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Daily News Blog

27
Mar

Safer Practices and Disinfectants for Coronavirus Identified by CDC, As EPA Advances Toxic Products, Suspends Public Health and Environmental Protections

(Beyond Pesticides, March 27, 2020) Faced with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) threat, there is tremendous pressure to use toxic disinfectants, despite the availability of safer products. In fact, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending 70% alcohol for surface disinfection, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs is advising the use of unnecessarily toxic substances, and reducing standards that govern their allowance on the market. EPA’s pesticide program allowed 70 new disinfectants yesterday, at the same time that the agency overall announced that it is waiving enforcement of environmental standards during the coronavirus outbreak—a devastating blow to public health and environmental protection.

Beyond Pesticides, in its factsheet, Protecting Yourself from COVID-19 (coronavirus) without Toxic Sanitizers and Disinfectants, says, “Fight the coronavirus with common sense prevention and safer disinfection products. Avoid products that increase vulnerability to respiratory problems.” (See the factsheet below.)

To some extent, the expanded allowance of disinfection products on top of the 281 disinfectants previously permitted has been made possible by relaxing oversight on so-called “inert” or other ingredients that are not disclosed on product labels and often highly toxic. The agency says it is allowing the use of these “inerts” with “no significant differences” compared to already-approved ingredients. Since inerts are not disclosed to the public and subject to limited EPA oversight, identifying potential contaminants or hazardous byproducts is critical to determining product safety.

According to The Hill newspaper, “EPA issued a sweeping suspension of its enforcement of environmental laws Thursday [March 26], telling companies they would not need to meet environmental standards during the coronavirus outbreak.” Specific to surface disinfectants, EPA announced the following yesterday:

“Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took steps to provide additional flexibilities to manufacturers of disinfectants and other pesticides. EPA intends for these flexibilities to increase the availability of products for Americans to use against the novel coronavirus.”

EPA is responsible for regulating surface disinfectants, while the Food and Drug Administration regulates hand sanitizers. Without adequate regulations and given the availability of safer alternative disinfectants, people, as well as local and state governments, are urged to take protective action. See Beyond Pesticides factsheet.

___________

Protecting Yourself from COVID-19 (coronavirus) without Toxic Sanitizers and Disinfectants.

Fight the coronavirus with common sense prevention and safer disinfection products. Avoid products that increase vulnerability to respiratory problems.             

WHY THE CONCERN ABOUT TOXIC SANITIZERS AND DISINFECTION PRODUCTS

We have learned through the COVID-19 crisis that there are people who are more vulnerable to the effects of the virus. These are generally people who have a pre-existing condition or are of advanced age, who may have a weakened immune or respiratory system. With the management of viral and bacterial infections, it is always important that we do not exacerbate the risk to individuals in the process of avoiding or controlling the threat. In the case of COVID-19, we have measures of protection—both practices and products—that can protect us without using toxic products that increase risk factors.

PREVENTION

The good news is that toxic chemicals are not necessary to prevent exposure to COVID-19 and eliminate the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges simple measures to prevent exposure:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

 How it works: The best way to prevent any infectious disease transmission is to stay out of contact with those who have already contracted the disease.

HAND CLEANING AND SANITIZING

Eliminating the Virus on Hands

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. (See list of products below.) Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

How it works: Soap breaks down the virus’s fat membrane—and the infectious material falls apart—as long as you rub the soap on your hands for at least 20 seconds. Alcohol wipes with 60% alcohol do the same thing. These chemicals break down the virus by a similar process, by breaking down the lipid covering of the virus. [1]                                                       

Only products with active ingredients ethanol, isopropanol, or benzalkonium chloride can qualify as “hand sanitizers” according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). An alcohol-based hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol in order to be effective.[2] Glycerol or aloe as part of the remainder can help counter the drying effects of alcohol on the skin.

The Bad: Toxic Sanitizers

Avoid hand sanitizers containing benzalkonium chloride (BAC), which is a quaternary ammonium compound (or “quat”). It is an irritant that can cause asthmatic reactions and adversely affect the respiratory system.[3],[4] BAC is also associated with changes in neurodevelopment,[5] selection for antibiotic resistance,[6] and provoking irritant and/or contact dermatitis.[7]

DISINFECTING SURFACES

Eliminating the Virus on Surfaces

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using regular household cleaning sprays or wipes that contain 70% alcohol. (See list of products below.)

Like handwashing with soap or wipes with 60% alcohol, the virus on surfaces can be detached and broken down with soap and alcohol. [8]

The Good: Natural-based substances tend to be safer, while still effective at eliminating the virus on surfaces. Look for products with the following active ingredients (* indicates listed by EPA’s Design for the Environment Program (DfE)[9]):

Citric acid*
Ethanol*
Isopropanol*
L-lactic acid*
Hydrogen peroxide*
Sodium bisulfate*
Thymol

The Bad: EPA has approved a long list of products[10] that will eliminate the COVID-19 virus on surfaces. The list includes products containing toxic chemicals, such as chlorine bleach, peroxyacetic acid, quaternary ammonium compounds or “quats,” sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione, and hydrochloric acid. Exposure to these chemicals are associated with a long list of adverse effects, from asthma to cancer.[11],[12]

Avoid products containing:

Peroxyacetic acid (peracetic acid)[13]
Chlorine compounds (sodium hypochlorite, hypochlorous acid, sodium chlorite)
Sodium Dichloro-S-Triazinetrione
Quaternary Ammonium compounds (quats)
Phenolic compounds
Glycolic acid
Octanoic acid[14]

All of these ingredients are associated with harm to the respiratory system.[15],[16],[17],[18],[19],[20] In addition, some quats have been shown to cause mutations, lower fertility, and increase antibiotic resistance.[21] Phenolic compounds include a wide range of toxic chemicals, including cresols, hexachlorobenzene, and chlorophenols. Health effects from breathing or exposure to the skin include headaches, burning eyes, muscle tremors, skin burns, irregular heart beat, severe injury to heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs, cancer, and death.[22],[23]

STAY SAFE

It is important during public health emergencies involving infectious diseases to scrutinize practices and products very carefully so that hazards presented by the crisis are not elevated because of the unnecessary threat introduced with toxic chemical use.

References
[1] Pall Thordarson, 2020. The science of soap – here’s how it kills the coronavirus. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/12/science-soap-kills-coronavirus-alcohol-based-disinfectants. See also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2pMVimI2bw&feature=youtu.be.
[2] CDC Statement for Healthcare Personnel on Hand Hygiene during the Response to the International Emergence of COVID-19. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/infection-control/hcp-hand-sanitizer.html.
[3] https://prhe.ucsf.edu/sites/g/files/tkssra341/f/Fact%20Sheet_Information%20for%20Workers.pdf.
[4] Choi, H.Y., Lee, Y.H., Lim, C.H., Kim, Y.S., Lee, I.S., Jo, J.M., Lee, H.Y., Cha, H.G., Woo, H.J. and Seo, D.S., 2020. Assessment of respiratory and systemic toxicity of Benzalkonium chloride following a 14-day inhalation study in rats. Particle and Fibre Toxicology, 17(1), p.5. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12989-020-0339-8
[5] Herron, J.M., 2019. The Effects of Benzalkonium Chloride Disinfectants on Lipid Homeostasis and Neurodevelopment (Doctoral dissertation).
[6] Kim, M., Weigand, M.R., Oh, S., Hatt, J.K., Krishnan, R., Tezel, U., Pavlostathis, S.G. and Konstantinidis, K.T., 2018. Widely used benzalkonium chloride disinfectants can promote antibiotic resistance. Applied and environmental microbiology, 84(17), pp.e01201-18.
[7] Lachenmeier, D.W., 2016. Antiseptic Drugs and Disinfectants. In Side Effects of Drugs Annual (Vol. 38, pp. 211-216). Elsevier.
[8] Kampf, G., Todt, D., Pfaender, S. and Steinmann, E., 2020. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and its inactivation with biocidal agents. Journal of Hospital Infection.
[9] https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-labels/design-environment-logo-antimicrobial-pesticide-products.
[10] https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2.
[11] https://prhe.ucsf.edu/sites/g/files/tkssra341/f/Fact%20Sheet_Information%20for%20Workers.pdf.
[12] Agency on Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 2008. ToxFAQs for Chlorophenol. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp107-c1.pdf.
[13] Peracetic acid is on EPA’s DfE list, but is considered to pose an asthma risk.
[14]Octanoic acid is listed on EPA’s Safer Chemical Ingredients List under surfactants, which are listed based on environmental toxicity and biodegradation. But it is corrosive to skin https://echa.europa.eu/registration-dossier/-/registered-dossier/15370/7/3/1.
[15] https://prhe.ucsf.edu/sites/g/files/tkssra341/f/Fact%20Sheet_Information%20for%20Workers.pdf.
[16] Holm, S.M., Leonard, V., Durrani, T. and Miller, M.D., 2019. Do we know how best to disinfect child care sites in the United States? A review of available disinfectant efficacy data and health risks of the major disinfectant classes. American journal of infection control, 47(1), pp.82-91.
[17] Agency on Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 2008. ToxFAQs for Phenol. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/TF.asp?id=147&tid=27.
[18] Weiselberg, R. and Nelson, L.S., 2011. A Toxic Swimming Pool Hazard. EMERGENCY MEDICINE. https://mdedge-files-live.s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/files/s3fs-public/Document/September-2017/043040019.pdf.
[19] Glycolic acid MSDS.
https://www.cdhfinechemical.com/images/product/msds/18_352140617_GlycolicAcid-CASNO-79-14-1-MSDS.pdf.
[20] European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), Octanoic Acid Registration Dossier. https://echa.europa.eu/registration-dossier/-/registered-dossier/15370/7/3/1
[21] Holm, S.M., Leonard, V., Durrani, T. and Miller, M.D., 2019. Do we know how best to disinfect child care sites in the United States? A review of available disinfectant efficacy data and health risks of the major disinfectant classes. American journal of infection control, 47(1), pp.82-91. https://www.ajicjournal.org/article/S0196-6553(18)30731-4/fulltext#sec0018.
[22] Agency on Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 2008. ToxFAQs for Phenol. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/TF.asp?id=147&tid=27
[23] Agency on Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 2008. ToxFAQs for Chlorophenol. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp107-c1.pdf.

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

Source: The Hill, CDC, EPA

 

 

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26
Mar

Toxic Textiles Infused with Antimicrobial Nanosilver Poised for EPA Pesticide Registration

(Beyond Pesticides, March 26, 2020) An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determination could allow toxic antimicrobial nanosilver to be registered for use in textiles, including clothing, according to Bloomberg Environment. Nanotechnology products harm humanenvironmental, and animal health. Despite this, EPA’s preliminary conclusion approves the registration of nanosilver-containing Polyguard as a textile “protectant.” 

Public challenges have blocked nanosilver registration in the past when courts found EPA lacks the authority to register these toxic particles. “They’ve failed to collect data about potential exposure routes for nanosilver products, including textiles, which toddlers or pets could chew or put in their mouths,” says Jaydee Hanson, policy director at the Center for Food Safety. “Another challenge is how do you accurately test the actual product and what data do you have which suggests that other kinds of nanosilver work the same way?” 

Nanosilver, or silver nanoparticles, are microscopic particles that are used as antimicrobials, which kill bacteria and fungi. They range in size from 1-100 nanometers (nm) across or 0.1% the diameter of a human hair.  Some research attributes nanosilver toxicity impacts to its small size, which allows it to be absorbed through the skin and enter the bloodstream and lymphatic system to disrupt normal organ function. The use of nanosilver for commercial consumption increases exposure to humans through ingestion, absorption, and inhalation. 

2017 lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Food Safety successfully disputed EPA on the conditional registration of the nanosilver-based NSPW-L30SS. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against EPA since there was no evidence of “public interest.” Advocates argue that consumer goods infused with nanosilver have no place in the consumer market and EPA should deny registration of nanosilver-based Polyguard as a pesticide. 

Nanosilver has antimicrobial properties that control the growth of odorous bacteria, mold, fungus, algae, and mildew on consumer products. Various consumer goods incorporate silver nanoparticles, such as clothing, kitchenware, toys, and cosmetics. Though EPA now restricts nanosilver use to fewer products, the agency plans to approve Polyguard (a product containing nanosilver) for use in finished textiles. 

In nanoscale form, silver tends to have higher toxicity than other metals. Many of the nanosilver products for commercial use disperse into the environment via drains. Washing nanosilver products, like textiles, deposit nanoparticles into the water waste and surface waters. So, while nanosilver has natural antibiotic properties, nanosilver exposure creates a myriad of health risks in humansanimals, and the environment.

To learn more concerning nanosilver toxicity to human, animal health, and the environment, visit Beyond Pesticides’ antibacterial webpage. Precautions against nanoparticle toxicity involve knowledge of what products to buy to reduce the risk of exposure. The Center for Food Safety hosts a comprehensive list of nanosilver products to avoid. The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies hosts an expansive, dynamic list of all nanosilver-based materials in consumer products. For more information about nanoparticle regulation, visit the nanosilver regulatory issues page. 

