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Daily News Blog

21
May

Organic Agriculture is Growing as Conventional Farming Struggles

(Beyond Pesticides, May 21, 2019) As farmers nationwide are facing extreme stressors and either consolidating or retiring, organic is going against the grain. Despite overall declines in the number of U.S. farms, the number of organic farms increased 27% between 2012 and 2017, according to new data from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The value of organic sales in 2017 was $7.2 billion, and the average value of sales per farm has increased a remarkable 84% since 2012. Laura Batcha, the executive director of the Organic Trade Association, told Bloomberg that young families are among the drivers in the organic market as they seek to avoid residues of chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones on food.

Organic products fetch a higher price point than conventional. Indiana farmer Joe Mills can sell his organic food-grade corn for about $10.50 a bushel, while conventional sells for about $3.50/bushel. Mr. Mills notes, “Yes, it’s economical, but there is a huge learning curve and a mindset change. We relied on commercial fertilizers and pesticides for so long.” At the same time, the benefits and affordability of organic food are critical to the market, as consumers consider their purchasing choices. Read the Beyond Pesticides’ report Low Food Prices: The Real Story on the Affordability of Organic Food.

At the same time, conventional farmers, faced with five years of low commodity prices and an onslaught of problems, are experiencing unsustainably low income. Extreme weather and shifting climate are rapidly increasing—these are devastating threats for under-protected and economically vulnerable farms.

Even before the mass flooding of the Midwest earlier this year, net farm income had fallen nearly 50% since 2013. Trump administration trade tariffs have exacerbated the problem; the trade war with China has lasted nearly ten months and is having a significant impact on producers. In the first quarter of 2019, farm income declined by $11.8 billion. Farm debt has increased rapidly, reaching levels last seen during the 1980’s. Soybeans are the most valuable U.S. agricultural export, and China is the country’s number one buyer. China has drastically reduced its purchases of American exports and, as the trade war escalates, there is evidence that they may stop purchasing agricultural products altogether.

Experts are concerned about the mental health of farmers and farmworkers, who have a statistically higher suicide rate than other occupations. The flooding situation is especially dire, as the Chicago Tribune explains: “Now, the floods may have stripped many farmers’ land of the soil it needs to grow crops, which could take years to return to production. Some farmers have been storing grain for several years in anticipation of better prices, but floodwaters eroded their land and contaminated the grain. Neither USDA disaster programs nor insurance policies cover stored grain. Crop insurance may cover inputs, such as chemical and fertilizer, but it won’t provide additional income to support households.”

As an aging farming population assesses the current troubles and their return on investment, many are choosing to retire. In contrast, organic producers are generally younger and more likely to be full-time farmers. 17% of organic producers are age 34 or less, more than double the number in the same age bracket for all farms (8%).

In a time of economic and environmental upset, organic agriculture is a viable commercial alternative that can help to mend the planet through carbon sequestration, and elimination of water, air, and soil contamination associated with pesticide and synthetic fertilizer use. U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree wrote for Civil Eats, “…in our new push for climate solutions—from the ambitious Green New Deal to our recommitment to the Paris Agreement—farmers and ranchers need to have a seat at the table.” While food production contributes approximately a quarter of annual greenhouse gases, “Those who produce our food also hold the potential to reverse that statistic,” Rep. Pingree said.

Organic farms will also be more resilient to the threats of a changing climate: healthy soil and soil cover help prevent nutrient and water loss, making them better prepared to withstand floods and droughts. The Rodale Institute reports that organic plots produce yields up to 40% higher than conventional in times of drought because and organic soil system retains more water.

Now, more than ever, it is critical to invest in America’s organic farms—not only is it a good financial decision, it could help save the planet. See Beyond Pesticides’ extensive resources on organic for more.

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

Sources: Bloomberg, Chicago Tribune, Reuters, Civil Eats

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20
May

Take Action: As EPA Fails to Act, States Take Up the Responsibility to Protect Health and the Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, May 20, 2019) The bans of chlorpyrifos in three important agricultural states show the support for a ban of the chemical nationwide. Hawai’i banned chlorpyrifos a year ago with a unanimous vote of the legislature. New York and California banned it this month. States have been pursuing bans since the Environmental Protection Agency rescinded its proposed ban in 2017.

Tell Your Governor to Ban Neurotoxic Pesticides and Support Organic; Send Thanks to Your Governor in Hawai’i, New York, and California

Like other organophosphate pesticides, chlorpyrifos has been linked to damaging and often irreversible health outcomes in workers, pregnant women, and children. A widely used pesticide, agriculture companies annually spray six million pounds on crops like citrus, apples, and cherries.  In the same family as Sarin gas, the substance was initially developed prior to World War II as a chemical weapon. It can overstimulate the nervous system to cause nausea, dizziness, and confusion. With very high exposures (accidents or spills), it can cause respiratory paralysis and even death. When applying the chemical to fields, workers must wear protective garments such as respirators. Workers are then blocked from entering the fields from 24 hours up to 5 days after application due to the chemical exposure risk.

A group of leading toxics experts, who published a paper in the journal PLOS Medicine on their research on organophosphate exposure during pregnancy and impacts on child development, are calling for a ban on organophosphate pesticides. The study evaluates current science on the risks of this class of compounds, produced by Corteva Agriscience (formerly Dow AgroSciences). Its conclusions warn of the multitude of dangers of organophosphates for children, and makes recommendations for addressing these risks. The experts conclude that: (1) widespread use of organophosphate (OP) pesticides to control insects has resulted in ubiquitous human exposures; (2) acute exposures to OPs is responsible for poisonings and deaths, particularly in developing countries; and (3) evidence demonstrates that prenatal exposures, even at low levels, put children at risk for cognitive and behavioral deficits, and for neurodevelopmental disorders.

Organic production is now a $45.2 billion enterprise and provides a viable alternative to the use of toxic pesticides. In addition to banning organophosphates, states should promote organic agriculture by providing assistance for transitioning farmers and requiring organic management on all state-owned land.

Tell Your Governor to Ban Neurotoxic Pesticides and Support Organic; Send Thanks to Your Governor in Hawai’i, New York, and California

Letter to Governor

The bans of chlorpyrifos in three important agricultural states show the support for a ban of the chemical nationwide. Hawai’i banned chlorpyrifos a year ago with a unanimous vote of the legislature. New York and California banned it this month. Statewide bans are necessary because the Environmental Protection Agency rescinded its proposed ban in 2017.

Like chlorpyrifos, other organophosphate pesticides have been linked to damaging and often irreversible health outcomes in workers, pregnant women, and children. A widely used pesticide, agriculture companies annually spray 6 million pounds on crops like citrus, apples, and cherries.  In the same family as Sarin gas, the substance was initially developed prior to World War II as a chemical weapon. It can overstimulate the nervous system to cause nausea, dizziness, and confusion. With very high exposures (accidents or spills), it can cause respiratory paralysis and even death. When applying the chemical to fields, workers must wear protective garments such as respirators. Workers are then blocked from entering the fields from 24 hours up to 5 days after application due to the chemical exposure risk.

A group of leading toxics experts, who published a paper in the journal PLOS Medicine on their research on organophosphate exposure during pregnancy and impacts on child development, are calling for a ban on organophosphate pesticides. The study evaluates current science on the risks of this class of compounds, produced by Corteva Agriscience (formerly Dow AgroSciences). Its conclusions warn of the multitude of dangers of organophosphates for children, and makes recommendations for addressing these risks. The experts conclude that: (1) widespread use of organophosphate (OP) pesticides to control insects has resulted in ubiquitous human exposures; (2) acute exposures to OPs is responsible for poisonings and deaths, particularly in developing countries; and (3) evidence demonstrates that prenatal exposures, even at low levels, put children at risk for cognitive and behavioral deficits, and for neurodevelopmental disorders.

Organic production is now a $45.2 billion enterprise and provides a viable alternative to the use of toxic pesticides. In addition to banning organophosphates, the state should promote organic agriculture by providing assistance for transitioning farmers and requiring organic management on all state-owned land.

Please ban all uses of chlorpyrifos and other organophosphate insecticides in the state. Please promote organic agriculture by providing assistance for transitioning farmers and requiring organic management on all state-owned land

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17
May

Children’s Environmental Health Centers to Lose All EPA Funding Under Administration Proposal

(Beyond Pesticides, May 17, 2019) After two decades of co-sponsoring and co-funding research centers that do important scientific investigation related to children’s health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) are planning to end their support. EPA has announced that it will no longer renew its grants to these centers. As of July, they will lose a huge portion of the funding that has allowed them to deploy hundreds of scientists — in genetics, toxicology, and neurodevelopment — on unusually comprehensive and longitudinal studies of what factors in children’s experiences and communities impact their health. The work of these centers has been critical in uncovering the relationships between children’s exposures to toxic chemicals, including pesticides, and diseases and health anomalies later on in their developing years.

This announcement represents yet another attack by the Trump administration on science, public health, and children and families, as well as another wink and nod to industries whose products harm. Says Tracey Woodruff, who runs the University of California, San Francisco Pregnancy Exposures to Environmental Chemicals Children’s Center: When EPA weights the harms of a chemical against its benefits, this “works out perfectly for industry. . . . If EPA doesn’t know, it counts for zero.” The centers are very concerned that EPA’s withdrawal of support will force them to shutter important, long-term research projects.

The studies conducted by these centers often begin before birth and follow subjects through childhood and into adulthood, yielding unusually rich data that can track, for example, environmental exposures early in life and subsequent and related health problems years later. In addition, these longitudinal studies can adapt to the changing mixes of exposure risks children may face over 20 years or so as they grow from newborns to young adults. Ruth Etzel, MD,  a pediatrician at EPA specializing in children’s environmental health, notes, “Twenty years ago, what we were studying is not the same as what we’re studying today. We have to study children now, in their communities.”

During the past 20+ years, centers have operated in California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. The centers produce work that often leads to reform in policies and practices, and ultimately, improved health outcomes. Examples include:

These centers conduct research that informs policy, but they also work — as does the Columbia center — with local communities to educate people about their findings, and about how residents can protect themselves more effectively from the chemical, particulate, or other pollution in their surrounds. Many of those communities are Environmental Justice communities that are affected disproportionately by such pollution and by a relative lack of mediation and of attention to the issue.

The withdrawal of funding by EPA will likely mean reductions in such programs, andm such losses may put at risk both the health of neighboring communities and the relationships the research centers have built with them. A pediatrician at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Aparna Bole, MD says, “I cannot think of an equivalent network that could do the same work.” Linda McCauley, RN, PhD, an environmental health researcher at the Children’s Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta, notes, “All these community stakeholders have been such critical partners for this work nationally and there’s no funding. They’re the ones being hurt the most.”

NIEHS has said it is unable, without significant changes to the centers’ programs, to make up the shortfall caused by EPA’s abandonment of grant support for the centers. Kimberley Gray of NIEHS indicates that the agency is trying to capitalize on the research the centers have completed by supporting their community outreach, and is searching for ways to keep study cohorts together going forward.

The Trump EPA (and other federal agencies) are active on numerous fronts to diminish the role of science, and some scientists see this latest move as evidence of the administration’s withdrawal from protection of human — never mind environmental — health. In September 2018, EPA put Dr. Etzel,  head of its Office of Children’s Health Protection on administrative leave; she reports that she’s never been told why EPA suspended her, and has never heard from the agency since being given the notice of leave. EPA has not replaced her.

Dr. McCauley believes that that such moves are designed to benefit the chemical industry by disabling research that might point to the need for more-robust regulation. She comments, “That’s how this administration is working. They can be effective by slowing things down to a crawl.” See Beyond Pesticides Children and Schools webpage.

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

Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01491-1?fbclid=IwAR02CO1fm6jt_wThq7rqqmSP41pcFVK-TT2xIwvQ0U8Pamtwsm7vhjqzRNA

 

 

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16
May

Oregon Officials Finalize Restrictions on Bayer’s Tree-Killing Herbicide, Stop Short of a Full Ban

© Ryan Brennecke/The Bend Bulletin

(Beyond Pesticides, May 16, 2019)  Use of the tree-killing herbicide aminocyclopyrachlor (ACP) is now restricted in Oregon, according to rulemaking finalized last week by the state’s department of agriculture (ODA). While an important step in the right direction, many environmentalists are perplexed by the state’s decision not to proceed with a ban on all uses of the inherently toxic chemical, which has killed thousands of old-growth pine trees along state scenic highways. Over five thousand comments from Oregonians and concerned individuals across the country urged ODA to scrap its convoluted proposed rule and simply eliminate the chemical from state commerce.

While advocates will continue to urge ODA to completely eliminate ACP use, the current restrictions did not come without a fight. Public meetings were attended by representatives from the chemical’s manufacturer, Bayer. The company strongly opposed any restrictions on its product, and acted to delay the original implementation date for ODA’s rule.

Oregon had intended to finalize the rule in late March. “We were pretty much set to file the final paperwork,” said Oregon pesticide program manager Rose Kachadoorian to The Bulletin. But through the work of its corporate lawyers, Bayer was able to track down an arcane Oregon law that allowed the company to delay implementation for 90 days. Bayer’s sought, in a last-ditch effort, to reverse or weaken the initial proposed rules. Although ultimately unsuccessful, the company’s efforts had the effect of permitting ACP use during the 90 day period, during which a currently unknown amount of the chemical may have been applied.

The first-in-the-country restriction on tree-killing ACP has garnered the attention of other states. “This certainly could set a precedent; other states would have to look at their authority to regulate the use beyond the federal requirements,” said Dale Mitchell of ODA’s pesticide program. According to advocates, while ODA’s approach is laudable, other states would be better served by completely banning ACP, eliminating any possibility it will continue to destroy old-growth forests.

ODA’s final rule prohibits ACP from being sprayed in natural and restoration areas, along the inner and outer banks of ditches and canals, and on rights-of-way. However, the rule leaves in place the ability to spray the chemical in areas that “do not exceed more than 5% of an acre” once a year, in order to control state or county-listed noxious weeds. This is slightly different than ODA’s initial proposed rule, which indicated that only “spot treatments” could occur, and contained the statement that “no individual treatment area many exceed nine square feet.”

