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Daily News Blog

17
Jul

Final Arguments Made in Court to Ban Chlorpyrifos

(Beyond Pesticides, July 17, 2018) Last week, closing arguments were made in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) refusal to ban chlorpyrifos, the pesticide science links to a host of neurological impairments in children. A coalition of labor and health organizations represented by Earthjustice asked a panel of three judges to overturn former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision not to ban chlorpyrifos.

In June 2017, a dozen health, labor, and civil rights organizations represented by Earthjustice filed an administrative appeal to EPA urging the federal government to ban chlorpyrifos. The attorneys general of New York, California, Washington, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland and Vermont also filed their own appeal calling for a ban. The groups also filed a court case that asked the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco to decide the issues presented in the administrative appeal because of the likelihood of a delayed resolution by the EPA. This was the last hearing where the health and labor groups, as well as states, were able to present their arguments to the court of appeals and answer the judges’ questions. The New York Attorney General’s office also presented arguments on behalf of seven states, which intervened in the case and are also calling for a ban on chlorpyrifos. After the argument, the judges will issue a written ruling, which could be within weeks or months.

In March 2017, then Administrator Pruitt rejected the conclusions of EPA scientists, and independent scientific literature, and reversed a tentative decision from 2015 to revoke food residue tolerances of chlorpyrifos due to the chemical’s neurotoxic impacts. This would have effectively banned chlorpyrifos from agriculture. This decision stemmed from a petition and lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) ten years ago, calling for EPA to revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances and cancel all registrations. Pruitt’s decision came weeks after he met with the head of Dow Chemical, which sells chlorpyrifos under the name of Lorsban.

Decades of scientific data show that chlorpyrifos damages fetal brains and produces cognitive and behavioral dysfunctions, particularly in utero and in children. Even at low levels of exposure chlorpyrifos can impact the developing fetus in pregnant women resulting in impaired learning, change in brain functions, and alter thyroid levels of children into adulthood.

Epidemiological data also points to subpopulations that are disproportionately affected by chlorpyrifos exposures. Low-income African-American and Latino families, including farmworker families, continue to suffer the most, and this disproportionate impact creates an environmental justice issue that the agency must not continue to ignore. A 2016 study found lower IQ in children born to mothers who, during their pregnancy, were living in close proximity to chemical-intensive agricultural lands where OPs were used. A 2015 study found that a decrease in lung function in children was linked to exposure to organophosphates early in life. Another 2015 study found that prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos is linked to tremors in children. Although organophosphate use was on the decline in the U.S., EPA has allowed the continued registration of many of these products.

Earthjustice’s appeal was filed on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens, United Farm Workers, Farmworker Association of Florida, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Farmworker Justice, GreenLatinos, National Hispanic Medical Association, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Learning Disability Association of America, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Pesticide Action Network North America, and Natural Resources Defense Council.

In light of gross federal inaction on this highly neurotoxic pesticide, the state of Hawaii became the first in the nation to take a stand and ban chlorpyrifos. Governor David Ige signed SB3095 into law, in light of the unanimous support it received from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The statewide prohibition of chlorpyrifos will take effect beginning in January 2019. This legislative action marks the first time that any state in the country has passed an outright ban on the highly toxic pesticide. Hawaii’s law contains a caveat that allows the state’s Department of Agriculture (DOA) to grant special permits for companies that argue that they need more time to phase-out chlorpyrifos, but that exemption will end at the close of 2022. Lawmakers in New Jersey and Maryland have recently tried unsuccessfully to pass similar bans.

U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have introduced a bill that would ban the use of the insecticide, chlorpyrifos. The Protect Children, Farmers and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides ActS. 1624, comes one week after an appeals court refused to require EPA to make a decision over whether to ban the chemical.

Take Action: To oppose the continued allowance of chlorpyrifos and other noxious pesticides in your community, write or call your US Congressional Representative. Urge them to support the Protect Children, Farmers, and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act of 2017 to safeguard schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces from the unnecessary exposure to this neurotoxin. Learn more about the fate, effects, and impacts of pesticides, including chlorpyrifos, by visiting Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database. Also, consult Beyond Pesticides’ factsheet Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix, which cites peer-reviewed scientific literature on the health effects of pesticides.

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

Source: Earthjustice Press Release

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16
Jul

Federal Bill Benefits Monsanto/Bayer, Overriding Labeling of Roundup/Glyphosate as a Carcinogen under California Law

(Beyond Pesticides, July 16, 2018)  Legislative Sneak Attacks Continue. Yet another bill has been introduced in Congress to remove accountability from Monsanto/Bayer for its glyphosate herbicide Roundup.™ The so-called “Accurate Labels Act” (S.3019/H.R.6022) would repeal most, if not all, existing labeling and information disclosure laws adopted by state or local governments, including California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop 65), which has been responsible for the removal of hundreds of dangerous toxic chemicals, including lead, cadmium, and mercury, from commercial and consumer products nationwide. California listed Roundup as a probable carcinogen in 2015, requiring a label warning in the state, and California’s Fifth District Court of Appeal upheld the decision in April of this year, rejecting Monsanto’s challenge to the listing.

Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative to oppose S.3019/H.R.6022.

California will not only move ahead with warning labels on products that contain glyphosate, but also, prohibit discharge of the pesticide into public waterways. Proposition 65 requires notification, primarily through labeling, of all chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm, and prohibits their discharge into the state’s drinking waters.

As with previous sneak attacks, Monsanto’s fingerprints — if not its name – are all over this bill. Other legislation that would help remove Monsanto/Bayer accountability for glyphosate is contained in appropriations for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Farm Bill. The House appropriations bill for ATSDR includes “report language” that would restrict independent evaluation of pesticide hazards by ATSDR. Monsanto pushed to stop ATSDR from researching the cancer-causing properties of its glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup.

In April, the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture moved H.R.2 (the Farm Bill) out of committee with a provision that prohibits local governments from restricting pesticide use on private property within their jurisdictions. The full House passed the bill in June. Existing local laws in two states, Maine and Maryland, will be overturned with final passage of this law. In those 43 states that forbid local pesticide laws by state law, future reconsideration of this state prohibition — a squelching of local authority pushed by the chemical and pest management industry — will be foreclosed.

The fight to defend the authority of local governments to protect people and the environment has been ongoing for decades, reaching the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991. In response to the Supreme Court decision in Wisconsin Pub. Intervenor v. Mortier, which found in favor of localities’ authority, the pesticide lobby immediately formed the “Coalition for Sensible Pesticide Policy,” and developed boilerplate legislative language that restricts local municipalities from passing ordinances on the use of pesticides on private property. The Coalition’s lobbyists descended on states across the country, seeking and in most cases passing, preemption legislation whose text was often identical to the Coalition’s. Since the passage of those state laws, there have been numerous efforts to preempt local authority in states that do not prohibit local action on pesticides. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an industry-backed group, appeared to be behind a failed effort over the last two years to preempt local authority in the Maine state legislature.

Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative to oppose S.3019/H.R.6022.

Letter to U.S. Senators and Representatives:

Please oppose S.3019/H.R.6022, deceptively called the “Accurate Labels Act,” would block enforcement of most state and local right-to-know laws, and even some federal programs. It is an attack on transparency and the rights of state governments. These important laws require disclosure of ingredients in everyday consumer products that are linked to potential health risks, including cancer, birth defects, developmental harm to children and other diseases. The bill is alarming and radical legislation that would repeal most, if not all, existing labeling and information disclosure laws adopted by state or local governments.

In addition, the bill would effectively prevent the future adoption of any meaningful and health-protective right-to-know laws at the state or local level for nearly all consumer products and commodities and potentially eliminate current and future federal agency-initiated information, ingredient disclosure and right-to-know requirements. the bill would likely eliminate existing state and local laws including:

* California’s landmark law, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop 65) which has been responsible for the removal of hundreds of dangerous toxic chemicals including lead, cadmium, and mercury from commercial and consumer products nationwide and requires a warning on some pesticides.
* Requirements to disclose when household furniture contains toxic flame retardant chemicals (which are not needed for fire safety), many of which are associated with learning disabilities, cancer, reproductive harm, and hormone disruption and are known to be released from furniture into indoor air and dust.
* Eleven state laws requiring disclosure of mercury, a potent brain damaging chemical, in products and the need for its proper disposal as a hazardous waste.
* Requirements for full household cleaning product ingredient disclosure.
* Requirements to report on the use of chemicals of high concern in consumer (children’s) products.

I urge you to support local and state right-to-know laws that have protected consumers across the country from dangerous chemicals in thousands of products, while incentivizing safer products in the marketplace.

 

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13
Jul

Tick Study Leads to Inaccurate and Potentially Dangerous Pesticide Advice in Media Reports

(Beyond Pesticides, July 13, 2018) Earlier this year, a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that a known carcinogen, the synthetic pyrethroid permethrin, when applied to clothing may function as a tick deterrent. The study has led to many misleading and potentially dangerous headlines, such as National Public Radio’s story “To Repel Ticks, Try Spraying Your Clothes With A Pesticide That Mimics Mums.” These articles encourage readers to use permethrin treated clothing, and downplay the risks associated with its use. Moreover, as noted by Consumer Reports, the CDC study in question does not go as far as recommending that individuals use permethrin treated clothing.

The study placed ticks of different species and life stages on cloth cut from permethrin treated clothing. Researchers found that the majority of ticks had difficulty moving after exposure to the fabric. However, this effect did vary with life stages, as adult ticks were generally able handle pesticide exposure longer than nymph stage ticks. However, as James Dickerson, PhD, chief scientific officer of Consumer Reports notes, “The CDC’s study did not test any items while they were being worn, so it doesn’t show conclusively how well the clothes might keep ticks from biting you.” When speaking with Consumer Reports, study coauthor Lars Eisen, PhD, with CDC indicated that a larger study that includes individuals actually wearing the treated clothing is needed to indicate whether the practice is indeed effective. “We do not have that study yet,” Dr. Eisen told Consumer Reports.

NPR’s coverage of the study led it to interview an individual who recommended using both permethrin and the repellent DEET to address tick issues as “very effective,” with NPR indicating that the study backs up these claims. However, a 2001 study investigating the synergistic effects of DEET and permethrin due to its potential link to Gulf War Syndrome, reported by many veterans, found that this combination “decreased [blood brain barrier] BBB permeability in certain brain regions, and impaired sensorimotor performance.”

A U.S. Army funded study from 2011 also linked pesticide exposure and synergy to Gulf War Syndrome symptoms, singling out DEET and permethrin, among other chemicals. Despite these risks, NPR simply quoted EPA assertions that individuals were unlikely to experience “significant immediate or long-term hazard from permethrin,” but did not address synergy risks between DEET and permethrin, let alone the deficiencies in EPA’s pesticide registration system.

Beyond Pesticides strongly discourages the use of any pesticide treated clothing. In addition to being classified a likely carcinogen by EPA, permethrin has been associated with endocrine disruption, reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, and damage to organs like the kidney and liver. It’s been linked to behavioral problems in children, infant leukemia, and adverse respiratory effects such as wheezing.

In humans, symptoms of acute exposure to DEET include headache, exhaustion and mental confusion, together with blurred vision, salivation, chest tightness, muscle twitching and abdominal cramps. Researchers have noted significant concerns related to the use of DEET, including nervous system disorders, adverse developmental effects, and neurotoxicity in children. DEET poses risks to the human nervous system, according to a 2009 study. Another  study associated pregnant women’s exposure to insect repellents, such as DEET, during their first trimester to an 81% increased chance of male children developing “hypospadias,” a condition where the urinary opening is at the bottom rather that the tip of the penis.

Many may also think that spraying one’s lawn with insecticides to kill ticks are a good way to address their presence around your yard. However, a study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases in 2016 found that while these sprays may in fact kill ticks, residents that had their yard’s sprayed reported the same number of ticks and same rate of tickborne illness as those that did not. The authors concluded tick barrier sprays, “do not significantly reduce the household risk of tick exposure or incidence of tick-borne disease.”

The best way to address ticks is through personal protective measures and judicious use of least-toxic repellents such as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, Picaridin, and IRC. If one ignores DEET from their search, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a helpful website to find a brand of tick repellent that is effective. The website indicates the product name, length of effectiveness, active ingredient, and company name. Rather than mowed lawns, ticks are likely to hide in tall grass, shrubs, and overgrowth vegetation, and it follows that eliminating these habitats around one’s home can help suppress ticks where they’re likely to latch on. Since white-footed mice are critical vectors for tick-borne diseases like lyme, methods to reduce rodent populations can also address lyme. But if you’re going into the woods or other areas with known high tick populations, the most effective method currently is to wear appropriate clothing (light colored that covers one’s whole body), a hat, and consider tucking one’s pant’s into your socks. Most important is to conduct regular tick checks alongside a friend, as it’s critically important to detatch a tick from one’s skin as soon as possible after the bite to reduce the chance of disease transfer.  If you have an outdoor pet, don’t forget to check them as well (consider a flea/tick comb and remember areas like behind the ears and in between toes).

While CDC continues to study the best methods to manage ticks, personal protection and diligence remain the best deterrents to tick-borne disease, not the use of chemicals that pose new risks to one’s health. For more information on how to manage ticks safely, see Beyond Pesticides ManageSafe webpage.

