations who are looking to expand their productive acreage. In May 2018, the NOSB approved (nearly unanimously) the revised, formal liminating the Incentive to Convert Native Ecosystems to Organic Production recommendation. The Wild Farm Alliance supported this revision, as it wrote in its issue brief on the matter.

Typically, once the NOSB has made a recommendation, the NOP puts it on the rulemaking agenda, develops a rule proposal on the basis of the recommendation, solicit public comment, and then develop a final rule. Yet the NOP has taken no action to bring the recommendation into its rulemaking process. This is unfortunately not surprising in the era of the Trump administration, which has been marked by broad efforts to reduce, stall, and sometimes ignore regulation in and across agencies. The USDA is no different in this regard — particularly with Sonny Perdue at the helm of USDA. (He has been criticized by scientists, environmental and health advocates, and small farmers for being anti-science and being far too cozy with industrial interests.)

As noted, public pressure on the USDA may help push NOP to “do its duty” and bring the NOSB recommendation forward to the rulemaking agenda. This is a critical step in protecting at-risk, and nearly irretrievable, native ecosystems. Stay current with advocacy and action on issues in organics through Beyond Pesticides coverage of organics and keeping organic strong.

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

Source: https://civileats.com/2019/12/16/does-a-loophole-in-organic-standards-encourage-deforestation/

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19
Dec

Environmental Group Sues to Ban Rodenticides that Threaten Endangered Species in California

(Beyond Pesticides, December 19, 2019) Identifying ongoing risk to endangered species, the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) announced an intent to sue California pesticide regulators to cancel the registration of four rodenticides in California. The suit seeks to expand the prohibition of use by the general consumer to include agricultural users and licensed pest-control operators. The group calls for protection of the endangered San Joaquin kit foxes, California condors, and 11 other endangered species from these rat poisons.

Rodenticides are grouped into three categories: first-generation anticoagulants, second-generation anticoagulants, and non-anticoagulants. Both first- and second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides interfere with blood clotting in mammals and cause death from hemorrhage. Animals can be poisoned by eating the bait directly, or by consuming a poisoned animal (secondary poisoning). Secondary poisoning poses the greatest risk to wildlife. Second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs), such as brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone and difenacoum, are more likely to cause secondary poisonings because they persist in body tissue for extended periods of time. These four poisons are the focus of this lawsuit.

In 2014, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) banned the use of SGARs for public consumers. Advocates were motivated by the need to protect children and wildlife from these dangerous chemicals. A 2011 Annual Report of the American Association on Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System reported a total of 12,886 rodenticide exposures in the U.S., with nearly 80% of those cases involving children aged five or younger. The death of a charismatic mountain lion, P-22, from exposure to anticoagulant pesticides drew widespread attention and motivated public action. However, simply banning private use of these toxic chemicals does not adequately protect wildlife.

In 2018, CDPR analyzed 11 wildlife studies and found evidence of second-generation anticoagulants in 88% bobcats and 90% of mountain lions that were tested.  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife found SGARs in 92% of the 68 tested dead mountain lions. This March, the National Park Service found the remains of P-47, a 150-pound mountain lion, after his collar sent a “mortality signal.” The necropsy discovered internal hemorrhaging in the lion’s head and lungs, and lab results showed a cocktail of six different anticoagulant compounds from rat poisons.

“There was no indication that he was unwell,” National Park Service spokeswoman Kate Kuykendall said of P-47. “And visibly he looked fine in the photos we were getting. Unless the animal develops mange, there’s really no way to know that a mountain lion is being poisoned until it’s too late.”

Advocates put their efforts behind a state bill, AB 1788, that would have banned SGARs. It was killed for the year in August when the bill’s author Rep. Bloom pulled the bill from the Senate Appropriations Committee, largely due to vigilant lobbying by pest control groups.

The lawsuit seeks to require CDPR to enforce the Endangered Species Act by and remove these dangerous pesticides out of circulation in the state of California. CBD put forth in its 60-day notice the claim that ESA-listed species are frequently poisoned and killed by SGARs, citing data from the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Parks and Recreation, and independent scientific research.  