Advocates calling for a ban are concerned that any continued use of ACP will result in ongoing impacts similar to those that led to multi-million dollar lawsuits against Dupont, when it produced the herbicide under the brand name Imprelis.

Roadside right of way management doesn’t need to rely on any toxic synthetic herbicide use in the first place, given the availability, and economic viability, of alternative practices. As Beyond Pesticides has documented, planting native vegetation, and using mechanical, biological, and other nontoxic vegetation control methods are effective solutions. Rather than sending a crew to spray a pesticide, weed whackers and other machinery can address problem vegetation. Some regions have enlisted the help of goat herds, which can clear noxious weeds at the same time as they improve soil health, preserve ground and surface water from contamination, and eliminate any chance of herbicide resistance. Recently in Maine, utility company Central Maine Power, which maintains a corridor of 53 miles of right-of-way, announced it would not be using insecticides and herbicides in its maintenance.

Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has become increasingly antagonistic to states taking action to restrict federally registered pesticides. But in light of unique environmental conditions within states, officials have a duty to align regulations in a way that best protects the environment for their resident’s health, enjoyment, and economic well-being. For more information about alternatives to roadside pesticide spraying, see Beyond Pesticides article, The Right Way to Vegetation Management.

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

Source: Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon Public Broadcasting

 

 

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15
May

Jury Awards $2 Billion for Damages in Third Federal Roundup Cancer Case

(Beyond Pesticides, May 15, 2019) On Monday, a California jury awarded plaintiffs in the third federal Roundup case over $2 billion in punitive and compensatory damages. The jury found that Monsanto “engaged in conduct with malice, oppression or fraud committed by one or more officers, directors or managing agents of Monsanto.”

Plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod, a married couple in their seventies, used Roundup weed killer since the 1970s to maintain their yard and other owned properties. The couple did not wear protective gear when using Roundup because Monsanto marketed the product as “safe.” Alva was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) in 2011; Alberta’s diagnosis followed in 2015.

The Pilliod v. Monsanto jury came to their decision based on evidence, not only of the herbicide’s carcinogenicity, but also of Monsanto’s role in suppressing and discredit.ing independent findings regarding Roundup toxicity. In an interview with U.S. Right to Know’s Carey Gillam, co-lead trial counsel Michael Miller said, “Unlike the first two Monsanto trials, where the judges severely limited the amount of plaintiffs’ evidence, we were finally allowed to show a jury the mountain of evidence showing Monsanto’s manipulation of science, the media and regulatory agencies to forward their own agenda despite Roundup’s severe harm to the animal kingdom and humankind.”

That glyphosate-based herbicides cause cancer is by now a matter of scientific consensus. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found glyphosate to be a probable human carcinogen. In response to resistance from the European Food Safety Authority, 94 expert scientists published an article in support of IARC’s methodologies and findings. Since 2015, several more publications have added significant weight to the body of evidence supporting glyphosate’s carcinogenicity. A 2018 meta-analysis of studies on glyphosate suggested “a compelling link between exposures to GBH [glyphosate-based herbicides] and increased risk of NHL [non-Hodgkin lymphoma]. A 2019 University of Washington study found that glyphosate exposure increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by as much as 41%. As of July 7, 2017, glyphosate is listed as a cancer-causing chemical under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65). This requires cancer warning labels be placed on end-use glyphosate products in California.

The Pilliod trial adds to the growing list of major wins for plaintiffs suffering from cancer caused by Monsanto’s “malice, oppression or fraud.” In the summer of 2018, California groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson won a $289 million jury verdict against Monsanto for his development of NHL after consistent exposure to Roundup. The jury awarded him $39 million in compensatory damages, and $250 million in punitive damages, finding that Monsanto acted with “malice or oppression.” That amount was later amended by the judge to a total $78 million. In the second federal court case, again in California, the jury found unanimously that Edwin Hardeman’s development of NHL was substantially caused by Roundup.

More so than previous trials, the Pilliod trial highlighted evidence for collusion between Monsanto and top EPA officials to defend against the onslaught of Roundup cancer trials. Jurors were presented with communications uncovered through a 2017 FOIA request, in which EPA officials responded to requests from Monsanto to effect a delay in the 2015 Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry review of glyphosate. The Pilliods’ attorneys also presented new documents, including a report attached to a July 2018 email between the strategic intelligence firm Hayklut and Monsanto. As covered by U.S. Right to Know, the report includes the reassurance,

“A domestic policy adviser at the White House said, for instance: ‘We have Monsanto’s back on pesticides regulation. We are prepared to go toe-to-toe on any disputes they may have with, for example, the EU. Monsanto need not fear any additional regulation from this administration.”

In spite of mounting consensus on Roundup’s carcinogenicity, on May 8, EPA released a proposed interim decision for glyphosate’s registration review stating that glyphosate is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” In a statement expressing its intent to appeal the case, Bayer referenced that the jury verdict “conflicts directly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s interim registration review decision released just last month.”

“The fact that multiple federal cases have found that Roundup caused plaintiffs’ cancer is a testament to the weight of independent scientific evidence supporting the link between glyphosate-based herbicides and NHL,” said Sarah Bluher, science and regulatory manager at Beyond Pesticides. “EPA’s failure to acknowledge that weight of evidence, and their active role in protecting Monsanto’s financial interests, are a threat to national public health,” Ms. Bluher continued.

Pilliod v. Monsanto is the first of more than 250 consolidated California Roundup cases to proceed to trial. Bayer/Monsanto still faces more than 13,000 similar pending lawsuits nationwide. Stay abreast of the latest legal, regulatory, and scientific pesticide news by following the Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog.

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

Sources: USRTK Roundup Trial Tracker, Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman PC, Consumer Safety

 

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14
May

Take Action: Tell EPA and Congress to Ban Streptomycin and Tetracycline in Crop Production to Protect Medical Uses

(Beyond Pesticides, May 14, 2019) Your voice is needed to stop the use of two specific antibiotics, streptomycin and oxytetracycline, whose uses in agriculture are under EPA review. Thank you to those who, last week, told Congress and EPA to ban antibiotic use in agriculture – to help stop the worldwide crisis in bacterial resistance to antibiotics needed for medical purposes in life-threatening cases.

Tell EPA and Congress to Ban Streptomycin and Tetracycline in Agriculture

In spite of growing bacterial resistance, these two antibiotics are used for important medical purposes. Tetracycline is used for many common infections of the respiratory tract, sinuses, middle ear, and urinary tract, as well as for anthrax, plague, cholera, and Legionnaire’s disease, though it is used less frequently because of resistance. Streptomycin is used for tuberculosis, tularemia, plague, bacterial endocarditis, brucellosis, and other diseases, but its usefulness is limited by widespread resistance.

The unnecessary use of these antibiotics in agriculture must be stopped to protect their efficacy for medical purposes. The good news is that organic management practices do not use these antibiotics in crop production and therefore their use is unnecessary with smart sustainable farming practices.  The EPA docket is accepting comments on these two registrations through Friday, May 17. You can sign on to our petition by completing today’s action. If you’d like to take an extra step, please feel free to submit your own comment to EPA using the language from our petition.

Beyond Pesticides will submit the petition below to EPA. When you send your letter to Congress today, you are also signing on to our petition and adding strength to our public comment.

Re: Docket # EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0687
These comments are submitted on behalf of the undersigned citizens who are concerned about the antibiotic crisis.

EPA has failed to address new information in areas critical to public health and the environment relating to the proposed interim registrations for streptomycin and oxytetracycline. Therefore, registration of streptomycin and tetracycline should not continue.

Since the 2006 review, there has been a dramatic expansion of research into the microbiome, resulting in a new understanding of the critical roles of the microbiome in regulating such diverse processes as metabolism, immunity, and neurodevelopment. EPA does not assess risks due to disruption of the gastrointestinal microbiome. EPA also discounts risks to workers.

Crucially, use of streptomycin and oxytetracycline in agriculture contributes to the growing crisis in antibiotic resistance. Many bacterial infections are becoming resistant to the most commonly prescribed antibiotics, resulting in longer-lasting infections, higher medical expenses, and the need for more expensive or hazardous medications. The development and spread of antibiotic resistance is the inevitable effect of the use of antibiotics. Bacteria evolve quickly, and antibiotics provide strong selection pressure for those strains with genes for resistance.

Use of antibiotics on fruit trees contributes to resistance to the antibiotic in human pathogens. The human pathogenic organisms themselves do not need to be directly sprayed by the antibiotic because movement of genes in bacteria is not solely “vertical” –that is from parent to progeny– but can be “horizontal” –from one bacterial species to another. So, a pool of resistant soil bacteria or commensal gut bacteria can provide the genetic material for resistance in human pathogens. Spraying with these antibiotics can also promote multiple drug resistance –making other antibiotics ineffective as well.

When bacteria on the plants and in the soil are sprayed with an antibiotic, those with genes for resistance to the chemical increase compared to those susceptible to the antibiotic. Resistance genes exist for both streptomycin and tetracycline, and spraying with these chemicals increases the frequency of resistant genotypes by preferentially killing those susceptible to the antibiotic. Those genes may be taken up by other bacteria by a number of mechanisms, collectively known as “horizontal gene transfer.”

The guts of humans and other animals provide efficient incubators for antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance increases first in commensal bacteria—the bacteria that naturally live within our bodies—and may then be transferred to pathogens. Thus, the argument that human pathogens are not present in orchards sprayed with antibiotics is irrelevant to the actual development and spread of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. The number of bacteria in the gut is large with a large gene pool offering many mechanisms of resistance, and every exposure to antibiotics offers new opportunities for selection for resistance.

Antibiotics used on animals and crops are washed into waterways, where they find bacteria-rich environment perfect for encouraging the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Other organisms are also at risk of undue hazards wrought by disruption of microbes key to metabolism, immunity and survival, which are not given adequate weight by EPA. In particular, EPA lacks data for honey bee adult acute oral and larval endpoints. In particular, the gut microbiome plays a critical role in health and immunity in adult honey bee workers. A recent study found that “pollen reverses decreased lifespan, altered nutritional metabolism, and suppressed immunity in honey bees (Apis mellifera) treated with antibiotics.” (Li, et al., 2019)

EPA must eliminate use of streptomycin and tetracycline in agriculture in order to protect human health and the environment.

Tell EPA and Congress to Ban Streptomycin and Tetracycline in Agriculture

U.S. Congress:

EPA is now considering the continued registration of two antibiotics in agriculture, streptomycin and oxytetracycline, and I am writing to ask you to voice your concern and request that these uses be stopped in an effort to avert the worldwide crisis in bacterial resistance to antibiotics that are needed for medical reasons in life-threatening cases. Since these antibiotics are not permitted in organic crop production, it is clear that we do not need them to grow food when smart sustainable farming practices are adopted. Please help save antibiotic use of streptomycin and oxytetracycline for their intended medical purposes.

Crucially, use of streptomycin and oxytetracycline in agriculture contributes to the growing crisis in antibiotic resistance. Many bacterial infections are becoming resistant to the most commonly prescribed antibiotics, resulting in longer-lasting infections, higher medical expenses, and the need for more expensive or hazardous medications. The development and spread of antibiotic resistance is the inevitable effect of the use of antibiotics. Bacteria evolve quickly, and antibiotics provide strong selection pressure for those strains with genes for resistance.

Use of antibiotics on fruit trees contributes to resistance to the antibiotic in human pathogens. The human pathogenic organisms themselves do not need to be directly sprayed by the antibiotic because movement of genes in bacteria is not solely “vertical” –that is from parent to progeny– but can be “horizontal” –from one bacterial species to another. So, a pool of resistant soil bacteria or commensal gut bacteria can provide the genetic material for resistance in human pathogens. Spraying with these antibiotics can also promote multiple drug resistance –making other antibiotics ineffective as well.

When bacteria on the plants and in the soil are sprayed with an antibiotic, those with genes for resistance to the chemical increase compared to those susceptible to the antibiotic. Resistance genes exist for both streptomycin and tetracycline, and spraying with these chemicals increases the frequency of resistant genotypes by preferentially killing those susceptible to the antibiotic. Those genes may be taken up by other bacteria by a number of mechanisms, collectively known as “horizontal gene transfer.”

Organic practices that prohibit streptomycin and oxytetracline use in crop production are now widely used in the U.S. and around the world. Whether in apple, peach, pear, or citrus production or to produce beans, celery, peppers, tomatoes, or potatoes, these antibiotics are not essential, given the ability to grow these crops productively and profitability under organic management practices. Farmers can take advantage of the assistance available to them to transition to organic practice. So, there is no reason not to take action on this critical public health matter.

Sincerely,

 

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13
May

Trump Officials Propose to Rollback Endangered Species Protection, Break Agreements to Act, and Block Public Review of Decisions

(Beyond Pesticides, May 13, 2019) The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed four lawsuits last week challenging the Trump administration’s failure to release a trove of documents detailing how the administration is regulating dangerous pesticides, especially as they relate to endangered species. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a set of proposed changes last week that would dramatically reduce protections for the nation’s most endangered plants and animals from pesticides known to harm them. The proposals ignore the real-world, science-based assessments of pesticides’ harms, instead relying on arbitrary industry-created models.

The EPA proposals would, for example, gut protections for endangered plants that are pollinated by butterflies and other insects by ignoring the fact that animals routinely move back and forth between agricultural areas and places where endangered species live.

The proposals follow intensive efforts by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to halt federal work on protecting wildlife from pesticides. They were released over a year after a draft biological opinion that was scuttled by the Trump administration found that the loss of pollinators from the insecticide chlorpyrifos would put hundreds of endangered species on a path to extinction.

The so-called “refinements” will make it easier for the EPA to claim that pesticides have no effects on endangered species, allowing pesticides to remain on the market without common-sense restrictions on their use to protect endangered species.

The proposal disregards the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences and ignores the mandate of the Endangered Species Act to give imperiled wildlife and plants the benefit of the doubt when evaluating the range of impacts caused by exposure to pesticides. Records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that the refinements were driven by political-level appointees at the EPA, Department of the Interior, Department of Commerce and the White House.

The May 7 CBD lawsuits, involving 20 separate Freedom of Information Act requests, were filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C. The suits seek documents the Center requested from EPA, Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, National Marine Fisheries Service and Council on Environmental Quality.