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

Source: Consumer Reports, NPR, Journal of Medical Entomology

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12
Jul

Presence of Neonic Insecticides in Wild Turkeys Highlights Widespread Contamination of the Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, July 12, 2018) Neonicotinoid insecticides have become notorious for their impacts to insect pollinators like bees and butterflies, but research finding the presence of these chemicals in wild turkeys is raising new concerns about the ubiquitous nature of these chemicals once released into the environment. Published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research by a team from the University of Guelph (UG), this new study highlights the broader effects of neonicotinoids on wildlife, and underlines calls to restrict the use of these products in favor of a more sustainable pest management approach.

Looking at roughly 40 wild turkeys in southern Ontario, researchers found 10 that contained pesticide residue in their livers. Claire Jardine, PhD, pathobiology professor and study co-author notes that wild turkeys in agricultural regions are more likely to be contaminated. “Wild turkeys supplement their diet with seeds from farm fields,” she indicated in a press release.

The agrichemical industry coats a majority of corn and soybean seeds with neonicotinoids prior to planting. Because of their systemic nature, neonicotinoids are incorporated the seedlings as they grow, with the promise by the industry that this will alleviate pest pressure. However, a significant body of research, including EPA studies, have found that neonicotinoid seed treatments provide little to no benefit to farmers. An assessment published earlier this year by an international team of scientists found that an alternative insurance model could easily replace the need for farmers to purchase expensive neonicotinoid-coated seeds.

“A number of member hunters throughout southern Ontario had seen wild turkeys in the fields eating these seeds,” said another study co-author Amanda MacDonald, PhD. “In certain areas, they noticed a lack of young birds and wanted to know if neonicotinoids had anything to do with it.” As she noted, “There has been growing concern among natural resource managers, conservationists and hunters about whether the use of neonics may be linked to poor reproductive output of wild turkeys.”

Earlier research investigating how neonicotinoids affect birds had found that a single kernel of neonicotinoid-coated corn was enough to kill a songbird. Insecticides like neonicotinoids also been found to interfere with migration patterns, building evidence that the decline of many grassland birds is linked to the widespread use of pesticides on farmland. Although researchers have only tested for the presense of neonicotinoid contamination, the number of detections and reports from those on the ground paint a concerning picture. “We need to continue to assess levels of neonics in a variety of wildlife, especially those that may feed off the ground or consume plants and insects and therefore might be more likely to come into contact with them,” said another study coauthor, Nicole Nemeth, PhD.

Beyond Pesticides continues to work to raise awareness about the dangers and hazards these chemicals pose to wildlife and the wider environment. For more information about neonicotinoid coated seeds and what you can do in your community to protect pollinators and other species impacted by neonicotinoids, see the short video, “Seeds that Poison.” We can manage land to produce food and encourage wild game without the use of toxic pesticides by moving to organic land management practices. These methods forgo pesticide use in favor of cultural practices that improve soil health and enhance natural ecosystem processes. For more information on organic land management see the recent article in Pesticides and You titled “Thinking Holistically When Making Land Management Decisions.”

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

Source: Environmental Science and Pollution Research, EurekAlert

 

 

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11
Jul

Regenerative Farms Yield Soil Health and Higher Profits than Chemical-Intensive Operations

(Beyond Pesticides, July 11, 2018) Ecologically-based farming systems contain far fewer pests and generate much higher profits than their conventional, chemical-based counterparts according to research published in the journal PeerJ earlier this year by scientists at South Dakota State University and the Ecdysis Foundation. The study supports calls to reshape the future of agriculture, as ‘regenerative’ farms, which avoid tillage and bare soil, integrate livestock, and foster on-farm diversity. These farms are found to represent an economically viable alternative to overly simplified, pesticide and fertilizer-dependent cropping systems. Given the study’s focus on corn cropping systems, such a shift is possible for thousands of farmers throughout the United States.

Researchers looked at roughly 75 fields on 18 farms, measuring the organic matter in the soil, insect pest populations, corn yield as well as profit. Farms using pesticide treatments, which in corn fields is represented primarily by the use of neonicotinoid-coated seeds, had 10x higher pest levels than regenerative farms. As noted in the study, pest populations are a function of the biodiversity within the crop field. Biodiveristy increased on regenerative farms not only because farmers sprayed fewer pesticides, but because they also allowed more plants to grow in between rows. More plants lead to higher numbers of predatory insects and increased competition for pests, while conventional farms mistakenly attempt to simplify the ecosystem by replacing this diversity with pesticides. Lower levels of biodiversity, however, leads to fewer predators, less competition for crop pests like aphids, and the rapid development of pesticide resistance which facilitates pest outbreaks.

While many in the agrichemical industry may point to the fact that regenerative farms produced 29% less corn than conventional farms, profit, the most important aspect of any business, was 78% higher from regenerative farms. Researchers linked this to a number of factors. First, conventional farms spent a significant amount of their money (32%) on outside inputs, with the most expensive costs being fertilizer and seed, which often comes at a premium price from agrichemical companies because it is either genetically engineered or coated in neonicotinoid insecticides.  Second, while regenerative farms spent comparable less on seed and fertilizer (12%), they also benefited by receiving an organic premium, selling their corn directly to consumers, or extracting additional value out of their field, such as by grazing it with livestock. Ultimately, scientists found that on-farm profit correlated most closely not with yields, but with the amount of organic matter in the soil of the field.

This research has important implications for farmers. ‘Following the money’ when it comes to food production indicates that there should be less of a focus on yield, and more of a focus on enhancing soil biology and biodiversity on farms. In a report published last year by the United Nations, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, PhD, confirmed that industry arguments about the need for conventional pesticides to increase food production are not accurate.  “It is a myth,” said Dr. Elver. “Using more pesticides has nothing to do with getting rid of hunger. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), we are able to feed nine billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.” In 2016, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems released a report “From Uniformity to Diversity,” calling for an end to the industrial agricultural model. The report notes, “The mismatch between the potential of agroecology to improve food systems outcomes, and its potential to generate profit for agribusinesses, may explain why it has been so slow to make its way onto the global political agenda.”

As a 2014 study published by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found, organic agriculture can and must be the method used to feed the world in the future. The organic industry is the food production system most prepared to foster the transition needed to see this come to fruition, and Beyond Pesticides is doing all it can to ensure it continues to grow while retaining and building consumer trust in the organic label. The success of organic in the U.S. has been driven by ecologically-based farms that focus on fostering biodiversity, limiting external inputs, improving soil health, sequestering carbon, and using integrated holistic approaches to managing pests, weeds, and disease. To learn more about why organic is the right choice, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture program page. And for more information on the dangers neonicotinoid coated seeds pose to pollinators and our environment, see and share Beyond Pesticides’ new video, “Seeds that Poison.”

Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative to protect organic in the Farm Bill, remove any changes to the organic standard setting process, and uphold environmental protections.

Beyond Pesticides opposes any provisions in the Farm Bill that amend the standard setting procedures of the federal organic law and believes that no improvements are worth the damage that can be done to the standard setting process and public trust in the organic seal in the marketplace. Beyond Pesticides is urging that conferees in House-Senate Farm Bill conference committee over the next weeks to eliminate amendments that change any aspect of organic standard setting under the Organic Foods Production Act (OPFA).

The Farm Bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 2, is a direct attack on: organic standard setting; the authority of local governments to restrict toxic pesticides; and, the protection of farmworkers, endangered species, and the environment. Now, the Senate is getting ready to pass a bill that opens the door to an attack on organic. While the Senate train is speeding down the track, it is important to keep these damaging provisions out of the final (conference) bill.

Protect Organic Standards. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) gives the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) broad authority and responsibility to ensure organic integrity. The House version of the Farm Bill contains provisions that will give USDA greater direct and indirect power to allow products and practices that were not intended to be a allowed in organic – hydroponics, poultry houses without real access to the outdoors, and dairy operations without meaningful pasture. The Senate bill opens up the dangerous possibility of a change to the organic standard setting process. There should be no changes to the process that establishes organic standards in order to protect the meaning and value of organic in the marketplace.

The Farm Bill should not:

  • Change definitions that open OFPA to new interpretations of its core standard setting practices, which ensure rigorous review of synthetic substances in organic production and processing;
  • Permit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sidestep the NOSB in allowing toxic post-harvest handling substances (sanitizers) to be used in organic production;
  • Change the classification of types of people who may be appointed to the NOSB by adding employees of farmers, handlers, and retailers; and
  • Force consideration of allowing the use of products in organic that are subject to weaker standards of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Farm Bill should also not contain provisions that:

  • Amend the federal pesticide law to preempt local governments from restricting pesticide use on private property within their jurisdictions;
  • Exempt the use of pesticides from the Endangered Species Act, effectively dooming hundreds of endangered species to extinction and making it legal to kill any endangered species with a pesticide at almost any time;
  • Eliminate litigation as a remedy when pesticide decisions threaten endangered species;
  • Eliminate all protections under the Clean Water Act when toxic pesticides are sprayed directly into rivers and streams;
  • Enact the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, providing long-term funding to EPA for expedited processing of pesticide approvals, without accompanying measures to ensure that farmworkers and other pesticide applicators are safe;
  • Weaken restrictions on the use of the highly toxic ozone deplete, methyl bromide; and
  • Give states the authority to delay federal restrictions.

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

Source: PeerJ

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10
Jul

EPA Administrator Pruitt Resigns, But Mission to Dismantle Environmental Regulations Continues

(Beyond Pesticides, July 10, 2018) Scott Pruitt’s resignation as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took effect Monday under a cloud of ethics investigations and alleged collusion with industry to systematically undermine, dismantle, and reverse critical protections for air, water, and workers. Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler will take the helm as Acting Administrator after serving as Deputy Administrator, a position that required Senate confirmation. Mr. Wheeler, a lawyer who worked  in the toxics office at EPA under Presidents George H.W. Bush ad Bill Clinton, as an aide to U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) – a denier of climate change – and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), and as a lobbyist for the coal and chemical industry, told the Washington Post: “[I] would say that the agenda for the agency was set out by President Trump. And Administrator Pruitt has been working to implement that. I will try to work to implement the president’s agenda as well. I don’t think the overall agenda is going to change that much, because we’re implementing what the president has laid out for the agency. He made several campaign promises that we are working to fulfill here.”

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chair of EPW, in a statement, said: “Under President Trump, the EPA has returned to its original mission of protecting America’s air, water, and land. During Administrator Pruitt’s tenure, the agency has rolled back punishing regulations that were hurting American workers and stifling our economy. It has become increasingly challenging for the EPA to carry out its mission with the administrator under investigation. President Trump made the right decision to accept his resignation.” Meanwhile, some Democrats went on the attack. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) tweeted, “Andrew Wheeler may not have the same stink of blatant corruption as EPA Scott Pruitt, but he’s just as dirty. The EPA’s new Acting Director is a former coal lobbyist who will work to poison the agency and the environment he’s supposed to protect from the inside.”

During Mr. Wheeler’s confirmation for the Deputy Administrator position, the Sierra Club issued a critical press release: “Wheeler brings his own troubling record of serving as a paid lobbyist for corporate polluters; the fact he would enter the administration in direct violation of Trump’s own “ethics” Executive Order; a past history of paid industry sponsored junkets; and a campaign finance scandal under which he raised funds for committee members who voted on him months after he was already the presumptive nominee.” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune released the following statement: “Confirming coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to help lead the agency that is supposed to hold corporate polluters accountable is a move straight from the Washington, D.C. swamp. Wheeler’s confirmation further enables the culture of corruption in which Scott Pruitt attacks clean air and water standards on behalf of the corporate polluters who’ve been providing him favors and giving him marching orders. The Senate should be demanding more scrutiny of Wheeler’s own problematic record, not rushing his confirmation so that he can stand by Pruitt’s side. Wheeler is ethically compromised. In addition to spending a decade getting paid to push corporate polluter interests in Washington, Wheeler has made clear he will do everything in his power to roll back essential safeguards that protect our air, water, and families from harmful toxins like mercury, arsenic, lead, and other pollution.”

After months of pressure and an embarrassing encounter at an eatery in DC, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has resigned. Pruitt’s resignation is on the heels of heavily critiqued spending, ethics, and policy decisions. One of his first orders (and one of his most egregious) in office was to reverse EPA’s proposed decision to ban the nerve toxin, chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that decades of science as shown to be toxic to children’s brains and harmful to workers. At a hearing last year, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) pressed Mr. Pruitt to name a peer-reviewed study that indicates that chlorpyrifos is safe. Mr. Pruitt answered by saying that he had relied on ‘interagency dialogue’ with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) before denying the petition to ban the chemical. Regarding chlorpyrifos’ safety, Mr. Pruitt stated that his decision was founded on “meaningful data and meaningful science.” However, when EPA was followed up with to provide details on this science, Mr. Pruitt’s office replied with quotes from trade groups and USDA, but failed to provide any scientific studies on the chemical’s safety.

Mr. Pruitt‘s “changes” to the agency, frequently favored industry interests over science-based protection of the environment and public health. EPA’s moves to reduce enforcement, roll back protective regulations, and install industry-friendly personnel have been covered extensively by Beyond Pesticides; examples include: “Where Has All the EPA Enforcement Gone,” “The Threat to Scientific Integrity at EPA,” and regular posts in its Daily News Blog.

Mr. Pruitt called his approach to EPA’s function “Back to Basics,” which he said included a refocus on EPA’s “intended mission, a return of power to the states, and creation of an environment where jobs can grow.” The agency website sets out the “three Es” of the Back-to-Basics agenda: Environment: protecting the environment; Economy: sensible regulations that allow economic growth; and Engagement: engaging with state and local partners. The new agenda was announced in April 2017 at a coal mine in Sycamore, Pennsylvania — a telling gesture that betrayed Pruitt’s actual allegiances: to the extractive, chemical, industrial, and transportation interests that are the chief sources of environmental degradation in the U.S. In addition, Mr. Pruitt reassigned or demoted EPA employees who question him; failed to investigate civil rights complaints; delayed rules designed to protect farmworker children; eliminated from EPA advisory boards scientists who have received EPA grants; and attempted to slash EPA’s staff in half.