Jonathan Evans, legal director of the Center’s environmental health program, stated, “We must put an end to the slow, painful deaths of wildlife from these reckless super-toxic poisons. With safer alternatives on the market today, it’s time for California to prohibit these dangerous poisons.”

For more information on managing rodent problems without toxic, “super-predator” rodenticides, see Beyond Pesticides ManageSafe webpage. And to promote on-farm reduction of anti-coagulant rodenticides, support organic agriculture, which doesn’t allow this type of rodent poison and requires any measure addressing rodent pests be guided by a pre-determined organic systems plan.

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

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

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18
Dec

France Withdraws Approval of 36 Glyphosate-Based Weed Killer Products

(Beyond Pesticides, December 18, 2019) France is making headlines this month in the great, global glyphosate (Roundup) debate. Last week, the French health and safety agency, ANSES (Agence Nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environment et du travail or the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety), made preliminary decisions within its review of authorizations for the 69 glyphosate (Roundup) weed killer products allowed for sale in the country. ANSES called for immediate withdrawal of authorization for 36 of those products “due to a lack or absence of scientific data which would allow all genotoxical risk to be ruled out.” The agency also announced it has denied authorization of 4 out of 11 glyphosate-based products submitted for approval since January, 2018.

According to ANSES, the 36 pesticides taken off the market represent almost 75% of glyphosate-based products sold in France for both agricultural and non-agricultural uses. The agency strengthened its framework for requirements regarding glyphosate following the 2017 European Union (EU) re-evaluation and 5-year approval of the active ingredient glyphosate. ANSES now requires that companies provide additional data considering health and environmental risks, particularly regarding genotoxicity. The provisions mandate specific studies be carried out using “standardized and robust methods.”

French president Emmanuel Macron had promised in 2017 to phase out all uses of glyphosate-based weed killers by 2021, but in January of this year reversed himself, stating, “I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not true.” During a public debate, he said that if the ban moved forward he would be “completely killing some sectors.” After that declaration, advocates vowed to use a January court decision to go after glyphosate-based products in the market; A court in Lyon ruled at the beginning of the year that the 2017 approval of Roundup360 had not respected a “precautionary principle” in failing to consider potential health risks. From the recent evidence, it seems that the tactic is working.

Glyphosate is a broadleaf herbicide that is determined a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization. It has garnered worldwide controversy due to environmental concerns and high-profile lawsuits. However, government action has been hard-won in only some countries. In Europe, particularly, the deliberation on this popular toxic product is lively. In 2018, six ministers of agriculture or environment from France, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Malta signed a letter to EU officials asking for the EU executive to conduct a study and investigate alternatives. They asked for an “exit plan” from the use of glyphosate-based products.

Some countries within the EU have gone further by taking matters into their own legislation:

  • Austria: Austria announced a plan to ban glyphosate within the year in June of 2019 and was set to implement the ban beginning January 1, 2019. However, a legal roadblock popped up in December of 2019 because the country didn’t notify the EU’s executive commission of the draft law. It is not immediately clear what will become of the ban.
  • Belgium: Proposed ban on individual, non-professional use of glyphosate in 2017 and began enforcing the ban in 2018.
  • Czech Republic: Put strict restrictions on the use of glyphosate in 2018. The Agricultural Minister Miroslav Toman stated they “will only be employed in cases when no other efficient method can be used.”
  • Denmark: Applied new rules in 2018 restricting use on post-emergent crops.
  • France: President Emanuel Macron promised a ban by 2021 but has since retracted that deadline. 36 of the 69 glyphosate-based products being reviewed by the health and safety agency ANSES have been banned.
  • Germany: Bayer’s home country is in the process of phasing out glyphosate use, to end in a permanent ban in 2023.
  • Italy: The Ministry of Health banned glyphosate use in public areas and as a pre-harvest spray in 2016.
  • Netherlands: Instated a ban on all non-commercial uses of glyphosate-based herbicides in 2015.

With all the increased attention on glyphosate and its risks, there is more reason than ever to advocate for its elimination. However, Beyond Pesticides, invites the public to beware of replacements — a different toxic pesticide is not necessarily better. We urge those concerned about glyphosate exposure to support organic systems that do not rely on hazardous, carcinogenic pesticide alternatives. To learn about all the reasons to “go organic” and advocate for organic integrity, see Eating with a Conscience and Keeping Organic Strong.