“Federal agencies that are supposed to be protecting human health, wildlife and our environment from dangerous pesticides have fallen into a terrible pattern of withholding critical information from the American people,” said Lori Ann Burd, director of the Center’s environmental health program. “It’s ridiculous we have to sue to obtain public documents that are key to helping us understand how these dangerous poisons are, and are not, being regulated.”

The lawsuits
The first lawsuit seeks documents on the actual use of pesticides to evaluate the harm those pesticides cause to endangered species.

As reported by the New York Times, high-level Trump administration political appointees improperly halted the release of a scientific study detailing the harm that chlorpyrifos, malathion and diazinon cause to nearly 1,400 endangered plants and animals. In the scramble to justify this interference, they claimed to need additional actual use data, borrowing from the tobacco’s industry’s strategy of perpetually claiming a need for more data.

The second lawsuit seeks records of meetings between agency staff, including high-level Trump appointees and Croplife America, a pesticide industry trade group that has repeatedly lobbied to eliminate protections for endangered species from pesticides.

The third lawsuit seeks documents on the activities of an interagency working group of high-level Trump appointees created by disgraced former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to weaken protections for endangered species.

The final lawsuit seeks records on whether the EPA has taken any steps to put in place conservation measures recommended by the National Marine Fisheries Service to prevent chlorpyrifos from jeopardizing the continued existence of 37 endangered species, including salmon, sturgeon and highly imperiled Puget Sound orcas.

The agencies have failed to disclose the documents responsive to these requests.

Documents previously obtained by the Center revealed that Fish and Wildlife Service scientists found that chlorpyrifos, the controversial pesticide linked to brain damage in children, jeopardizes the continued existence of 1,399 endangered plants and animals.

But at the request of pesticide companies, the Trump administration has worked to undermine the findings of government scientists and delay all further efforts to assess and reduce the impacts of chlorpyrifos and two other dangerous pesticides on endangered species.

“While the Trump appointees running these agencies scurry to do the bidding of the pesticide industry, endangered species like the San Joaquin kit fox are heading toward extinction,” said Ms. Burd. “You can bet that when we finally get these documents, they’ll reveal exactly why Team Trump worked so feverishly to hide them from public view.”

Background
The Fish and Wildlife Service was required to complete an analysis called a “biological opinion” on the impacts of three pesticides — chlorpyrifos, malathion and diazinon — as part of a legal settlement with the Center. In that settlement the agency agreed to assess by Dec. 31, 2017 the harms the three widely used pesticides pose to protected plants and animals, as required by the Endangered Species Act.

The assessments were on track to be completed and released to the public in 2017.

But shortly after contributing $1 million to President Trump’s inauguration, Dow Chemical, the maker of chlorpyrifos, directly requested that the assessments be scuttled.

In May 2017, the Service announced that the draft biological opinion assessing the three pesticides’ harms was nearly complete and would be ready for public comment within months.

As Fish and Wildlife Service career staffers were preparing to make the biological opinion available for public comment, on Oct. 25, 2017, they briefed Trump’s political appointees on the result of the agency’s nearly four years of rigorous scientific review. The officials briefed included then acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Greg Sheehan, then acting director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

After that meeting the consultation process halted, just as Dow had requested. The draft biological opinion was not released for public comment as promised. The agency missed the deadline it had agreed to in its settlement with the Center, and completion of the biological opinion has been indefinitely postponed.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

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10
May

UN Brings Together 145 Experts, 50 Countries, 15,000 Studies, Documents Accelerating Biodiversity Loss Threatening All Life; Ecosystem Protections Urgently Needed

(Beyond Pesticides, May 10, 2019) The Earth, its natural systems, and as many as a million species are at enormous risk from human activity, says a new assessment from the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity project — the IPBES Global Assessment Summary for Policymakers. The net finding might be expressed as: humans are not immune from the sequelae of biodiversity loss; the ecosystem functions on which human lives depend are in increasingly dire straits.

The 1,500-page report, convened by IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services), is the most comprehensive look to date at the biodiversity crisis and its implications for human civilization. A summary of the report’s findings, approved by representatives from the U.S. and other member countries, was released in Paris on May 6; the complete report is expected later in 2019. It is of note and commendable that the summary, though lengthy, is digestible for a lay audience.

IPBES is an intergovernmental body of 132 member states, established in 2012, that assesses the state of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services such diversity provides to societies. The group also provides reporting to policymakers on those assessments, and on the dynamics (i.e., causes and impacts) between human activity and the state of biodiversity and ecosystem services. This 2019 report emerges from three years of work by 145 experts from 50 countries, and is informed by 15,000 scientific studies and other resources, including, pioneeringly, indigenous and local knowledge.

Project co-chair Eduardo Brondizio, Ph.D. of Indiana University remarked at a press conference on the release, “We have reconfigured dramatically life on the planet.” Thomas Lovejoy, Ph.D., George Mason University Professor of Biology and Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation — who is sometimes called the godfather of biodiversity for his research efforts — commented, “Humanity unwittingly is attempting to throttle the living planet and humanity’s own future. . . . The biological diversity of this planet has been really hammered, and this is really our last chance to address all of that.”

Sir Robert Watson, Ph.D., a British, and former NASA scientist who headed the report, noted that “the findings are not just about saving plants and animals, but about preserving a world that’s becoming harder for humans to live in. ‘We are indeed threatening the potential food security, water security, human health and social fabric’ of humanity, Watson said, adding, ‘Business as usual is a disaster.’”

Frontline nations, such as small islands, who are typically hit first and hardest by the losses, are reported to have wanted a more fulsome report, while the U.S. and other developed countries were, as one might expect, more cautious. That said, Rebecca Shaw, Ph.D., who observed the final negotiations as chief scientist for the World Wildlife Fund, noted that all members could agree that “we’re in trouble.” She added, “This is the strongest call we’ve seen for reversing the trends on the loss of nature.”

The report’s key messages are:

  1. nature and its vital contributions to people, which together embody biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, are deteriorating worldwide
  2. direct and indirect drivers of change have accelerated during the past 50 years
  3. goals for conserving and sustainably using nature and achieving sustainability cannot be met by current trajectories, and goals for 2030 and beyond may only be achieved through transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological factors
  4. nature can be conserved, restored and used sustainably while simultaneously meeting other global societal goals through urgent and concerted efforts fostering transformative change

Among the summary’s alarming conclusions are that, across most of the globe’s major habitats, the plenitude of plants and animals has dropped by 20% or more during the past century. Human activities — agriculture; land conversion (logging, deforestation); extractive operations (mining, fossil fuel “harvesting”); overfishing; poaching; failure to control rampant native species; and pollution of all sorts — are changing the face and dynamics of the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history.” PBS reports, from the UN assessment, “‘Species loss is accelerating to a rate tens or hundreds of times faster than in the past,’ and more than half a million species on land ‘have insufficient habitat for long-term survival’ and are likely to go extinct . . . unless their habitats are restored [soon]. The oceans are not any better off.”

IPBES asserts that this decline in biodiversity threatens society’s ability to meet people’s basic needs, and that current patterns of production and consumption are unsustainable. Pesticides are, of course, one of the contributors to loss of biodiversity. The report notes: “Harmful economic incentives and policies associated with unsustainable practices of fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture (including fertilizer and pesticide use)[italic by Beyond Pesticides], livestock, forestry, mining and energy (including fossil fuels and biofuels) are often associated with land/sea-use change and overexploitation of natural resources, as well as inefficient production and waste management.” Beyond Pesticides underscores one of the “changes in production of . . . food” the report endorses — the transition away from pesticide-laden agricultural practices and toward sustainable agriculture — which Beyond Pesticides believes must be organic.

Exacerbating this biodiversity loss is, unsurprisingly, the climate emergency, which is heating the planet through human activities that dump greenhouse gases (GHGs), notably carbon dioxide and methane, into our proportionally paper-thin atmosphere. The summary elaborates on key message #2: “The rate of global change in nature during the past 50 years is unprecedented in human history. The direct drivers of change in nature with the largest global impact have been (starting with those with most impact): changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change [italic by Beyond Pesticides]; pollution; and invasion of alien species.“

The GHG load in the atmosphere, when combined with the other levers of human damage to the environment, is helping drive a rapidly increasing number of species toward extinction — and sooner, rather than later. “Human actions threaten more species with global extinction now than ever before,” the report concludes, estimating that “around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken.” The report further projects that, absent major conservation efforts across the planet, biodiversity loss — particularly in the tropics — will accelerate at least through 2050.

The IPBES report manages to balance its dire message with some buoyancy. It pulls no punches about the gravity of the situation, but does point to possibility for arresting and redirecting the current entropy: “The negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystem functions are projected to continue or worsen in many future scenarios in response to indirect drivers such as rapid human population growth, unsustainable production and consumption[,] and associated technological development. In contrast, scenarios and pathways that explore the effects of a low-to-moderate population growth, and transformative changes in production and consumption of energy, food, feed, fibre and water, sustainable use, equitable sharing of the benefits arising from use and nature-friendly climate adaptation and mitigation, will better support the achievement of future societal and environmental objectives.”

The report directs policymakers toward pathways that can generate “the transformative change needed to reverse these alarming trends.” Such paths include more and more-resolute international cooperation; reversal of perverse — i.e., crisis-exacerbating — incentive structures; use of more-holistic decision making; and strengthened implementation of environmental laws and policies. It also sets out a number of nature-based solutions that address some of the identified challenges:
• reducing deforestation, restoring forests, wetlands, and other ecosystems, and agricultural practices that build soil organic matter could together contribute more than a third of the total efforts needed by 2030 to keep global warming below 2 degrees

  • better use of biodiversity in agriculture (such as pollinators, natural enemies of pests and soil biodiversity) could increase yields while reducing the use of harmful chemicals
  • protecting coral reefs and mangroves protects coastal areas from extreme weather events

The released (summary) report itself provides a comprehensive conclusion: “Societal goals — including those for food, water, energy, health and the achievement of human well-being for all, mitigating and adapting to climate change and conserving and sustainably using nature — can be achieved in sustainable pathways through the rapid and improved deployment of existing policy instruments and new initiatives that more effectively enlist individual and collective action for transformative change. Since current structures often inhibit sustainable development and actually represent the indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, such fundamental, structural change is called for. By its very nature, transformative change can expect opposition from those with interests vested in the status quo, but such opposition can be overcome for the broader public good. If obstacles are overcome, commitment to mutually supportive international goals and targets, supporting actions by indigenous peoples and local communities at the local level, new frameworks for private sector investment and innovation, inclusive and adaptive governance approaches and arrangements, multi-sectoral planning and strategic policy mixes can help to transform the public and private sectors to achieve sustainability at the local, national and global levels.”

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

Sources: https://www.ipbes.net/sites/default/files/downloads/spm_unedited_advance_for_posting_htn.pdf

and https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/06/climate/biodiversity-extinction-united-nations.html?emc=edit_na_20190506&nl=breaking-news&nlid=30934893ing-news&ref=headline

 

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09
May

Contradicting Scientific Evidence, EPA Releases Interim Decision Denying Glyphosate Carcinogenicity

(Beyond Pesticides, May 9, 2019) On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed interim decision on glyphosate’s registration review, ignoring widespread scientific consensus on the herbicide’s carcinogenicity and instead restating the agency’s firm position that glyphosate is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

EPA’s bold statement stands in stark contrast to scientific consensus to the contrary. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found glyphosate to be a probable human carcinogen. In response to resistance from the European Food Safety Authority, 94 expert scientists published an article in support of IARC’s methodologies and findings.

Since 2015, several more publications have added significant weight to the body of evidence supporting glyphosate’s carcinogenicity. A February 2018 meta-analysis of studies on glyphosate suggested “a compelling link between exposures to GBH [glyphosate-based herbicides] and increased risk of NHL [non-Hodgkin lymphoma]. A February 2019 University of Washington study found that glyphosate increased the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by as much as 41%.

Despite attempts by current and former EPA top officials to “kill” their report, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a agency at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, released its first draft on the Toxicological Profile for Glyphosate last month, including top-line findings supporting the carcinogenicity of glyphosate.

“The EPA decision defies the preponderance of independent scientific findings on the cancer causing properties of glyphosate and Roundup, putting food consumers, gardeners, farmers, farmworkers, and groundskeepers in harms way.” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “At the same, EPA supports the use of this hazardous chemical, farmers and land managers are finding that the chemical, with its weed resistance problems and adverse impact on soil organisms, is not an effective tool and not necessary in organic systems,” Mr. Feldman continued.

Notably, scientific consensus on glyphosate’s carcinogenicity is strong enough to have supported historical wins in a set of recent court cases alleging that exposure to Roundup caused plaintiffs’ non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). In the summer of 2018, California groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson won a $289 million jury verdict against Monsanto for his development of NHL after consistent exposure to Roundup. The jury awarded him $39 million in compensatory damages, and $250 million in punitive damages, finding that Monsanto acted with “malice or oppression.” That amount was later amended by the judge to a total $78 million. Most recently, in another court case, again in California, the jury found unanimously that Edwin Hardeman’s development of NHL was substantially caused by Roundup; the case moves next to award of damages to the plaintiff.

“EPA and Monsanto continue to defy the science, and deny glyphosate’s carcinogenic threat,” said Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst at Center for Food Safety. “Trump’s EPA is apparently twisting the science in a vain attempt to help Monsanto defend itself against the many pending glyphosate-cancer lawsuits,” he added.

In defense of their stance against IARC’s conclusions, EPA claims that its cancer evaluation is more transparent than IARC’s, citing that “EPA also solicited public comment on its full human health and ecological risk assessment for glyphosate.” Simultaneously, writing with regard to the 238,290 comments received, authors note, “The comments did not result in changes to the agency’s risk assessments.”

Cancer is far from the only health impact demonstrably linked to exposure to glyphosate-based herbicide formulations. Beyond Pesticides has covered the relationship of glyphosate (and the adjuvant ingredients in formulations) to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproduction, and renal and hepatic damage, not to mention its toxicity to fish and other aquatic organisms. A December 2018 Washington State University study determined that Washington residents living nearby to areas treated with the herbicide are one-third likelier to die prematurely from Parkinson’s disease. Most recently, researchers at Washington State University found that glyphosate is linked to multi-generational adverse health effects including prostate, ovarian, and kidney diseases.