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

Sources: Bloomberg  Environment IOPScienceFrontiersSpringer

 

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25
Mar

Trump Administration’s Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Planting of Genetically Engineered Crops in Southeast National Wildlife Refuges

(Beyond Pesticides, March 25, 2020) The Trump administration’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is moving forward with a proposal to grow genetically engineered crops (GECs) on national wildlife refuges in the Southeast United States. The draft environmental assessment allows wildlife to consume pesticide-laden produce, considers chemical-intensive genetically engineered crops no less damaging to the environment than “non-use of GECs,” and permits and escalation of climate change with toxic pesticide use increases. USFW’s proposal fails to mention the success of organic agriculture and consider it as one of the alternative management strategies. The proposal is up for public comment until April 10, 2020.

In 2014, public pressure and lawsuits by environmental groups led to the Obama administration’s decision to phase out GE crops and ban neonicotinoid insecticide use on national wildlife refuges. On August 2, 2018, the Trump administration’s USFWS issued a memorandum that reversed the prohibition. The reversal allows the refuge system to make decisions on the use of GECs and neonics on a case-by-case basis in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which is also under attack by the Trump administration. The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, and others quickly challenged the 2018 reversal memorandum with an ongoing lawsuit.

USFWS’ Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) recommends opening up southeast national wildlife refuges to the use of GECs as a support to wildlife. “Most refuges that use agriculture as a management tool do so in cooperation with local farmers in order to meet our habitat and wildlife management objectives,” states the proposal, “In exchange for use of the land, growers leave a percentage of the crops in the field as forage for wildlife.” The Center for Biological Diversity reports that about 44,000 acres of refuge land in the Southeastern Region are used for agriculture, and the most common crops are corn, soybeans, and rice.

Agrichemical companies engineer seeds to tolerate toxic herbicide and insecticide applications. “Roundup ready” seeds, for example, pair with Bayer/Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer product. The active ingredient, glyphosate, is the most commonly used pesticide in the world and a probable human carcinogen, according to the World Health Organization.

The draft proposal cites the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for regulation as appropriate for environmental protection, but advocates argue that the current regulatory system is insufficient, industry-influenced, full of loopholes, and does not meet NEPA standards. The “treated articles exemption” allows systemic insecticides, like neonicotinoid treated seeds, to be used without regulating or labeling them as required under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

Commodity crop GE seeds such as corn and soybeans are often coated with neonicotinoid insecticides which become endemic to the plant. Neonics are neurotoxic, water-soluble, and linked to deleterious impacts on public health and biodiversity. Neonic-treated seeds are poisonous to migratory birds; a 2019 study in Science found their consumption to be related to reduced weight, delayed travel, and lowered chances of survival. Soon after that study was published, scientists revealed that three billion birds have been lost since 1970 due to compounding factors, such as pesticide use and climate change. EPA does not currently assess adverse effects wrought by widespread use of treated seeds, resulting in pervasive contamination.

“We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis,” says Ben Prater, southeast program director at Defenders of Wildlife. “Industrial agriculture with pesticide-intensive genetically engineered crops has no place on national wildlife refuges dedicated to conservation of our most vulnerable species, including pollinators like hummingbirds, bumble bees and monarch butterflies.”

USFWS’ PEA notes the adverse impact of “commercial pesticides” (and their citations read “neonics”). Remarkably, the authors argue that genetically engineered crops, as opposed to “non-GEC,” use fewer commercial pesticides. “Non-GEC” evidently does not consider research regarding organic agriculture, a $50-billion industry.

“Proposing that allowing GECs would benefit birds on a national wildlife refuge is misleading,” says Barbara Dale, Beyond Pesticides’ Marketing and Public Education Manager. “The use of pesticide-resistant and pesticide-treated seeds will only serve to further poison an already beleaguered environment in a time of cascading crises.”

USFW’s draft proposal names climate change as both an unavoidable threat and a reason to ramp up toxic pesticide use. “Changes in climate are expected to continue to cause a general increase in the expansion of weeds and pests. Adaptive responses will be required to mitigate the potentially adverse impacts of these increases on crop yields and production costs (Backlund et al. 2008, IPCC 2014).”

Advocates argue that adaptive responses to climate change should promote organic agriculture. Not only do organic, no-till practices reduce pollution and wildlife poisoning, they  store carbon more readily than chemical-intensive agriculture. Insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and synthetic fertilizers disrupt healthy soil microbial communities and hinder carbon-capturing, symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi. What more, organic agriculture provides refuge for biodiversity in an increasingly toxic, chemical-intensive landscape, while turning a higher profit for farmers.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a public comment period for its proposal to plant genetically engineered (GE) crops on national wildlife refuges. They will accept input through April 10, 2020. Stay tuned to Beyond Pesticides’ Action of the Week for opportunities to plug into this and other responsive measures, such as Rep. Nydia Velazquez’s H.R. 2854, “To amend the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 to prohibit the use of neonicotinoids in a National Wildlife Refuge, and for other purposes,” and the Saving America’s Pollinator’s Act (SAPA). SAPA would place another layer of review on EPA’s assessments by an independent panel of experts not subject to the influence of the pesticide industry. Under this legislation, experts would consider impacts outside of EPA’s current reviews, including indirect, ecosystem-wide effects to pollinators and their habitat, pesticide synergism, and the availability of alternative products on the market. Click here to tell your rep to join as a cosponsor to SAPA.

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

Sources: Center for Biological Diversity, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 

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24
Mar

Maryland Legislature Passes Limited Ban on Chlorpyrifos Insecticide

(Beyond Pesticides, March 24, 2020) Last week, Maryland became the latest state to prohibit use of the brain-damaging insecticide chlorpyrifos, after a measure cleared both the state Senate and House. Although the legislation implements a limited ban that sunsets after four years, advocates consider this action a step in the right direction that will protect the health and safety of Maryland residents. “Even amidst our current public health crisis, the Maryland legislature acted to protect all Marylanders’ health for years to come by banning this toxic pesticide, and we are so grateful,” said Ruth Berlin, Executive Director of the Maryland Pesticide Education Network to WBOC.

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide known to inhibit the proper nerve functioning by affecting the enzyme acetylcholine esterase. The impacts of this pesticide are particularly concerning for young children, as research finds that children exposed to high levels of chlorpyrifos had mental development delays, attention problems, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder problems, and pervasive developmental disorder problems at three years of age.

While Maryland is the fourth state to restrict the use of chlorpyrifos, it is the second to implement these restrictions through legislation. In California, the state Department of Pesticide Regulation is implementing a phase out of most uses through a rulemaking process. The state of New York was poised to follow Hawaii, the first state to ban the chemical through legislation, but Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) issued veto and instead directed a phaseout through rulemaking.  

Maryland’s law bans chlorpyrifos for four years before a sunset clause comes into effect, meaning that the legislative ban will end after this period. However, at the same time as this legislation worked its way through the legislature, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced a rulemaking process to prohibit use of the chemical. Advocates are hopeful that the administrative restrictions will be completed by the time the legislative ban sunsets, but generally saw this approach as an attempt to stymie lawmaker efforts. “MDA is simply not equipped financially or with expertise to develop and defend a regulation banning chlorpyrifos,” Smart on Pesticides, the coalition group pushing for pesticide restrictions in the state, told Maryland Matters.

The lawmaker ban also provides limited exemptions for chlorpyrifos use on the trunks of fruit trees and to snap beans grown in the state. It establishes a working group funded by the state that includes state agencies, industry proponents, nonprofit advocacy groups, and health professionals, with the aim of assisting growers in transitioning to alternatives. The bill will now head to Governor Larry Hogan for final signature.

As more and more states, such as Connecticut, Oregon, and New Jersey consider chlorpyrifos bans, the major manufacturer, Corteva (formerly DowDupont), announced it would stop producing the chemical by the end of the year. Despite this major disruption to the market, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is refusing to cancel chloryprifos’ federal registration. This approach at the national level stands in stark contrast to a move by the European Union, which decided not to renew approval following a comprehensive analysis from the European Food Safety Authority.

The impacts of continued use of chlorpyrifos and other pesticides in the organophosphate class are stark. A study published earlier this year found that these insecticides result in 26 million lost IQ points and over 110,000 cases of intellectual disability each year. If the human factor somehow doesn’t sway concern over these highly toxic chemicals, note that this totals approximately $735 billion in economic costs annually to the economy.

Last month, Corteva announced it will stop producing chlorpyrifos by the end of this year as a result of declining sales. Despite the move being in the interest of public health, the company is earning little praise from health advocates for what amounts to simply a shrewd financial decision. As news articles on the announcement have noted, Corteva will continue to support EPA registration of chlorpyrifos, which allows generic manufacturers to continue to sell this brain-damaging chemical.

Organic agriculture proves that hazardous pesticides, like chlorpyrifos, are unnecessary to grow crops that meet the demand for residents in the U.S. and around the world. Although organic agriculture is growing globally, there is still significant progress that needs to be made to expand cropland and incentivize farmers to transition away from chemical-intensive practices. The failure of EPA to adequately restrict chlorpyrifos exemplifies a dramatically broken regulatory system with hundreds of hazardous pesticides permitted for use that pose a range of  public health and environmental threats. To reject these hazardous pesticides, you can help push for long needed changes– join Beyond Pesticides in telling Congress to help organic farmers hurt by the pandemic today.  

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

Source: WBOC

 

 

 

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23
Mar

Farmworkers and Conservationists Sue EPA for Re-Approving Monsanto/Bayer’s Cancer-Causing Pesticide, Glyphosate/Roundup

(Beyond Pesticides, March 23, 2020) Ignoring science to side with Monsanto/Bayer, EPA has repeatedly failed to assess glyphosate’s impacts on public health and endangered species.

Last week, a broad coalition of farmworkers, farmers, and conservationists, filed a federal lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its January 2020 re-approval of the pesticide glyphosate, best known as the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup pesticides. With Center for Food Safety (CFS) serving as legal counsel, the suing organizations are  Beyond Pesticides, the Rural Coalition, Organización en California de Lideres Campesinas, and the Farmworker Association of Florida.

While EPA defends glyphosate, juries in several cases have found it to cause cancer, ruling in favor of those impacted by exposure. Glyphosate formulations like Roundup are also well-established as having numerous damaging environmental impacts. After a registration review process spanning over a decade, EPA allowed the continued marketing of the pesticide despite the agency’s failure to fully assess glyphosate’s hormone-disrupting potential or its effects on threatened and endangered species. The review began in 2009, has already taken 11 years, without a full assessment of the widespread harmful impacts on people and the environment in that time period.

“EPA’s half-completed, biased, and unlawful approval sacrifices the health of farmworkers and endangered species at the altar of Monsanto profits,” said George Kimbrell, legal director for CFS and counsel for the coalition. “The reckoning for Roundup is coming.”

While EPA has declared that glyphosate does not cause cancer, the world’s foremost cancer authorities with the World Health Organization declared glyphosate to be ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ in 2015. Over 40,000 lawsuits have been filed against the Monsanto (recently acquired by Bayer) by cancer victims asserting that exposure to Roundup caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, including many farmworkers. Plaintiffs have prevailed in the three cases decided thus far, with victims awarded roughly $80 million in each case.

“Contrary to the Trump EPA’s claims, both regulatory and independent scientific studies demonstrate that glyphosate herbicides are carcinogenic and have adverse effects on internal organs,” said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at CFS. “Far from consulting the ‘best available science,’ as EPA claims, the agency has relied almost entirely on Monsanto studies, cherry-picking the data that suits its purpose and dismissing the rest,” added Mr. Freese. “EPA’s glyphosate decision shows the same hostility to science that we’ve come to expect from this administration, whether the issue is climate change or environmental health.”

EPA judged glyphosate far more critically in the 1980s, when the agency designated it a possible carcinogen and identified harmful effects on the liver, kidney, and reproductive systems. Thanks to pressure from Monsanto/Bayer, EPA has since dismissed these harms and illegitimately raised the safety threshold – the daily amount of glyphosate regarded as safe over a lifetime – by 20 times.

“Farmers and Farmworkers are the backbone of America, and EPA’s irresponsible decision risks their health for Monsanto profits,” said Lorette Picciano, executive director of the Rural Coalition.

EPA has also failed to collect basic data on how much glyphosate is taken into human bodies via skin contact or inhalation of spray droplets. These exposure routes are particularly significant for farmworkers and others who work around and/or use Roundup, the very people who are at greatest risk of cancer and other health harms.

“How many more farmworkers have to suffer health impacts to themselves and their families before EPA “sees” them – the “invisible people” – and takes action?” said Jeannie Economos of the Farmworker Association of Florida. “EPA must protect human health before one more person suffers acute or chronic illness from exposure.”

“Farmworkers are on the front lines of the pesticide exposure crisis providing vital food for American families,” said Suguet Lopez of the Organización en California de Lideres Campesinas. “They deserve a duty of care from the government which it has failed to provide.”

Glyphosate herbicides also threaten numerous species, including fish, amphibians, and aquatic as well as terrestrial plants. EPA discounts these risks by low-balling exposure estimates and ignoring critical studies showing glyphosate’s potency, and by relying on ineffective and toothless changes to the language on glyphosate herbicide product labels to “mitigate” risks. Even worse, despite again registering the pesticide, EPA failed to complete any assessment of its impacts on thousands of potentially harmed endangered species, delaying it until a future decision.