But now with Mr. Pruitt gone, Mr. Wheeler, will step in as acting Administrator. He was confirmed as Deputy Administrator by the Senate in April by a vote of 53-45, despite being one of 30 federal employees who allegedly violated Mr. Trump’s executive order barring former lobbyists from working in positions requiring them to manage issues they lobbied in the preceding two years. A former energy lobbyist, Mr. Wheeler’s biggest client included Murray Energy Corporation, which is considered to be the largest coal mining company in the U.S. that fought the Obama administration’s attempts to reduce carbon emissions and strengthen environmental and public health laws. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Mr. Wheeler also served as a vice president of a 300-strong federation of coal interests in the capital called the Washington Coal Club and “made time to lobby the U.S. Department of the Interior to open portions of the Bears Ears National Monument to uranium mining.” His other clients included Energy Fuels Resources Inc., Xcel Energy and Bear Head LNG Corporation.

The New York Time reports that Mr. Wheeler and the CEO of Murray Energy Corporation, Robert Murray, put together a so-called environmental regulations wish-list which detailed policies aimed at reinvigorating the coal industry — like curbing restrictions on greenhouse gases and slashing staff at the EPA.

His previous boss, Senator Inhofe is a noted climate change denier who refers to the science of climate change as “the greatest hoax” ever perpetrated on the American people. The New York Times notes that he once served at the EPA as a special assistant in the agency’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics for four years before he worked for Mr. Inhofe, and is a seasoned political operative who knows how to carefully traverse the system – which could mean even more wide ranging rollbacks.

Ideologically, Mr. Pruitt and Mr. Wheeler are cut from the same cloth, although it is yet to be seen whether he also shares similar lavish spending or desires for private $34,000 phone booths. EPA will continue to be led by Administrators hell-bent on destroying the environment, and under the new Acting Administrator, we can expect more assaults on the environment.

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

Source: New York Times, Vox, NRDC

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09
Jul

Take Action: Endangered Species Need Protection to Support Biodiversity and Life

(Beyond Pesticides, July 9, 2018) The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) is urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to take action to protect 23 wildlife species in the Southeast that are at risk of extinction. Citing deep concerns about unprecedented assaults on the Endangered Species Act (ESA), CBD’s letter reiterates the critical need for FWS to provide timely protection to the most critically imperiled species.

Urge FWS to provide Endangered Species Act protection for 23 species in the Southeast. Urge your U.S. Senators and Representative to support the ESA’s scientific review process and protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats.

CBD’s letter highlights the plight of 23 freshwater animals and plants, including the southern snaketail and the sunfacing coneflower, and the failure of FWS to meet its deadlines for issuing proposals on species determined “may warrant protection.” CBD urges FWS to follow the law –to review and publish species protection proposals.

A declining budget and opposition from the Trump administration are stalling these critical protections. The Trump administration has proposed slashing the budget for endangered species listings by half, from $20.5 million to $10.9, and to prioritize delisting species rather than granting protection to new ones. These budget cuts are being proposed despite FWS’s backlog of hundreds of species that have been found to warrant consideration for protection. Since 2000, several southeastern species have been identified as extinct including the beaverpond marstonia snail, Tatum Cave beetle, Florida zestos and rockland grass skipper butterflies, the green blossom, yellow blossom, tubercled blossom, and turgid blossom pearly mussels, the Florida fairy shrimp, and the South Florida rainbow snake. Many of the species CBD petitioned for are still awaiting reviews, while others were withdrawn from the petition.

“Endangered species decisions have long been plagued by delay and political interference, but these problems are becoming a crisis under Trump,” said Tierra Curry, a CBD senior scientist. “Rather than following the law and reviewing the status of species like the southern snaketail, the administration wants to push them out the back door and ignore those at risk of extinction.”

Attacks on ESA have been a regular occurrence since the inauguration of the U.S. Congress on January 3, 2017. This Congress already has seen at least 63 legislative attacks seeking to strip federal protections from specific species or undercutting the Endangered Species Act. Among the attacks is a provision in the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill to exempt the use of pesticides from ESA review, threatening hundreds of endangered species and making it legal to kill any endangered species with a pesticide at almost any time.

With species decline increasing across the globe, it is critical that we protect those already at heightened risk. An important provision of ESA is the requirement that each federal agency that proposes to authorize, fund, or carry out an action that may affect a listed species or its critical habitat must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service. Although many species –including the bald eagle, Florida manatee, and California condor— have been protected and brought back from the brink of extinction under the ESA, an estimated 500 species have disappeared in the past 200 years.

Urge FWS to provide Endangered Species Act protection for 23 species in the Southeast. Urge your U.S. Senators and Representative to support the ESA’s scientific review process and protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats.

Letter to FWS:

I am writing in support of the June 8, 2018 letter from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to take action to protect 23 wildlife species in the Southeast that are at risk of extinction. I reiterate the critical need stated by CBD for FWS to provide timely protection to the most critically imperiled species.

CBD’s review of 61 species in a petition submitted in 2010 found that –based on information provided by FWS, current information on the species from scientists, published literature, Freedom of Information Act materials, and conservation organizations— 23 of the species are at risk of extinction.

I support CBD’s analysis and urge FWS to complete listing for the 23 species listed in the letter.

Thank you for your consideration of this letter.

Letter to Congressional Senators and Representatives:

A declining budget and opposition from the Trump administration are stalling critical protections for endangered species. The Trump administration has proposed slashing the budget for endangered species listings by half, from $20.5 million to $10.9, and to prioritize delisting species rather than granting protection to new ones. These budget cuts are being proposed despite FWS’s backlog of hundreds of species that have been found to warrant consideration for protection. Since 2000, several southeastern species have been identified as extinct including the beaverpond marstonia snail, Tatum Cave beetle, Florida zestos and rockland grass skipper butterflies, the green blossom, yellow blossom, tubercled blossom, and turgid blossom pearly mussels, the Florida fairy shrimp, and the South Florida rainbow snake.

Attacks on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) have been a regular occurrence in the 115th United States Congress. This Congress already has seen at least 63 legislative attacks seeking to strip federal protections from specific species or undercutting the ESA, among them a provision in the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill to exempt the use of pesticides from ESA review, which threatens hundreds of endangered species, and makes it legal to kill any endangered species with a pesticide at almost any time.

With species decline increasing across the globe, it is critical that we protect those already at heightened risk. An important provision of the ESA is the requirement that each federal agency that proposes to authorize, fund, or carry out an action that may affect a listed species or its critical habitat must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service. Although many species –including the bald eagle, Florida manatee, and California condor— have been protected and brought back from the brink of extinction under the ESA, an estimated 500 species have disappeared in the past 200 years.

Therefore, I request that you support adequate funding for the ESA’s scientific review process and reject legislative proposals that jeopardize FWS’s ability to carry out its responsibility to protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats.

Sincerely,

 

 

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06
Jul

Illegal Use of Banned Pesticide Responsible for Bald Eagle Deaths in Maryland

(Beyond Pesticides, July 6, 2018) Two years ago, thirteen bald eagles were found dead on a farm in Maryland. Now the investigation has revealed that these birds died after ingesting the highly toxic pesticide, carbofuran. Carbofuran, whose use has been phased out in the U.S., is so toxic to birds that one granule is all it takes to kill. Irresponsible and illegal use of pesticides is still responsible for primary and secondary poisonings of wildlife, as is the case of these bald eagles.

According to the necropsy results by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which analyzed six of the thirteen eagle carcasses, five of the carcasses were found to have undigested raccoon remains in their systems. Carbofuran was detected in the stomach and/or crop contents of all birds, as well as on the partial remains and fur of a raccoon that was found nearby.

The granular form of carbofuran has been blamed for the deaths of more than a million birds in the U.S. who mistook the granules for seed. The granules were finally banned in the early 1990s, while the liquid formulation was banned on food crops in 2009, although the painfully slow process of cancellation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began in the 1990s. In fact, the 2009 action to cancel carbofuran food uses was the culmination of a regulatory process that began in 2006 when the agency published its risk assessments for carbofuran and determined that no uses were eligible for reregistration, finding “dietary, worker, and ecological risks are unacceptable for all uses of carbofuran. All products containing carbofuran generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on humans and the environment and do not meet safety standards, and therefore are ineligible for reregistration.”

However, carbofuran’s maker, FMC Corporation, along with the National Corn Growers Association, National Sunflower Association, and National Potato Council petitioned the courts to reverse EPA’s decision, claiming the company had already voluntarily removed 22 products from the market, which was sufficient to allow EPA to make a finding that remaining uses/products were “safe.” The industry challenged EPA’s decision in the courts, and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case in 2011.

Marketed under Furadan, Curator, and other names, the carbamate insecticide is toxic to humans and other mammals, causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing. Unfortunately, as seen in Maryland, some farmers continue to use the poison illegally to kill larger predators and pests, including foxes, coyotes, and raccoons.

Killing a bald eagle is a felony crime punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of $250,000. This iconic bird was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species (Endangered Species Act) in 2007, but it is still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Secondary poisoning of predator birds is common. Their prey – raccoons, rats, and other small mammals- are poisoned by farmers, ranchers, and others who want to keep rodents off their property. In turn, the poisoned carrion is consumed by these birds who also succumb to the poison’s effects. These pesticides are so toxic that the food material is often found undigested, mid-esophagus, in the dead predator animal, indicating how fast the lethal impacts took place. Along with birds, carbofuran has been found to harm endangered salmon and steelhead.

John LaCorte, a special agent for the Fish and Wildlife Service told The Washington Post there is an “epidemic on the Eastern Shore” of wildlife-poisoning crimes because people find it “cheaper and easier” than trapping a nuisance animal or predator or building a fence. If caught, farmers and landowners are prosecuted.

With attacks on environmental laws that protect sensitive species like the bald eagle from the impacts of pesticide poisoning, the time is now to take action. The current House version of the 2018 farm bill has provisions to exempt reviews of pesticides under the Endangered Species Act, effectively dooming hundreds of endangered species to extinction and making it more difficult to protect endangered species from pesticides; and to eliminate litigation as a remedy when pesticide decisions threaten endangered species. For more information on wildlife issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ wildlife webpage.

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

Take Action: Tell Congress to Clean Up the Farm Bill

Source: NYTimes, NPR

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05
Jul

Study Finds Fathead Minnows Decrease Density of Larval Mosquitoes in Ponds by 114%

(Beyond Pesticides, July 5, 2018) With mosquito season in full swing throughout the U.S., land managers and abatement districts can be well served by employing biological controls in the form of fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas), according to research published earlier this year by scientists at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. In all but the most extreme conditions, these small fish, native throughout most of the continental United States, can provide effective control of mosquito larvae breeding in standing water. Beyond Pesticides encourages states and localities to focus primarily on larval control and public education as the best means to manage nuisance and disease-carrying mosquitoes, in contrast to adulticiding, the least effective means which allows 99.9% of a pesticide applied to contaminate the environment. At the close of Pollinator Week 2018, join us in urging Governors and state legislatures to ban the use of mosquito misters.

To test the efficacy of fathead minnows to control mosquito populations, researchers stocked the fish in 10 water catchment basins in the central U.S. Over the course of three years, larval mosquito populations were monitored in these basins, as well as in six control basins that did not receive an influx of minnows. Comparisons between the treatment and control groups found that ponds stocked with minnows decreased larval mosquito density by 114% compared to untreated ponds. By year three, minnows were able to self-sustain their population, eliminating the need to restock the ponds for continued mosquito management. This trend played out in the majority of catchment ponds, only breaking down in two smaller ponds where the water was too shallow and froze over-winter.

Fathead minnows distinguish their usefulness in mosquito control because of how inexpensive it is to stock them and create a sustaining population. “There are many potential advantages to using indigenous fish species as an alternative for larval control including lowered environmental impact, decreased costs regarding time and financial inputs, and the potential for the establishment of self-sustaining fish populations,” said study co-author Brad Fedy, PhD in a press release. “This isn’t a complete solution to the dangers of West Nile, but it should be considered as part of any plan to protect the health of vulnerable populations.”

Fathead minnows act as an excellent biological control agent because they breed and mature quickly, and are able to withstand a wide range of water qualities, including low oxygen conditions. Communities throughout the US have also experimented with other novel biological controls, such as the use of copepod crustaceans to eat larval mosquito populations.

Although larvaciding represents the best method to manage mosquito populations, as Waterloo researcher Dr. Fedy notes, “… in North America, control efforts are largely limited to larvicides, which require a repeated application and have potentially negative ecological impacts.” While larvacides like mosquito dunks usually contain Bacillus thuringensis israelensis, which does pose some limited risks to non-target species, more destructive are chemical-based larvacides like methoprene, which is highly toxic to benthic invertebrates such as lobsters and crabs.  

Unfortunately in many communities, adulticiding, not larvaciding, is the first line of defense for mosquito abatement, which results in widespread contamination with highly toxic pesticides. Communities wishing to effectively control mosquitoes without hazardous pesticides can look to Beyond Pesticides’ Public Health Mosquito Management Strategy for guidance. Apart from larvaciding, education is the other key pillar in a successful community mosquito abatement strategy. This includes educating residents about not only how to manage mosquitoes on their property, but also about the dangers of adulticides. These chemicals, such as permethrin, malathion, and naled, have been related to a range of human diseases, including cancer, autism, respiratory diseases, and neurotoxicity, as well as water contamination, and impacts to birds, aquatic organisms, and pollinators.