Moreover, glyphosate-based herbicides are far from the only health-threatening pesticides that EPA allows to remain on the market. EPA’s latest act in the glyphosate saga is a nod toward larger looming issues of transparency and accountability in the agency tasked with regulation so foundational to public health and well-being.

Beyond Pesticides remains determined to advance the cause of environmental protection, and looks forward to engage with community members organizing to advance local regulations and policies in the face of stubborn opposition on the federal front. Join Beyond Pesticides today and enter a network of advocates working together to build a future we can live in. Join the campaign to ban Roundup.

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

Source: Center for Food Safety

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08
May

Take Action: Stop Antibiotic Use in Agriculture and Protect Human Health

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(Beyond Pesticides, May 8, 2019) The spread of antibiotic resistance is a health care crisis of major proportions and requires a moratorium on the use of antibiotics in agriculture. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) call antibiotic resistance “one of the world’s most pressing public health problems.” Many bacterial infections are becoming resistant to the most commonly prescribed antibiotics, resulting in longer-lasting infections, higher medical expenses, and the need for more expensive or hazardous medications. The development and spread of antibiotic resistance is the inevitable effect of the use of antibiotics. Bacteria evolve quickly, and antibiotics provide strong selection pressure for those strains with genes for resistance.

Tell EPA and Congress to save antibiotics for important medical uses and eliminate use as pesticides.

In spite of the spread of antibiotic resistance, the antibiotics used in plant agriculture are both important for fighting human disease. Tetracycline is used for many common infections of the respiratory tract, sinuses, middle ear, and urinary tract, as well as for anthrax, plague, cholera, and Legionnaire’s disease, though it is used less frequently because of resistance. Streptomycin is used for tuberculosis, tularemia, plague, bacterial endocarditis, brucellosis, and other diseases, but its usefulness is limited by widespread resistance.

Use of antibiotics on fruit trees can contribute to resistance to the antibiotic in human pathogens. The human pathogenic organisms themselves do not need to be sprayed by the antibiotic because movement of genes in bacteria is not solely “vertical” –that is from parent to progeny– but can be “horizontal” –from one bacterial species to another. So, a pool of resistant soil bacteria or commensal gut bacteria can provide the genetic material for resistance in human pathogens.

When bacteria on the plants and in the soil are sprayed with an antibiotic, those with genes for resistance to the chemical increase compared to those susceptible to the antibiotic. Resistance genes exist for both streptomycin and tetracycline, and spraying with these chemicals increases the frequency of resistant genotypes by killing those susceptible to the antibiotic and leaving the others. Those genes may be taken up by other bacteria by a number of mechanisms, collectively known as “horizontal gene transfer.”

The guts of humans and other animals provide efficient incubators for antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance increases first in commensal bacteria—the bacteria that naturally live within our bodies—and may then be transferred to pathogens. Thus, the argument that human pathogens are not present in orchards sprayed with antibiotics is irrelevant to the actual development and spread of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. The number of bacteria in the gut is large –often more than 1014 bacteria of several hundred species—with a large gene pool offering many mechanisms of resistance, and every exposure to antibiotics offers new opportunities for selection for resistance.

Antibiotics from use on animals and crops are washed into waterways, where they find another environment perfect for encouraging the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Aquatic environments are rich in bacteria, providing another place where pathogens can obtain genes for resistance.

It is important to eliminate uses of antibiotics in agriculture that can contribute to antibiotic resistance in human pathogens. Instead, EPA has been increasing those uses and fails to count antibiotic resistance as a health risk to humans.

Tell EPA to save antibiotics for important medical uses and eliminate use as pesticides.

Letter to EPA Administrator and Director of the Office of Pesticide Programs:

The spread of antibiotic resistance is a health care crisis of major proportions. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) call it “one of the world’s most pressing public health problems.” Many bacterial infections are becoming resistant to the most commonly prescribed antibiotics, resulting in longer-lasting infections, higher medical expenses, and the need for more expensive or hazardous medications. The development and spread of antibiotic resistance is the inevitable effect of the use of antibiotics. Bacteria evolve quickly, and antibiotics provide strong selection pressure for those strains with genes for resistance.

It is important that EPA recognize the importance of antibiotic resistance as a human health threat. Antibiotics that are used to fight human disease should not be used as pesticides, where they can pose serious threats to human health. We implore EPA to fully consider the spread of antibiotic resistance through horizontal gene transfer, as resistant pathogenic bacteria spread throughout the environment.

Please eliminate pesticide products containing antibiotics used to fight human diseases.

Thank you.

Letter to Congress:

The spread of antibiotic resistance is a health care crisis of major proportions. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) call it “one of the world’s most pressing public health problems.” Many bacterial infections are becoming resistant to the most commonly prescribed antibiotics, resulting in longer-lasting infections, higher medical expenses, and the need for more expensive or hazardous medications. The development and spread of antibiotic resistance is the inevitable effect of the use of antibiotics. Bacteria evolve quickly, and antibiotics provide strong selection pressure for those strains with genes for resistance.

It is important that EPA recognize the importance of antibiotic resistance as a human health threat. EPA must eliminate uses of antibiotics in agriculture that can contribute to antibiotic resistance in human pathogens. Instead, EPA has been increasing those uses and fails to count antibiotic resistance as a health risk to humans. Please ask EPA to fully consider the spread of antibiotic resistance through horizontal gene transfer, as resistant pathogenic bacteria spread throughout the environment.

Please tell EPA Administrator Wheeler and Office of Pesticide Program Director Keigwin that antibiotics that are used to fight human disease should not be used as pesticides, where they can pose serious threats to human health.

Thank you.

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07
May

New York Bans Chlorpyrifos, Pressuring EPA to Impose Country-Wide Protections Against Brain-Damaging Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, May, 7, 2019) Last week, the New York State legislature voted to phase out and eventually ban the use of the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos. The vote, 44-18 in the state Senate and 94-50 in the Assembly, is still awaiting the Governor’s signature, who is expected to sign the measure. As evidence of harm continues to accumulate, scientists have called for a ban, and a legal case works its way through the courts, pressure is mounting on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to once and for all remove this harmful pesticide from use.

New York’s legislation sets implementation dates that leapfrog a similar law banning chlorpyrifos that passed in Hawai’i last year. Although Hawai’i’s law takes effect beginning in July of this year, the state may provide temporary use permits for the chemical until December 2022. New York also phases in restrictions, first prohibiting aerial applications beginning January 2020, then prohibiting all use except on apple trees starting January 2021. The chemical will be completely banned for use in New York in December 2021.

Chlorpyrifos is a highly toxic insecticide that has been linked to damaging and often irreversible health outcomes, particularly for pregnant mothers and their children, who are at risk of learning disabilities, including lowered IQ, developmental delay, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Recent evidence shows that the original data used to register this chemical was fundamentally flawed in its assessment of health risks.

Other states are also considering their own chlorpyrifos bans. In Maryland, a chlorpyrifos bill that passed in the state House of Delegates was not taken up for a vote in the Senate. In California, a bill passed its first committee hearing in early April. Bills are also being considered in Oregon and Connecticut.

Overlaying this state level activity is legislation at the federal level. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) has introduced S 3764, The Prohibit Chlorpyrifos Poisoning Students Act, to ban chlorpyrifos and implement pesticide buffer zones around schools. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has, since 2017, introduced S921, the Protect Children, Farmers and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act of 2019, to prohibit all uses of chlorpyrifos on food. And Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) has introduced the S1187, Safe School Meals for Kids Act, which would eliminate chlorpyrifos on food served in school cafeterias. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) introduced HR 230, the Ban Toxic Pesticides Act, which eliminates chlorpyrifos from commerce.

Although EPA recommended a ban on food uses of chlorpyrifos in 2016, under the Trump Administration, the agency has taken steps to reverse the decision. This long court battle appears to be at another inflection point, as the US 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals on April 19, 2019 gave EPA 90 days to either justify use of the chemical or prohibit its use in agriculture.

While focus on chlorpyrifos is sorely needed, and will do much to eliminate hazards to pregnant mothers, children, and farmworkers, there is a need to ensure that the pesticide products that present similar risks are not used as replacements. A good start would be to follow the recommendation of renowned scientists and ban all organophosphate insecticides, which have a similar mode of action to chlorpyrifos. But even that step leaves on the market insecticides like synthetic pyrethroids, which are also hazardous to children, the bee-toxic neonicotinoids, frog killing fungicides, and carcinogenic herbicides like glyphosate and 2,4-D.

What is needed, in the long-term, is a wholesale transition of U.S. agriculture to organic practices. Many balk at the suggestion, but study after study has found this solution to be worth the investment – for local economies,  human health, in the battle against the climate crisis, and for a sustainable future.

The pesticide industry has convinced many that it would be impossible to “feed the world” with organic agriculture. However, as UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, PhD, said in 2017, “It is a myth. 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 9 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.”

Since Rachel Carson stunned the world and ignited the modern environmental movement with Silent Spring, pesticide regulation has been stuck in a whack-a-mole approach that targets only the most publicly visible, toxic, and researched chemicals for restrictions. By transitioning to organic, not only in food production, but also in the management of pests in lawns and landscapes, and other pest control practices, we can eliminate the broad range of chemicals linked to diseases that are all too common in today’s world, and truly protect public health, wildlife, and the environment.

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

Source: EarthJustice Press Release

 

 

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06
May

Flight Distance of Bumblebees Impaired by Pesticide, Leads to 87% Decline in Accessible Forage Area

(Beyond Pesticides, May 6, 2019) Beleaguered pollinators deal with a multitude of human-engineered threats: habitat fragmentation and loss via development and agricultural intensification, ecosystems and food sources tainted with toxic synthetic pesticides, and shrinking food sources via habitat and biodiversity loss. Research out of the Imperial College of London shows that such challenges are exacerbated, for bumblebees, by another impact of pesticide exposure — impaired flight endurance and dynamics.

Published in the journal Ecology and Evolution in late April, ”Pesticide exposure affects flight dynamics and reduced flight endurance in bumblebees” examines how acute exposure to the neonicotinoid imidacloprid affects the nature of bumblebee foraging flight. The study’s researchers find that worker bumblebees so exposed exhibit significant diminishment of flight endurance — measured as both distance and duration — to approximately one-third of what control workers demonstrate. This new information, aggregated with the many other factors that threaten pollinators, points to the importance of ending the use of chemical controls, such as the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, and transitioning to organic systems of agricultural pest management that do not rely on toxic compounds that harm wildlife, ecosystems, water resources, and humans.

Previous research has shown numerous impacts of pesticide exposure on bumblebees, and of neonicotinoid exposure, in particular, including: reproductive failures, alteration of gene expression, harmful changes in attraction to food sources, reduced colony nurturance activity, and decreased foraging activity, as well as colony size. Although acute exposures to pesticide residues may not be lethal to bumblebees, these sublethal effects on them and their behaviors can cause very significant degradation in colony functioning and health.

Flight capacity is obviously critical to bumblebee health and survival, and to those of the colony. The subject paper adds, “While both control and pesticide‐exposed workers were equally motivated to fly initially, pesticide‐exposed workers had a higher probability of terminating flight before the end of the 60‐min[ute] flight test, which was even evident within the first 100 m[eters]. Intriguingly, pesticide workers exhibited a higher mean velocity compared with control workers, which was underpinned by faster flight speeds over the course of the first ¾ km, both during and after which we observed a considerable proportion of pesticide workers terminating their flight. Furthermore, our results suggest that pesticide exposure may negate the capability of larger workers to fly longer distances than their smaller sister workers. . . . Our flight tests suggest that imidacloprid‐exposed bumblebee workers experienced a rapid demotivation to fly as the test progressed and/or tired quickly leading to premature physical exhaustion.”

The study used a “controlled tethered flight mill,” equipment that allows the bees to fly in a laboratory, rather than in situ, but lets scientists measure numerous aspects of that flight, as well as pre- and post- status of the insect controls and those exposed to imidacloprid. The research shows that exposure to the neonicotinoid seems to impair not initial motivation to fly, but flight stamina. The compound has previously been implicated in degraded honeybee energy metabolism, and in reduced activity in the mitochondria (cellular energy centers) in bumblebees and honeybees, which could potentially cause rapid muscle fatigue and, thus, foreshortened flights. The faster flights may be explained by the increased neuronal activity shown to be a function of neonicotinoid exposure.

When bumblebees fly to forage for food, they need the stamina to get to the sources, and then return to the nest. Researchers proffer a necessary minimum, round-trip, flight distance range for them of .68–4.4 kilometers, but note that the pesticide‐exposed worker bumblebees flew shorter distances, on average, than the lower limit of this range. Exposure to imidacloprid appears to have reduced total flight distance by nearly 1.2 km, on average, which represents a 64% reduction compared to the average flight distance of the research controls. The dramatic net metric, however, lies in researchers’ conclusion that this difference would lead to an 87% decline in the total foraging area accessible to a colony — reducing the diversity, nutritional quality, and abundance of food available. Thus, exposures to neonicotinoid pesticides — which are very commonly used, particularly as plant seed coatings, despite questionable utility — have the potential to stress, significantly and cumulatively (with other stressors), the success of bumblebee colonies and their role as critical pollinators, never mind their survival.

Pests can be prevented and managed safely without the use of neonicotinoid or other pesticides. Pollinators can be protected through improved public policy and regulation, and smart choices by home and land owners. As Beyond Pesticides has written, “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 for information on why organic is the right choice, and the Bee Protective Habitat Guide and Bee Protective webpage for additional resources for going organic and safeguarding pollinators. In addition, find information on pollinator-friendly seeds and plants here.

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

Source: Ecology and Evolution

 

 

 

 

 

 

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03
May

State Court Upholds the Right of Local Governments in Maryland to Restrict Pesticides on All Lawns in Their Jurisdiction

(Beyond Pesticides, May 3, 2019) A Maryland Court of Special Appeals yesterday ruled that Montgomery County, Maryland has the right to restrict pesticides, under a 2015 landmark law, on all lawns and landscaped property in its jurisdiction more stringently than the state. This decision reverses a lower Circuit Court decision and upholds local democratic decision making in the face of a challenge by the industry groups representing lawn care companies and chemical manufacturers. Nine organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, filed an Amicus brief in support of the county law.