“EPA failed to consider if Roundup disrupts the balance of nature and ecosystem health, critical to the survival of a vast number of organisms on which life depends –from beneficial insects, such as parasitoid wasps, lacewings, ladybugs, and endangered bumblebees, monarch butterflies, to fish, small mammals, and amphibians,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

To give just one example, the massive use of glyphosate has nearly eradicated milkweed, the monarch butterfly’s host plant, from Midwest farmers’ fields, a major factor in the catastrophic decline in monarchs over the past two decades. Even though monarchs are under consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act, EPA’s registration decision contains no effective measures to protect milkweed and monarchs from still more glyphosate damage.

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

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20
Mar

Tell Congress to Help Organic Farmers and Consumers Hurt by the Pandemic, Today!

(Beyond Pesticides, March 20, 2020) Support Organic Farmers as They Provide Nutrition that Heals

As we all heed calls for social distancing to avoid spread of COVID-19, elected officials are looking for ways to support those who are suffering from adverse economic impact. In doing this, it is especially important to focus on those organic family farmers who grow our food and have had their markets disrupted.

Tell Congress to Help Organic Farmers Hurt by the Pandemic

Congress has already passed an $8 billion response package earlier this month and just passed H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, providing additional appropriations to address testing, emergency nutrition assistance, temporary paid leave, and increased federal funding for unemployment insurance. Now a much bigger, trillion-dollar economic stimulus bill is in the works.

Ideas for the trillion-dollar spending package are proliferating as fast as the virus. While direct payments to individuals have been mentioned, so have various subsidies to businesses. We need to warn politicians not to exploit the coronavirus pandemic to subsidize large corporations without protections for workers. Rather, our Representatives need to ensure that the money goes to help those who have been directly affected.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree detailed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on farmers in local and regional markets. Noting that trade mitigation payments have not benefited farmers who sell products through local and regional markets, Rep. Pingree urged Speaker Pelosi to take actions to support these farmers, including emergency disaster payments, emergency farm loans, and suspending FSA loan payments. “We should provide emergency disaster payments to farmers selling fresh and minimally processed foods in local and regional markets that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote Rep. Pingree.

Organic farmers are among these who have been hardest hit. When asked to provide ideas for how organic farmers could be helped, in addition to the recommendations of Rep. Pingree, many representing organic farmers offer these suggestions:

  • Ensure that farmers markets and farm stands have the same status as retail stores when it comes to social gathering and loss of income.
  • Increase the cost share in organic certification, paid up front, and allow certifiers to waive fees until September
  • Help make connections with local farms when addressing food programs.
  • Establish a program to provide relief workers for sick farmers.
  • Disaster payments should cover both crops not harvested or sold, as well as those that can move to emergency food needs; organic is paid at the organic price.
  • Allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments to be made on-line directly to farms.
  • Provide funds for farms quickly moving to set up “on-farm” stands, curbside pickup, and other direct to consumer “no-touch” distribution channels that minimize interaction as farmers markets may be limited, or even farmers feel unsafe selling at farmers markets.

Tell Congress to Help Organic Farmers Hurt by the Pandemic

Letter to Congress

As we all heed calls for social distancing to avoid spread of COVID-19, we also see the need to support those organic family farmers who grow our food and have had their markets disrupted. Please ensure that the stimulus measures actually help those who need it.

Ideas for a trillion dollar spending package are proliferating as fast as the virus. While direct payments to individuals have been mentioned, so have various subsidies to businesses. Please avoid the temptation to exploit the coronavirus pandemic to subsidize large corporations without protections for workers. Rather, ensure that the money goes to help those who have been directly affected. Please put the money to work where it will help those who have been directly affected.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representative Chellie Pingree detailed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on farmers in local and regional markets. Noting that trade mitigation payments have not benefited farmers who sell products through local and regional markets, Rep. Pingree urged Speaker Pelosi to take actions to support these farmers, including emergency disaster payments, emergency farm loans, and suspending FSA loan payments. “We should provide emergency disaster payments to farmers selling fresh and minimally processed foods in local and regional markets that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she wrote.

Organic farmers are among these who have been hardest hit. When asked to provide ideas for how organic farmers could be helped, in addition to the recommendations of Rep. Pingree, many representing organic farmers offer these suggestions:

* Ensure that farmers markets and farm stands have the same status as retail stores when it comes to social gathering and loss of income.

* Increase the federal cost share in organic certification, paid up front, and allow certifiers to waive fees until September.

* Help make connections with local farms when addressing food programs.

* Establish a program to provide relief workers to assist sick farmers.

* Disaster payments should cover both crops not harvested or sold, as well as those that can move to emergency food needs; organic is paid at the organic price.

* Allow SNAP payments to be made on-line directly to farms.

* Provide funds for farms quickly moving to set up “on-farm” stands, curbside pickup, and other direct to consumer “no-touch” distribution channels that minimize interaction as farmers markets may be limited, or even farmers feel unsafe selling at farmers markets.

I believe that these targeted suggestions will help all of us by helping farmers to provide the health-giving nutrition we need during these times.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

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19
Mar

As COVID-19 Disrupts Maui Community, Organizers Take Action for Local Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, March 19, 2020) As communities across the U.S. brace for an unimaginable health crisis and difficult economic times in the wake of COVID-19, the Beyond Pesticides Hawai’i team has linked arms with Maui’s small farms and community organizations to make sure local farms have the support they need to feed communities and stay in business. The virus is causing shutdowns of everything from farmers markets to restaurants, but community organizers in Maui are making an effort to transform COVID-19 related challenges into a spring board for long-term increase in locally produced, organic food—a sorely needed commodity in Hawai’i. 

Hawai’i is the most isolated island chain on the planet. Its fertile soil and climatic conditions coalesce to make Hawai’i potentially a major producer of nutritious food for its residents and for export. However, a complicated plantation history and off-island investment influence has skewed the economy toward tourism and development. The current stark reality is that 85-90% of Hawai’i’s food is imported, making the islands particularly vulnerable to disasters and global events that might disrupt the economy or infrastructure. 

COVID-19 is now disrupting the economy and local infrastructure of Maui.

Farmers markets and other public gatherings have closed. Tourism is down (which, for health reasons, many Maui residents support), causing reduced demand for produce from hotels and restaurants. Small farmers and value-added product producers on Maui watched their income streams dry up nearly overnight. At the same time, unprecedented crowds are showing up at big box stores to prepare for quarantine, buying food shipped in from all over the world, and leaving store shelves empty.

Determined to turn chaos into opportunity, community leaders in Hawai’i have started organizing to connect local farms to resident consumers in ways they hope will last far beyond the COVID-19 shutdowns.

In just a few days, The Common Ground Collective, a local non-profit, quickly launched an online, interactive Shop Local Directory, where consumers can search for locally grown/produced products in their area.

Through social media outreach and “the coconut wireless” (word of mouth), one organic farm doubled its CSA (community-supported agriculture) membership overnight. helping more farms set up CSA programs with digital subscriptions and front porch drop-off service, providing farms much needed business development support while limiting personal interaction during COVID-19 concerns.

From our Hawai’i Program Director, Autumn Ness: “Beyond Pesticides Hawai’i is dedicated to help set up necessary infrastructure and transaction systems to get local farm products to local consumers. We are here to help Hawai’i farms get through this crisis and also build long-term systems that drive demand to support the rapid increase in organic farming in Hawai’i. If you are a farm that needs help getting through the COVID-19 shutdowns, please contact us at [email protected].”

A letter from U.S. Representative Pingree of Maine to Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week illustrates how community farmers across the country are facing similar challenges. Rep. Pingree urged Speaker Pelosi to take actions to support these farmers, including emergency disaster payments, emergency farm loans, and suspending Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan payments. “We should provide emergency disaster payments to farmers selling fresh and minimally processed foods in local and regional markets that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Pingree, “Disaster payments could be made available for donating products to the emergency food system that would have otherwise been sold to institutions, such as schools and universities, or through direct marketing channels, such as farmers’ markets.”

According to one Oklahoma farmer, “90%+ of our income comes from the market and the CSA we have. Like many other farmers, the next few months are going to be a time of trying to develop alternative marketing strategies. Our uncertain financial future for the year will have to take first priority. [M]y focus now is on finding creative ways of getting our produce to our customers in the most time effective means possible. But farmers are adaptable and innovative!”

Advocates say we can reimagine our food system with this kind of community engagement—not just in times of chaos, but even in normal day- to-day lives (when more normal times return). 

“Here’s the thing,” says Ms. Ness, She continued: “The chemical-intensive, industrial agriculture model dominates our food system because at one time small, diversified, organic farms were rapidly disappearing. While their numbers are starting to grow again, we have to make sure that organic farms are supported in times of crisis if we are to successfully regulate toxic pesticides in agriculture, increase organic food systems that feed us, and create solutions to the climate crisis. Communities across the U.S. can step up to support their local farms in this chaotic time. The future of our food system, as well as the long-term health of our people and local economies, depends on the choices we make in the next few months and how we turn those choices into long term systemic change.”

Beyond Pesticides, rejecting chemical-intensive practices, supports the transition to organic practices that promote plant resilience and decrease the need for toxic pesticide use and synthetic, petroleum-based fertilizers. In this time of calamity and as U.S. agriculture becomes increasingly toxic with increasingly lax regulations and the continued use of pesticides and other chemical-intensive practices, it is important to organize in your community and also go organic in your own garden.

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18
Mar

Infectious Human Disease, Snail Fever, Worsened by Pesticide Run-Off into Fresh Waterways

(Beyond Pesticides, March 18, 2020) Freshwater habitats are threatened now—more than ever—by the adverse effects of pesticide pollution, according to a report published in Scientific Reports by a collaborative research team from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the Kenya-based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE). Pesticide pollution, attributed to runoff from agricultural farms, indirectly increased the rate of the tropical disease schistosomiasis, which infects over 280 million people (2018). This research underlines the range of uncertainties that exist as a result of pesticide contamination, making it critically important that subtropical areas where this disease threat exists move toward organic and pesticide-free approaches. 

Increased prevalence of this disease is devastating to socioeconomic development in affected regions, as life expectancy, employment rate, and gross domestic product (GDP) decreases.

Schistosomiasis (snail fever), or bilharzia, is a tropical disease caused by parasitic flatworms (trematodes) in the genus Schistosoma and transmitted via freshwater snail (genus Biomphalaria) to its definitive human host. Freshwater snails act as a vector for schistosomiasis as they play a vital role in the lifecycle of the parasitic flatworm.

Professor Matthias Liess (Ph.D.), Head of the Department of System Ecotoxicology at the UFZ, and his research team investigated pesticide pollution’s impact on the macroinvertebrate community composition in regions where schistosomiasis persisted. The research sampled forty-eight freshwater study sites in the Kenyan Lake Victoria Basin with a range of habitats suitable for schistosomiasis transmission. To confirm freshwater snail’s high pesticide tolerance, UFZ investigated acute neonicotinoid, organophosphate, and pyrethroid sensitivity in all macroinvertebrate taxa, in 6 different regions within the study area. Freshwater snails dominated over the less-tolerant invertebrate opponents exclusively in habitats characterized by pesticide pollution and eutrophication.

Laboratory testing discovered freshwater snails have a higher tolerance toward commonly used agriculture pesticides, like neonicotinoids (neonics) and organophosphates. This tolerance enabled the host snail to persist in an environment where non-tolerant (macro)invertebrates could not. In turn, the population of parasitic flatworms increased with its snail host. Human exposure to infested water, through skin contact, adversely impacts human health. Infection associated with this disease can initiate abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stool, liver failure, and long-term disabilities. UFZ and ICIPE researchers concluded, “…[for] the first time that in the field, pesticide concentrations considered ‘safe’ in environmental risk assessment have indirect effects on human health.”

Freshwater snails acted as an intermediate host for parasitic flatworms that presented the deadly tropical pathogen. Increased input of pesticides from agriculture paired with an already unhealthy marine environment bolsters host snail population for the parasitic worm to develop. Host snails are more tolerant of pesticide inputs than their predators. Predators act as a biological control agent for the host snail population, and a sustainable approach to mitigate schistosomiasis disease events.

This study is just one example of pesticide use causing a trophic cascade in unhealthy marine environments. A research study published in PLOS ONE  directly links a top-down trophic cascade to pesticide use in aquatic ecosystems dominated by predatory invertebrates. High pesticide concentrations results in vast predatory invertebrate mortality; freshwater snails exhibit no observable mortality at pesticide’s maximum concentration. A 2018 mesocosm study also displayed that pesticides indirectly favored the freshwater snail that hosted the human-pathogenic schistosomes. Neonicotinoid use eradicates the host snail’s predators and supports destructive planktonic algae (periphyton), a food source for snails. An unhealthy marine environment caused by improper waste/sewage disposal exacerbates conditions for the parasitic worm to thrive. The resilience of the intermediate host snail, coupled with the loss of predator biodiversity, allowed the parasite to flourish and infect its human host at an elevated rate.

Control strategies must focus on a sustainable approach to controlling the intermediate host population to mitigate schistosomiasis transmission. Currently, control strategies for the disease treat the human host by administering the medication praziquantel to kill the adult flatworms, but this does not curb the reinfection rate. The disease can rebound in humans in an area where schistosomiasis is endemic.

Biological control for freshwater snails can reduce schistosomiasis events as the host snail is susceptible to predation by various organisms like shrimp, water bugs, and ostracods. These natural predators are sensitive to anthropogenic inputs like pesticides. Tropical regions that commonly practice extensive farming and are prone to heavy rainfall experience schistosomiasis more regularly.