Without education about mosquito abatement and the risk of mosquito pesticides, many residents will opt to hire companies like Mosquito Squad or Mosquito Joe to spray the same toxic chemicals in their backyard. Or even worse, will install mosquito misting systems that release an aduticide on a timed schedule. For backyard mosquito control, it is critical to regularly dump water sources, trim overgrowth vegetation where mosquitoes hide, and use biological controls like fathead minnows or mosquito dunks where standing water cannot be drained. Use least toxic repellents when outside, sit in a screened in porch or pop-up, and/or use an oscillating fan. It’s also important to get neighbors involved in mosquito abatement efforts. For instance, you’ll never solve your backyard mosquito problem if a neighbor two houses down has a kiddy pool under their porch collecting stagnant rainwater. Use Beyond Pesticides’ mosquito doorknob hangers to spread the word.

On the closing days of Pollinator Week 2018, Beyond Pesticides is asking members and supporters to contact their Governor and state legislature and ask them to follow Connecticut’s lead in banning the use of unnecessary and dangerous mosquito misting systems, which harm important flying pollinators.

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

Source: University of Waterloo PR, PLOS One

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03
Jul

Ninety Percent of Iowa Schools at Risk of Pesticide Drift

Ben Boezinger/Cedar Falls Tiger Hi-Line
Elementary school being built near farm fields.

(Beyond Pesticides, July 3, 2018) Nearly ninety percent of public schools in Iowa are at risk of toxic pesticide drift, according to a team of investigative reporters based at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). A study conducted by Science in the Media, a UNI project, found that 9 out of 10 schools are located within 2,000 feet of an agricultural field, a proximity at which the risk of toxic pesticide exposure increases significantly. While the results have attracted the interest of lawmakers, media reports indicate legislative champions of this issue are having a difficult time gaining support for more protective measures.

According to the data gathered, 444,669 students and teachers are within close range of agricultural pesticide use. However, the reporters found public school employees generally unaware of the dangers or of any measures they could take.  “As a teacher, I don’t know if there is anything sent out or part of any orientation to students or their parents, or anything like that,” said Louis Beck, an agriculture teacher at Union High School in La Porte City, IA to IowaWatch. “I have not been made aware of any protocol that we are supposed to have.”

Buffer zone laws and agricultural pesticide notification requirements are not widely adopted in U.S. states. However, the dangers posed by drift indicate that action is needed. A 2006 Iowa-based study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that as proximity to agricultural fields increased, so did the likelihood that chemical pesticides would be found in one’s home. Even minute pesticide exposure can present significant risks to children’s health. Organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos, which Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt recently reversed the agency’s intent to ban, have been linked to attention problems, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder problems, and pervasive developmental disorders. This doesn’t just translate to difficulties for parents and teachers, but ultimately costs the economy in the form of lost brain power. A 2016 study published in The Lancet estimated that organophosphate pesticide exposure, resulted in 1.8 million lost IQ points, and 7.5 thousand intellectual disability cases annually at an estimated cost of $44.7 billion each year. Of that $44.7 billion, roughly $350 million in costs can be attributed to California, proportionately.

Despite the dangers, many Iowa legislators fell back on talking points used by the agrichemical industry. “It’s not a topic that has come up and it’s probably not a topic that I’m interested in today,” said Dan Zumbach (R-Ryan), the Iowa State Senate Ag Committee Chairman and a farm owner, in the Des Moines Register. I’m more interested in each property owner being responsible for themselves.”

However, IowaWatch interviewed State Senator David Johnson (I-Ocheyedan), who had a different take on the reasons for inaction. “Industrial agriculture has its grip on this legislature,” he said. “I’ve seen that before, and that generally stifles regulatory consideration when you have a legislature like it is now.”

Intensive farming states have been the slow to adopt buffer zone requirements around sensitive sites like schools, despite intense pressure from health and environmental justice groups. And when proposals are introduced, they are often watered down before final adoption. In California, rather than strengthen long-awaited rules to restrict pesticide use during school hours within ¼ mile of schools (to a whole mile), the CA Department of Pesticide Regulation weakened a requirement to notify schools 48 hours prior to an application. In Hawaii, after counties were preempted from imposing their own buffer zone rules, the fight moved to the state legislature. Following several years of work, state lawmakers declined to move forward with meaningful buffer zones, but instead opted to set the distance at 100 ft near public schools (however, to its credit the state legislature did become the first to ban neurotoxic chlorpyrifos).

Regarding farmers use of pesticides, Senator Rich Taylor (D- Mount Pleasant) noted in the Des Moines Register, “We can’t have them overspraying onto people living their normal life, whether it be school kids or citizens out enjoying the park. We’re going to have to look at this a lot more seriously.”  Taylor has been considering a legislative proposal on the issue.

Beyond the creation of buffer zones around pesticide use is the point that dowsing fields with hazardous agricultural pesticides must become a thing of the past. A wide variety of alternative practices and products are available to assist growers in preventing pest problems before they start. Organic agriculture, which requires farmers to improve soil health and craft an organic system plan to guide pest control decisions, represents a viable path forward for agriculture in Iowa and the rest of the nation.

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

Source: Iowa Watch/Tiger Hi-Line report, Des Moines Register

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02
Jul

Another Sneak Attack on Science (With Monsanto’s Fingerprints?) –Protect Independent Government Evaluation of Pesticide Hazards

(Beyond Pesticides, July 2, 2018) The U.S. House of Representatives is considering an appropriations bill that includes “report language” that would restrict independent evaluation of pesticide hazards by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report language, as part of the U.S. House of Representatives Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies FY2019 Appropriations Bill, directs ATSDR to “focus on its core mission of assessing hazardous exposures and working with communities, if requested, near toxic waste sites and not agricultural operations” [emphasis added]. As some may recall from “The Monsanto Papers,” Monsanto pushed to stop ATSDR from researching the cancer-causing properties of its herbicide Roundup/glyphosate. [Unsealed internal Monsanto documents from a federal lawsuit, dubbed “The Monsanto Papers,” showed evidence of questionable research practices by the company, inappropriate ties to a top EPA official, and possible “ghostwriting” of purportedly “independent” research studies.] There is also a significant cut to the budget. The Senate Appropriations Committee does not include the same restrictive language.

Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative to reject language, attached to the House appropriations bill, that prohibits independent evaluation of agricultural chemical hazards by the government’s research agency (ATSDR).

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services charged with protecting communities from harmful health effects related to exposure to natural and human-made hazardous substances.

ATSDR’s unique focus is on the impact of hazardous substances on human health –attempting to ensure that Americans have a safe and healthy environment in which to work, play, and live. The agency also responds to environmental health emergencies; investigates emerging environmental health threats; conducts research on the health impacts of hazardous waste sites; and builds the capabilities of, and provides actionable guidance to, state and local health partners. It is the only federal agency that works directly with concerned citizens and communities to address environmental hazards.

In its examination of hazardous chemicals in the environment, ATSDR has developed toxicological profiles for many pesticides, including chlorpyrifos, but not yet glyphosate. The toxicological profiles examine in detail hazards of, and routes of exposure to, the chemicals. Because the profiles contain results based on real world exposures, they are generally held in higher regard than risk assessments produced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is important to maintain the ability of ATSDR to continue to examine agricultural hazards.

Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative reject language, attached to the House appropriations bill, that prohibits independent evaluation of agricultural chemical hazards by the government’s research agency (ATSDR)

Letter to Congress:

Protect the independent evaluation of agricultural hazards by ATSDR

Please ensure that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) remains able to address all toxic chemical threats. Do not support report language to the final bill that eliminates the agency’s assessment of health effects caused by agricultural pesticide and other chemical use. This information is critical to the protection of health and the environment, and language prohibiting this type of assessment should be stripped out of the report accompanying the legislation.

Report language, as part of the U.S. House of Representatives Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies FY2019 Appropriations Bill, directs ATSDR to “focus on its core mission of assessing hazardous exposures and working with communities, if requested, near toxic waste sites and not agricultural operations.” Please ensure that this language is removed from the report of the final bill.

ATSDR is a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services charged with protecting communities from harmful health effects related to exposure to natural and human-made hazardous substances.

ATSDR’s unique focus is on the impact of hazardous substances on human health –attempting to ensure that Americans have a safe and healthy environment in which to work, play, and live. The agency also responds to environmental health emergencies; investigates emerging environmental health threats; conducts research on the health impacts of hazardous waste sites; and builds the capabilities of, and provides actionable guidance to, state and local health partners. It is the only federal agency that works directly with concerned citizens and communities to address environmental hazards.

In its examination of hazardous chemicals in the environment, ATSDR has developed toxicological profiles for many pesticides, including chlorpyrifos, but not yet Monsanto’s glyphosate –after Monsanto pushed to stop ATSDR from researching its carcinogenicity. The toxicological profiles examine in detail hazards of, and routes of exposure to, the chemicals. Because the profiles contain results based on real world exposures, they are generally held in higher regard than risk assessments produced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is important to maintain the ability of ATSDR to continue to examine agricultural hazards.

Please do not prevent ATSDR from addressing agricultural hazards, and maintain an adequate funding level for the agency.

Sincerely,

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29
Jun

Kroger Sets 2020 Phase-Out of Bee-Toxic Pesticides on Its Plants, Costco Encourages Suppliers to Change; Both Commit to Carry More Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, June 29, 2018) It is widely known that pollinators are in trouble. In light of this, Kroger (which includes numerous other grocery chains, like Harris Teeter) announced in a press release last week — during National Pollinator Week —  a phase-out by 2020 of live garden plants treated with the insecticides most closely associated with the decline of bee populations, the neonicotinoids. In May, Costco updated its pollinator policy, which “encourages” its suppliers of garden plants, fruits, and vegetables to limit the use of bee-toxic pesticides and adopt ecological practices. The company in 2016 announced a policy to encourage suppliers to change their pesticides.

In a statement that has broad implications for pollinator and environmental protection, Kroger included the following statement about organic food in its press release: “Kroger also offers one of the largest organic produce departments in America, which is desirable for customers looking to minimize potential exposure to synthetic pesticides. Representing nearly 20 percent of America’s annual organic produce business, Kroger sales reached $1 billion in 2017. A dedicated procurement team partners with more than 300 organic produce growers and suppliers every year to bring customers a growing selection of organic fruits and vegetables.” Costco is also encouraging an end to its suppliers’ use of insecticide chlorpyrifos, linked to brain damage in children, and will be significantly expand its offerings of organic food.

The dramatic decline in honey bees and native bees is increasingly documented in the scientific literature, with the research pointing to a family of toxic pesticides — neonicotinoids — as major contributors to colony collapse. A 2014 report found that over half of garden plant samples purchased at major retailers contain neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides, which when applied make plants poisonous to bees and other wild pollinators. (Neonics include imidacloprid, clothianidin, acetamiprid, thiacloprid, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid, and thiamethoxam.) Over the course of the last few years, some companies have begun to come around on the issue of the toxicity of neonicotinoid pesticides to pollinators by taking steps to move away from use of these chemicals.

Kroger has committed to the 2020 phase-out in its stores and garden operations. Even now, most of the live plants Kroger sells are not treated with neonicotinoids during their cultivation, but the company is pushing suppliers that still do use them to find alternatives by the 2020 deadline. The company’s significant penetration — 2,800 stores across 30 U.S. states — can mean a considerable reduction of neonic contamination in the marketplace.

A spokesperson for Kroger said, “The Kroger Co. recognizes the global honeybee population is vulnerable, with research indicating that a cause may include the use of pesticides containing neonicotinoids. Due to the potential risk to the honeybee population, we are committing to eliminate the sourcing of live outdoor plants in our stores and garden centers that have been treated with pesticides containing these neonicotinoids by the year 2020. This policy is inclusive of outdoor plants known to be pollinated by honeybees or known to attract honeybees.”

The company says it plans to rely on the expertise of the Environmental Protection agency (EPA) and other science authorities to evaluate any potential updates to this new policy. That may be less reassuring than it sounds: EPA guidance, especially during the current administration, may not be especially helpful to pollinators. According to advocates, the agency could be far more protective of public health and the environment than it has been, to date. The European Union, for example, banned all outdoor uses of neonicotinoids in April 2018; use will be permitted only in permanent greenhouses where contact with bees is not expected.

In addition, Costco is working with suppliers and growers to plant buffer zones around crops to provide pollinators with additional habitat. In establishing its original pollinator policy in 2016, the company said it was motivated by the dramatic decline in honeybee populations. At the time, Costco issued this statement: “Costco Wholesale understands that the honey bee population is declining and these bees are necessary for the life cycles of people, plants and the food we consume. We have invested in a multi-year research project to improve honey bee health and sustainability and are committed to following the continuing research, developments surrounding bee colony collapse and other areas of environmental concern.”

Other companies have taken similar steps. The Home Depot and BJ’s Wholesale took steps beginning in 2016 and 2014, respectively, to address the plight of pollinators. Since 2014, Home Depot has labeled plants treated with neonics, and 80% of the plants it sells are free of the pesticide. In 2014, BJ’s stopped selling neonics; in 2015, it required all vendors to disclose any use and label any treated plants with “Neonicotinoids applied. Caution around Pollinators,” and required vendors to submit plans for minimizing any effects of their use on pollinators. In 2016, it mandated that all suppliers provide only neonic-free plants (except for poinsettias and blueberries). The company was recognized by Friends of the Earth and the Pesticide Research Institute for its efforts on behalf of pollinators.