The chemical industry has fought for nearly three decades to suppress the right of local governments in the U.S. to protect public health and safety with pesticide law, having successfully lobbied 43 states to preempt their local political subdivisions’ authority. Seven states uphold local authority, including the state of Maryland, which has affirmed in its legislature the rights of localities by rejecting preemption legislation on numerous occasions.

According to Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, “This is an important win for the local organic land management movement sweeping the country, as local elected officials embrace practices that protect the health of people and the environment.” The attorneys for the county expect that industry groups will file a petition for a writ of certiorari (judicial review) and request a stay of enforcement with the Court of Appeals.

“This important state court decision affirms local democratic decision making to protect health and the environment, upholding the first U.S. county law  to ban toxic pesticides used on lawns on both private and public property,” said Mr. Feldman.

In the Court’s words:

From 1958-1962, Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring from her home in Silver Spring. Carson’s examination of the health impacts of DDT and other pesticides galvanized the public, and the next decade saw Congress enact a broad range of statutes that are foundational to modern environmental law. Montgomery County claims, in essence, that it is following in these footsteps, but we must determine whether it has done so consistently with State law.

In 2015, the Montgomery County Council passed an ordinance restricting the use of certain pesticides for cosmetic purposes throughout the County. The Supreme Court held in 1991 that the principal federal law governing pesticides permits such local legislation. Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, 501 U.S. 597 (1991). Here, we are asked to decide whether the County’s legislation is impliedly preempted or in conflict with Maryland’s Agriculture Article. We conclude that the ordinance does not run afoul of State law. Because the Circuit Court for Montgomery County found otherwise, we reverse both its injunction and declaratory judgment, and remand for an entry of a new declaratory judgment declaring the validity of the County ordinance. To briefly summarize, we principally ground our decision on the following:

 1) State law does not expressly preempt local government regulation of pesticides;

 2) Following a 1985 published opinion of the Attorney General which said

that State law did not impliedly preempt local pesticide regulation, 70 Md. Att’y Gen. Op. 161 (1985), and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1991 decision in Mortier that federal law also did not preempt local regulation, the pesticide industry unsuccessfully sought passage of preemptive legislation in 1992, 1993, and 1994. In full recognition of existing local pesticide ordinances, the members of the House of Delegates by floor vote rejected each of the bills that sought to preempt more stringent local regulation. This “strongly suggests” under the Amendment Rejection Theory that there was no legislative intent to authorize or recognize preemption. Allied Vending, Inc. v. City of Bowie, 332 Md. 279, 304 (1993). No piece of legislation enacted subsequently undercuts that conclusion;

 3) For decades, Maryland’s Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Protection Program has authorized certain counties to regulate pesticides within the Critical Area without any record of chaos and confusion for multi-tiered regulation;

 4) Despite the existence of a comprehensive federal statute desirous of “uniformity” of regulation, the Supreme Court said that federal law did not regulate pesticides “with[] regard to regional and local factors like climate, population, geography, and water supply” or oust local regulation with respect to such matters. Mortier, 501 U.S. at 614-15;

  5) Probably less comprehensive than federal law, see 501 U.S. at 613, Maryland’s pesticide statutes also reference uniformity with federal legislation. This is best regarded as an aspirational goal, rather than an obstacle to local legislation. The language of State law and enactments of the General Assembly would authorize broader regulation than federal law both generally and specifically;

  6) There is no pervasive administrative enforcement of State pesticide statutes by the Maryland Department of Agriculture, which receives federal funds to enforce federal law in Maryland and which has opposed tougher pesticide controls as “anti-agriculture”; and

  7) Appellees’ contentions and the circuit court’s conclusion that the County ordinance frustrates the purposes of State law run counter to County Council of Prince George’s County v. Chaney Enters. Ltd. P’ship, 454 Md. 514, 541 n. 19 (2017) (Frustration of purpose has never been applied to resolve a conflict between State and local law).

By passing the Healthy Lawns Act, 52-14, the Montgomery County Council acknowledged growing demand within the community for natural and organic lawn care practices and compatible products. These cost-effective lawn care methods have been shown to eliminate the need for toxic pesticide use through improvements in soil biology that support more resilient plants. Pro-pesticide plaintiffs challenging the restrictions were led by Complete Lawn Care, and supported by the pesticide industry lobby group, Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE).

Communities across the U.S. are considering legislation similar to Montgomery County. In states that preempt, ordinances are focused on the management of public lands within the jurisdiction. See model ordinance, as adopted by the City of South Portland, Maine, here.

Beyond Pesticides’ Map of U.S. Pesticide Reform Policies lists over 150 communities in 23 states that restrict chemical pesticide use. In Maine, over 20 policies address both public and private pesticide applications. Eight of ten Canadian provinces, and over 170 Canadian municipalities have laws with a similar structure to Montgomery County’s Healthy Lawns Act.

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

Source: Special Court of Appeals decision (May 2, 2019)

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02
May

Neonicotinoid Insecticide Residues in Food and Water on the Rise, According to USDA Data

(Beyond Pesticides, May 2, 2019) Researchers have documented an increase in food and drinking water residues of neonicotinoids, insecticides linked to breast cancer. Using the Pesticide Data Program (PDP), 1999-2015, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the researchers identified near-peak detection frequencies in 2015, after a decline from 2008-2013. Imidacloprid remains the most common neonicotinoid detected across imported commodities, while the neonicotinoids clothianidin, thiamethoxam, acetamiprid, and flonicamid are replacing imidacloprid in domestic production. Authors note that these newer neonicotinoids are potentially more toxic than imidacloprid, raising concerns for understudied human health and environmental impacts.

The study, Trends in neonicotinoid pesticide residues in food and water in the United States, 1999–2015, published in the journal Environmental Health, finds the highest detection frequencies for neonicotinoids in drinking water, with 30% of treated drinking water turning out positive for imidacloprid in 2011. Certain fruits and vegetables are also frequently contaminated by neonicotinoids, with detection frequencies ranging from 20% to as high as 57% in the case of imidacloprid on cauliflower.

While the study points to specific fruits and vegetables as posing higher risk, the main message reaches beyond individual commodity or individual neonicotinoid results. Authors uncover a systematic increase in detection of neonicotinoid residues across the board from 2014-2015, including domestic increases in newer neonicotinoids with potentially higher toxicity than imidacloprid. Critically, neonicotinoid residues are frequently detected in combination, with potential for synergistic interaction. Among baby food samples, for example, authors find 13% of apple sauce samples analyzed contain two or more neonicotinoids. Some of the findings include cherries (45.9%), apples (29.5%), pears (24.1%) and strawberries (21.3%) for acetamiprid; and cauliflower (57.5%), celery (20.9%), cherries (26.3%), cilantro (30.6%), grapes (28.9%), collard greens (24.9%), kale (31.4%), lettuce (45.6%), potatoes (31.2%) and spinach (38.7%) for imidacloprid.

Beyond its link to hormone-dependent breast cancer, neonicotinoids are most infamous for their well-documented role in driving mass pollinator declines. However, pollinators are far from the only victims of ubiquitous neonicotinoid contamination. In a recent avian risk assessment, EPA scientists found that neonicotinoids present in treated seeds exceeds the agency’s level of concern for certain birds by as much as 200-fold. A 2017 study by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan confirmed that tiny amounts of neonicotinoids – the equivalent of just four treated canola seeds, for example – are enough to cause migrating songbirds to lose their sense of direction and become emaciated. Recent research uncovered the endocrine-disrupting health impacts of imidacloprid on white-tailed deer, adding to the concern of the same effect in humans.

Because neonicotinoids persist in soil and easily become airborne, the chemicals spread far beyond target crops and can contaminate nearby plants, soil, and water, thus posing far-reaching threats to wildlife. An EPA aquatic risk assessment for imidacloprid, released in 2017, found that imidacloprid threatens U.S. waterways, with significant risks to aquatic insects and cascading effects on aquatic food webs. Neonicotinoids 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.

In keeping with these broad contamination trends, authors of the present study uncover a disturbing degree of neonicotinoid prevalence in commonly consumed fruits and vegetables, as well as drinking water. And, as authors note, “The presence of multiple neonicotinoids on single commodity samples raises concerns about cumulative exposures and risks. US EPA has not conducted a human health cumulative risk assessment for neonicotinoids per requirements under Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) for determining tolerance levels for these pesticides.”

While neonicotinoid residues are on the rise, USDA’s testing methods seem to be declining in sensitivity. Authors note that the limit of detection (LOD), which is the lowest amount of a pesticide that can be detected given technology limitations, has surprisingly increased for certain neonicotinoids and commodities. The LOD for imidacloprid in broccoli, for example, increased by a factor of more than 300 from 2008 to 2014, marking a 300x decrease in sensitivity of testing. This decrease in sensitivity runs contrary to scientific integrity, which typically calls for increased detection sensitivity as technology improves. Authors note that higher LODs mean that fewer samples will be categorized as positive for residues, thus artificially depressing detection frequencies.

As authors emphasize, there is a serious need for more study of the health effects of neonicotinoids and, in particular, newer products with potentially higher toxicity to non-target organisms. While new biomonitoring technologies are in development, currently there is no method for detecting neonicotinoids or their metabolites in biological samples. This lack of technology, in combination with questionable limitations of USDA data collection methods, leaves data gaps that make the conclusion of the study less conclusive than might be desired. Study authors sign off with more questions than answers, and propose that future research applying more sensitive methods and new human health assessment technologies are needed to fully understand the implications of their findings.

Beyond Pesticides holds the position that the current lack of rigorous testing of co-exposures and biomonitoring poses unacceptable threats to human health and the environment. It is our firm stance that organic methods are the only way to guarantee adequate protection. Join Beyond Pesticides today and become part of a growing network of community leaders, organic farmers, activists, and advocates fighting for a future free of unnecessary and toxic pesticides.

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

Source: Environmental Health

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01
May

Weed Killer Glyphosate Linked to Multi-Generational Adverse Health Effects

(Beyond Pesticides, May 1, 2019) Evidence of the dangers of glyphosate continues to mount: researchers at Washington State University have identified, in research that exposed pregnant rats to the compound, significant disease and pathology in subsequent generations. The rats were exposed, from day 8 through day 14 of gestation, to half the observable adverse effect level (NOAEL) of glyphosate. Although this study found negligible impacts on the pregnant rats themselves or on their first-generation offspring, dramatic increases in incidence of pathology showed up in the two subsequent generations, including reproductive (prostate and ovarian) and kidney diseases; obesity; and birth anomalies.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports (an open access, multidisciplinary journal from Nature Research), and conducted by Michael Skinner, Ph.D. and five colleagues, is the first to assess the potential transgenerational impacts of glyphosate in mammals. Its results point to an emerging frontier in assessing the risks of glyphosate and other toxic chemicals, and add to the urgent and growing demand that the use of this particular toxic — and pervasive — pesticide be halted.

The research team was interested in looking at possible transgenerational impacts of glyphosate in part because of its ubiquity: it is one of the most commonly used pesticide compounds worldwide, representing 72% of pesticide usage worldwide, and is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s (now Bayer’s) infamous herbicide, Roundup. Dr. Skinner and his team refer to their work as an investigation of “generational toxicology” — a framework that examines exposure impacts on generations beyond that of the exposed subjects. The researchers indicate that they have seen such impacts subsequent to exposures to pesticides, fungicides, the herbicide atrazine, DEET (an insecticide: N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), BPA (bisphenol A, an endocrine disruptor), and jet fuel.

Such transgenerational impacts are understood to be functions of distortions in DNA — the epigenetic reprogramming of the germline (egg and sperm), or epimutations. Epigenetic changes result in genes being turned on and off, often in response to environmental factors, such as exposure to toxic chemical compounds. In the subject investigation, researchers saw a 30% incidence of prostate disease in third-generation (3G) males, which is three times the rate found among the study’s controls. Among 3G females, there was a 40% incidence of renal disease, representing a fourfold rate compared with controls. More than one-third of 2G females had failed pregnancies, and 40% of 3G males and females were obese.

Three of the researchers — Eric Nilsson, Ph.D., Ingrid Sadler-Riggleman, Ph.D., and Michael Skinner, Ph.D. — wrote a paper, published in 2018 in Environmental Genetics, titled “Environmentally induced epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease.” In the abstract, the co-authors explain the phenomenon: “Ancestral environmental exposures such as toxicants, abnormal nutrition or stress can promote the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease and phenotypic variation. These environmental factors induce the epigenetic reprogramming of the germline . . . . epimutations [that] can in turn increase disease susceptibility of subsequent generations of the exposed ancestors. A variety of environmental factors, species and exposure specificity of this induced epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease is discussed with a consideration of generational toxicology. The molecular mechanisms and processes involved in the ability of these inherited epimutations to increase disease susceptibility are discussed. In addition to altered disease susceptibility, the potential impact of the epigenetic inheritance on phenotypic variation and evolution is considered. Observations suggest environmentally induced epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease is a critical aspect of disease etiology, toxicology and evolution that needs to be considered.”

The researchers in the 2019 study conclude that “generational toxicology” represents a new lens or framework that, they recommend, should be integrated into any assessment of the risks of pesticides and other toxins in the chemical and materials streams. Current toxicological assessment protocols examine only impacts in individual exposed organisms; impacts on future generations are not assessed. The research team writes, “The ability of glyphosate and other environmental toxicants to impact our future generations needs to be considered, and is potentially as important as the direct exposure toxicology done today for risk assessment.”

Beyond Pesticides has covered the relationship of glyphosate (and the adjuvant ingredients in formulations) to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproduction, and renal and hepatic damage, not to mention its toxicity to fish and other aquatic organisms. Health impacts of glyphosate have been the subjects of numerous studies; conclusions from these studies have been, broadly speaking, all over the map.

The IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) in 2015 classified glyphosate as a carcinogen, for example, only to see that conclusion challenged by an EPA Expert Panel the next year. Other studies have shown links between use of the compound and a variety of health impacts, as noted previously. As the co-authors of the subject study note: “A mixture of studies exist showing no direct exposure effects versus induced pathologies. An increasing number of recent published studies suggest a potential risk of direct glyphosate exposure. Regulatory agencies consider the herbicide to be minimally or not toxic.”