Dr. Liess confirmed the study’s findings in ScienceDaily, “With our study, we were able to demonstrate that even low pesticide concentrations constitute a serious environmental risk and, in this respect, not only contribute to the decline in insect populations, but also indirectly promote dangerous diseases in humans… The results underline the urgent need for reassessing the environmental risk of low pesticide concentrations and for integrated disease management that includes a focus on the regulation and management of pesticides in areas where schistosomiasis is endemic or might be introduced due to potentially favorable ecological conditions.”

Regulation and elimination of pesticides can aid in reducing the propagation of harmful diseases exacerbated by pesticide use. There are a wide range of resources, which can be used to help gain knowledge and apply practices avoid pesticides use and their adverse effects. These include news stories, local organizations, school pesticide policies, regulatory contacts, and least-toxic pest control operators. Organic practices can successfully eliminate toxic pesticide use, especially in agriculture. Organic farming protects water quality as it reduces pesticide and nutrient runoff. Clean water is essential for human health, wildlife, and a balanced environment. Increased global participation in organic agriculture can eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in agriculture, promote biodiversity, and improve water quality to protect human and animal health. Buying organic products (food and non-food items), and advocating for organic regulations in the marketplace can help eradicate pesticide use and promote a healthy, sustainable future.

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

Source: Scientific Reports 

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17
Mar

Monarch Population, Under Threat from Pesticide Use and Habitat Loss, Declines by Half in One Year

(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2020) The number of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico is down 53% from last year, according to a count conducted by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Mexico. While WWF indicates the decline was expected due to unfavorable weather conditions during the species southward migration, other environmental groups are raising red flags. “Scientists were expecting the count to be down slightly, but this level of decrease is heartbreaking,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Monarchs unite us, and more protections are clearly needed for these migratory wonders and their habitat.”

WWF’s count found that monarchs occupied seven acres this winter, down from 15 acres last year. Reports indicate that 15 acres is a minimum threshold needed to prevent a collapse of the butterfly’s migration and possible extinction. This was the goal stated by the 2015 White House Pollinator Task Force, which the current administration is failing to see through.

While weather conditions play an important role in monarch migration from the U.S. and Canada south to Mexico, the species is under threat from a range of environmental factors. Monarchs depend on milkweed plants to lay eggs, and monarch caterpillars feed solely on these plants before metamorphosis. But the rapid spread of genetically engineered crops throughout the country has decimated the milkweed habitat on which the butterflies depend. According to research published in 2014, roughly 70% of all milkweed losses between 1995 and 2013 were located in agricultural areas.

Recent studies indicate that even when monarchs can find milkweed plants to lay their eggs, pesticide contamination from chemical intensive agriculture may be undermining their ability to continue their journey. A 2019 study found 14 different agricultural pesticides on milkweed tested near farm fields in Indiana, including the neonicotinoid class of insecticides implicated in the decline of pollinators. Research published late last year finds that monarchs that feed on neonicotinoid-contaminated milkweed experience a significantly shortened lifespan. Most monarchs (79%) exposed to neonicotinoids died within 22 days, while only one in five of those unexposed perished.

Monarch overwintering grounds are also threatened by habitat loss from illegal logging. Last month, two renown monarch activists who fought against illegal logging were murdered in the same week. Raúl Hernández Romero’s body was found inside a butterfly sanctuary in Ocampo, Mexico, while Homero Gómez González was found in a well. Both showed signs that they were attacked.

With the range of threats confronting this iconic species, it is a wonder that we still have some time to protect, and potentially save the species. The challenge is real; in the 1990s the eastern monarch population numbered nearly one billion butterflies. Counts from 2018 recorded only 93 million monarchs. Numbers are even more concerning for the western monarch. Cheryl Schultz, PhD, an associate professor at Washington State University Vancouver notes, “Western monarchs are faring worse than their eastern counterparts. In the 1980s, 10 million monarchs spent the winter in coastal California. Today there are barely 300,000.” Dr. Schultz’s research finds that western monarchs face an 86% risk of extinction within the next 50 years.

Legal experts are calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to place monarchs under federal protection. “Both the law and science require that we must protect monarchs under the Endangered Species Act before it’s too late,” said George Kimbrell, legal director for the Center for Food Safety. “Monsanto’s profits cannot come before the monarch’s future.”

Help monarchs rebound by taking action. While many in the U.S. and around the world are currently in quarantine or lockdown due to the coronavirus, you can still make progress in protecting the environment. Take some time to prepare your garden for spring pollinators; plant organic seeds and starts and tell your state’s Governor to act. Work on those more detailed letters you’ve wanted write to your elected officials, urging them to support laws that would protect monarchs and other pollinators, like the Saving America’s Pollinators Act. And continue to connect and organize with you friends and neighbors virtually, through sites like Nextdoor and Facebook. For more information on the imperiled monarchs, see past Daily News articles and Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage.

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

Source: World Wildlife Fund Mexico; Center for Biological Diversity

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16
Mar

Take Action: Toxic Chemicals Unnecessary To Protect Against the Coronavirus; CDC Advises Preventive Measures

(Beyond Pesticides, March 16, 2020) As the number of people infected with Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) increases, many people are looking for sound advice about how to protect themselves and their families. There is much uncertainty. “It’s fair to say that as the trajectory of the outbreak continues, many people in the United States will at some point in time either this year or next be exposed to this virus, and there’s a good chance many will become sick,” said Nancy Messonnier, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “But … based on what we know about this virus, we do not expect most people to develop serious illness.”

Tell EPA not to recommend toxic chemicals for disease prevention.

While people are seeking answers, EPA’s published list, Registered Antimicrobial Products for Use Against Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the Cause of COVID-19, does not offer helpful advice. The list contains products containing toxic chemicals such as chlorine bleach, peroxyacetic acid, alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chlorides, didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride, and other “quats,” sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione, and hydrochloric acid. In addition to their outright toxicity, some of these can also trigger asthmatic attacks.

On the other hand, CDC’s website makes it clear that such toxic chemicals are unnecessary. The commonsense nontoxic advice should be heeded:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Soap and water—or, if washing is not possible, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol—is as effective as stronger chemicals. For cleaning hard surfaces, 70% alcohol (common rubbing alcohol) is sufficient.

Tell EPA to support least-toxic disease prevention.

Beyond Pesticides will submit this petition to EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP).

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13
Mar

European Commission’s Agricultural Policy Clashes with Its ‘Green Deal’ Plan

(Beyond Pesticides, March 13, 2020) The European Commission’s proposed (post-2020) Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a failure and must be dramatically changed to embrace organic practices and support small farmers, according to a paper written by 21 scientists and published in the British Ecological Society’s journal, People and Nature. The authors point to provisions that permit anemic implementation of critical sustainability goals, and say that as it stands, the CAP fails “with respect to biodiversity, climate, soil, [and] land degradation as well as socio‐economic challenges.” The authors call on the European Parliament, Council, and Commission to adopt 10 urgent action points that advance a goal that “all CAP elements, without exception, should be aligned with the principles of sustainability, multi‐functionality and public payments for public goods.” The paper’s authors say that the CAP continues, in fact, to support practices that exacerbate the climate emergency, soil erosion, land degradation, and biodiversity loss, and fails to fund initiatives that could address climate and other critical issues.

Happening concurrently with the CAP is development of the European Commission’s (EC’s) “European Green Deal,” which the EC describes as a roadmap for making the EU’s economy sustainable, and making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The European Green Deal website further says: “This will happen by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas and making the transition just and inclusive for all.” The European Commission (EC) recently announced ​plans to make the deal legally binding for all member states.

The sentiments of the paper — Action needed for the EU Common Agricultural Policy to address sustainability challenges — are endorsed by 3600 scientists from 63 countries, as reported by BirdLife International. Beyond Pesticides has pointed, for years, to the need for a shift to organic and regenerative agricultural practices that do achieve gains for soil health, climate mitigation, ecosystem health, and biodiversity. The rise in demand for organics is one sign of progress because organic agriculture is not only a solution to the global food crisis, but also, to the health and ecological risks of conventional, chemically intensive farming.

As reported by The New York Times, the planned overhaul of Europe’s farm policy and plan for 2021–2027, and its funding — to be negotiated during 2020 — is largely “business as usual” in new, “climate friendly” packaging, according to these critics, who say it does not do nearly enough to protect the environment or support small farmers. The plan receives particular scorn because: (1) farmers would continue to be paid subsidies on the basis of the acreage they cultivate, rather than for implementing environmentally sound practices (such as organic farming and agro-forestry), and (2) subsidies would continue to be paid for livestock farming, which worsens greenhouse gas emissions.

Birdlife.org writes: “The scientists express concern that national governments and the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament are diluting the environmental ambitions of the CAP ‘to defend the interests of a few at the expense of the many.’ At present, the main factor determining how much ‘income support’ a CAP recipient gets is the size of their farm: 80% of these payments goes to 20% of farmers. This means that farmers are stuck in a system where those with the most land receive most of the money — regardless of the environmental quality of their farming. A recent New York Times investigation has already exposed how the CAP serves narrow, national, oligarchical and agro-industry interests, even directly benefiting Czech Prime Minister, billionaire Andrej Babiš.” To boot, the authors charge that the CAP would continue to waste taxpayer funds on measures that are ineffective: “‘Billions of euros of taxpayers’ money are about to be poured down the drain,’ the scientists said in a statement.”

A 2019 New York Times article covered the contrast between Europe’s “green” reputation and the reality of its current farm policy, the ongoing damage from which includes dead zones in the Baltic Sea from agricultural runoff and increased farm emissions of greenhouse gases. In addition, the NYT has reported on the extensive corruption, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, in the system of agricultural subsidies, which comprise nearly 40% of Europe’s budget.

The chief concerns the paper cites about the CAP are that it would:

  • continue subsidies based on acreage, and with only “light green” (low-level) environmental requirements
  • reduce budgets for Rural Development Programs that include climate mitigation measures
  • involve some “greenwashing”: the EC represents that 40% of subsidies are “climate‐friendly,” but these payments “are not systematically linked to any effective measure for greenhouse gas reduction or climate adaptation”
  • posit a “green architecture” that has only vague requirements, and would allow farmers and member states to opt for insufficiently bold initiatives and practices
  • the evaluation metrics apply only to administrative and financial implementation of the CAP, and not to actual on-the-ground outcomes; the paper says: “‘impact’ indicators mostly describe farming structures rather than actual impacts. They are insufficient for an effective monitoring of the CAP objectives and instruments and provide little guidance for policy steering”
  • extends insurance provisions without tying them to any requirement for risk-mitigation actions

Finally, the authors contend, the proposed post-2020 CAP lacks consistency and transparency, and repeats the often-criticized restructuring and renaming of CAP elements in ways that impede learning and undermine transparency and legitimacy.

The authors of the subject paper, and its 3,600 supporters, comment: “The ‘European Green Deal,’ published by the European Commission in December 2019, presents a new framework for EU policy‐making with high ambition to align economic processes with planetary boundaries. It states an intention to present a ‘Farm to Fork Strategy on sustainable food.’ This may offer an important opportunity for the European Institutions to make evidence‐based decisions toward a future‐proof CAP. However, the Green Deal is vague with respect to the CAP.”

In light of the concerns about the CAP, the paper’s authors and supporters proffer 10 “action points” to address the inadequacies of the proposal. Some of those would:

  • transform subsidies into “payments for public goods” that would align environmental and socio‐environmental dimensions of sustainability
  • provide sufficient support for effective climate change mitigation
  • support measures to maintain ecosystems and biodiversity
  • promote innovative measures that reward positive environmental outcomes
  • revise evaluation procedures and metrics
  • strengthen environmental monitoring and enforcement
  • identify and address global impacts of the CAP (particularly in the vulnerable southern hemisphere)
  • improve governance of the CAP and its reform to enhance transparency and accountability, thereby regaining legitimacy and public trust

The paper’s summary statements include: “Sustainability is a top societal priority and an urgent challenge. It is enshrined as a goal in the Treaty of the European Union. Given the documented poor performance of the CAP with respect to sustainability, business as usual is no longer an option. Urgent and efficient actions are needed to ensure environmental and social sustainability and long‐term food security.”

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

Sources: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/09/world/europe/radical-changes-urged-for-huge-eu-farm-program.html and https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/pan3.10080

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12
Mar

Washington Farmworkers Harmed by Pesticides Walk Out, Demand Justice

(Beyond Pesticides, March 12, 2020) Farmworkers walked out of an orchard in Sunnyside, Washington on Friday, March 6 to demand improved working conditions. Over a dozen individuals cited unacceptable issues, such as toxic pesticide exposure, unfair wages, and lack of paid breaks. Their employer, Evans Fruit, owns and farms over 8,000 acres in the state. These workers represent the ongoing fight against injustice perpetuated by the chemical-intensive agriculture industry.

Evans Fruit workers said the company gives insufficient protective gear and training before requiring workers to spray pesticides for most of their 12 to 15-hour workdays. Jorge de los Santos, who has worked for Evans Fruit for five years, told the Yakima Herald, “My eyes (were) constantly irritating me.”

“All we’re asking for is for fair wages and fair (working conditions),” said Rene Isidoro, another farmworker.