Lowe’s announced in April of 2015 that it would phase out the sale of neonic pesticide products within 48 months, and promised to include greater organic product selection in its stores, encourage growers to use biological control programs, and educate employees and consumers through brochures, fact sheets, and product labels. Scott’s Miracle-Gro committed to eliminating neonics from its Ortho brand by 2017. Tim Martin, general manager of the Ortho brand, said, “As the category leader, it is our responsibility to provide consumers with effective solutions that they know are safe for their family and the environment when used as directed. We encourage other companies and brands in the consumer pest control category to follow our lead.” In spring of 2017, Walmart and True Value began to phase out neonicotinoid pesticides from their respective retail supply chains. ACE Hardware lags behind with a vague commitment to protect pollinators.

These announcements follow numerous scientific studies that have consistently implicated neonics in the decline of honey bees and other wild pollinators. The decisions come in part from ongoing consumer and environmental campaigns urging retailers to stop selling plants treated with neonics and to remove products containing them from store shelves. Consumers have a role to play in reducing the use of such toxic pesticides, both in their own yards and gardens, and in advocating with local retailers to get rid of such products in their stores and in their supply chains. Choosing organically cultured plants and organic foods contributes to the transition away from bee-killing neonics and other pesticides. Beyond Pesticides offers helpful guidance on 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.

See Beyond Pesticides’ BeeProtective program for more information on science, policy, and advocacy. Watch and share the video Seeds that Poison for a short and concise explanation of the threat to pollinators and the solution.

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

Source: Friends of the Earth Press Release

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28
Jun

California Establishes Testing for Pesticides in Marijuana Products

(Beyond Pesticides, June 28, 2018) Having voted to allow retail recreational cannabis sales as of January 1, 2018, California will mandate testing for pesticide residue in cannabis products beginning July 1. Cannabis farmers welcome the regulations. Nikolai Erickson of Full Moon Farms in Dinsmore, California says, the new requirements will “clear the shelves of poor quality product and give small craft, organic farmers a chance to prove their quality over larger farms. . . . We’re the ones taking the time and energy, putting in the extra hours and the extra cost to ensure that we’ll pass testing. So we’re creating shelf space finally, getting value added for craft.”

The new California laws require that any cannabis products sold by retailers must have undergone both quality and pesticide testing. Whereas from January 1 to June 30, 2018 regulations mandated testing for 21 pesticides and for microbial contaminants, such as E. coli, that number jumps to 66 in July. The regulations also institute new quality standards that analyze products for contaminants, such as feces, mold, and insect and rodent parts. The quality“bar” will jump again in December, when testing must also look for mycotoxins, terpenoids, and heavy metals.

The stakes are high for producers and retailers: if a product batch fails two assays, the state will require that the entire batch be destroyed. In addition, retailers will have to restock their shelves, beginning July 1, with only products that have undergone the new, more stringent, evaluation. All this testing will cost producers, labs, and distributors more; EVIO Labs CEO Lori Glauser says, “The implementation of the new rules will be challenging for all the stakeholders to implement. . . . However, it’s absolutely going to result in improved quality of product and will give consumers peace of mind that the product that they’re purchasing is indeed what it says on the label and that it is free of contaminants.”

The Humboldt Patient Resource Center in Arcata has required its cannabis inventory to be tested for the past three years. The center made the decision to do so after it received product from cultivators who claimed no pesticide use, only to discover that the products were contaminated with pesticides. As owner Mariellen Jurkovich notes, “If you are buying any cannabis . . . and you’re not . . . buying it from where it’s been tested, you are risking your health,” Jurkovich said. “You are risking a chance that these things could be filled with very toxic chemicals.”

Beyond Pesticides has, for a number of years, tracked state-level policies on medical and recreational cannabis use. Because cannabis is not a legal agricultural crop under federal law, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not evaluated the safety of any pesticide on cannabis plants. EPA has established no restrictions for pesticides used in cannabis production, no tolerances, nor any exemptions from tolerances for allowable pesticide residues on cannabis. As a result, EPA-permitted pesticide labels do not contain allowances for pesticide use in cannabis production. Beyond Pesticides maintains that because of the federal status of cannabis (as a Schedule 1 illegal drug), EPA cannot legally register pesticides for use in the production of the crop. Therefore, the organization asserts, pesticide use on cannabis is illegal.

The lack of federal oversight for cannabis as a crop has states all over the map as they sort through what pesticides, and at what levels, cultivators might be allowed to use. (A snapshot of where states were a few years ago is available here.) State regulations continue to be a crazy quilt of laws and shifting policies that attempt to keep pace with public sentiment, emerging science, and existing health and safety regulations. Currently, 29 states allow some form of medical or recreational cannabis to be sold, each with different pesticide rules. Some have affirmed the prohibition inferred from the federal situation (either with clear prohibitory language or through regulatory silence with an explanatory note on pesticide prohibition), some allow certain toxic pesticide, and some permit pesticides that EPA has determined are exempt from registration.

Some of the legislative scrambling constitutes attempts to define allowed pesticide use and management practices in cannabis production. As Beyond Pesticides executive director Jay Feldman has said, “The use of pesticides in the cultivation of cannabis has health implications for those growing the crop, and for users who are exposed to toxic residues through inhalation, ingestion, and absorption through the skin. [Some] states and DC have adopted rules that require marijuana to be grown with practices that prevent the use of pesticides.” This moment represents an opportunity to restrict all pesticide use at the front end of a growing market and mandate organic management of cannabis — setting a course to protect health and the environment. (The USDA certified organic seal will not be found on marijuana products any time soon because of the federal status of cannabis.)

With more and more states permitting the sale of cannabis for medical and recreational use, governments, growers, retailers, and consumers would do well to consider whether “weed” is harboring unsavory contaminants, including pesticide residues, that could be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed. If cannabis is something a consumer plans to ingest, consideration of such contamination ought not be different than that for a decision to buy produce grown with or without pesticides.

As states struggle to keep pace with this burgeoning industry, some producer groups have taken matters into their own hands. In Colorado, for example, faced with the state Senate’s indefinite postponement of a proposed “Pesticide-Free Marijuana Bill,” and the failure of the Colorado Department of Agriculture to implement meaningful regulations, the Organic Cannabis Association developed a voluntary “pesticide free” certification program for growers. The certification focused on residues on the finished product, so still allowed the use of pesticides not on the narrow list of those restricted by the state. No doubt an attempt to distinguish more-sustainably-grown cannabis from other products in the marketplace, the certification program nevertheless was a step in the right direction for consumers who wish to protect themselves from unwanted pesticides in their cannabis products.

Early in 2018, Canada took the step — in the runup to its July 2018 launch of the recreational market and after discovering that there was significant contamination of cannabis crops by proscribed pesticides — of instituting very hefty fines (up to $1 million) on growers using the banned compounds. Previously, Health Canada, the country’s primary pesticide enforcement agency, had said fines were unlikely because companies knew the banned pesticides were illegal. However, after the country began regular testing, and news outlets began reporting on multiple instances of banned and highly toxic pesticides making their way onto the market, the agency decided to change its approach. Health Canada currently allows some 20 pesticide products for use on cannabis, most of which are biologically based or least-toxic insecticidal soaps.

A few states (Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Massachusetts) and the District of Columbia have adopted regulations that focus on less-toxic approaches to cultivation of medical cannabis, with some focus on ensuring growing practices that avoid or prohibit the use of pesticides. The federal “limbo” provides an important opportunity for states to incentivize the development of a significant industry built on production practices that do not rely on pesticides.

Beyond Pesticides opined, in the Winter 2014–2015 issue of its journal, Pesticides and You, that in the absence of useful federal regulation or guidance on the potential impacts of pesticide use on cannabis — to consumers, workers, and the environment — states should at the very least provide clear rules to producers regarding sustainable production practices that are protective. As crop production of cannabis increases, we have an opportunity to restrict all pesticide use at the front end of a growing market, require the adoption of organic systems plans, and set a course to protect health and the environment.

Primary source: Times Standard

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27
Jun

Clean Up the Farm Bill, Protect Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, June 27, 2018)

Farm Bill Headed for a Showdown on Key Environmental, Public Health, and Organic Issues

With a flawed bipartisan Farm Bill expected to sail through the U.S. Senate this week, we need to turn our attention to the upcoming House-Senate Conference Committee that will attempt to resolve differences between the Republican House bill (with no support from Democrats) and the Senate bill. Despite some advances in the Senate Farm Bill for the organic market, including boosts to organic research funding, some provisions to address fraudulent imports, some enhanced conservation programs, and maintaining certification cost-share programs, the Senate bill contains troubling language affecting organic standard setting that could open the door to more damaging provisions in the House bill. It’s like fixing up a house while allowing the foundation to crumble.

Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative to protect organic in the Farm Bill, remove any changes to the organic standard setting process, and uphold environmental protections.

Beyond Pesticides opposes any provisions in the Farm Bill that amend the standard setting procedures of the federal organic law and believes that no improvements are worth the damage that can be done to the standard setting process and public trust in the organic seal in the marketplace. Beyond Pesticides is urging that conferees in House-Senate Farm Bill conference committee over the next weeks to eliminate amendments that change any aspect of organic standard setting under the Organic Foods Production Act (OPFA).

The Farm Bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 2, is a direct attack on: organic standard setting; the authority of local governments to restrict toxic pesticides; and, the protection of farmworkers, endangered species, and the environment. Now, the Senate is getting ready to pass a bill that opens the door to an attack on organic. While the Senate train is speeding down the track, it is important to keep these damaging provisions out of the final (conference) bill.

Protect Organic Standards. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) gives the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) broad authority and responsibility to ensure organic integrity. The House version of the Farm Bill contains provisions that will give USDA greater direct and indirect power to allow products and practices that were not intended to be a allowed in organic – hydroponics, poultry houses without real access to the outdoors, and dairy operations without meaningful pasture. The Senate bill opens up the dangerous possibility of a change to the organic standard setting process. There should be no changes to the process that establishes organic standards in order to protect the meaning and value of organic in the marketplace.

The Farm Bill should not:

  • Change definitions that open OFPA to new interpretations of its core standard setting practices, which ensure rigorous review of synthetic substances in organic production and processing;
  • Permit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sidestep the NOSB in allowing toxic post-harvest handling substances (sanitizers) to be used in organic production;
  • Change the classification of types of people who may be appointed to the NOSB by adding employees of farmers, handlers, and retailers; and
  • Force consideration of allowing the use of products in organic that are subject to weaker standards of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Farm Bill should also not contain provisions that:

  • Amend the federal pesticide law to preempt local governments from restricting pesticide use on private property within their jurisdictions;
  • Exempt the use of pesticides from the Endangered Species Act, effectively dooming hundreds of endangered species to extinction and making it legal to kill any endangered species with a pesticide at almost any time;
  • Eliminate litigation as a remedy when pesticide decisions threaten endangered species;
  • Eliminate all protections under the Clean Water Act when toxic pesticides are sprayed directly into rivers and streams;
  • Enact the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, providing long-term funding to EPA for expedited processing of pesticide approvals, without accompanying measures to ensure that farmworkers and other pesticide applicators are safe;
  • Weaken restrictions on the use of the highly toxic ozone deplete, methyl bromide; and
  • Give states the authority to delay federal restrictions.

Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative to protect organic in the Farm Bill, remove any changes to the organic standard setting process, and uphold environmental protections.

We encourage you to customize this message to maximize its impact.

Letter to Senators and Representatives:

Subject: Protect Organic and Environmental Standards in the Farm Bill

 In view of the anticipated passage of the Senate’s Farm Bill, Congress will soon be facing a daunting task of rectifying two very different bills. I urge you to take all possible steps to ensure that the final bill supports organic agriculture and environmental protections and does not interfere with organic standard setting.

 The Farm Bill should not:

  • Change definitions that open OFPA to new interpretations of its core standard setting practices, which ensure rigorous review of synthetic substances in organic production and processing;
  • Permit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sidestep the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in allowing toxic post-harvest handling substances (sanitizers) to be used in organic production;
  • Change the classification of types of people who may be appointed to the NOSB by adding employees of farmers, handlers, and retailers; and
  • Force consideration of allowing the use of products in organic that are subject to weaker standards of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

 The Farm Bill should also not contain provisions that:

  • Amend the federal pesticide law to pre-empt local governments from restricting pesticide use on private property within their jurisdictions;
  • Exempt the use of pesticides from the Endangered Species Act, effectively dooming hundreds of endangered species to extinction and making it legal to kill any endangered species with a pesticide at almost any time;
  • Eliminate litigation as a remedy when pesticide decisions threaten endangered species;
  • Eliminate all protections under the Clean Water Act when toxic pesticides are sprayed directly into rivers and streams;
  • Enact the “Pesticide Registration Improvement Act,” providing long-term funding to EPA for expedited processing of pesticide approvals, without accompanying measures to ensure that farmworkers and other pesticide applicators are safe;
  • Weaken restrictions on the use of the highly toxic ozone depleter, methyl bromide; and
  • Give states the authority to delay federal restrictions.

 Sincerely,

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26
Jun

House Passes Farm Bill with Provisions that Weaken Organic, Poison Waterways and Harm Endangered Species

(Beyond Pesticides, June 26, 2018) On June 21, 2018, the controversial 2018 Farm Bill (H.R. 2) narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives 213 to 211 with provisions that will eliminate federal review of pesticide impacts on endangered species, undermine organic standards, and ease requirements regarding releases of pesticides into waterways. In May, the bill failed to pass when it got caught in the debate over immigration reform, but now this dangerous bill is much closer to becoming a major threat to the environment.