In the past few months, two other investigations have come out of Washington State alone. A February 2019 University of Washington study found that glyphosate increased the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by as much as 41%; and a December 2018 Washington State University study determined that Washington residents living nearby to areas treated with the herbicide are one-third likelier to die prematurely from Parkinson’s disease. A February 2018 meta-analysis of studies on glyphosate suggested “a compelling link between exposures to GBH [glyphosate-based herbicides] and increased risk of NHL [non-Hodgkins lymphoma].

As momentum increases across sectors — legal, business insurance and commercial, scientific, et al. — toward reducing or eliminating the use of glyphosate, Beyond Pesticides continues to call for a comprehensive ban on the use of the toxic compound, and a transition to the organic agricultural practices that would obviate much of the perceived “need” for chemical controls.

Sources: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-42860-0 and https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190423133807.htm

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30
Apr

Study Findings on Pollinator Declines: Neonics Increase Honey Bee Vulnerability to Mites

(Beyond Pesticides, April, 30, 2019) According to the latest blog post from pesticide industry propagandist Henry I Miller, the pollinator crisis either a) is not occurring; b) is not a problem; or, c) caused by varroa mites, pathogens, and habitat loss. Notwithstanding outlandish assertions that there is no pollinator crisis, new research is further undermining the long-held industry claim that it is mites and disease alone, and not pesticides that are harming pollinator populations. Published in the journal Scientific Reports by a team of Canadian scientists, this research finds that realistic exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides impairs honey bees ability to groom mites off of their bodies and increases infection with a disease known as deformed wing virus (DWV).

“When bee colonies began to collapse years ago, it became clear there wasn’t just one factor involved, so we were interested in whether there was an interaction between two of the main stressors that affect bees: varroa mites and a neurotoxic insecticide, clothianidin,” said Nuria Morfin Ramirez, PhD, at the University of Guelph, Canada.

Dr. Ramirez and her team exposed honey bees to a range of different concentrations (low, medium, high) of the neonicotinoid clothianidin, with some bees receiving combined stressors of the insecticide and a mite infection. A population unexposed to either mites or the insecticides acted as a control. After exposure, researchers measured grooming intensity, and the number of genome copies of DWV within affected honey bees’ RNA.

At the lowest dose of clothianidin given, there was the steepest decline in the number of grooming bees. This same group also showed increased levels of DWV compared to control bees. When exposed to clothianidin doses in the mid-range of treatment, honey bees showed no changes in their grooming behavior. But when varroa mites were introduced to this same population, grooming levels dropped by 1.4 times.

“This study highlights the importance of reducing stressors that bees are exposed to, to reduce the risk of disease and consequently colony mortality,” said study coauthor Ernesto Guzman, PhD. “What we found was a complicated interaction between the mite and the pesticide that decreased the proportion of bees that groomed intensively, and affected genes associated with neurodegenerative processes,” Dr. Morfin continued.

As the author’s indicate, this is the first study to look directly at how neonicotinoid exposure impacts honey bee grooming behavior. But it is not the first study to show how neonicotinoids may be weakening honey bees, and making them more vulnerable to parasites and disease. A 2013 study found that low level exposure to neonicotinoids and other pesticides from crop pollination made honey bees more susceptible to the gut parasite, Nosema ceranae.

A 2015 report by the European Academies Science Advisory Council found, “Several studies have demonstrated synergistic effects of neonicotinoid residues with bee parasites and viruses. Some effects are behavioral (e.g. blocking the ability of bees to sterilize the colony and their food). Others appear related to limiting the immune response leading either to earlier infection or to increased mortality from infection. Very recent work has shown that the limitation of the immune response after exposure to neonicotinoids can promote viral replication, allowing covert infections to become overt. Such effects reduce honey bee survival and increase developmental deformities. In view of the emphasis placed by some reviewers on assigning honey bee losses to diseases and parasites, this is a critical issue.”

Advocates aiming to protect pollinators have never dismissed the devastating losses reported by beekeepers, data on decline in wild bee, monarch, and bird populations, or shied away from the likelihood of synergistic effects from multiple stressors being an important part of the equation in saving pollinators. But there can be no doubt, based on the science accumulated over the last decade and a half, that neonicotinoids, and by extension the broad range of pollinator toxic pesticides, are critical factors in the cause of pollinator declines. Not only that, but compared to a number of other stressors, including climate change and habitat fragmentation, they are one of the most straightforward and achievable to address. After all, these chemicals lack any real monetary benefits for farmers.

But many lawmakers have been comfortable sitting on their hands as the crisis continues to unfold. It is clear that U.S. federal regulators are falling down on the job of protecting the environment, crop pollination, and beneficial insects in general. As a 2016 GAO report found, both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency are not doing enough to protect pollinator populations.

We have a chance to address systemic neonicotinoid insecticides, and the broad range of pesticides that harm bees and other pollinators, by joining with lawmakers that understand the magnitude of the crisis. Currently, the Saving America’s Pollinator’s Act has 44 cosponsors committed to reversing pollinator declines. See the list here, and if your Congressional representative isn’t there, make sure to send them a message, and follow up with a phone call to their office. Contact Beyond Pesticides at [email protected] for further assistance on what you can do at the local, state, and federal level to push back against pesticide industry propaganda and protect pollinators for the long term.

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

Source: Science Daily (University of Guelph Press Release), Scientific Reports (peer reviewed journal)

 

 

 

 

 

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29
Apr

Protect Organic Family Farmers Who Safeguard the Earth and Our Health

(Beyond Pesticides, April 29, 2019) It Is Time to Stop the Attack on Organic and Protect the Family Farmers Who Safeguard the Earth and Our Health.

Listening to and talking with dairy farmers at the National Organic Standards Board meeting in Seattle last week, it is clear that organic consumers and farmers everywhere need to rise up to protect the standards of organic. This is the only way we can ensure a livable future—clean air, water, air, and a reversal of the climate crisis and the insect apocalypse. While there are numerous problems with the current administration’s attack on organic across the board—and we are focused on the range of problems, dairy is a good place where we must join together before more organic family farmers literally go out of business. Organic dairy is the first place families look to protect their children.

Tell USDA and your members of Congress to protect organic family farmers who safeguard the environment and animal welfare.

As a result of abuses in government management of organic, we are seeing an attack on organic that can be corrected with the adoption of proposed rules that have been waiting to be adopted—the Origin of Livestock and the Access to Pasture rules. Without these rules, former Wisconsin dairy farmer, Jim Goodman, wrote in the Washington Post last December:

When six dairy farms in Texas feed their thousands of cows a diet of organic grain and stored forage, with no discernible access to a blade of grass, they end up producing more milk than all 453 organic dairy farms in Wisconsin combined. Then they ship it north, undercutting our price. We can’t make ends meet and are forced out of the business. We played by the rules, but we no longer have a level playing field.

The Real Organic Project has explained the situation as follows:

The crux of the problem with the current rule for origin of dairy livestock is that there exists a two-track system for conversion of conventional dairy animals to organic. One track is that a whole herd can be converted to organic over a 12-month period, but thereafter no animals can be transitioned from conventional to organic on that farm. The other track is that for herds that did not use the one-time conversion, producers can continuously transition dairy animals into organic over time, using a 12-month conversion period for each animal transitioned.

A further complication is that some NOP accredited certifying organizations allow farms to continuously transition dairy cows from conventional to organic and other certifying organizations do not allow that.

Numerous public comments over the years of rulemaking have pointed out that this two-track system creates an uneven playing field for organic dairy producers. The National Organic Program proposed rule of April 28, 2015 would have fixed that problem by removing the option for an open-ended conversion of conventionally raised dairy animals to organic, as called for by an overwhelming majority of public comments. USDA has never finalized that proposed rule on the origin of livestock, putting family farmers in jeopardy. Furthermore, the Western Organic Dairy Producers Association has called for the elimination of the one-time transition of dairy herds from conventional to organic, maintaining that there are now enough organic dairy animals in the organic market to grow the organic dairy industry.

According to the Organic Farmers Association, consistent enforcement of the access to pasture rule, including identification of high risk dairy operations such as those with more than 1000 milking and dry cows, is needed to meet USDA’s Farm Bill and Legislative Principles priority to “Protect the integrity of the USDA organic certified seal and deliver efficient, effective oversight of organic production practices to ensure organic products meet consistent standards for all producers, domestic and foreign.”

Tell USDA and your members of Congress to protect organic family farmers who safeguard the environment and animal welfare.

Letter to Members of Congress

 It is way past time for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to protect organic family farmers and consumers with rules to protect organic integrity –the Origin of Livestock and the Access to Pasture rules. Without consistent enforcement of these rules, former Wisconsin dairy farmer, Jim Goodman, wrote in the Washington Post, last December:

When six dairy farms in Texas feed their thousands of cows a diet of organic grain and stored forage, with no discernible access to a blade of grass, they end up producing more milk than all 453 organic dairy farms in Wisconsin combined. Then they ship it north, undercutting our price. We can’t make ends meet and are forced out of the business. We played by the rules, but we no longer have a level playing field.

As explained by the Real Organic Project,

The crux of the problem with the current rule for origin of dairy livestock is that there exists a two-track system for conversion of conventional dairy animals to organic. One track is that a whole herd can be converted to organic over a 12-month period, but thereafter no animals can be transitioned from conventional to organic on that farm. The other track is that for herds that did not use the one-time conversion, producers can continuously transition dairy animals into organic over time, using a 12-month conversion period for each animal transitioned.

A further complication is that some NOP accredited certifying organizations allow farms to continuously transition dairy cows from conventional to organic and other certifying organization do not allow that.

Numerous public comments over the years of rulemaking have pointed out that this two-track system creates an uneven playing field for organic dairy producers. The National Organic Program proposed rule of April 28, 2015 would have fixed that problem by removing the option for an open-ended conversion of conventionally raised dairy animals to organic, as called for by an overwhelming majority of public comments. USDA has never finalized that proposed rule on the origin of livestock, putting family farmers in jeopardy. Furthermore, the Western Organic Dairy Producers Association has called for the elimination of the one-time transition of dairy herds from conventional to organic, maintaining that there are now enough organic dairy animals in the organic market to grow the organic dairy industry.

I agree with the Organic Farmers Association (OFA) recommendation that the National Organic Program (NOP) strengthen its enforcement of the Access to Pasture rule by immediately instructing certifying agents to identify high risk dairy operations as those with over 1000 milking and dry cows and instructing its agents that they need to meet the following requirements for the certification of high risk dairy herds:

  • Certification file review staff and organic inspectors must have documented training and experience in livestock nutrition and grazing on organic dairies with over 1,000 milking and dry cows.
  • A calculation matrix will be required for verification of meeting the grazing requirement which includes the following parameters: average animal weight, individual and verifiable unique identification of each animal, milk production, daily dry matter requirement, daily non-pasture dry matter consumption, acres of pasture, forage yield of pasture, and maximum distances cows walk to pasture.
  • As stated in the regulation, dry matter intake “shall be calculated as an average over the entire grazing season for each type and class of animal;” thus, for example, dry matter intake of milking cows cannot be averaged with dry matter intake of dry cows.
  • Certifiers must conduct two inspections during the grazing season, one announced and one unannounced.

On behalf of farmers and consumers, please urge the Secretary of Agriculture to adopt the Origin of Livestock and enforce the Access to Pasture Rule. To protect the livelihood of organic farmers and the integrity of the organic label, this is urgent.

Thank you.

Letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

It is way past time for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to protect organic family farmers and consumers with rules to protect organic integrity –the Origin of Livestock and the Access to Pasture rules. Without consistent enforcement of these rules, former Wisconsin dairy farmer, Jim Goodman, wrote in the Washington Post, last December:

When six dairy farms in Texas feed their thousands of cows a diet of organic grain and stored forage, with no discernible access to a blade of grass, they end up producing more milk than all 453 organic dairy farms in Wisconsin combined. Then they ship it north, undercutting our price. We can’t make ends meet and are forced out of the business. We played by the rules, but we no longer have a level playing field.

As explained by the Real Organic Project,

The crux of the problem with the current rule for origin of dairy livestock is that there exists a two-track system for conversion of conventional dairy animals to organic. One track is that a whole herd can be converted to organic over a 12-month period, but thereafter no animals can be transitioned from conventional to organic on that farm. The other track is that for herds that did not use the one-time conversion, producers can continuously transition dairy animals into organic over time, using a 12-month conversion period for each animal transitioned.

A further complication is that some NOP accredited certifying organizations allow farms to continuously transition dairy cows from conventional to organic and other certifying organization do not allow that.

Numerous public comments over the years of rulemaking have pointed out that this two-track system creates an uneven playing field for organic dairy producers. The National Organic Program proposed rule of April 28, 2015 would have fixed that problem by removing the option for an open-ended conversion of conventionally raised dairy animals to organic, as called for by an overwhelming majority of public comments. USDA has never finalized that proposed rule on the origin of livestock, putting family farmers in jeopardy. Furthermore, the Western Organic Dairy Producers Association has called for the elimination of the one-time transition of dairy herds from conventional to organic, maintaining that there are now enough organic dairy animals in the organic market to grow the organic dairy industry.

I agree with the Organic Farmers Association (OFA) recommendation that the National Organic Program (NOP) strengthen its enforcement of the Access to Pasture rule by immediately instructing certifying agents to identify high risk dairy operations as those with over 1000 milking and dry cows and instructing its agents that they need to meet the following requirements for the certification of high risk dairy herds:

  • Certification file review staff and organic inspectors must have documented training and experience in livestock nutrition and grazing on organic dairies with over 1,000 milking and dry cows.
  • A calculation matrix will be required for verification of meeting the grazing requirement which includes the following parameters: average animal weight, individual and verifiable unique identification of each animal, milk production, daily dry matter requirement, daily non-pasture dry matter consumption, acres of pasture, forage yield of pasture, and maximum distances cows walk to pasture.
  • As stated in the regulation, dry matter intake “shall be calculated as an average over the entire grazing season for each type and class of animal;” thus, for example, dry matter intake of milking cows cannot be averaged with dry matter intake of dry cows.
  • Certifiers must conduct two inspections during the grazing season, one announced and one unannounced.