Evans Fruit declined to comment, but worker representatives said the company has been unwilling to negotiate. “The company basically said it was their way or the highway,” said United Farm Workers (UFW) of America Pacific Northwest coordinator Victoria Ruddy.

“We are good workers, responsible workers,” Ms. Isidoro said, “We like the work we do. We want to do better in our work. We’re here simply to ask for better working conditions.”

Farmworkers are a frontline community to the fight against toxic pesticides. Doctors annually diagnose up to 20,000 poisonings among agricultural workers – and that statistic only represents what is publicly reported. Working mothers are exposed to chemicals that can have long-lasting impacts on their unborn children, such as brain function damage.

Farmworkers are courageous to stand up for their rights, as they face hurdles of vulnerability such as immigration status and limited rights. “Oftentimes workers are too scared to come forward,” said Isidoro.

Federal laws exclude farmworkers from basic protections like the National Labor Relations Act, which forbids employers from firing employees for union organizing, and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that requires overtime pay be 1.5 times the regular wage. Farmworker exclusion from FLSA also means that workers on small farms are not guaranteed minimum wage and allows children twelve and over to legally work in the fields. 

This current fight of the Sunnyside farmworkers hearkens back to historic leadership of organizers like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, whose work is inextricable from the advent of the environmental justice movement. Author and organizer Randy Shaw described this history in the 2017 documentary Dolores, stating, “The environmental justice movement said that certain environmental hazards are disproportionately impacting on people of color. It wasn’t simply stopping DDT, but it was also making the larger point, you’re only allowing this because of who the workers are, and their race and class background.”

Currently, the average life expectancy for a farmworker is 49 years, compared to 78 for the general population. This is similar to the life expectancy of individuals living in the 1850s and is completely unacceptable for any industry today. Beyond Pesticides was founded in 1981 out of conversations with farmworkers about their sicknesses and miscarriage rates, and the lack of training, protective equipment, clean drinking water, and sanitation in the fields. It was clear then, as it is now, that the political process ignores or even facilitates ongoing poisoning.  Beyond Pesticides believes that we should stand up for those who harvest our food and support farmworkers like those from Evans Fruit. Furthermore, Evans Fruit – which touts a commitment to “social and environmental responsibilities” on its website – should forgo toxic chemicals that poison their workers and transition to organic.

Source: Yakima Herald

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11
Mar

Global Growth of Organic Farmland Further Advances UN Sustainable Development Goals

(Beyond Pesticides, March 11, 2020) Worldwide, organic farming practices quadrupled from 2000 to 2018, with over 180 countries leading a global transition to organic agriculture. Newly published global survey data by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements – Organics International (IFOAM) reveal global organic agriculture to be at an all-time high, with 71.5 million hectares (mha) of farmland in production. Organic agriculture’s rise in popularity makes important progress toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as organic agriculture is essential for a sustainable future; it is a solution to the global food crisis and eliminating the health risks engendered by chemical-intensive farming.

According to Monica Rubiolo, PhD of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), “Access to quality data on organic farming not only helps to measure success toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals but also to orient decision-makers and other stakeholders along the whole value chain.” In a period of rapid population growth, a climate crisis, environmental degradation, and high energy costs, organic farming addresses human health, environment, and socioeconomic concerns.

Organically managed farmland increased by a total of 2 mha (2.9%), in all continents, between 2017 and 2018. Australia has the largest organic agricultural area (35.7 million hectares), followed by Argentina (3.6 million hectares), and China (3.1 million hectares). Organic farmlands constitute 10% of all agricultural land in over 16 countries, with the largest shares of organic farmland in Liechtenstein (38.5% percent), followed by Samoa (34.5 percent), and Austria (24.7 percent). Although global organic farmlands only comprise 1.5% of all agricultural land, the FiBL survey data display a 546% increase in organic farmland, since 1999.

The agricultural transition from chemical-intensive to organic farming is a  three-year process that can help explain why organic still comprises a relatively low percentage of overall farmland. However, as this report shows, organic continues to make steady progress, as the amalgamation of data over the past decade displays a positive, exponential trend in organic farmland growth.

“The global organic statistics have proven useful for development programs and supporting strategies for organic agriculture and markets, and they are crucial for monitoring the impact of these activities. This publication shows our ongoing engagement with transparency in the organic sector,” says Louise Luttikholt, IFOAM \—Organics International Executive Director, and Professor Urs Niggli, director of FiBL.

John Reganold, Ph.D., professor of Soil Science and Agroecology at Washington State University, suggests a reform of agricultural policies to help further develop and augment organic and other sustainable agriculture:

  • Offer greater financial incentives for farmers to adopt conservation measures and scientifically sound sustainable, organic, and integrated crop or livestock production practices.
  • Expand outreach and technical assistance that will provide farmers with better information about these transformative practices.
  • Increase publicly funded research to improve and expand modern sustainable farming.

The global trend in organic agricultural growth, coupled with the increase in organic farmland, showcased the growth in organic market demand with the largest growth of organic market demand in 2018.

The survey data reports high consumer demand for organic food, as global organic retail sales continued to grow over the past year and surpassed $100 billion U.S. dollars at the end of 2018. The market research company Ecovia Intelligence reports that the U.S. led the 2018 organic market with $46.4 billion in sales, followed by Germany ($12.46 billion), and France ($10.4 billion). Major organic markets have seen a double-digit growth rate in response to the sales increase. France’s organic market demand increased by 15%, thus generated an additional $1.6 billion for the economy. The additional allocated economic income can help farmers transition from conventional, chemical-intensive farming to organic farming. In 2016, Denmark’s Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries planned to allocate more than $4 million to promote the organic market, almost $8 million to the public’s access to organic products, and subsidize farmer’s transition to organic agriculture. By 2018, Denmark became the country with the highest total organic shares in the food market, with 11.5% of the total food market completely organic.

India is the leading global producer in organic agriculture, providing a large number of employment opportunities, and regional amity. In the past decade, global producers of organic products increased by over 55%, for a total of 2.8 million organic farmers, with 1.15 million organic farmers in India alone. During the mid-1970s food crisis, India employed the use of chemical-intensive farming and became extensively dependent on it. Farmers found it difficult to keep up with the increased cost of fertilizers and pesticides to maintain consistent crop yield. Conventional farming methods stripped India’s soil of nutrients (organic matter) and decreased soil porosity, or the ability to hold moisture. Low soil porosity exacerbated drought conditions and decreased India’s annual crop growth from 3.7% to 0.2% in 2013-2014.

Organic and natural farming practices (crop cover, no-till, over-seeding, etc.) presented a new opportunity to mitigate poor crop performance, as India was able to increase its total organic farmland by 64% in less than a decade. Now, the country is the main supplier of organic products to developed nations, including 47% of the world’s organic cotton production. As Beyond Pesticides wrote, in 2016, “Claims that organic agriculture cannot feed the world because of lower yields are contested by scientific studies showing that organic yields are comparable to conventional yields and require significantly lower inputs. Therefore, organic agriculture is not only necessary in order to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals; it is necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of food production, the environment, and the economy.”

Organic agriculture presents a solution to the myriad of issues caused by chemical-intensive farming practices. Agricultural chemicals used in conventional farming practices weaken both insect and animal species abundance and biodiversity. Chemicals used in pest management, such as glyphosate (herbicide) and neonicotinoids (insecticide), can harm soil communities – lowering soil fertility, and the provincial organisms.

Organic farming practices promote a natural resistance to human foodborne pathogens by increasing the biodiversity and population of an insect species and microbes that decompose and remove potential pathogens. Further, organic livestock farming has been found to significantly improve bird abundance, especially insectivorous birds, and long-distance migratory birds. Dr. Reganold recognizes the benefit of organic agriculture, and how it will be necessary for global sustainability, “Hundreds of scientific studies now show that organic agriculture can produce sufficient yields, is profitable for farmers, protects and improves the environment, and is safer for farm-workers.”

Increased global participation in organic agriculture can protect human and animal health, promote biodiversity, improve the global socioeconomic status, and eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in agriculture. Everyone plays a key role in promoting a sustainable future through organic practices. A common misconception is that organic products are “too expensive,” but low-cost organic products exist in the marketplace. Education about organic agriculture, buying organic products (food and non-food items), growing your own organic produce, creating marketplace demand, and advocating for organic regulations in the marketplace can aid in the global transition to organic agriculture.  

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

Source: Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) press release

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10
Mar

As the World Bans Highly Toxic Wood Preservative, Pentachlorophenol, a Low-Income U.S. Community May Be Home to the Last Production Plant

UPDATE: The same day Beyond Pesticides published this piece, Gulbrandsen Chemicals announced it would drop its effort to produce pentachlorophenol in Orangeburg, SC, according to The State newspaper.

(Beyond Pesticides, March 10, 2020) Orangeburg, South Carolina may be the last place in the world to produce one of the most toxic pesticides known to humanity, pentachlorphenol. Despite a global ban on “penta” in 2016, in force in 186 countries, the United States has continued to import and use this hazardous wood preservative on telephone poles and railroad ties throughout the country. Now, with Mexico set to close one of the last production plants in the world, Gulbrandsen Chemicals Inc. wants to make Orangeburg, a majority black community with a population three times the U.S. poverty rate, the new epicenter for penta manufacturing.

Overview and History

Penta is used to pressure treat wood, with the aim of prolonging its use in utility poles and railroad ties. Beyond Pesticides has sounded the alarm on penta and other wood preservatives for over 20 years, starting with the reports Pole Pollution and Poison Poles, which outlined the science on the hazards and and alternatives to preservative-coated utility poles. Penta is a particularly concerning wood preservative, as it is well known to be contaminated with hexachlorobenzene, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, and furans. Acute contact exposure through contact or inhalation with penta-treated products can result in severe irritation. Chronic risks include damage to organ systems like the liver and kidney, as well as impacts on immune, nervous, and endocrine system functioning. EPA reviews previous classified penta as a probable carcinogen, however its Integrated Risk Information System recently classified it as “likely to be carcinogenic.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that at least 1 in 1,000 workers are likely to develop cancer during their career at a penta production plant.

Regulation of penta began in the late 1970s, when EPA identified extraordinarily high risks to human health. Penta, along with other wood preservatives, were subject to a Special Review, during which EPA considers product efficacy data (not considered during a standard registration review, which assumes product benefits), but does not adequately consider the availability of nontoxic alternatives. As a result of sustained industry pressure on the agency, EPA soft-pedaled its review to focus on “risk-reduction measures,” rather than meaningful regulations. It ultimately removed residential uses, such as treated lumber, but allowed widespread community exposure through treated utility poles and railroad ties. However, curtailed uses and personal protective equipment requirements does not adequately address significant levels of dioxin contamination. Instead of imposing strict limits of one part per million, EPA in the late 1980s negotiated with the chemical’s manufacturers to permit a phase down to two parts per million over several years. Despite decades of time to improve in production processes, current EPA documents show hexachlorobenzene and dioxin remain at hazardous levels of contamination in penta treated wood (19.3ppm and .55ppm average in 2013).

Beyond Pesticides sued EPA in the early 2000s over its inaction on penta, urging the agency to cancel and suspend the registrations of all toxic wood preservatives on the market. Although the suit received a preliminary injunction, it was ultimately struck down by a District Court judge based on administrative issues, not the merit of the case. Since then, EPA has continued to skirt responsibility to address this highly hazardous chemical. In one notable instance, penta review documents from EPA calculated a 2.2 in 10,000 cancer risk to children playing around treated poles. This rate was 200 times above EPA’s acceptable cancer threshold. But rather than protect children, EPA simply removed the exposure scenario for children and echoed a claim by the Penta Council, an industry group, that “play activities with or around pole structures would not normally occur.”

Stockholm Ban

While EPA continues to drag its feet, an international treaty, called the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, was brought into force. Parties to the Stockholm Convention are bound to eliminate the use and production of hazardous chemicals voted on by member countries. The U.S. is glaringly absent from this treaty, signing it in 2001, yet never ratifying it through the Senate. According to the U.S. State Department, “The United States participates as an observer in the meetings of the parties and in technical working groups.” Indeed, despite not signing the treaty, the U.S. was intimately involved in opposing a proposed ban on penta when discussions began at a United Nations committee in 2014.

Despite opposition from the U.S. and India, which is a minor producer of the chemical, the Stockholm Convention voted to impose the strictest ban possible on penta, beginning in 2016.  This set a clock ticking on the last North American penta plant, located in Matamoros, Mexico. Mexico was granted a five year exemption from the treaty in order to provide time to shift production. With 2021 fast approaching, the plant’s owner, Cabot Microelectronics, announced it would stop manufacturing the chemical in order to comply with the Stockholm Convention. Around the same time, Gulbrandsen Chemicals Inc., a company that lists its headquarters in South Carolina, but appears to have ties to India, announced it would bring a production plant to Orangeburg.

Orangeburg’s Future

The U.S. has long been the largest consumer of penta, and as a result has an intimate history with the the chemical’s manufacturing process. Hundreds of Superfund sites throughout the country are designated as such because they were the location of previous penta production plants. According to research Beyond Pesticides conducted in Pole Pollution in the late 1990s, roughly 250 sites on the Superfund National Priorities list were contaminated with penta.