The bill, H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, is a major win for the pesticide industry, which spent $43 million on lobbying this Congressional season, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. At the forefront are provisions that weaken the organic standards and the elimination of the requirement that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) assess pesticide impacts on endangered species before U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves a pesticide for use. The bill also exempts those applying pesticides to lakes, streams, and rivers from having a permit under the Clean Water Act. This will allow indiscriminate contamination of waterways in spite of reports that pesticides are detected frequently and at environmentally relevant concentrations in U.S. waterways.

The House Farm Bill weakens organic standards with provisions that:

  • Permit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sidestep the NOSB in allowing toxic post-harvest handling substances (sanitizers) to be used in organic production;
  • Change the classification of types of people who may be appointed to the NOSB by adding employees of farmers, handlers, and retailers;
  • Force consideration of allowing the use of products in organic that are subject to weaker standards of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and
  • Give USDA greater direct and indirect power to change the materials allowed in organic production to favor producers who do not meet all the criteria traditionally considered to be required of organic certified operations –such as hydroponics, poultry houses without real access to the outdoors, and dairy operations without meaningful pasture.

The House Farm Bill includes provisions that:

  • Amend the federal pesticide law to pre-empt local governments from restricting pesticide use on private property within their jurisdictions;
  • Exempt the use of pesticides from the Endangered Species Act, effectively dooming hundreds of endangered species to extinction and making it legal to kill any endangered species with a pesticide at almost any time;
  • Eliminate litigation as a remedy when pesticide decisions threaten endangered species;
  • Eliminate all protections under the Clean Water Act when toxic pesticides are sprayed directly into rivers and streams;
  • Enact the “Pesticide Registration Improvement Act,” providing long-term funding to EPA for expedited processing of pesticide approvals, without accompanying measures to ensure that farmworkers and other pesticide applicators are safe;
  • Weaken restrictions on the use of the highly toxic ozone deplete, methyl bromide; and
  • Provide state pesticide regulatory agencies a secret chance to slow or effectively veto EPA pesticide protections before they are proposed.

The bill is also controversial because of proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps. House Republicans have pushed for measures that would increase the number of recipients who must work in order to receive food stamps, including limiting states’ abilities to waive those requirements in areas with poor economies.

The Senate version of the 2018 farm bill thus far does not include these dangerous threats to environmental protections or any changes to the SNAP program — leading some to believe that the House version is unlikely to pass into law.

Farm bills are massive, providing funding for diverse programs including food aid, crop subsidies, rural development, conservation and efforts to stem the opioid crisis in rural communities. The last bill came into effect in 2014, two years behind schedule, after extensive congressional negotiations and partisan fights over food stamps.

The Senate version recently passed out of committee and is expected to sail through the full Senate this week. The bipartisan Senate bill also amends a standard setting provision in the Organic Foods Production Act, opening the way to new interpretations of law and broader changes in the conference between the House and Senate.

Beyond Pesticides opposes any provisions in the Farm Bill that amend the standard setting procedures of the federal organic law and believes that no improvements are worth the damage that can be done to the standard setting process and public trust in the organic market and the organic seal in the marketplace. Beyond Pesticides is urging that conferees in House-Senate Farm Bill conference later in the session eliminate amendments that change any aspect of organic standard setting under the Organic Foods Production Act.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity, EcoWatch, US PIRG

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25
Jun

Groups Defend Local Right to Protect Children and Community from Pesticides; Lawn Care Industry Attacks Local Authority

(Beyond Pesticides, June 25, 2018) Ten organizations filed an Amicus brief last week in support of a 2015 landmark Montgomery County, Maryland ordinance that restricts the use of toxic pesticides on public and private land within its jurisdiction. The law, intended to protect children, pets, wildlife, and the wider environment from the hazards of lawn and landscape pesticide use, is on appeal from a Circuit Court ruling in August 2017 which struck down aspects of the ordinance that apply to private property. The Montgomery County Council decided to appeal the Circuit Court ruling based on an outpouring of public support, and the advice of its legal team that the County has a reasonable chance of prevailing. The case will now be heard in front of the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiffs in the case, which include the pesticide industry group Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE), local chemical lawn care companies, and a few individuals, allege that the local ordinance is preempted by state law, despite the fact that Maryland is one of seven states that has not explicitly taken away (or preempted) local authority to restrict pesticides more stringently than the state.

The law at issue, 52-14 (the Healthy Lawns Act), which restricts the cosmetic lawn care use of toxic pesticides on public and private land, protects over one million people, the largest number to be covered by any local jurisdiction to date. Passing the Montgomery County Council by a veto-proof majority 6-3, the bill allows time for transition, training, and a public education program over several years. In limiting the pesticides allowed to be used for turf management, the law defined acceptable materials as those permitted for use in organic production, or identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “minimum risk pesticides” under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Section 25(b).

“In the absence of federal and state pesticide restrictions that adequately protect children, pets, families, and the environment, and given the availability of sustainable organic practices to manage parks, playing fields and lawns, Montgomery County has exercised its fundamental right, under Maryland and federal law, to limit pesticide use on public and private property within its jurisdiction,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

Although attempts to adopt “explicit” preemption were introduced in the Maryland legislature in the mid-1990s, industry was unsuccessful in gaining enough support, and the state lawmakers never passed legislation expressly preempting local pesticide legislation. Because of this, RISE and its affiliates argue that there is “implied” preemption on the part of the state that would prohibit a local jurisdiction like Montgomery County from taking action to protect its citizens. Although Circuit Court Judge Terrence McGann ruled in favor of the pesticide industry, advocates say the ruling ignores historical precedent set by Maryland counties in leading the way on health and environmental laws, including bans on plastic bags and coal-tar sealants. In the face of an EPA that is increasingly political in its decisions regarding public health, advocates say local laws like Montgomery County’s are more important than ever, and are hoping for a favorable ruling by the Court of Special Appeals.

The groups filing the Amicus include Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, Food and Water Watch, Maryland Pesticide Education Network, US PIRG, Maryland PIRG Foundation, Organic Consumers Association, and Safe Grow Montgomery.

Quotes from amici curiae

“It is not just a longstanding right, but a responsibility, of counties in the state to exercise their powers to the fullest to protect the health and wellbeing of their citizens. This lawsuit unfortunately seeks to strip Montgomery, and other counties in the state, of their critical role in the protection of public health,” said Chris Nidel, partner at Nidel & Nace, PLLC, which represents the amici.

“People’s concern about pesticides continues to increase, while their confidence in the EPA’s regulation continues to erode.  Instead of fighting communities’ democratic right to local legislation, the landscaping and pesticide companies could grow their business in response to the high demand for pesticide-free services that don’t harm neighbors, children, pets, and pollinators. Thousands of county residents voiced support for the Healthy Lawns Act, and demand is growing outside the county as well,” said Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin, Safe Grow Montgomery.

“Montgomery County did the right thing in passing this law. In children, there is increasing evidence that exposure to these pesticides is especially damaging, even at low, chronic levels,” said Tim Whitehouse, executive director of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility.

“Regular people in Montgomery County worked hard to pass a law that would protect their families’ health. But now a giant pesticide group, with big industry backing, is trying to come in and take that away. That’s not right. That doesn’t reflect the fighting spirit of Maryland. And that’s why we had to join in this brief,” said Kara Cook-Schultz, Toxics Director, Maryland PIRG Foundation.

“Montgomery County chose to protect its children, pollinators, all wildlife and Maryland’s waterways by its passage of an ordinance restricting the use of hazardous pesticides on public and private land. Safer landcare practices allow for a healthier, attractive county environment,” said Ruth Berlin, executive director of Maryland Pesticide Education Network.

“Like many communities around the country, the people of Montgomery County decided to exercise their right to protect their environment and loved ones from the harmful impacts of pesticides. Instead of respecting that right, the chemical industry is once again trying to trump the democratic process with their deep litigation pockets. CFS stands with the communities’ right to demand a cleaner environment,” said George Kimbrell, Legal Director at the Center for Food Safety.

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

Contact:
Jay Feldman, 202-255-4296 jfeldman@beyondpesticides.org
Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin, 202 360-7166 info@safegrowmontgomery.org

 

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22
Jun

For Pollinator Week, Help Ban Pesticide Misters in Your State

(Beyond Pesticides, June 22, 2018) Mosquito misters pose a threat to human health. They also harm bees and other flying pollinators and are the least effective way to deal with biting mosquitoes. These devices are typically placed outdoors and spray insecticides –mostly in an attempt to control mosquitoes.  In May, the Connecticut state legislature voted to ban the use of residential pesticide misting systems.

Urge your Governor and state legislators to ban pesticide misters.

In addition to the threat to people’s health, misters harm pollinators who may be foraging in an area where the devices are used. Studies find that sublethal concentrations of synthetic pyrethroids significantly reduce bee fecundity and decrease the rate at which bees develop to adulthood and reproduce. Field and laboratory studies using pyrethroids have consistently documented decreases in foraging activity and activity at the hive entrance after exposure.

While pesticides are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pesticide misters and other application devices are not subject to EPA oversight, leaving states with the authority to control their use. Connecticut appears to be the first state to restrict pesticide misting machines through legislation. The state of New York took an administrative approach to regulating these devices, as the commissioner of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation used his authority to deem pesticides used in misting systems as restricted use (only available to certified applicators).

In 2015, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, detailing false and deceptive claims by manufacturers of pesticide misters. Specifically, PEER noted that manufacturers claim that these misters (1) are effective in controlling mosquitoes despite contention from experts and even the American Mosquito Control Association that they are not effective, (2) have the ability to kill ticks, of which there is no evidence, and (3) are “safe” and “natural,” despite their use of highly toxic pesticides. Absent federal action, the responsibility to regulate these dangerous devices falls to the states.

Urge your Governor and state legislators to ban pesticide misters.

Staying mosquito-free in one’s backyard requires both individual and community efforts. For the individual, during mosquito season use least-toxic repellents like oil of lemon eucalyptus. If possible, wear loose, light colored long-sleeved clothing. If you want to spend protected periods outside sipping lemonade during a hot summer evening, sit next to an oscillating fan, as mosquitoes are not great fliers. For more protection, sit inside a screened deck, or pop-up tent.

At the community level, you can achieve neighborhood-level reductions in mosquitoes by joining with your neighbors in regularly dumping out standing water and encouraging flying and swimming predators. Larvaciding sites that cannot be drained is more effective than spraying adults, but still disrupts ecological forces that maintain balance. Most common mosquitoes don’t fly too far from where they hatched, and often one location in a community, such as stagnant water in a neighbor’s old pool, can be a major source for mosquito breeding throughout the neighborhood.

Use Beyond Pesticides’ mosquito doorknob hangers to get the word out. Contact the office for 25 free hangers, or purchase more at Beyond Pesticides’ Storefront. If you are concerned about broader aerial or truck-mounted spraying campaigns by governments or vector control districts, also reach out to Beyond Pesticides at info@beyondpesticides.org or 202-543-5450 for organizing strategies to stop toxic mosquito spray in your community.

Model Legislative Language: Connecticut General Assembly SB104.

Letters (two options):

For Connecticut residents, to Connecticut legislators and governor:

Pesticide misters harm bees and other flying pollinators and are the least effective way to deal with biting mosquitoes. These devices are typically placed outdoors and spray insecticides –mostly in an attempt to control mosquitoes, putting people and other species at risk.  In May, the Connecticut state legislature voted to ban the use of residential pesticide misting systems. The vote was unanimous in the state Senate, and won by a count of 132-17 in the state House.

Thank you for protecting Connecticut residents!

Sincerely,

For other states:

Mosquito misters pose a threat to human health. They also harm bees and other flying pollinators and are the least effective way to deal with biting mosquitoes. These devices are typically placed outdoors and spray insecticides –mostly in an attempt to control mosquitoes.)  In May, the Connecticut state legislature voted to ban the use of residential pesticide misting systems.

In addition to the threat to people’s health, misters harm pollinators who may be foraging in an area where the devices are used. Studies find that sublethal concentrations of synthetic pyrethroids significantly reduce bee fecundity and decrease the rate at which bees develop to adulthood and reproduce. Field and laboratory studies using pyrethroids have consistently documented decreases in foraging activity and activity at the hive entrance after exposure.

While pesticides are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pesticide misters and other application devices are not subject to EPA oversight, leaving states with the authority to control their use. Connecticut appears to be the first state to restrict pesticide misting machines through legislation. The state of New York took an administrative approach to regulating these devices, as the commissioner of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation used his authority to deem pesticides used in misting systems as restricted use (only available to certified applicators).

In 2015, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, detailing false and deceptive claims by manufacturers of pesticide misters. Specifically, PEER noted that manufacturers claim that these misters (1) are effective in controlling mosquitoes despite contention from experts and even the American Mosquito Control Association that they are not effective, (2) have the ability to kill ticks, of which there is no evidence, and (3) are “safe” and “natural,” despite their use of highly toxic pesticides. Absent federal action, the responsibility to regulate these dangerous devices falls to the states.

The Connecticut law consists of two short paragraphs:

“(a) On and after January 1, 2019, no person shall install or utilize any residential automatic pesticide misting system in this state. For purposes of this section, “residential automatic pesticide misting system” means any device that is designed to be installed on, near or around the exterior of any residential dwelling or the grounds of such residential dwelling and to automatically spray any pesticide solution at timed intervals.