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

Sources: Reuters, Bloomberg, Sustainable Pulse, Baum Hedlund Law

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17
Dec

South Asian Immigrants Exposed to DDT at Higher Risk of Diabetes

(Beyond Pesticides, December 17, 2019) South Asian immigrants to the U.S. may be at increased risk of diabetes due to prior exposure to high levels of DDT, research published by the University of California Davis earlier this month indicates. The study highlights a blind spot for health care in the U.S., researchers say. “Our findings evoke a new interpretation of Rachel Carson’s famous book Silent Spring, in that the high DDT exposures of South Asian immigrants in the U.S. currently fall on deaf ears in the U.S.,” said lead author Michele La Merrill, PhD an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Environmental Toxicology. “Although DDT remains in use in other nations and migration globalizes these exposures, people in the U.S. often mistakenly regard DDT exposure as no longer relevant to our society due to its ban in this country nearly 50 years ago.”

When compared to other race and ethnic groups, South Asian immigrants (individuals from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan), are at greater risk of developing diabetes, even when adjusting for potential confounders such as age and obesity. Authors of the study hypothesized that this was a result of past exposure to high levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), as past studies have found strong connections between POP exposures and the disease.

Researchers tested their inference by enrolling 147 participants living in the San Francisco Bay Area, aged 45 to 84. Each individual underwent a battery of tests, including blood sugar and diabetes status, body weight, and blood plasma levels of various POPs.

Levels of POPs in study participants were considerably higher than amounts detected in the average American population, even though most immigrants tested had been in the U.S. for an average of 26 years. Higher blood plasma levels of DDT correspond with an increased likelihood an individual is obese, has prediabetes or diabetes, and has fatty liver, even when adjusting for age, sex, years in the U.S., education level, and amount of fish protein consumed on average. Importantly, researchers found DDT is associated with higher levels of liver fat and circulating insulin independent of whether an individual is obese, indicating a strong link between the chemical and disease.

Despite the U.S. ban of DDT, its use has continued around the globe, and in particular on the Indian subcontinent where it is still used as a mosquito adulticide. Given the strong propensity for the chemical to bind to fat, it is not surprising that individuals are dealing with the effects of exposure that occurred decades ago.

DDT and other chlorinated POPs have been linked to diabetes in the past. A 2013 study found individuals with higher concentrations of DDT are four times more likely to develop type two diabetes than those with lower rates. A 2010 study found that even low-dose exposure to certain POPs may play a role in the increased incidences of diabetes. And a separate study released in 2011 found that elderly individuals who had been exposed to organochlorine pesticides are up to three times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

DDT has long been connected to a wide array of human health problems beyond diabetes. A long line of recent studies associated with the negative health effects of DDT include non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as well as breast cancer, autism, reproductive problems, and Vitamin D deficiency. Research from Washington State University in 2013 found that DDT can result in multi-generational impacts that increase the chance that the great grandchildren of exposed individuals will become obese.

Hundreds of billions of dollars of health care costs are spent each year treating diabetes in the US. It is critical that we invest in understanding the etiology of the disease, as well as focus on ways to prevent future cases. With far too many diseases in the US associated with pesticide exposure, reducing the use of these toxins in the management of pests is a critically important aspect of safeguarding public health and addressing cost burdens for local communities, particular those that are minority and underserved. Learn more about the dangers both past and present pesticide use pose through Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database.

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

Source: UC Davis, Environmental Science and Technology

 

 

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16
Dec

Help Ban Predator Poisons

(Beyond Pesticides, December 16, 2019) Thousands of wild and domestic carnivores will continue to be poisoned by hydrogen cyanide after the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) re-approved the use of M-44 “cyanide bombs” earlier this month. Cyanide bombs are small, poison-filled land mines baited with food and placed on rural land with the intent of killing predators that prey on grazing livestock. Along with the extremely toxic Compound 1080, these bombs threaten both domestic and wild non-target animals.

Tell your Congressional Representative to support H.R. 2471, banning the use of Compound 1080 and M-44 cyanide bombs for predator control. Thank those who have already co-sponsored.