On behalf of farmers and consumers, please adopt the Origin of Livestock and enforce the Access to Pasture Rule. To protect the livelihood of organic farmers and the integrity of the organic label, this is urgent.

Thank you.

 

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26
Apr

Study Finds High Levels of Pesticide Exposure among Teenage Girls in California’s Salinas Valley

Youth researchers of the COSECHA Study.

(Beyond Pesticides, April 26, 2019) Research by the youth participatory action team of the CHAMACOS of the Salinas Evaluating Chemicals in Homes and Agriculture (COSECHA) reveals that teenagers in the Salinas Valley, California are routinely exposed to concerning levels of multiple toxic pesticides, several of them known endocrine disruptors. In an interview with Kion News, COSECHA research director Kimberly Parra remarked that the study is especially important because teenagers are in a stage of rapid reproductive development. As the study authors emphasize, it is their developmental stage that makes teenagers more vulnerable to the effects of endocrine disrupting pesticides, with potentially devastating consequences for lifelong health.

The COSECHA study quantifies exposure to 72 pesticides, captured through volatile-trapping silicone wristbands, across 97 teenage girls living in various areas of the Salinas Valley region. Of the 72 pesticides analyzed, authors report that subjects are exposed to as many as 20 and an average of 8 pesticides over one week of routine indoor and outdoor activity. Given the well-documented dangers of pesticide co-exposures, these multiple-exposure findings are particularly concerning.

Ranking the highest for prevalence among the studied pesticides is fipronil sulfide, a breakdown product of the insecticide fipronil, detected in 86.6% of the analyzed wristbands. Fipronil is a known endocrine disruptor and has been shown to disrupt thyroid function. It is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a Group C (possible human) carcinogen. The World Health Organization (WHO) regards fipronil as “moderately toxic” to humans, and can, in large quantities, damage kidney, liver or thyroid gland.  As the authors note, fipronil “has exhibited oncogenicity and neurologic toxicity in animal studies,” raising concerns for the 84 Salinas Valley girls whose wristbands turned out positive for the toxin, and for the 86.6% of children population-wide whose routine exposure levels the study reflects.

Among their findings, perhaps most concerning is the degree to which discontinued pesticides – including some that have been out of use for nearly five decades – are still detected at high frequency. DDE, a breakdown product of the long-banned organochlorine insecticide DDT, was detected in 55.7% of the wristbands.

While their findings carry an often repeated and all-too-often ignored message, the COSECHA Study has something distinct to offer – its community-based approach. A team of ten youth researchers participated in all aspects of the study, from devising research questions to surveying subjects, analyzing results, and interpreting their significance to the community.

The seeds of the COSECHA Study were first planted in 1999, when researchers at Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health embarked on what is now the longest running longitudinal birth cohort study of its kind – the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS) Study. Titled after the term for “little children” in Mexican Spanish, the CHAMACOS program seeks to link maternal, prenatal, and childhood pesticide exposures to health outcomes among children living in California’s Salinas Valley. By now, CHAMACOS has tracked the health outcomes of over 800 children and published more than 150 papers on their public health findings.

But to some, the most important aspect of the program cannot be captured in numbers. The heart of CHAMACOS and, researchers attest, the reason for its long tenure, is the program’s dedication to community-based participatory research.

For one group of “CHAMACOS babies” especially, the project became more than just a regular check-in. In 2015, a group of Berkeley researchers aiming to involve youth in participatory action research had a revelation. “We went, wait a minute,” remarked Kim Harley, Ph.D. in an interview with Ensia. “The CHAMACOS kids are 14 years old now and we’re looking to enroll a bunch of 14-year-olds.” Together with the Salinas Valley Health Clinic (Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas), Berkeley researchers began to recruit CHAMACOS study subjects to join a Youth Council and effectively flip their roles, from the observed to the observers.

Within the year, a group of roughly one dozen original CHAMACOs participants had joined the CHAMACOS Youth Council and a new project was born: “Chamacos of Salinas Evaluating Chemicals in Homes & Agriculture,” or COSECHA, Spanish for harvest. These latest findings, and even more so the process young Salinas residents went through to arrive to the point of publication, can truly be thought of as the harvest of the CHAMACOS project.

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

Sources: UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health, Ensia

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25
Apr

Deadly Fungal Infection Raises Concerns about Fungicides Used in Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, April 25, 2019) As reported by Mother Jones, the New York Times (NYT) published, on April 6, a distressing report about a deadly fungus that has been advancing steadily across the world during the past five years. Candida auris is an emerging fungal pathogen that threatens those with compromised or immature immune systems, such as infants, the elderly, people taking steroids for autoimmune disorders, diabetics, those undergoing chemotherapy, and even smokers. Nearly half of those who contract a C. auris infection die within 90 days. One of the factors making this fungus so deadly is that it has developed resistance to existing antifungal medicines, with 90% of infections resistant to one drug, and 30% to two or more. As is true for resistant bacteria, culprits in C. auris’s development of resistance may be the overuse of antifungal medications in health care and overreliance on fungicides in agriculture.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has added C. auris to its list of pathogens considered “urgent threats.” It is an “emerging fungal pathogen,” meaning that the incidence of infection has been increasing across multiple countries since it was first recognized in 2009 in Japan (although a different strain had been identified in South Korea in 1996). It has recently shown up in hospital units and nursing homes in Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Spain, France, Britain, Germany, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Australia, Kenya, South Africa, Canada, and now, cases have been confirmed in New Jersey, New York, and Illinois; U.S. cases thus far have been primarily in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. C. auris is impervious to major antifungal medications, and is difficult to eradicate in patient surrounds, never mind in human bodies.

After an elderly man at the Brooklyn branch of Mount Sinai hospital contracted the fungal infection — and eventually died — the hospital launched an effort to eradicate the pathogen from his hospital room. As the NYT reported, “Tests showed it was everywhere in his room, so invasive that the hospital needed special cleaning equipment and had to rip out some of the ceiling and floor tiles to eradicate it. ‘Everything was positive — the walls, the bed, the doors, the curtains, the phones, the sink, the whiteboard, the poles, the pump,’ said Scott Lorin, M.D., the hospital’s president. ‘The mattress, the bed rails, the canister holes, the window shades, the ceiling, everything in the room was positive.’”

Echoing the development of resistance in bacteria, there have lately been resistant fungi showing up in hospitals and labs, adding to the already considerable worry in the medical community about how to treat people who contract infections caused by resistant pathogens. Matthew Fisher, Ph.D, a professor of fungal epidemiology at Imperial College London, has said, “It’s an enormous problem. We depend on being able to treat those patients with antifungals.” Fungi, just like other organisms, adaptively exploit genetic mutations to defend against what would kill them — in this case, antifungal medications.

Despite admonishments from researchers and leaders in global healthcare to rein in the use of all antimicrobial pharmaceuticals (antibiotics and antifungals, in particular), the medical community has continued to overuse them. But medical overuse may not, by a long shot, be the only culprit: farmers across the globe rely heavily on, essentially, the same chemical compounds to fight pathogens — on crops and in livestock — that medicine depends on when those pathogens invade the human body. These important tools in fighting infections have been used to excess for non-medical purposes: antibiotics for prophylaxis and for accelerated weight gain in farm animals, and fungicides on crops to prevent certain kinds of blight and rot. In addition, there are “crossover” uses: several fungicides are also registered for managing bacterial diseases in fruits, vegetables, grains, and other food crops.

In research published in May 2018 in the journal Science, Dr. Fisher, et al. noted that, “The recent rate of emergence of pathogenic fungi that are resistant to the limited number of commonly used antifungal agents is unprecedented. The azoles, for example, are used not only for human and animal health care and crop protection, but also in antifouling coatings and timber preservation. The ubiquity and multiple uses of azoles have hastened the independent evolution of resistance in many environments. One consequence is an increasing risk in human health care from naturally occurring opportunistic fungal pathogens that have acquired resistance to this broad class of chemicals.”

Mother Jones reports that one subset of azoles (systemic antifungal agents), the triazoles, are the most commonly used category of fungicides (antifungals), comprising more than 25% of all fungicides used in European agriculture. Agricultural use of triazoles has spiked, in the U.S., to a 2015 level of 3,000 metric tons. A causal link between fungicides used in agriculture and C. auris has not been proven, but U.S. and European scientists suspect that such use may have been a “trigger” for its emergence.

Dutch researcher Jacques Meis, M.D., Ph.D. believes that drug-resistant fungi are developing thanks to heavy use of fungicides on crops. He first paid attention to the resistance–agricultural use link when a patient in the Netherlands died in 2005 from the fungus Aspergillus, which proved resistant to the antifungal itraconazole — that compound being a virtual copy of the azole fungicides used worldwide to treat crops, and accounting for more than one-third of all fungicide sales. Research in 2013 demonstrated a link between areas where azole fungicides are used and the flourishing of the Aspergillus fungus, showing up in 12% of Dutch soil samples. In 2018, Dr. Meis visited the CDC to talk about his conviction that a similar thing is happening with C. auris: azoles created an environment so hostile that fungi are evolving, with resistant strains — such as C. auris —surviving and “thriving.”

According to the NYT, the CDC’s Tom Chiller, chief of the Mycotic Diseases Branch, who calls C. auris “a creature from the black lagoon,” also believe that its resistance and “explosion” may have “benefited from the heavy use of fungicides.” According to Mother Jones, Dr. Chiller “reiterated the possibility of a link. With triazole fungicides killing fungi over large swaths of farmland, ‘the ones that are going to survive are the ones that are resistant — and they’re going to flourish. And so you could see how that could select for a relatively rare Candida like Candida auris.’”

The issue of resistance and its causes is not well understood by much of the public, perhaps in part because of science illiteracy, but also in part, as the NYT reports, “because the very existence of resistant infections is often cloaked in secrecy. With bacter[ial] and fung[al infections] alike, hospitals and local governments are reluctant to disclose outbreaks for fear of being seen as infection hubs. Even the C.D.C., under its agreement with states, is not allowed to make public the location or name of hospitals involved in outbreaks. State governments have in many cases declined to publicly share information beyond acknowledging that they have had cases.”

Even serious outbreaks in England (50 cases in one hospital in 2015) and Spain (85 cases, reported in 2018) were kept on the down low by hospitals worried about institutional reputation and that such reports are “bad for business.” Some in the healthcare industry defend the hush on such outbreaks of C. auris infections, saying that disclosure frightens patients and alarms the public about a situation that healthcare professionals do not have effective ways of managing. But patients and healthcare advocates find this attitude maddening. Says Kevin Kavanagh, M.D., a Kentucky doctor and chair of Health Watch USA (a nonprofit that promotes healthcare transparency, quality, and affordability), “Why the heck are we reading about an outbreak almost a year and a half later — and not have it front-page news the day after it happens? You wouldn’t tolerate this at a restaurant with a food poisoning outbreak.” In addition, the difficulty of managing C. auris can unnerve facility staff members, given its significant lethality and the challenges of eradication from patient surrounds.

The concern about human infection by antifungal-resistant fungi is a distinct echo of the mounting worry about infection by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Beyond Pesticides has chronicled developments in the emergence of both fungicide resistance and pesticide/antibiotic resistance. The burgeoning resistance problem derives, in part, from the intensive use of pesticide products (including insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and others) in plant and animal agriculture. Use of these compounds inevitably drives the problem: as Beyond Pesticides wrote last year in its journal, Pesticides and You, “Broadscale and repeated use of a pesticide sets in motion the factors that drive the evolution of resistance in the target pest. Those that are not killed by the pesticide pass down the genes that allowed them to survive, perpetuating a toxic cycle.”

The agrochemical industry’s response to the development of resistance has typically been to develop new compounds to target the same pest or bacterial or fungal problem, and/or to “layer” use of multiple pesticides, sometimes causing actual increases in the amounts of pesticides used. Conventional farming is so extensively shaped by what these companies develop and recommend that many farmers, faced with a pest problem on which existing pesticides have become ineffective, will simply move to the next chemical “fix” that industry develops. This dynamic is a recipe for ecological entropy and not a solution. Chemical interventions to “control” pests of any sort, beyond all the potential toxicity issues, fundamentally cause imbalances in micro and macro ecological systems.

When humans use toxic synthetic chemicals to protect “systems” that violate natural and ecological laws — such as monocrops (think huge fields of commodity corn, soy, wheat, cotton, et al.), or great swaths of grassy lawns — the natural predators that exist in ecosystems can be destroyed or challenged, reducing the balanced and cyclical nature of predator and prey. (In nature, populations of all organisms wax and wane, with available food sources and level of predation.) Chemical inputs in agriculture reduce the biodiversity that keeps these systems functional; pesticide use begets more pesticide use as part of what is known as the “pesticide treadmill.”

Fraught as it is with negative impacts on human and environmental health, including the mounting resistance issues, chemically intensive agriculture should be understood as a sign of the ineffectiveness of conventional, chemical approaches to pest control. Organic agricultural practices, which proscribe the use of harmful pesticides, support biodiversity, intact ecosystems, and human health. Organic agriculture seeks to prevent pest problems by creating healthy agroecosystems. Adoption of organic approaches diminishes the resistance problem and can potentially help preserve important antibiotic and antifungal medicines for treatment of human infection.

Be a part of the critical shift from chemical agriculture to organics. Learn more about organic agriculture, advocate for it, and “vote” for organics by creating market demand for organic food.

Sources: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/06/health/drug-resistant-candida-auris.html?smid=fb-nytscience&smtyp=cur&fbclid=IwAR06V0Oh4dMwtnaCTfrnS2kS6v9u-k6ewtwfxmC01FpPPs8zR4iOY0NO1WI and https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2019/04/whats-causing-an-outbreak-of-a-mysterious-fungal-infection-americas-farms-offer-a-clue/

 

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24
Apr

Federal Court Orders EPA to Justify Use of Chlorpyrifos within 90 Days

(Beyond Pesticides, April 24, 2019) On April 19, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide a justification for why chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic insecticide commonly used in agriculture, should remain in the U.S. market. The EPA has 90 days to comply.

Chlorpyrifos has been linked to damaging and often irreversible health outcomes in workers, pregnant women, and children. Low levels of exposure early in life can lead to increased risk of learning disabilities including lowered IQ, developmental delay, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Farmworkers and their children are disproportionately affected by the use of this chemical because they are exposed at work, home, and even at school.