“(b) The Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection may adopt regulations, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54 of the general statutes, to implement the provisions of subsection (a) of this section. Such regulations may include, but shall not be limited to, the establishment of a fine for the violation of subsection (a) of this section.”

I urge you to follow the example of Connecticut and ban the use of residential pesticide misting systems.

Sincerely,

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21
Jun

Group Urges Endangered Species Protection for 23 Species

(Beyond Pesticides, June 21, 2018) In a letter sent by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is being urged to complete status reviews and listing proposals for 23 wildlife species in the Southeast that are at risk of extinction. Citing deep concerns about unprecedented assaults on the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the letter reiterates the critical need for FWS to provide timely protection to the most critically imperiled species.

Highlighting the plight of 23 freshwater animals and plants, like the southern snaketail and the sunfacing coneflower, and the consideration by the Trump Administration to withdraw ESA findings for dozens of species, CBD submitted the letter, dated June 8, 2018, urging FWS to follow the law, and review and publish species protection proposals.

CBD initiated a review of 61 species for which the group had already filed a petition seeking ESA protections. This came after the Trump administration’s unprecedented move to reverse an Obama-era decision to review the status of the species because available information indicates they may warrant listing. CBD first petitioned FWS for their protection in 2010. Hundreds of other highly imperiled species are similarly awaiting decisions, but, according to CBD, a declining budget and opposition from the Trump administration are stalling these critical protections.

The Trump administration has proposed slashing the budget for endangered species listings by half, from $20.5 million to $10.9, and to prioritize delisting species rather than granting protection to new ones. These budget cuts are being proposed despite FWS’s backlog of hundreds of species that have been found to warrant consideration for protection. Since 2000, several southeastern species have been identified as extinct including the beaverpond marstonia snail, Tatum Cave beetle, Florida zestos and rockland grass skipper butterflies, the green blossom, yellow blossom, tubercled bloosom, and turgid blossom pearly mussels, the Florida fairy shrimp, and the South Florida rainbow snake. Many of the species CBD petitioned for are still awaiting reviews, while others were withdrawn from the petition.

“Endangered species decisions have long been plagued by delay and political interference, but these problems are becoming a crisis under Trump,” said Tierra Curry, a CBD senior scientist. “Rather than following the law and reviewing the status of species like the southern snaketail, the administration wants to push them out the back door and ignore those at risk of extinction.”

Attacks on ESA have been a regular occurrence since the inauguration of the 115th United States Congress on January 3, 2017. This Congress already has seen at least 63 legislative attacks seeking to strip federal protections from specific species or undercutting the Endangered Species Act according to CBD.  There are documented a total of 164 bills introduced into Congress which have sought to dismantle critical species protections between 2010 and 2015.

Earlier this year, over 60 agriculture groups signed a letter telling House Agriculture Committee leaders that the current ESA review and permitting process is redundant and provides no environmental benefit, but instead imposes additional costs on farms and businesses. These sentiments were echoed in provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill to exempt the use of pesticides from ESA review, threatening hundreds of endangered species and making it legal to kill any endangered species with a pesticide at almost any time. While this bill  passed the House Agriculture Committee without any Democratic support, it failed in the House because some members have been holding up the legislation over a demand for moving their immigration bill, and is expected to come up for a vote again as early as Friday this week.

With species decline increasing across the globe, it is critical that we protect those already at heightened risk. An important provision of the ESA is the requirement that each federal agency that proposes to authorize, fund, or carry out an action that may affect a listed species or its critical habitat must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service. Although many species –including the bald eagle, Florida manatee, and California condor— have been protected and brought back from the brink of extinction under the ESA, an estimated 500 species have disappeared in the past 200 years.

See Beyond Pesticides’ action on this issue or write or call your Congressional Representative and urge her/him to support the ESA’s scientific review process and protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats.

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

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

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20
Jun

New Research Finds Neonics Kill-Off Bumblebee Queens During Nest-Building Period

(Beyond Pesticides, June 20, 2018) Bumblebee queens that wake up from hibernation to a neonicotinoid-contaminated, monofloral landscape take longer to set up their nest and die-off at higher rates, according to new research from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  While this is the first study to evaluate multiple stressors – pesticide exposure and a monotypic diet – on bumblebee pollinators as they initiate a new colony, it is far from the first to conclude that the neonicotinoid class of insecticides result in unacceptable adverse impacts to insect pollinators. With Pollinator Week 2018 underway, advocates say it is time that the U.S. catches up to the European Union and Canada and starts to ban the use of bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides.

Bumblebee queens only live long enough to produce one colony. After establishing a colony over the spring and summer months, by fall a new queen hatches and the old queen dies. The new queen leaves the nest and mates, then goes underground to seek shelter and hibernate over the winter. If she makes it through the winter, the single queen will then emerge in spring to begin her own colony and start the cycle anew. Unlike honey bees, which produce colonies that can contain upwards of 50,000 bees, bumblebees create small colonies that will usually top out at around 450 bees. These factors all leave much more room for error and increase the risk of colony failure due to adverse environmental conditions.

“Queens are probably already a bottleneck for bumblebee population dynamics,” said Hollis Woodard, PhD, lead author of the study in a press release. “If a queen dies because of exposure to manmade stressors, then a nest full of hundreds of important pollinators simply won’t exist.”

UCR researchers aimed to investigate whether a hazardous environment, such as pesticide contamination or lack of floral diversity, affected a bumblebee queen’s ability to successfully establish a new colony. The neonicotinoid imidacloprid was applied at a sublethal rate – 5ppb-  in nectar fed to bumblebee queens after waking from hibernation. Those constantly exposed to this dose over the course of a little over a month were roughly six times more likely to die, and exhibited significantly less activity. At a shorter exposure time period of roughly half a month, some queens partially recovered, but the adverse effects of the insecticide were clear. While a monotypic diet of one pollen source did not lead to the same increased mortality or retarded movement, it did reduce the number of eggs a queen would lay.

“Ours is the first study to explore the impact of multiple stressors on bumblebee queens during an understudied but important phase of their lives. It joins a small but growing body of research suggesting there are unique effects on queens that can have dramatic consequences for future generations,” Dr. Woodard said.

Previous studies have indeed found neonicotinoids to be associated with altered feeding behaviors and reduced egg development in bumblebee queens, as well as the inhibition of pollination skills among bumblebee workers, the loss of bumblebees’ characteristic “buzz” pollination technique, and reductions in overall colony size. And that represents a small sampling of independent scientific studies Beyond Pesticides has covered over only the past two years.

As Dr. Woodward suggests, this study adds to an already well-established body of scientific data indicating that U.S. regulators should reconsider the ongoing use of neonicotinoid insecticides. “Our research suggests there are hidden costs to insecticide use that may only be observed if you consider the totality of an organism’s life history. This is intricately linked to human well-being because bee heath is extremely important for food production, biodiversity, and the environment,” she said.

Now is the time to take action for pollinator health. Help bring back their buzz to landscapes throughout the United States by participating in Pollinator Week 2018.  Check out Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinator Week 2018 website for actions you can take to help reclaim pollinator-safe spaces. Also, view Seeds that Poison.

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

Source: UCR Press Release

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19
Jun

French Beekeepers Sue Bayer/Monsanto on Glyphosate in Honey; U.S. Court Allows Glyphosate Contamination of Honey Labeled “100% Pure”

(Beyond Pesticides, June 19, 2018) Some 200 members of a French beekeeping cooperative in the northern Aisne region have sued Bayer — on the same day the giant chemical company’s acquisition of Monsanto was finalized — after discovering that their honey was contaminated with toxic glyphosate, a known endocrine disruptor and probable human carcinogen (according to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer). Monsanto is the long-time manufacturer of Roundup, the popular glyphosate pesticide; Bayer now owns not only the company, but also, the liabilities that come with it, including the “Monsanto” name. Environmental activists had denounced the merger, which creates an agrichemical leviathan that promotes use of chemical herbicides and genetically engineered/modified (GE/GMO) seeds.

The beekeepers’ suit was filed in early June after Famille Michaud, a large French honey marketer, detected glyphosate contamination in three batches from one of the coop’s members — whose hives happen to border large fields of rapeseed, beets, and sunflowers. Glyphosate is commonly used in French agriculture; President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to ban its use by 2021.

Emmanuel Ludot, a lawyer for the cooperative, is looking for an outcome that includes mandated investigation of the extent of glyphosate contamination of honey, and of health consequences the pesticide represents for people. Mr. Ludot said, “It’s also a matter of knowing how widespread this might be. Famille Michaud tells me this isn’t an isolated case.” Familles Michaud president Vincent Michaud noted that “we regularly detect foreign substances, including glyphosate. Usually, beekeepers will say, ‘In that case I’ll sell the honey at a roadside stand or a market,’ where there’s no quality control. But this beekeeper had the courage to say, ‘I’m not going to be like everyone else, I’m going to file suit against Monsanto.’”

French beekeepers are not alone in pushing back on glyphosate contamination of honey. Stateside, several organizations and individuals have approached the issue with a different strategy. Rather than suing the manufacturer, in November 2016, Beyond Pesticides, along with the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), brought suit against Sioux Honey Association (Sue Bee Honey) in Superior Court in Washington, DC for deceptive and misleading labeling of its products. The suit, which followed revelations that Sue Bee honey products labeled “100% Pure” and “Natural” tested positive for glyphosate residue, claimed that Sioux Honey’s labeling and marketing practices violated the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act. Plaintiffs’ argument was that consumers expect a product labeled “100% Pure” and “Natural” to contain only honey, and that contamination of the product makes that labeling deceptive and misleading.

The introduction to the filed complaint says, “Beekeepers are often the victims of, and have little recourse against, contamination of their hives caused by pesticide applications in the fields where bees forage. Given the failure of current law to protect beekeepers, retailers like Sioux Honey can and should use their market power to promote practices that protect beekeepers from contamination to ensure that consumers are provided products free of glyphosate and other pesticide residues. . . . Unless the paradigm of modern agriculture is shifted, however, synthetic chemicals will continue to contaminate everyday consumer products, and until that time, producers, distributors, and retailers of food products must be mindful of the fact that products containing such contaminants are not ‘natural’ or ‘pure,’ as a reasonable consumer would define the terms, and it is unlawful to label or advertise them as such.”

The intent of the suit was, broadly, to highlight the issue of pesticide contamination in the food supply. OCA director Ronnie Cummins said, “Regardless of how these products came to be contaminated, Sioux Honey has an obligation to . . . prevent the contamination, disclose the contamination, or at the very least, remove these deceptive labels.” Beyond Pesticides and OCA lost the case. In March 2017, Associate Judge William Jackson of the DC Superior Court granted Sioux Honey’s motion to dismiss, finding that there was no evidence consumers had been misled by Sioux’s labeling on the honey. He also found that the trace amounts of glyphosate in the honey “were not ingredients or additives because the chemical had been introduced into the products by bees carrying it back to the hive rather than something the company added during production.” The judge found that the court did not believe that consumers expect “pure” honey to be free from small amounts of glyphosate. Beyond Pesticides has not yet announced next steps in the case, but is determined, on all fronts, to highlight the fact that our food supply is being contaminated by glyphosate (and other pesticides).

In a similar case brought before a District Court in California — Susan Tran v. Sioux Honey Association, Cooperative — the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) responded to an order by Judge Josephine Staton, of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, asking FDA to determine whether and in what circumstances honey containing glyphosate may or may not be labeled “Pure” or “100% Pure.” The FDA declined to provide a determination, saying “FDA’s role is to ensure that pesticide chemical residues on or in food are lawful because they do not exceed the limits established by EPA or, if present on or in foods without a tolerance, EPA has established an exemption from the need for a tolerance. . . . Any food that bears or contains a pesticide chemical residue that is not within the limits of a tolerance established by EPA, or is not exempted from the need for a tolerance, is adulterated. . . . EPA has established tolerances for glyphosate on such crops as corn, soybean, oil seeds, grains, and some fruits and vegetables, EPA has not established any tolerances or exemptions for glyphosate in honey. FDA understands that EPA’s review of the safety of glyphosate is ongoing. FDA intends to consider the need for any appropriate actions with regard to glyphosate findings in honey in consultation with EPA.”

Essentially, FDA declined to issue a determination based on a lack of clarity about whether or not the presence of glyphosate residues in honey is lawful. Because EPA has issued neither a tolerance level, nor an exemption from such tolerance, for glyphosate, FDA asserts that its presence is in a sort “legal limbo” until, apparently, EPA decides to take up the matter. Beyond Pesticides contends that the lack of an established tolerance means that glyphosate should not be present in honey. Oddly, one of FDA’s points in its letter — “Any food that bears or contains a pesticide chemical residue that is not within the limits of a tolerance established by EPA, or is not exempted from the need for a tolerance, is adulterated” — would appear to support the contention of the plaintiffs.

The real and lasting solution is, of course, to disallow EPA registration of pesticides that will (or can) contaminate the food supply. Beyond Pesticides executive director Jay Feldman notes, “It is our hope that beekeepers in the U.S. will, as did those in France, join the effort to push back against the registration of pesticides that invade the environment and cause indiscriminate poisoning and contamination. Until that is achieved, it is misleading to label contaminated food — especially food without a tolerance — as ‘100% pure’ or ‘natural.’”

Beyond Pesticides works to educate the public and policy makers about the issues that attend pesticide use, and the multiplicity of impacts pesticides cause, or to which they contribute. See these Beyond Pesticides website pages, in particular: Center for Community Pesticide and Alternatives Information, Organic Agriculture, the Daily News Blog, and its journal, Pesticides and You. For more on pollinators and action steps you can take to protect them, go to Beyond Pesticides’ National Pollinator Week actions.