An article in South Carolina’s The State newspaper, laying out information on the history and hazards with penta, brought about a swift response from some South Carolina’s lawmakers. Shortly after the article published, State Representatives Russell Ott and Gilda Cobb Hunter introduced a joint resolution to place a moratorium on the production of penta in the state. “It gives us time to get a better understanding of what this is,’’ said Representative Ott, a lawmaker whose district intersects with Orangeburg, to The State. He continued, “Clearly it has been banned in over 150 countries. We want to give everybody an opportunity to have their say, but in the meantime, this places a moratorium on the production.’’

Local politicians are concerned that the chemical could disproportionately affect the community’s poorest residents. “I certainly am not interested in Orangeburg County being the home of manufacturing a chemical that has the kind of detrimental effects I’ve read about,’’ said Representative Cobb-Hunter, whose district lies in planned production site. Reports indicate the site would be close to a retirement community and an assisted living facility.

When asked for comment, Beyond Pesticides emphasized that a delay was not enough. “It’s encouraging to see state lawmakers step in to delay the opening of a new penta plant in South Carolina, but the fact is, it never should have been considered in the first place,’’ the organization said in a statement to The State. “Pentachlorophenol production in South Carolina would harm workers, poison the surrounding environment, and set Orangeburg up as a future Superfund site. The rest of the world has already moved towards alternatives.’’

Steel, concrete, and composite alternatives to hazardous wood preservatives yield a lifespan of 80 to 100 years. Borates have been an effective alternative as well. When considering alternatives, it’s important to understand the differences in maintenance costs associated with different materials. Wood preservatives are likely to require re-treatment, which some utilities perform on a set cycle, while steel, concrete and fiberglass do not. In addition, disposal costs for chemicals used in wood treatment are high and continue to grow, while steel can be recycled. Communities may also choose to bury their utility lines if conditions are appropriate.

Penta has no place in the 21st century and it is abhorrent for the United States to continue to embrace the use of this hazardous, highly contaminated wood preservative. Residents in South Carolina can track the progress of the temporary penta ban through this link and are encouraged to write their lawmakers to support and strengthen this ban into permanence. For more information on the toxicity and history of penta, see Beyond Pesticides’ Wood Preservative program page.

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

Source: The State (1, 2)

 

 

 

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09
Mar

Plant Organic Seeds and Plants; Tell Your State to Act to Protect Pollinators This Spring

(Beyond Pesticides, March 9, 2020) It’s time to think about gardening! Whether you’re growing vegetables to eat or flowers for pollinators, you’ll want to be sure that your seeds and plants are free from harmful pesticides. Seeds and plants in many garden centers across the country are grown from seeds coated with toxic fungicides and bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides, or drenched with them.

Plant organic seeds and plants!

As bees suffer serious declines in their populations, we urge people and communities to plant habitat that supports pollinator populations, and have provided information to facilitate this in our BEE Protective Habitat Guide. However, plants are too often grown with hazardous pesticides that either harm pollinators in their cultivation or threaten bees as they pollinate or forage on treated plants. For more information on the dangers of neonicotinoid coated seeds, see Beyond Pesticides’ short video Seeds That Poison.

Beyond Pesticides has compiled a directory of companies and organizations that sell organic seeds and plants to the general public. Included in this directory are seeds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs, as well as living plants and seedlings. Specific questions on each seller’s seeds can be directed to their customer service line. You can also download a handy bi-fold brochure version of this directory that you can print and take with you. If you know of a company that is not on this list, please let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Although many seed companies indicate that they sell untreated seeds, Beyond Pesticides encourages you to look for organic seeds. While untreated seeds surely are a step in the right direction, they do not ensure that the seed production practices are protective of bees or that residual chemicals do not contaminate the plant.

Send a message to your Governor to encourage your state to plant organic seeds and plants in public places.

Letter to Governor:

 With honey bee and wild pollinator populations in decline, planting for pollinators has become a popular way to enhance pollinator habitat and the appearance of parks and roadsides. However, plants are too often grown with hazardous pesticides that either harm pollinators in their cultivation or threaten bees as they pollinate or forage on treated plants.

Beyond Pesticides has compiled a directory of companies and organizations (bp-dc.org/organicseeds) that sell organic seeds and plants to the general public. Included in this directory are seeds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs, as well as living plants and seedlings. Specific questions on each seller’s seeds can be directed to their customer service line.

A recent paper titled “Declines in insect abundance and diversity: We know enough to act now,” provides a run-down of additional actions to take, including these actions at the local and state level:

*Strengthen pesticide regulations and ban cosmetic use.

*Retail companies should have clear labels to warn about the impact on nontarget insects.

*Sub-national policy to protect insects should be pushed before national or international agreements are achieved.

*Strong incentives to protect, enhance, and restore habitat.

*Proper funding for conservation and management of land.

*Begin conservation efforts before species are on the brink of extinction.

*Mitigate and sequester carbon emissions; promote clean energy.

*Increase habitat connectivity.

I urge you to ensure that our state is implementing a pollinator protection plan that uses organic seeds and addresses these additional essential steps.

Thank you.

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06
Mar

Baby Bees’ Brain Growth Adversely Affected by Neonicotinoid Insecticides

(Beyond Pesticides, March 6, 2020) Scientists from Imperial College London have just published their recent research on impacts of pesticides on larval bumblebees exposed through neonicotinoid-contaminated food sources. Many studies have looked at the devastating impacts of pesticides on adult insects, including pollinators — and bees, in particular. This research, however, examines how exposure to the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, through consumption of contaminated nectar and pollen during the larval stage, affects bumblebees (Bombus terrestris audax). It finds that these exposures cause abnormal brain growth in some parts of the bees’ brains, and significantly impairs learning ability compared to bees who were not exposed. Advocates maintain that neonicotinoid pesticides should be banned for their widespread and severe damage to insects and the environment broadly, in addition to human health concerns.

Neonicotinoids (neonics) comprise a class of pesticide used intensively in many parts of the world. They may be applied to plant foliage, or directly to soils as a drench, but the predominant use is for seed treatment. These pesticides are banned or restricted in some places, including in the European Union, France, Germany, and Italy; some states have also worked to rein in their use.

Previous research out of Harvard University has documented the neurotoxic impacts of neonicotinoids on adult bumblebee behaviors. The subject study looked to learn more about the risks of pesticide exposure on bee broods, after the bees emerge into adulthood, from the entry (into the colony) and consumption of food contaminated with a neonic — an area of investigation that has received scant attention. The researchers note, in the introduction to their study paper, that “no study to date has investigated how pesticide exposure during early-stage development affects brain developmental plasticity and its association with behavioural performance in older adulthood.”

Neonics can easily end up in bee food sources because of their preponderant agricultural uses. Once applied, they move through a plant’s vascular (circulatory) system, and show up in the plant’s pollen, nectar, and “guttation droplets” — the “sappy” exudate on leaf edges or tips. (Guttation happen when root pressure is high and transpiration is low. It often occurs at night, and when soil and/or air moisture levels are high.)

Foraging bees pick up pollen and nectar in their travels, and bring them back to their colonies to feed bee larvae and baby bees (aka “brood”). They also feed the honey they produce (by chewing pollen and mixing it with saliva) to the colony’s developing brood. All of these can be sources of pesticide contamination from pesticide-treated flowering plants. To make matters worse, research has shown that some bees actually prefer food sources that contain neonicotinoid pesticides, and may show “possible symptoms of addiction” to them.

Further, bee larvae have been shown to be vulnerable not only to a single pesticide, but also, to synergistic effects of the plethora of pesticides that may end up in the colony’s hive, plus the so-called “inert” ingredients in pesticide compounds. Researchers in one study noted, “One hundred and twenty-one different pesticides and metabolites were identified in the hive with an average of seven pesticides per pollen sample, including miticides, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, and insect growth regulators.”

The study experiment provided imidacloprid-treated food at different developmental stages in order to examine the effects on worker bees during their brood development stage, early-adult stage, or both stages. The researchers tested the bees’ ability to learn to associate a smell with a food reward, with 10 trials per bee. Using micro-CT (computed tomography) imaging, the scientists looked at brain development across three groups: (1) those provided with a nectar substitute that contained neonicotinoids, (2) those who were fed no pesticides, and (3) those who were fed pesticides only after their emergence as adults.

The brains of nearly 100 bees were examined, and the team found that an important part of the bee brain involved with learning — the mushroom body — was smaller in those exposed to the neonics. Smaller mushroom body volume is correlated with poorer performance in learning tasks. Bees fed with contaminated food in the larval stage show significantly impaired learning ability compared to those that are not.

The researchers found that “bees exposed to pesticides during larval development, but not as adults, showed similar learning impairment and mushroom body volume reduction when tested at both three and 12 days as an adult. This suggests that at least within the unexposed nine days they were adults, the effects of larval exposure could not be overcome, pointing to a potentially permanent effect.” The study paper comments that “these findings highlight that the first 72 hours of adulthood must be important in behavioural development, but also represents a susceptible developmental window to insecticide exposure, showing the importance of considering different life-stages when assessing pesticide risk.”

Lead study author Dylan Smith, PhD of the Imperial College Department of Life Sciences, pointed to some additional implications of these results: “There has been growing evidence that pesticides can build up inside bee colonies. Our study reveals the risks to individuals being reared in such an environment, and that a colony’s future workforce can be affected weeks after they are first exposed. . . . Bees’ direct exposure to pesticides through residues on flowers should not be the only consideration when determining potential harm to the colony. The amount of pesticide residue present inside colonies following exposure appears to be an important measure for assessing the impact on a colony’s health in the future.”

Phys.org reports the comments of head researcher Richard Gill, PhD, from the Imperial College London Department of Life Sciences: “‘Bee colonies act as superorganisms, so when any toxins enter the colony, these have the potential to cause problems with the development of the baby bees within it. . . . Worryingly in this case, when young bees are fed on pesticide-contaminated food, this caused parts of the brain to grow less, leading to older adult bees possessing smaller and functionally impaired brains; an effect that appeared to be permanent and irreversible. . . . These findings reveal how colonies can be impacted by pesticides weeks after exposure, as their young grow into adults that may not be able to forage for food properly. Our work highlights the need for guidelines on pesticide usage to consider this route of exposure.”

Given the economic and food system importance of pollinators, government and the public sector must act — and quickly — to arrest their decline, to which pesticides are a major contributor. Beyond Pesticides is a resource for activists pushing to end pesticide use and adopt least-toxic, organic and regenerative agricultural and other land management practices. Learn more about the role of pesticides in pollinator decline at the Beyond Pesticides website page, What the Science Shows. See the BEE Protective page for information on protecting bees and wild pollinators from the ravages of pesticides. Join the movement to end destructive pesticide use by engaging with elected officials at the local, state and federal levels, and supporting local efforts to shift to organic practices.

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

Sources: https://phys.org/news/2020-03-pesticides-impair-baby-bee-brain.html and https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2019.2442

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05
Mar

Glyphosate Causes Biodiversity Loss in Freshwater Ecosystems, According to Study

Experimental ponds in Gault Nature Reserve. Photo credit: Vincent Fugère

(Beyond Pesticides, March 5, 2020) A new study conducted by researchers at McGill University investigated phytoplankton (microscopic algae) response and resilience to Roundup exposure. “Community rescue in experimental phytoplankton communities facing severe herbicide pollution” was published in Nature Ecology & Evolution. Researchers found that algae can develop resistance to contamination, but surviving phytoplankton communities are much less diverse. Diversity loss is cause for concern as it could hinder adaptation to other potential stressors, such as climate change. 

Using experimental ponds, researchers first exposed some phytoplankton communities to low levels of Roundup over time, then dosed the ponds with a lethal amount.  Groups that had been given low doses survived the lethal phase whereas unpolluted, control ponds did not. Researchers observed “community rescue,” where genetic changes avert population collapse in a lethal environment. In fact, glyphosate eventually became a fertilizer in resistant ponds as it is a significant source of phosphorus. Other studies, too, have noted that phosphorous loading is an overlooked impact of glyphosate contamination.

Phytoplankton matter because their disruption can cause a trophic cascade and impact other organisms. “These tiny species at the bottom of the food chain play an important role in the balance of a lake’s ecosystem and are a key source of food for microscopic animals,” says researcher and author Vincent Fugère, Ph.D., “Our experiments allow us to observe, in real time, how algae can acquire resistance to glyphosate in freshwater ecosystems.”

The resulting damage to genetic diversity causes concern. Andrew Gonzalez, Ph.D., says, “We observed significant loss of biodiversity in communities contaminated with glyphosate. This could have a profound impact on the proper functioning of ecosystems and lower the chance that they can adapt to new pollutants or stressors. This is particularly concerning as many ecosystems are grappling with the increasing threat of pollution and climate change.”

Glyphosate contamination is troubling for both environmental and human health impacts. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives glyphosate the greenlight, Bayer, its major manufacturer, is mired in class-action cancer lawsuits, and currently in settlement talks rumored to reach over $10 billion. Its pervasive use and biocidal effects also links the chemical to broader health issues, such as antibiotic resistance.

As we face global threats exacerbated by toxic pesticide use — such as the sixth mass extinction, antibiotic resistance, and other public health crises — advocates say it is high time to abandon the toxic chemical treadmill and opt instead for practices that build biodiversity rather than destroy it. Organic agriculture saves local waterways from deadly contamination and offers a whole host of benefits such as climate resilience, economic security, and health equity. Help drive demand for this transition by purchasing organic whenever possible. Read more about the benefits of organic agriculture on Beyond Pesticides’ Why Organic program page.