“While we are moving forward, the tragedy is that children are being exposed to chlorpyrifos, a pesticide science has long shown is unsafe,” said Earthjustice Attorney Patti Goldman in a statement. “We hope Trump’s EPA finally decides to protect the future of countless children and the health of millions of farmworkers.”

The battle against chlorpyrifos has been long and drawn out, though there has been significant movement in the last few months. Beyond Pesticides has put together a brief timeline of events:

A Chlorpyrifos Timeline:

2001-2017

  • 2001, EPA negotiates cancellation of chlorpyrifos for residential use.
  • 2007, Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and Natural Resources Defense Council file petition requesting EPA revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos.
  • 2015, Obama administration proposes revocation of all tolerances for chlorpyrifos.
  • 2016, EPA’s revised human health risk assessment does not change the proposal to ban chlorpyrifos. Donald Trump is elected president.
  • 2017, Scott Pruitt reverses order. A coalition of environmental groups led by Earthjustice promptly sues.

2018

  • June 2018, Hawaii becomes first state in U.S. to outright ban chlorpyrifos, effective 2022.
  • July 2018, Scott Pruitt resigns amid over a dozen ethics investigations.
  • August 2018, Court orders a ban on chlorpyrifos, stating that EPA violated the law. Trump administration quickly appealed the ruling.
  • December 2018, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduces the Prohibit Chlorpyrifos Poisoning Students Act.

2019

  • January 2019, Representative Nydia Velásquez (D-NY) reintroduces The Ban Toxic Pesticides Act, H.R.230 which bans the insecticide chlorpyrifos from commerce.
  • February 2019, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rules to rehear the case regarding chlorpyrifos.
  • March 2019
    • Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) reintroduces Protect Children, Farmers and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act of 2019.
    • Oregon Lawmakers consider House Bill 3058 and Senate Bill 853, nearly identical attempts to ban chlorpyrifos.
    • A set of documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity reveal that the Trump administration knew and actively concealed the fact that chlorpyrifos jeopardizes the existence of 1,399 endangered species.
  • April 2019
    • Proposed chlorpyrifos ban in Maryland (HB275, SB270) does not pass for the second year in a row.
    • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduces Safe School Meals for Kids Act to restrict schools from purchasing or serving any food that contains any amount of detectable chlorpyrifos.

Momentum is growing for better protection from pesticide use. However, beyond single-pesticide bans, the widespread adoption of organic management practices is best for holistic protection of human and environmental health from compounds like chlorpyrifos. Beyond Pesticides has long sought a broad-scale marketplace transition to organic practices, which prohibit the use of all toxic synthetic pesticides.

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

Sources: Associated Press, Earthjustice. Maryland Reporter. OPB.

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23
Apr

U.S. Health Agency Concurs with International Findings Linking Weed Killer Glyphosate to Cancer, while Inspector General Investigates Misconduct at EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, April 23, 2019) “If I can kill this I should get a medal,” Jess Rowland, former Deputy Division Director of the Office of Pesticide Programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told Dan Jenkins, U.S. Agency Lead for Regulatory Affairs at Monsanto, in April 2015. The two were discussing the Monsanto officials’ desire to halt an impending investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) into the health risks that the weed killer glyphosate poses to the public. But despite the attempts of an apparently corrupt EPA official, earlier this month DHHS’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released its first draft on the Toxicological Profile for Glyphosate. Top-line findings appear consistent with conclusions made by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate.

Although not officially “killed,” Mr. Rowland’s cozy relationship with Monsanto did lead to a delay in ATSDR’s report, and prompted an EPA Inspector General investigation into potential misconduct.

While Mr. Rowland’s acts were concerning, Monsanto’s attempts to quash this investigation did not stop there. Toxicologist Mary Manibusan is a prime example of the revolving door between industry and the agency that is supposed to oversee it. A long-time EPA employee, Ms. Manibusan worked at the agency for eight years before taking a job in the private sector. As word of an ATSDR report became more concrete, Monsanto reached out to her for her access and influence with ATSDR officials. “Sweetheart – I know lots of people,” Ms. Manibusan told Monsanto scientist Eric Sachs in a text message. “You can count [on] me.”

Mr. Sachs concern? “We’re trying to do everything we can to keep from having a domestic IARC occur w[ith] this group. May need your help.” Ms. Manibusan is now back with EPA as of this month. According to her Linkedin, she is an agency Division Director.

And efforts to suppress ASTDR’s work did not stop there. It appears the pesticide industry tried to insert language into a fiscal appropriations bill that 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. That attempt was also unsuccessful and the language does not appear in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019.

ATSDR does not make a definitive conclusion one way or another on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate. However, the studies and references analyzed in the report indicate clearly there is strong link between glyphosate and cancer. Of particular note are the three meta-analyses of epidemiological studies reviewed by ATSDR: Schinasi and Leon (2014), Chang and Delzell (2016), and the IARC monograph, which all found “positive associations” between glyphosate exposure and cancer. The Chang and Delzell (2016) study, funded in part by Monsanto itself, downplays in its abstract conclusions that in fact line up closely to the other meta-studies.

Cancer was not the only subject in ATSDR’s review of glyphosate. It also reviewed the effects of the chemical on body weight, pulmonary and cardiovascular health, gastrointestinal affects, neurotoxicity, impacts to the kidney and liver, skeletal system, its endocrine disrupting properties, effects on the immune system, developmental and reproductive systems, and impacts to the eyes and skin. Not all of these health endpoints revealed significant concerns, but the review should bring more attention to non-cancer impacts on the lungs, reproductive system, and the possibility of glyphosate exposure resulting in developmental effects in pregnant mothers.

It is because of the courage of California school groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson that the public has access to evidence of Monsanto’s subterfuge around this U.S. public health chemical review process. His ultimately successful litigation against Monsanto for causing his cancer, with a $289 million jury verdict, led to the disclosure of the internal documents and emails cited above.

ATSDR has opened public comments on its glyphosate review through this link.  Although many health endpoints are covered by this review, it is not quite comprehensive and there is room for ATSDR to conduct further evaluation on full-formulation toxicity, the raw data on industry studies (reviewers had access only to EPA summaries of industry-submitted studies), and impacts to the microbiome.

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

Sources (and further analysis): ATSDR Toxicological Profile for Glyphosate, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Food Safety

 

 

 

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22
Apr

Planting Clover This Earth Day

(Beyond Pesticides, April 22, 2019) This Earth Day, please join us in celebrating, propagating, and educating about a misunderstood and beneficial plant: clover. 

Clover:

  • Provides your lawn with enough nitrogen to eliminate any need for ecologically hazardous synthetic fertilizers
  • Acts as an important food source for declining pollinator populations
  • Attracts earthworms and other beneficial soil microorganisms
  • Remains green year-round
  • Resists drought
  • Helps your lawn resist disease

A little history:

“White clover used to be a standard ingredient in every grass seed mix; 75 years ago no one planted a lawn without mixing a little white clover in with the grass seed,” recounts Roger Swain, host of PBS’ The Victory Garden.

After World War II, as the middle class grew and moved to suburban communities, chemicals developed during wartime found new uses on U.S. lawns. Chief among them was 2,4-D – an herbicide originally developed with the intent to wipe out potatoes in Germany and rice crops in Japan in a plan to starve the Axis powers into surrender. While 2,4-D was never used for that purpose, its ability to kill broadleaf plants while sparing grass species made it desirable on the farm for removing weeds around crops like wheat, corn, and rice.

Chemical companies hoped these same characteristics would win over American homeowners, who would simply need one blanket application to rid their lawn of weeds. In 1945, the American Chemical Paint Company released the first residential use 2,4-D herbicide, Weedone, and later in the decade, Scotts packaged its first ‘weed and feed’ product.

Some say that it was not until the 1966 Masters golf tournament’s bright green turf was broadcast on color television that the idea of a monoculture lawn really took hold. Despite clover’s role in the rise of the American lawn, its susceptibility to broadleaf herbicides, like 2,4-D, put it at loggerheads with the new technology, and through aggressive marketing and advertisements, by the 1950s it began to be regarded as a weed.

Clover is a wonderful plant.

Clover is a low-growing, drought-tolerant perennial. There are nearly 250 species of clover in the world. Though red, crimson, and white are the most familiar, it is white, or Dutch, clover that is best suited to be incorporated into turfgrass and lawns. A variety of low growing white clover called microclover can provide all the benefits of clover, while producing fewer flowers and remaining somewhat hidden below the grass.

Bringing clover back into American lawns is predominately a cultural issue. It requires a change in perception about what constitutes an aesthetically pleasing landscape, and education about the ecological benefits and cost-savings that clover can provide. Individuals can press their local government to incorporate grass-clover seed mixes into their public parks and green spaces and inform neighbors of the benefits of doing so. 

Microclover mixed in with grass.

Clover is great for soil.

Contrary to the perception that clover is an eyesore, it helps the lawn remain verdant green during the growing season. As a member of the legume family, clover “fixes” (accumulates) nitrogen from the air through beneficial soil bacteria living in nodules on its roots. Clippings left on a lawn after a mixed grass-clover turf is mowed can provide a significant source of cost-free nitrogen. For many soils and grass types, this is enough to eliminate the need for any additional nitrogen fertilizer applications over the course of the year.

Planting clover in your lawn is a small and easy way to help bolster pollinator populations. 

Recent research finds that clover acts as a food source for a wide range of important pollinator species. A 2014 study published by Larson et al. in the Journal of Insect Conservation on species richness in mixed grass-clover lawns in the Lexington, KY metro area documented over 200 pollinator species over the course of spring sampling, including approximately 21 different species of bees. On average, each lawn contained between 2-12 different pollinator species. City-dwellers tending a small patch of lawn certainly are not doing so in vain, as researchers found species richness to be similar in urban, suburban, and periurban-rural areas.

Rose clover (Trifolium incarnatum).

You can be the change you wish to see in the world.

The beauty of reviving clover on lawns is that every individual with a patch of green space can make a stand. Let the clover already present flower, and don’t be afraid of seeding more. Yes, your lawn will contain small white flowers, and yes, you’ll attract bees to your yard, but you know that’s a good thing for your wallet and the environment, and when your neighbor asks what you’re doing, you’ll be ready to respond.

As you celebrate clover, you can also make the case for restrictions on the use of synthetic herbicides that treat clover as a weed and insecticides that undermine the services the plant provides. Learn more about organic lawn care, and check out our “Tools for Change” page for more info and resources regarding organizing in your community.

Buying seeds:

Dutch White clover is the traditional option to add to turf grass, but you can also have poppies and clover (see picture below) as a cover crop. Many garden centers and hardware stores now carry clover seed, and it can also be purchased online (Here or here, or check out our Pollinator-friendly seed list). DFL organics and EarthTurf are two companies which specialize in grass-microclover seed mixes.

Source: Taking a Stand on Clover

 

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19
Apr

Neonicotinoid Insecticides Found to Disrupt Insects’ Vision and Flying Ability

(Beyond Pesticides, April 19, 2019) Flying insects exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides or its breakdown products experience visual impairment and difficulty flying, according to a study published in the journal NeuroToxicology by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. While at face value these impacts may sound non-lethal, any loss of fitness in the wild can make flying insects an easier meal for their predators. “Our findings suggest that very low doses of the pesticide or its metabolic products can profoundly and negatively affect motion detection systems that flying insects, such as locusts, grasshoppers and bees, need for survival,” said Jack Gray, PhD, an expert in neural control of animal behavior at the University of Saskatchewan.

Researchers used locusts as proxies for other flying insects, as the visual processing in their brains is easy to track in laboratory settings. Moreover, as study co-author Rachel Parkinson notes, “Bees and other flying insects use similar neural mechanisms to process visual motion,” making the implications of this study applicable to a wide range of other airborne insects.

And rather than simply focus on the effects of exposure to a single active ingredient, researchers also studied whether its breakdown products (metabolites) resulted in similar impairment.

Locusts flight and escape behavior were tested in wild tunnels after exposure to the neonicotinoid imidacloprid and its metabolites at levels likely to be found in the wild (10 parts per billion). Insects were exposed to the same levels of the chemicals in order to test visual functioning to looming stimuli, which essentially mimics response to an object entering the locusts’ field of vision.

The results show that exposure significantly impairs how locusts to respond to visual stimuli. Researchers found that roughly an hour following an initial exposure, most of the insects either were unable to fly or flew very poorly, unable to respond to stimuli or avoid objects in their flight path. Interestingly, the impacts were more pronounced when exposed to the breakdown products of the pesticide than the active ingredient itself. After imidacloprid exposure, 40% could still fly and respond to stimulus, 30% flew poorly, and 30% could not fly an hour after treatment. But with its metabolite 5-hydroxy-imidacloprid, 80% could not fly at all while the remaining 20% flew poorly.

Concern has long surrounded neonics for their propensity to remain in the environmental for months or even years after exposure. Now, it appears that even after an active ingredient has broken down, it may still continue to poison animal life. “Although they are found in the environment, and insects can be exposed to them, metabolites are not typically tested for toxicity. Our results suggest they should be,” said Dr. Gray.

Although locusts are sometimes considered a pest, they are an important part of the ecology of many landscapes and many animals’ diets, and there are profound implications if these results signal effects in other flying insects. “The ability to see movement is crucial not only for avoiding predators, but also for maintaining a steady flight path,” said study coauthor Rachel Parkinson.

It is evident now that the pollinator crisis was only the most visible aspect of what has been characterized by the New York Times as a global insect apocalypse. A study published in on German nature preserves in 2017 found that flying insect biomass had declined by 75% over the last three decades. But in areas where care has been taken to remove pesticides and improve habitat, like Amsterdam, data finds that diversity and abundance is increasing.

Work to emulate those efforts in your own community by getting involved in grassroots advocacy. The more folks that contact their elected officials, attend and speak at local council meetings, and promote healthy, pesticide-free habitats, the better chance we will have at reversing the crisis, or at the least create some resilient, chemical free oases that will help species bounce back or repopulate other areas. Learn more about how to get involved through Beyond Pesticides Bee Protective webpage.

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

Source: University of Saskatchewan Press Release (via ScienceDaily), NeuroToxicology

 

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