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

Source: https://www.afp.com/en/news/826/french-beekeepers-accuse-bayer-after-glyphosate-found-honey-doc-15q7rk1

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18
Jun

New Video, Seeds that Poison, Explains Pesticide Link to Pollinator Decline, Cites Organic Solution

View video here.

(Beyond Pesticides, June 18, 2018) At the start of National Pollinator Week, Beyond Pesticides today released its new video, Seeds that Poison –to broaden public understanding of the devastating adverse effects of pesticides on the health of pollinators (bees, birds, butterflies, and other organisms), and the solution in the organic management of agriculture, parks, playing fields, gardens, and lawns. Hazardous pesticides tied to the decline of honey bees and native bees are not permitted in certified organic food production and numerous policies adopted by local governments across the U.S.

The accumulated studies and data have found that honey bees and other pollinators, such as native bees, butterflies and birds, are in decline. Scientists studying the issue have identified several factors that are contributing to bee decline, including pesticides, parasites, improper nutrition, stress, and habitat loss. (See Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows.)

Pesticides have been identified in the independent scientific literature as a major contributing factor. Pesticides in the neonicotinoid (neonic) chemical class have been singled out as major suspects due to their widespread use as seed coatings, high toxicity to bees, “systemic” nature –neonic chemicals move through the plant’s vascular system and are expressed in pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets– and persistence. Neonicotinoids are highly toxic to honey bees and, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledges this fact, little is being done at the federal level to protect bees and other pollinators from these pesticides.

Neonicotinoid-coated Seeds
The majority of corn, soybeans, and other food crop seeds are coated with toxic pesticides. Many seeds and flowers marketed as “bee-friendly” at garden centers are also contaminated with systemic chemicals. These pesticides emerge from the seed through the plant, and invade soil biology and surrounding waterways, causing indiscriminate poisoning and contamination.

Uses of Neonicotinoids
The most commonly used seed coatings are neonicotinoid insecticides. While seed coatings represent a significant use of these insecticides, they can also be applied through granules, foliar spray, or drenches around plant roots. With every type of use, neonic chemicals work their way into plants, their pollen, nectar, and sap droplets, making them poisonous to pollinators who feed on them. Birds, bees, butterflies and bats are indiscriminately poisoned when they forage in contaminated fields.

Hazards of Neonicotinoids
Since the introduction of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides, both honey bees and wild, native pollinators have experienced ongoing catastrophic declines. In some years, such as the 2015-2016 season, beekeepers experienced an average of 44% colony loss, with some beekeepers losing their entire business. The scientific literature shows that the use of these chemicals results in exposed pollinators suffering impaired foraging, navigational, and learning behavior, as well as increased susceptibility to mites and pathogens. This threatens the sustainability of the global food supply, particularly nutrient dense fruiting foods that depend on bees and other pollinators. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of global food, 71 are pollinated by bees.

Neonicotinoids also contaminate over half of urban and agricultural streams across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, according to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that expands on a previous study finding the chemicals in Midwest waterways. These insecticides are very highly toxic to a range of aquatic organisms, including shrimp and aquatic insects. Reproductive effects are observed in several freshwater and estuarine/marine invertebrates. Developmental effects occur in benthic invertebrates living at the bottom of waterbodies, including the sediment surface and subsurface. In the regulatory arena at EPA, alarms began to go off when the agency found in its 2017 risk assessment for imidacloprid, the most widely used neonicotinoid, “[C]oncentrations of imidacloprid detected in streams, rivers, lakes and drainage canals routinely exceed acute and chronic toxicity endpoints derived for freshwater invertebrates.” (USEPA. 2017) (See Beyond Pesticides report Poisoned Waterways: The Same Pesticide that Is Killing Bees Is Destroying Life in the Nation’s Streams, Rivers, and Lakes.)

Effectiveness
The use of these chemicals is not only dangerous to the environment, but puts farmers at economic risk. Research finds that their use can undermine pest control efforts and cause “trophic cascades.” One study found that when applied to seeds in an attempt to prevent pest slugs from eating seedlings, slugs were unaffected by neonicotinoid toxicity. However, they accumulated the chemicals in their body, and their main predator beetles died in consuming them. By creating an ecological imbalance, neonicotinoids allowed the pest slugs to proliferate.

A 2014 EPA analysis found that neonicotinoid seed treatments provide little to no benefit to farmers in managing insects or improving yield in soybean fields. And a comprehensive review by an international team of scientists, called the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, found that the effectiveness of alternative pest management techniques eliminates the need to use neonicotinoids.

Regulatory Status
Over the past year, major actions in Europe and Canada have been taken to ban or restrict the use of neonicotinoids. After the European Union (EU) instituted its initial moratorium on neonic applications to flowering crops in 2013, accumulated research led to a permanent extension of this ban to include all outdoor uses of these systemic insecticides in May 2018. Canadian regulators have issued interim decisions on several neonicotinoids, with recommendations that will significantly curtail their uses, but the country has stopped short of banning the chemicals all together.

In the United States, EPA issued very minor changes to neonicotinoid product labels in 2013, but has yet to take substantive action to restrict use. President Obama created a National Pollinator Health Strategy with a number of lofty goals, but there is no indication that the Trump Administration is continuing this work. However, state level action has been seen in Connecticut and Maryland, where consumer uses of neonicotinoids have been eliminated. Numerous local communitiesuniversities, and retailers have also taken action to remove neonicotinoid pesticides from use in their land management practices or store shelves.

Litigation
A number of U.S. lawsuits have sought to protect pollinators from neonics and neonic-coated seeds. The lawsuit Ellis v. Housenger (EPA), originally filed in March 2013 by beekeeper Steve Ellis and a coalition of beekeepers and environmental groups including Beyond Pesticides, focused on EPA’s failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides and challenged EPA’s oversight of the bee-killing pesticides, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, as well as the agency’s practice of “conditional registration” and labeling deficiencies. The ruling in the case by a federal judge in May 2017 declared that EPA violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it issued 59 neonicotinoid insecticide registrations between 2007 and 2012 for pesticide products containing clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

For National Pollinator Week: See below the suggestions for actions you can take to protect pollinators:

Monday (June 18, 2018)
Watch and share the new short-film “Seeds that Poison.” To kick off Pollinator Week 2018, Beyond Pesticides is releasing a new video highlighting the hazards associated with a major use of bee-toxic pesticides – seed coatings. Please watch and share with friends and family! Click here to watch Seeds that Poison.

After distributing the film, please contact your state elected officials to ask that they act to protect pollinators. (Connecticut and Maryland have taken action.)

Folks in the DC area can also attend a “Pollinator Forum” to learn about pollinators and celebrate them. The event is taking place at the Tabard Inn (Monday, June 18) and will feature Beyond Pesticides’ Science and Regulatory Director Nichelle Harriott. Click here to purchase tickets.

Tuesday
Plant pollinator habitat. Explore Beyond Pesticides’ resources to find ideas for native plantings or sources of untreated flowers and dig your pollinator-friendly garden today. Use the Bee Protective Habitat Guide and or Pollinator-Friendly Seed Directory to help!

Wednesday
Take local action. Use our organizing materials to engage your public officials or local garden center to eliminate the use of bee-toxic pesticides in your community. Sign the pledge that you’re ready to fight for a pesticide-free community.

Thursday
Take federal action. The European Union (EU) recently banned outdoor uses of neonic insecticides, and Canada is poised to put new restrictions on many uses. With the dismantling of EPA and the outsized influence of the chemical industry on Administrator Scott Pruitt, urge your members of Congress to co-sponsor and pass the Saving America’s Pollinators Act!

Friday
Tell your state officials to ban mosquito misters. Mosquito misters harm bees and other flying pollinators, and are the least effective way to deal with biting mosquitoes. (Misters are unregulated devices that are typically placed outdoors and continually spray insecticides –mostly in an attempt to control mosquitoes.) Urge your Governor and state legislators to ban the use of misters.

What More You Can Do

There is an alternative to the indiscriminate poisoning of pollinators and ecosystems. A solution exists that is effective, productive, economically viable, and sustainable and does not require yet another new toxic pesticide or genetically engineered crop: organic land management. By respecting the environment, the complexity and benefits of interconnected ecosystems, organic agriculture protects pollinators and enhances the benefits we derive from the natural environment. See Beyond Pesticides’ Eating With a Conscience database for more on why organic is the right choice, and the Bee Protective webpage for additional resources you can use to go organic and safeguard pollinator populations.

Join the effort to move your community to organic land management practices. See Beyond Pesticides’ resources to assist in the adoption of organic policies and practices.

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15
Jun

Plan Actions to Protect Pollinators During National Pollinator Week, June 18-24

(Beyond Pesticides, June 15, 2018) In recognition of the importance of pollinators and biodiversity to a healthy environment and healthy people during National Pollinator Week, June 18-24, Beyond Pesticides announces a week of activities and actions.

Monday (June 18)
Watch and share the new short-film “Seeds that Poison.”
To kick off Pollinator Week 2018, Beyond Pesticides is releasing a new video highlighting the hazards associated with a major use of bee-toxic pesticides – seed coatings. Please watch and share with friends and family! Click here to watch Seeds that Poison.

After distributing the film, please contact your state elected officials to ask that they act to protect pollinators. (Connecticut and Maryland have taken action.)

Folks in the DC area can also attend a “Pollinator Forum” to learn about pollinators and celebrate them. The event is taking place at the Tabard Inn (Monday, June 18) and will feature Beyond Pesticides’ Science and Regulatory Director Nichelle Harriott. Click here to purchase tickets.

Tuesday
Plant pollinator habitat. Explore Beyond Pesticides’ resources to find ideas for native plantings or sources of untreated flowers and dig your pollinator-friendly garden today. Use the Bee Protective Habitat Guide and or Pollinator-Friendly Seed Directory to help!

Wednesday
Take local action. Use our organizing materials to engage your public officials or local garden center to eliminate the use of bee-toxic pesticides in your community. Sign the pledge that you’re ready to fight for a pesticide-free community.

Thursday
Take federal action. The European Union (EU) recently banned outdoor uses of neonic insecticides, and Canada is poised to put new restrictions on many uses. With the dismantling of EPA and the outsized influence of the chemical industry on Administrator Scott Pruitt, urge your members of Congress to co-sponsor and pass the Saving America’s Pollinators Act!

Friday
Tell your state officials to ban mosquito misters. Mosquito misters harm bees and other flying pollinators, and are the least effective way to deal with biting mosquitoes. (Misters are unregulated devices that are typically placed outdoors and continually spray insecticides –mostly in an attempt to control mosquitoes.) Urge your Governor and state legislators to ban the use of misters.

For more information, visit our BEE  Protective and Pollinator Week 2018 pages.

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14
Jun

Research Suggests Ways to Avoid Exposure to “Obesogens”

(Beyond Pesticides, June 14, 2018) With nearly 40% of Americans diagnosed as clinically obese, leading to health care costs estimated at over $200 billion, researchers are focusing on ways individuals can reduce their exposure to chemicals that contribute to weight gain regardless of diet or exercise. These chemicals, known as “obesogens,” include a range of consumer products, from pesticides to plastics and flame retardants. While diet and exercise remain critically important to fighting the ongoing obesity epidemic, obesogens may be working to increase appetite, fat storage, or make it more difficult for the body to shed fat once it is gained.

In a presentation at the European Society for Endocrinology in Barcelona, researchers from the Universities of Aveiro and Beira Interior, Portugal identified ways these chemicals are entering our environment, and good habits to employ in order to reduce obesogen exposure. “Obesogens can be found almost everywhere, and our diet is a main source of exposure, as some pesticides and artificial sweeteners are obesogens. Equally, they are present in plastics and home products, so completely reducing exposure is extremely difficult – but to significantly reduce it is not only feasible, but also very simple”, lead researcher Ana Catarina Sousa, PhD, says in a press release.

Specific recommendations include:

  • “Choosing fresh food over processed products with long lists of ingredients on the label – the longer the list, the more likely the product is to contain obesogens
  • Buying fruit and vegetables produced without pesticides, such as certified organic or local pesticide-free products
  • Reducing the use of plastic, especially when heating or storing food. Instead, use glass or aluminum containers for your food and drinks.
  • Removing shoes when entering the house to avoid bringing in contaminants in the sole of shoes
  • Vacuuming often, using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters and dust your house frequently using a damp cloth.
  • Removing or minimizing carpet at home or work, as they tend to accumulate more dust
  • Avoiding cleaning products when possible, or choose those that do not contain obesogens”

Dr. Sousa and her team identified diet and dust as the primary route of exposure to obesogenic chemicals. “Adults ingest about 50mg of dust every day, and children twice as much, so keeping the house clean is a very effective measure,” she notes. “And use a humid cloth to dust your furniture, rather than a cleaning product that may contain more of these chemicals.”

Bruce Blumberg, PhD, University of California, Irvine, first hypothesized the theory on the role environmental chemicals play in promoting obesity in 2006. Coining the term “obesogen,” Dr. Blumberg found that a chemical his team was researching for other issues, a now-banned pesticide called tributyltin, happened to be make laboratory mice fat. Since then, research on the issue continues to expand significantly, and government bodies such as the National Institute for Environmental Health Services have recognized the role pesticides and other chemicals play in weight gain and the global obesity epidemic.

For more information about obesogens, see Dr. Blumberg’s recent article in Environmental Health News, or watch his recently released talk from Beyond Pesticides 36th National Pesticide Forum in Irvine, California.

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

Source: EurekAlert Press Release from the European Society of Endocrinology

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