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

Source: McGill, Nature Ecology and Evolution

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04
Mar

Soil-Based Organic Agriculture Takes on the Climate Crisis, Economic Insecurity, and Health Inequity

 

(Beyond Pesticides, March 4, 2020) California produces the most food of any state in the U.S. – more than half of all domestic fruits and vegetables – but only 4% of its agriculture is organic. After releasing a report on the benefits of organic agriculture last year, the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) Foundation is continuing to offer a “Roadmap to an Organic California” with an extensive policy report. The document proposes a wealth of concrete strategies for California lawmakers to employ. Organic agriculture, the authors skillfully reason, can respond to three pressing issues in California: climate resilience, economic security, and health equity. Additionally, the report highlights the need for focus on organic integrity in order to sustain positive change away from toxic practices.

Climate Resilience

The climate crisis is already impacting California; heat waves, droughts, and devastating wildfires are occurring more frequently and severely. Organic agriculture is often forgotten as politicians consider solutions. CCOF proposes that policy makers help combat the climate crisis through supporting healthy, carbon-sequestering soil practices that are federally mandated in organic agriculture.

In addition to building farm resilience, healthy soil secures some of the state’s water supply. Because it is porous and sponge-like, well-maintained soil stores water. In a dry climate like California, the fact that organic crops have yields up to 40% higher than chemical-intensive during years of drought highlights the importance of organic agriculture as climate changes. Noting this value, there is a distinct need for increased research and technical assistance in organic practices.

With increasing financial hardships in farming and the high value of property in California driving sales, the state needs to make governmental efforts to help conserve farmland. “An acre of urban land,” the report emphasizes, “emits 70 times more greenhouse gases than an acre of farmland.”

                How to realize organic’s full potential:

  • Integrate organic into California’s climate strategy.
  • Invest in popular water efficiency programs.
  • Invest in organic research and technical assistance.
  • Conserve California’s farmland.

Economic Security

While California represents an enormous economy, the state struggles with exceptionally high poverty rates and food insecurity. “Low-income people in California are more likely to live in polluted environments, lack access to healthy foods, experience worse health outcomes, and have fewer job opportunities,” the report states. However, it contends, “Organic is an economic solution.”

A 2018 study in Renewable Agriculture and Food found that organic “hot spots” – areas where organic agriculture is clustered – are related to poverty rates that are 1.6% lower than average. Median household incomes in these hot spots are also higher, by $1,600. “Organic agriculture is a proven economic stimulus that strengthens communities,” says the CCOF report. The rising demand for organic produce and the fact that 39% of organic farms make direct sales in their locality (compared to only 5.5% of conventional) relates to more money circulating and being reinvested within local economies. An improved local economy creates jobs and opportunity for growth. As such, the report notes, there is a particular need to invest in farmworker rights – a frontline community that has been impacted by recent immigration policy. Labor shortages have led to crops rotting in the field because there are no workers to harvest them.

                How to realize organic’s full potential:

  • Foster a strong organic market.
  • Invest in farmworkers.
  • Integrate organic into economic development planning.
  • Support organic farmers to comply with regulations and maintain viability.

Health Equity

Low-income families and people of color disproportionately lack access to healthy environments and healthy foods. In California, child exposure to environmental hazards has been estimated to cost $254 million each year. Nationwide, the lack of investment in healthy foods costs $160 billion in health care expenses. These negative health outcomes are inequitable and avoidable.

Organic agriculture creates healthy, pesticide-free environments and more nutritious food than chemical-intensive agriculture. It avoids water contamination and does not poison farmworkers or their children.

                How to realize organic’s full potential:

  • Expand organic to all communities
  • Support children’s health with organic food and farming
  • Promote organic food as medicine

Organic Integrity

The question of organic integrity is foundational to organic growth and the public health, environmental, and agricultural benefits to be derived from its expansion and the transformation of mainstream agriculture, now dependent on chemical inputs and genetically modified organisms. It is this question of organic integrity, and the specifics that drive consumer trust in the USDA organic label, that advocates point to as threatening the future of the organic solution to the climate crisis. CCOF, by many accounts, has been identified as the first certification agency to certify hydroponic (soil-less plant production) as organic and then later affirmed by the National Organic Program. CCOF, advocates say, has been complicit as USDA violated the sunset process established as a foundational standard in the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) process for reviewing allowed synthetic substances in organic production. That process required that, on a five-year cycle, synthetics in organic be subject to a re-listing process (requiring the same supermajority vote that is required to initially place a synthetic on the National List of Allowed Substances) that scrutinized the science on adverse effects and the essentiality of the material, in light of new production practices and substances. While the report highlights how critical the integrity of the organic label is to the success of the organic movement and all it has to offer, it ignores this reality that is undermining organic integrity, according to advocates—missing the importance of unifying the interests of family farmers, consumers, and environmentalists. Nevertheless, the report suggests that lawmakers: 1) Fund the National Organic Program (NOP) and enforce strong organic standards, 2) Clarify organic standards around hydroponics and container-based systems, and 3) Develop a guidance document to bolster the soil fertility standard (how to maintain or improve natural resources and soil health).

Beyond Pesticides is a strong advocate for organic expansion through organic integrity (see: Keeping Organic Strong) and opposes the organic labeling of hydroponic production because it does not incorporate the foundation element an organic production system—soil. If organic agriculture is to be a solution to the climate crisis, carbon-sequestering soil is critical.

California has a chance to lead the nation in responding to the critical issues laid out by CCOF in this policy report. Beyond Pesticides supports advocates and groups heading up this work on the West Coast. You can join our national and local initiatives by signing up for our Action of the Week and Weekly News Update. For more on organic integrity, keep abreast with our new program, OrganicEye.

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

Source: CCOF

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03
Mar

Chemical-Intensive Agriculture Increases Pregnant Mother’s Risk of Her Child Developing Leukemia

(Beyond Pesticides, March 3, 2020) Pregnant mothers living in areas where carcinogenic pesticides have been used are at increased risk of their child developing an acute form of leukemia, according to research published last month in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles. The findings are based on a review of pesticide use data in rural, agricultural areas of California, where many minority, low-income and farmworking communities live. Under current laws, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permits the use of cancer-causing pesticides with an expectation that a certain number of cancers (anywhere from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1,000,000, based on the pesticide in question) should be considered ‘acceptable risk.’

While past studies have shown similar connections between pesticide exposure in the womb and the development of childhood cancer, this is one of the first to utilize geographic information systems (GIS) data, rather than parental interviews on past exposures. Researchers used California public records of cancer incidence from 1998-2011, alongside statewide pesticide use reports (California is the only state to make this information publicly accessible and searchable). A list of 65 pesticides were investigated for their specific connection between use and the development of childhood cancer.

A statistical analysis conducted by researchers found that use of any carcinogenic pesticides within 4,000m (~2.5 miles) during a mother’s pregnancy increases the odds of the child developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia nearly two-fold and three-fold, respectively. Urea-based herbicides, such as diuron and linuron, are found to be particularly troubling, substantially increasing the risk of childhood cancer.

Scientists also considered the cancer connection for several pesticides not considered carcinogenic by EPA, but widely used in California. Among those, glyphosate and and paraquat dichloride were both found to increase the risk of leukemia.

Previous studies by this team of researchers, using a similar GIS-based investigation, found that ambient exposure to agricultural pesticides increased the risk of a child developing autism spectrum disorder, a finding that is also backed up by a 2014 study from the University of California, Davis. These findings also confirm epidemiologic study findings of increased risk of childhood leukemia for women who reported pesticide use during pregnancy.  A 2015 study conducted in the Midwest, and focused on farming communities, finds that crop density in a particular community is associated with the risk of childhood cancer.

With growing awareness that EPA permits carcinogenic pesticides to be sprayed in our communities and on our food, more and more individuals are choosing to go organic. Long-term research finds organic practices return higher yields than chemical farming, and do not use the same highly toxic pesticides as their conventional counterparts. Because organic farms are also likely to sell their produce locally, studies find they are a boon for local economies. In order to stop the rampant poisoning of rural communities, we need to increase the number of organic farms. Help drive demand for this transition by purchasing organic whenever possible. Read more about the benefits of organic agriculture on Beyond Pesticides’ Why Organic program page.

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

Source: International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health

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02
Mar

Take Action Today: Tell EPA to Ban Atrazine

(Beyond Pesticides, March 2, 2020) Deadline today! Tell EPA to Ban Atrazine; Protect Children and Frogs from this Endocrine Disrupting Pesticide.

Atrazine, the second most-used herbicide in the U.S., is an insidious poison. Atrazine is known for producing developmental abnormalities in frogs.

It also affects the endocrine system and reproductive biology of humans. In addition to its agricultural uses on corn, sorghum, and sugar cane, atrazine is also used on home lawns, school grounds, and parks, where exposure to children is common. Nontoxic alternatives are available for all of these uses.

Act today, March 2. Sign the petition demanding that EPA ban atrazine and its cousins simazine and propazine. Act today!

Beyond Pesticides will submit comments: Docket: EPA-HQ-OPP-2017-0750 (FRL-10002-92)

Petition to EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs:

We have serious concerns with the proposed interim decisions on reregistration of three triazine pesticides: atrazine, simazine, and propazine. These triazines are highly mobile and persistent in the environment and have been linked to numerous adverse health and environmental effects which have motivated numerous public interest campaigns to ban their use in the U.S. as well as in Europe. The Draft Ecological Risk Assessments for the Registration Review of Atrazine, Simazine, and Propazine dated October 5, 2016  found high risks that were supported by EPA’s assessments.

EPA’s Proposed Interim Decisions present data demonstrating unreasonable adverse effects. These hazards are unacceptable, especially in light of the availability of nontoxic alternatives. The hazards include:

*The technical mechanism of toxicity is perturbation of the neuroendocrine system by disrupting hypothalamic regulation of the pituitary, leading primarily to a disturbance in the ovulatory surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) which results in both reproductive and developmental alterations. Of the numerous adverse effects associated with this disruption, the two that appear to be the most sensitive and occur after the shortest duration (4 days) of exposure are the disruption of the ovarian cycles and the delays in puberty onset.

*Despite these endocrine disrupting effects, EPA reduces the margin of safety and underestimates exposure to children.

*EPA states, “Based on the results from hundreds of toxicity studies on the effects of atrazine on plants and animals, over 20 years of surface water monitoring data, and higher tier aquatic exposure models, this risk assessment concludes that aquatic plant communities are impacted in many areas where atrazine use is heaviest, and there is potential chronic risk to fish, amphibians, and aquatic invertebrates in these same locations.”

*In spite of these findings, EPA will increase the level of atrazine allowed in waterways.

Please adhere to the statutory mandate of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and suspend the registration of these pesticides that pose unreasonable adverse health and environmental effects.

Act today, Monday, March 2. Sign the petition demanding that EPA ban atrazine and its cousins simazine and propazine.

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28
Feb

Idaho Legislation Advances to Eliminate Even Minimal Protections from Pesticides, including Drift

(Beyond Pesticides, February 28, 2020) State legislators in Boise, Idaho have advanced House Bill 487, An Act Relating to Pesticides and Chemigation, out of the House Agricultural Affairs Committee. If passed, the statutory alterations in this bill would, according to the Idaho Statesman, loosen some rules on aerial application by crop-dusting airplanes, and reduce state agricultural investigators’ ability to regulate the spraying of pesticides. The legislation replaces sections of current rules and deletes language regarding drift, including “Chemicals shall not be applied when wind speed favors drift beyond the area intended for treatment or when chemical distribution is adversely affected.”

Such changes will exacerbate the already-significant issue of pesticide drift. In an overview of the pesticide dicamba, Beyond Pesticides recently reported on this legislative development, as well as on a precipitating exposure event in an Idaho hops field. Banning of aerial spraying, as has been attempted by some localities, would go a long way toward eliminating the harms of pesticide drift. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is the following: As the problem of drift grows and farmers’ crops and people are put at risk, this legislation attempts to define away serious problems and eliminate protections.

The Idaho legislation would appear to be on a fast track to approval: the bill moved very quickly out of the House Agricultural Affairs Committee (AAC) after testimony, mostly from the Idaho Agricultural Aviation Association. It will now go to the full House for consideration — despite grave warnings from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office that the legislation would constrain state enforcement of federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pesticide regulations. Representatives and AAC members Sally Toone and Ryan Kerby requested that the bill be held in committee longer to give members time to read and consider the AG’s nine-page analysis, and to hear further testimony. The Idaho Statesman reports: “It’s unclear whether lawmakers read the full report on the bill. . . . Instead, the committee voted to advance the bill without further testimony, sending it to the House floor.“

Back in 2004, Beyond Pesticides published a “primer” on the phenomenon of pesticide drift that laid out the variety and scale of potential impacts. Drift negatively affects the health of farmworkers and the nearby public (especially children), as well as pollinators, non-target crops, plants, and organisms, and wildlife. Pesticides applied by spraying through the air — whether from an airplane, a drone, a backpack unit, or a truck — are all subject to some degree of drift. Spraying from aircraft presents the most extreme case: up to 40% of the pesticide volume can be lost to drift. Dicamba, alone or in combination with other compounds, is especially prone to it; as reported in February, “It simply does not stay put, no matter how it is applied, but becomes airborne and travels.” Such travel can result in several miles of displacement from the target sites.