Everything is wrong with the use of these poisons.

They poison non-target animals, including humans and pets. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, M-44s killed 13,232 animals in 2017. Of these, more than 200 deaths were nontarget animals, including family dogs, a wolf, opossums, raccoons, ravens, and skunks. Wildlife Services is one of the agencies allowed to set M-44s, and is notorious for poor data collection. Compound 1080 is one of the deadliest poisons on earth and has no antidote. It is now allowed to be used in the U.S. only in bladders worn as collars by livestock. Although a few predators are poisoned when they puncture the bladders, other animals are killed through secondary poisoning when they consume the carcasses of poisoned animals.

They promote livestock production by absentee ranchers—mostly on public lands—who set loose animals to graze without watching over them. Alternatives to poisons include human presence (shepherds), predator-proof fencing, guard animals, electronic sound and light devices, biological odor repellents, night penning, shed lambing, and carcass removal. Unlike poisons, all of these alternatives carry the additional benefit of being non-lethal.

They kill predators who are an essential part of the ecology. After many years of killing wolves, Aldo Leopold came to understand the need for them:

I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades. So also with cows. The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf’s job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.

Public sentiment is overwhelmingly opposed to the use of the poisons. Of more than 22,400 people who submitted comments on EPA’s proposal on the cyanide bombs, only ten asked the EPA to renew its registration of M-44s. Despite this overwhelming public opposition, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is renewing the products with only minor changes to the labels that govern their use.

A bi-partisan bill introduced by Rep Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL),  in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2019, will eliminate the use cyanide bombs and compound 1080.

Tell your Congressional Representative to cosponsor H.R. 2471, banning the use of Compound 1080 and M-44 cyanide bombs for predator control. Thank those who have already co-sponsored.

Letter to Congress

Thank you.

I am writing to thank you for co-sponsoring H.R. 2471, the Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2019, which will eliminate the use of Compound 1080 and M-44 cyanide bombs for predator control.

Or request to sign on:

I am writing to ask you to co-sponsor H.R. 2471, the Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2019, which will eliminate the use of Compound 1080 and M-44 cyanide bombs for predator control.

Unless it is passed, thousands of wild and domestic carnivores will continue to be poisoned by hydrogen cyanide after EPA re-approved the use of M-44 “cyanide bombs” earlier this month. Cyanide bombs are small, poison-filled land mines baited with food and placed on rural land with the intent of killing predators that prey on grazing livestock. Along with the

extremely toxic Compound 1080, these bombs threaten both domestic and wild non-target animals.

Everything is wrong with the use of these poisons.

* They poison non-target animals, including humans and pets. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, M-44s killed 13,232 animals in 2017. Of these, more than 200 deaths were nontarget animals, including family dogs, a wolf, opossums, raccoons, ravens, and skunks. Wildlife Services is one of the agencies allowed to set M-44s, and is notorious for poor data collection. Compound 1080 is one of the deadliest poisons on earth and has no antidote. It is now allowed to be used in the U.S. only in bladders worn as collars by livestock. Although a few predators are poisoned when they puncture the bladders, other animals are killed through secondary poisoning when they consume the carcasses of poisoned animals.

* They promote livestock production by absentee ranchers—mostly on public lands—who set loose animals to graze without watching over them. Alternatives to poisons include human presence (shepherds), predator-proof fencing, guard animals, electronic sound and light devices, biological odor repellents, night penning, shed lambing, and carcass removal. Unlike poisons, all of these alternatives carry the additional benefit of being non-lethal.

* They kill predators who are an essential part of the ecology. After many years of killing wolves, Aldo Leopold came to understand the need for them:

“I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades. So also with cows. The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf’s job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.”

Public sentiment is overwhelmingly opposed to the use of the poisons. Of more than 22,400 people who submitted comments on EPA’s proposal on the cyanide bombs, only ten asked the EPA to renew its registration of M-44s. Despite this overwhelming public opposition, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is renewing the products with only minor changes to the labels that govern their use.

H.R. 2471, the Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2019, will eliminate the use cyanide bombs and compound 1080 as predator poisons. Please co-sponsor H.R. 2471.

Sincerely,

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