The precipitating event in Idaho, in May 2019, was this: a couple of dozen workers in a Canyon County hops field were unexpectedly showered with an aerially delivered fungicide that was meant for a nearby onion field. Beyond Pesticides wrote, “On the heels of this incident, the state agriculture department wrote a letter to the [responsible] crop dusting company, admonishing that — although they were technically not violating application rules — the pilot should have waited to give the farmworkers a chance to vacate the field before unloading the fungicide.” A few months later, a crop dusting association complained to lawmakers that the letter — no fines, no license suspensions or other constraints were involved — amounted to “excessive oversight and regulation.” Soon thereafter, rather than tighten protections for workers and the public through the state’s regulation of pesticide spraying, as public health advocates urged, the legislature chose to create HB487, which would appear to appease agrochemical interests in the state.

Among the bill’s features is the elimination of the terms “faulty” and “careless” from a provision of the state code that says aerial pesticide applicators should not spray in a “faulty, careless, or negligent” manner. In response to one of Rep. Toone’s questions, Deputy Attorney General Katy DeVries wrote that the removal of those terms might expand protections for anyone accused of misuse of pesticides. She added, “The situation could arise where members of the public either ignore or are otherwise unaware of posted pesticide spray notices. Members of the public (i.e., joggers, farmworkers, children) may be present in a spray area. Applicators may still choose to proceed with a spray operation even with people present near the spray area. This action may not necessarily be negligent, but it may fit into the realm of faulty or careless if the application results in human exposure.”

The current statute allows the Idaho State Department of Agriculture to discipline crop-dusting pilots who apply pesticides in a “faulty” or “careless” way, even if the behavior does not meet the higher bar of “negligent.” HB487 would eliminate that latitude. Ms. DeVries noted that the AAC, just weeks ago, struck down several existing rules that regulate aerial pesticide application — rules barring pilots from flying at low altitude over towns, schools, hospitals, or “densely populated areas” without written agreements; flying low over occupied structures without prior notification; spraying pesticides under certain conditions related to wind speed and directions; and the banning of any spraying near designated “hazard areas.” HB487, Ms. DeVries asserted, would further constrain or eliminate the Department of Agriculture’s enforcement authority.

No one from the State Department of Agriculture attended the AAC hearing; the department did submit a bill analysis to the committee outlining the agency’s responsibility to enforce laws regulating pesticide use through a cooperating agreement with the EPA. That document also noted that “State agriculture officials have taken 17 enforcement actions — warning letters, regulatory letters, violations notices or consent agreements — against pesticide applicators in the past five years. . . . Not all resulted in fines or license suspensions. . . . The ISDA [Idaho State Department of Agriculture] has the responsibility to ensure that the use of pesticides will not cause unreasonable adverse effect to human health or the environment.”

At the hearing, approximately 15 people related to the crop-dusting industry testified in support of the bill; exactly one person — Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League — testified in opposition. Mr. Oppenheimer “cautioned the committee to consider whether the law was really being inappropriately enforced, noting that the Idaho Attorney General’s Office found the state had issued only one violation notice under one of the sections the Idaho Agricultural Aviation Association wanted lawmakers to remove.”

Those aligned with the crop dusting companies asserted that state agriculture investigators have excessive latitude in assessing violations and fines, and that accused crop-duster pilots have little recourse to appeal such actions. The testimony of two pilots stood out as particularly creative: they claimed that “the stress of adhering to complicated regulations could distract pilots and endanger their lives while flying. ‘It’s a good recipe to get dead,’ said one of the men.” The crop dusting constituency had a vocal supporter in State Representative Gary Marshall, who expressed his displeasure at the mild slap state agriculture officials delivered to the company after the exposure incident in the hops field: “What you’ve described is the very essence of tyrannical government. I can hear James Madison very loudly in my mind. This is the very essence of tyranny.” As the Idaho Statesman coverage of this hearing said, “Lawmakers seemed eager to assist the crop-duster association members.”

Marielena Vega, of the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils, has expressed concern that the bill’s changes will “unreasonably limit” the ability of the state to deal with incidents such as the Canyon County hops field incident. She said, “By eliminating ‘faulty’ and ‘careless,’ this legislation makes it more difficult to prove an individual or company misused pesticides. Striking these from the statute would expose workers and the public to greater harm because there are greater legal hurdles to demonstrate negligence.”

Ms. Vega is rightly concerned about HB487. Farmworkers, who labor under very demanding conditions, are very often exposed to pesticides and other chemicals in the course of their work — never mind the other stresses they endure, such as low wages, hard physical labor, injuries, long hours, all manner of weather conditions, and increasingly, threats from U.S. immigration officials. Indeed, the average life expectancy of farmworkers is 39 years, as compared with 78 for the general U.S. population. Beyond Pesticides monitors and evaluates developments in, and advocates for, agricultural justice for those who work to put food on the tables of Americans.

Pesticide drift is among the risks farmworkers, and members of the public, face in nearly any agricultural area. Lawmakers and government agencies at both the state and federal levels ought to be working to protect people from the harms of pesticide use generally, and aerial spraying in particular, given the “reach” of such applications to areas far beyond the intended targets. When lawmakers and agencies fail to protect, the onus is necessarily on the public and civic organizations to insist that they do.

That can be a challenging task, as residents of Lincoln County, Oregon learned when they secured a hard-won local ban on aerial spraying, only to have a circuit court judge strike down the ban on the basis of state pre-emption. (Read more about that case here and here.) Certainly, as in this Idaho case, lawmakers’ prioritizing the ability of crop dusters to deliver their chemical loads over the health of those on the ground, is a particular affront to both common sense and legislative responsibility to constituents.

Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as the solution that protects farmworkers, public health, ecosystems, and natural resources — water, air, and soil — on which all human activity depends. The public can become informed on these issues, and mobilize its influence, with state and local elected officials, and through engagement with and support of non-governmental and civic organizations (such as Beyond Pesticides) that advocate for laws and policies that reduce the risk of pesticide use. One great way to do both of those is to join Beyond Pesticides!

Take Action: Residents of Idaho are encouraged to contact their elected officials. Contact your Idaho state legislator: Click here.

https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article240597081.html

 

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27
Feb

Report Finds Top Chemical Companies Making Billions Off Poisoning the Earth

(Beyond Pesticides, February 27, 2020) A new report finds that as birds and pollinators continue to decline, and chronic diseases remain on the rise, the global agrichemical industry is raking in billions of dollars from hazardous pesticides that contribute to these crises. A joint investigation from Unearthed and Public Eye finds that 35% of pesticide sales from the largest agrichemical corporations are made from the most toxic pesticides on the market.

Pesticide production was a $57.6 billion market in 2018, according to the report. While the profits of the industry are privatized, the public health and environmental effects are broad. Studies conducted over the last decade show that the impacts of hazardous pesticide use dwarf the market for these chemicals.

The impact of pesticides on public health results in a drag on the economy. Earlier this year, research from the New York University Grossman School of Medicine found that children’s exposure to organophosphate insecticides was 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 each year. A 2019 study from the same scientists determined that endocrine disrupting chemicals, including organophosphates and organochlorine pesticides, were attributable to $340 billion in health care costs annually.

The damage pesticides cause to the natural world also results in significant economic impacts. Pollination alone contributes between $20 and $30 billion in economic value to agriculture each year. A 2016 review, titled The Hidden and External Costs of Pesticide Use, pinned the total environmental costs of pesticide use, including issues like bird and fish kills, loss of pest management by the killing of non-target animals, and pest resistance to pesticides to result in at least $39.5 billion in economic costs annually.

The report from Unearthed and Public Eye finds that the five major chemical companies represented by the trade association Croplife, including BASF, Bayer Crop Science, Corteva Agriscience, FMC, and Syngenta/ChemChina, sold roughly $37 billion worth of pesticides in 2018, comprising 65% of the global market. Of that group, the investigation found that 10% of leading product income from Croplife members came from chemicals considered highly toxic to bees by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Focus of the report centered around the outsized influence Croplife members have on the sale of “highly hazardous” chemicals around the world, as defined by Pesticide Action Network International. In high income developed countries, Croplife companies’ sales of highly hazardous pesticides accounted for 27% of its market share, but in lower income developing countries, hazardous pesticide sales were nearly 50%. This is especially concerning in countries like Brazil, which is home to some of the most biodiverse areas in the world. Since the election of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonoro, pesticide approvals in that country have skyrocketed.

While it is certainly important to restrict use of the most toxic pesticides on the market, what is truly needed is an end to pesticide dependency. The ongoing success of organic agriculture shows that we can transform our farming systems from an economic drain on ecosystem services and public health to one that fosters biodiversity, delivers more nutritious foods, and adds to economic growth.  Under organic, use of a limited list of least-toxic pesticides is allowed only under the conditions determined by a comprehensive organic systems plan.

If you’re concerned about the use of pesticides on Brazilian biodiversity and imported foods, consider joining Beyond Pesticides’ boycott of Brazilian food products. And to hear more about the connection between pesticide use and adverse economic impacts, considering attending Beyond Pesticides National Pesticide Forum, where Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, of the NYU research team will provide a keynote talk on his research.  

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

Source: Unearthed 

 

 

  

 

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26
Feb

Tell Your Congressional Representative to Support the Agriculture Resilience Act

(Beyond Pesticides, February 26, 2020) Agriculture both suffers from the impacts of the climate crisis and contributes significantly to global warming. Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine has introduced H.R. 5861 aimed at achieving a 50% reduction in agricultural emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2040, relative to 2010 levels.

Tell Your Congressional Representative to Cosponsor H.R. 5861.

July of 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. The last time atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were this high (over 415 ppm) was during the Pliocene period – between 5.3 and 2.6 million years ago. We have seen changing precipitation and temperature patterns, resulting in flooding of some agricultural regions and droughts in others, crops and livestock varieties no longer suited to the geographical area where they have been produced, and new problems with insects, weeds, and disease.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use contributes about 23% of total net anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. At the same time, organic production can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon in the soil.

Regenerative organic agriculture reduces emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. In nonorganic, chemical-intensive agriculture, greenhouse gas emissions result from the use of nitrogen fertilizer, synthetic herbicides and insecticides, fossil fuel consumption associated with farm equipment, and the transportation of materials and products to and from the farm. The manufacture of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is a major source of energy use in chemical-intensive agriculture–the manufacture and use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers alone are responsible for as much as 10 percent of direct global agricultural emissions. This is important because pound-for-pound, nitrous oxide is 300 times as potent as carbon dioxide in warming the planet.

Besides reducing energy use, organic agriculture helps combat climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil. Organic agriculture also produces farms resilient to climate change because high soil organic matter content and mulching help to prevent nutrient and water loss. In addition, organic agriculture increases biodiversity, which is needed to meet the challenges of new insects, diseases, and weeds.

 The best time to have addressed global warming was 20 years ago, but the second-best time is now. Organic, regenerative agricultural practices help mend the earth from the ground up. Rep. Pingree’s Agriculture Resilience Act establishes specific goals and responsibilities in order to “accelerate the ability of agriculture and the food system to first achieve net zero carbon emissions and then go further to be carbon positive by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

Tell Your Congressional Representative to Cosponsor H.R. 5861.

Letter to Congress

Agriculture both suffers from the impacts of the climate crisis and contributes significantly to global warming.  I am writing to ask you to cosponsor H.R. 5831, which is aimed at achieving a 50% reduction in agricultural emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2040, relative to 2010 levels.

July of 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. The last time atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were this high (over 415 ppm) was during the Pliocene period – between 5.3 and 2.6 million years ago. We have seen changing precipitation and temperature patterns, resulting in flooding of some agricultural regions and droughts in others, crops and livestock varieties no longer suited to the geographical area where they have been produced, and new problems with insects, weeds, and disease.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use contributes about 23% of total net anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. At the same time, organic production can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon in the soil.

Regenerative organic agriculture reduces emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. In nonorganic, chemical-intensive agriculture, greenhouse gas emissions result from the use of nitrogen fertilizer, synthetic herbicides and insecticides, fossil fuel consumption associated with farm equipment, and the transportation of materials and products to and from the farm. The manufacture of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is a major source of energy use in chemical-intensive agriculture–the manufacture and use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers alone are responsible for as much as 10 percent of direct global agricultural emissions. This is important because pound-for-pound, nitrous oxide is 300 times as potent as carbon dioxide in warming the planet.

Besides reducing energy use, organic agriculture helps combat climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil. Organic agriculture also produces farms resilient to climate change because high soil organic matter content and mulching help to prevent nutrient and water loss. In addition, organic agriculture increases biodiversity, which is needed to meet the challenges of new insects, diseases, and weeds.

The best time to have addressed global warming was 20 years ago, but the second-best time is now. Organic, regenerative agricultural practices help mend the earth from the ground up. Rep. Pingree’s Agriculture Resilience Act establishes specific goals and responsibilities in order to “accelerate the ability of agriculture and the food system to first achieve net zero carbon emissions and then go further to be carbon positive by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

Please cosponsor H.R. 5831.

Thank you.

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